A few of the goodies at Bake in West Bucktown
Whenever a new bakery opens in a part of the city, there is cause for excitement (unless you're gluten intolerant).‚ I recall for years - after I first moved to Chicago in the early 90s - the only place we would ever go for the kids' birthday cakes was Bittersweet, the charming bakery on Belmont, helmed by Judy Contino, the former pastry chef at Ambria.‚ Then, seemingly overnight, the city became inundated with high-quality bake shops: Sweet Mandy B's, Angel Food Bakery, Delightful Pastries and more cupcake joints than I care to recall.‚ It was like the drug epidemic of the 80s, except now, instead of heroin, people were getting hooked on buttercream, fondant and pastries - all made using Plugra butter, naturally.‚ "Where did you get the birthday cake?" was often heard around the tables at The Little Gym or Dorby Magoo's as the kids stuffed their faces.‚ "Oh, is it a madagascar vanilla cake with the chocolate custard filling?" I would hear on occasion.‚ We had begun to move beyond the sheet cakes from Jewel and Dominick's, as people started asking questions about what was in the sugary sweets we were feeding our kids.
Chicago's "sweet snobbery" has led to another round of new bakeries. While Bucktown can claim to be the neighborhood where Red Hen Bread opened its first retail location, finding fruit tarts, custom cakes and high-quality pastries made by European-trained chefs has been rare. That is, until about a month ago, as not one, but two bakeries opened along the same block (2200 West) on North Ave.