Eli's grew from Eli Schulman's steakhouse, a Streeterville celebrity hangout that hosted Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies. Since that time, Eli's Cheesecake has intertwined itself deliciously with the city of Chicago, serving up the city's 150th birthday cake and making appearances at Chicago Bulls championships, Mayor Daley's inaugural balls, and in the bottles that float up on the shores of Lake Michigan. Eli's has been served on Air Force One and at inaugural celebrations for Presidents Obama and Clinton. And yet Eli's Dessert Café on the Northwest Side retains the charm of a neighborhood bakery. The café serves up a menu of delicious single dessert servings and lunch items in addition to selling full cheesecakes. Purchase any variety of cheesecake by the slice ($2–$4), or skip the sweets with an Asian chicken wrap, a three-cheese melt on brioche (both $6.25), or a hand-carved turkey BLT ($6.95). Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Spearheaded by a master baker trained in Belgium, Miara’s Bakery crafts a cornucopia of baked goods each morning from scratch. Configured from only the freshest ingredients including nonartificial sweeteners and nonartificial apples, the handcrafted delicacies tickle taste buds with their European style and witty wordplay. Sweet treats such as a raspberry soufflé cheesecake ($11.99) or 7" brandy-apricot torte ($24.99) make for an easily sliceable delight; Belgian-style chocolate truffles ($11.99) allow dessert devotees to forgo the fork. Moist coffee cakes ($5.99+) make a sweet start to any morning or barista birthday party. Or sample from the savory end of the spectrum with Miara's fresh-baked breads, including loaves of authentic German–style sourdough rye ($3.45).
Specializing in custom cakes artfully decorated by talented cake designers, Il Giardino Del Dolce also satiates sweet teeth of all ages with a mouthwatering selection of authentic Italian pastries, cookies, and more. Fill your jowl jar with butter cookies ($6.99–$10.99/lb.) topped with sprinkles, chocolate, or green cherries, or opt for authentic Italian eats with biscotti ($12.99/lb.), pignoli, or buccellate ($14.99/lb.).
The pizza crossed the road because there was a hungry gorilla chasing gazelles. Then the gorilla sees the pizza and decides to stop and eat it. Eat like that gorilla with today's Groupon: for $15, you get a casual Italian meal package (a $30.24 total value) at Sicilia Bakery, which includes the following:
Delightful Pastries pairs local and sustainably grown ingredients with tasty imported sweets in its European-style, house-made pastries, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. The mother-daughter dynamic duo behind Delightful Pastries uses a minimal amount of sugar in many of the bakery’s oven-kissed creations, allowing the naturally sweet ingredients in a malted chocolate chunk cookie ($3) or breakfast bar ($3) to fulfill their lifelong dream of hogging the spotlight. Real, all-natural butter seeps into every bite of butter cookies, croissants snuggled under a coat of almonds, and raspberry-stuffed rugelah, inspiring jealousy from back-alley margarine peddlers. Cherries freshly arrived from Michigan make their first pit stop in the Black Forest cake, and specialty diets' complaints are assuaged with a collection of handmade vegan sourdough breads ($5) and gluten-free sweets such as macaroons.
When Irma Dinkha moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico, she made sure to pack along her love and talent for creating specialty cakes. From within her Jefferson Park shop, Beautiful Cakes, she carries on a 20-year tradition of crafting stunning, multi-tiered wedding cakes. The custom cakes evolve from Irma’s design catalogue or customers’ original ideas, and are made all the more sweeter with complimentary tastings and consultations. Irma also creates 3D-style cakes of basketballs and other edible items, along with 11 types of cupcakes in flavors such as cookies’n cream and pina colada.
If customers arrive at Mrs. A’s Cupcakes & Cookies at the right time, they may meet the owner’s 5-year-old grandson, who greets them with a hello and an eager recitation of his favorite cupcakes. Mrs. A runs her namesake bakery along with her two youngest daughters, making it a true family-operated business. Each morning, they arrive bright and early to bake the day’s goods from scratch using fresh ingredients.
Although the bakers also make cookies and donuts, cupcakes are their specialty. Varieties change daily based on seasonal and available ingredients, such as the apple- pies and pumpkin- cream- cheese cupcakes they whip up in the fall. One mainstay, the red- velvet cupcake, is crafted using traditional Depression-era techniques, adding a smidge of cocoa to the batter and shredded stock certificates to the frosting. Other offerings echo the family’s Filipino heritage, such as the ube cupcake, made from purple yam, and the made-to-order buko- pandan cupcake, created from coconut meat, condensed milk, and the fragrant extract of pandan leaves.