Day in and day out, Metra’s northwest train pulls into the Des Plaines stop, just opposite of Pop O Licious Popcorn. A brick building on the corner, the shop brandishes a bright blue and yellow sign with promises of fresh-made, gourmet popcorn. The family of popcorn pioneers creates more than 60 varieties of classic and flavored kernels each and every day, from staples such as butter, kettle corn, and caramel corn to innovative flavors including creamy dill, hot cinnamon, and even fruity tutty. For casual snacking, the shop owners can scoop the fresh-popped kernels into bags that come in four sizes, while gift-givers and musicians in need of a new drum can order their snack in a decorative tub. Beyond popcorn, Pop O Licious purveys Maurice Lenell cookies and handmade milk chocolates.
Growing up in a big Italian family, we believe that you taste with your eyes and one bite should only make you want more. Chocolate should melt in your mouth, caramel should be goey and soft (that's why we make ours' home made in small batches), and everything should be big!
Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.
In French eclairs, German streudel, and Polish kolaczi, the bakers at Sugar Hills Bakery let their European inspiration show. Regardless of whether a recipe comes from across the Atlantic—the staff also makes cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, and wedding cakes—all of Sugar Hills’ baked goods are all made with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
Sweet Whimsy pleases palates with a plethora of French-inspired pastries, breads, and other treats. All of its delectable baked goods are expertly created using high-quality ingredients such as Cacao Barry chocolate, Jr's Country Acres free-range eggs, and organically grown fruits. Like the temperament of a moody GPS unit, the bakery's menu varies daily, offering edibles ranging from classic cookies and breakfast pastries to more risqué dessert derivations, such as flourless chocolate cake with bacon and green-tea cake with orange-ginger frosting. Myriad flavors of muffins, cupcakes, tarts, cakes, crêpes, and pastries wait to tempt taste buds and tease the eye, including fanciful Frannies, pastries named and modeled after pastry chef Joshua Baudin's favorite goose. Recently introduced savories include a selection of homemade breads, such as brioche and focaccia, as well as spoon-ready soups ideal for thawing frozen tonsils before ultracompetitive caroling slams.
Open 24 hours, County Donuts serves freshly baked donuts for early risers, night owls, and ravenous moonbeams. Pick up delectable orbs such as the powdered Bavarian and black raspberry jelly, as well as hand-cut cake donuts, like chocolate glazed, buttercrunch, and cider. Grab one donut ($.89), a half-dozen ($4.75), or a dozen ($6.99), which is the ideal amount for sharing or stuffing a small sofa. County Donuts also bakes specialty treats, such as cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, muffins ($1.39), and daily baked bagels ($1.09).