Lutz Café and Pastry Shop
The beloved bakery of my childhood had an outdoor si?n as bold and neon-happy as anything on the Vegas strip; inside was a pleasure palace of pink marbled Formica. I’d take a number, wait my turn, and go home with waxed-paper bags holding a week’s worth of buttercrust white bread (sliced thin), chocolate chip coffeecake, and streusel-topped sweet rolls. Occasionally, and spectacularly, I left with a rose-bedecked birthday cake in a box tied with string. Once upon a time, every neighborhood had some version of that bakery; a lucky few have hung on to theirs. Here are five that have survived, holding fast to that old-time religion of made-this-morning baked goods, in all their humble glory.
813 N. Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, 847-534-0068; www.deerfieldsbakery.com; also in Buffalo Grove and Schaumburg
Ownership: In 1979 Schmitt’s Bakery was resurrected as Deerfields by Kurt and Karl Schmitt, great-grandsons of the original owner, Adam Schmitt.
The draw: Attractive and well-made sweet rolls, muffins, and doughnuts are unwrapped and out in the open, self-serve style. It’s like a county fair except that you get to grab a pair of tongs and go wild.
Killer apps: Fruit and nut coffeecakes; whipped-cream tortes; fancy miniature pastries; dense, raisin-studded bread pudding (why don’t all bakeries have it?)
Plus: Significant gluten-free offerings, including brownies, frozen pie crusts, cookies, coffeecakes, and flourless chocolate cakes.
5348 N. Clark St.; 773-561-8919; www.swedishbakery.com
Ownership: Originally, a Johnson. Then a Carlson. Then a Bjuhr. For the past 30 years, owned by the family of Marlies Stanton, who has worked there since 1971.
The draw: Breathtakingly pretty and delicious party cakes, but also everything from a simple limpa rye bread to outstanding brioche and lovable coffeecakes
Killer apps: The freshest and most varied selection of butter cookies in town; marzipan-covered Princess tortes; marzariner (an almond cake with sugar frosting); cardamom braids; custard cup Danish (Saturdays only)
Plus: Expect to wait, but when it’s your turn, it’s your turn, and patient staffers will not hurry you along. Boxes are tied with delicate red-and-white string.
7055 W. Archer Ave.; 773-586-1234; www.webersbakery.com
Ownership: Michael L. Weber, grandson of Erich H. Weber, who opened the original bakery at 45th Street and Kedzie Avenue, and son of Erich R. Weber, who built the current bakery in 1979
The draw: Generosity. Chocolate chip coffeecake comes with a thick ribbon of sweet cheese down its middle; banana split torte is a cheerful exercise in overkill. Even the day-old rack dazzles: Grab quickly or you might lose out on hefty fruit-topped coffeecakes for $3 and other such bargains.
Killer apps: Seven kinds of kolacky; delicate hoska, a challah-like braided egg bread with golden raisins; robust sauerkraut rye that turns any sandwich into a Reuben; strawberry/cheese coffeecake piled high with fresh berries
Plus: It opens at 4:30 a.m. five days a week and at 5:30 a.m. on Sundays.
1000 Davis St., Evanston; 847-328-9434; www.bennisonscakes.com
Ownership: Guy Downer bought the bakery from the Bennison family in 1967. Guy’s son Jory has been aboard since 1975.
The draw: Old-style American faves include doughnuts, sweet rolls, coffeecakes, muffins, and wedding cakes, but also highflying fermented-dough bread baking in the back. Two certified master bakers work here, including Jory Downer, who won the grand prize at the 2005 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris.
Killer apps: Artisanal baguettes, ciabatta, and California fruit-and-nut sourdough loaves; French-style fresh fruit tarts; almond croissants; bienenstich (“bee sting”) German honeyed-almond pastry
Plus: Espresso/cappuccino on tap. Indoor and outdoor seating. Functioning vintage neon sign. A 24-hour live webcam in the kitchen.
Lutz Café and Pastry Shop
2458 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-478-7785; www.lutzcafe.com
Ownership: Howard Gould bought the bakery from the Lutz family in 2003.
The draw: German konditorei (confectionary café) atmosphere and pastries. Some breads and savories (quiche, Germanic pizza), but emphasis is on fancy sweets. Lavish seasonal window displays.
Killer apps: Fruit and cheese strudels; multilayered whipped-cream tortes; “turtle” butter cookies; house-made chocolates; marzipan animals
Plus: The most Old World café around, with tablecloths, fresh flowers, garden seating, and (hilariously) free wi-fi. Vienna coffee service means a doily-covered tray with your own pot of coffee, along with heavy cream and whipped cream.
photograph: Anna Knott