We absolutely love Pan Artesenal (3724 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL), a new bakery in Humboldt Park fusing Mexican and French baking traditions. They offer a wide variety of breakfast sandwiches, lunch bites and pastries, in a warm, welcoming space. The bakery is run by sisters Lizette and Marisol Espinoza (a French Pastry School graduate) featuring influences from both France and Mexico. The menu is full of riffs on traditional pan dulce including conchas, wheat rolls and cuernitos, European standards like baguettes, and truly unique creations like the nopal scone and the maguey worm baguette.
We have tried a variety of different pastries, but the real stars of the show are the croissants. Turns out we are not the only fans. These croissants have even been featured as one of the Chicago Tribune’s favorite croissants in the city. The croissants come in a myriad of rotating flavors including a classic butter, pistachio, nutella, cajeta and my personal favorite, the almond ($3.50). The croissants are light, buttery and flaky, and don’t skimp on the fillings. We also appreciate the full drink menu including espresso, iced coffee and hot chocolate, which along with the free WiFi, makes it a great place to work for a few hours. Pan Artesenal has quickly become one of our favorite cafes in our city.
There is nothing we like more than trying pastries from around the world, so we were delighted to visit a new bakery in Andersonville in Chicago that celebrates the neighborhood’s Scandinavian heritage: Lost Larson ( 5318 N Clark St Chicago, IL). Lost Larson specializes in traditional Scandinavian pastries made with the highest quality ingredients. The bakery itself is bright and clean, and there are even some comfy booths for seating.
We have been to Lost Larson a few times, and we have yet to try something we did not love. We think that the croissants are particularly good. The scrumptious chocolate croissant has a touch of cardamom, and there is also a Danish riff on a croissant, the Tebirkes ($4.50), which has an almond filling and is covered with poppy seeds. M was head over heels for the cinnamon roll ($4.50), which was subtle, not overly syrupy or sticky. The cardamom bun ($4.50), a Swedish classic, was also superlative. They also have seasonal specialties in the pastry case like Saffron buns for St. Lucia’s day in December (unfortunately they were sold out when we got there).
A full selection of beverages are available including espresso drinks, tea and a matcha latte. Recently, we also sampled a special elderflower mulled apple cider. Don’t sleep on the breads displayed behind the counter either, we were in love with the slightly-sweet Swedish limpa bread with fennel, anise, and orange peel. There are also a few savory open-faced sandwiches (known as smorrebrod in Denmark) with eclectic toppings like avocado and pickled herring ($8.50-10) if you are in more of a lunch mood. Though Lost Larson may be a bit more expensive than other bakeries, it is worth every penny!
We are all about a good bakery, and though we have visited many Italian, Mexican, French and Portuguese bakeries over the years, other countries have flown under the radar. But here in Cleveland we recently came across a bakery dedicated to all things Swiss, Zoss Bakery (12397 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights). Who knew? The concept of the Swiss bakery reminds us of New Glarus, Wisconsin, a fully Swiss-themed town, which we visited many moons ago at the start of our ETW journey. Zoss Bakery is located in a small, nondescript building in Cleveland Heights, just east of Cleveland, and is helmed by an actual Swiss baker, Kurt Zoss.
Though small, the bakery is well stocked with all manner of sweet and savory goods. There are many different types of bread on the back wall: baguette, honey wheat, sourdough, multi grain, brioche and the unusual Krustenkrone, a ring of bread composed of smaller rolls. There were also several types of croissants, both sweet and savory (almond, chocolate, cheese, ham, etc.), and Bavarian pretzels (we had to get both a croissant and pretzel – both of which were amazing). There are also more Americanized offerings like chocolate cookies, coconut macaroons and muffins.
There is also a cooler with a variety of chilled desserts, which is where the really interesting stuff was hidden. There were a variety of Swiss treats including the classic chocolate and apricot Linzer torte, apple strudel, and a flourless chocolate torte. We were also intrigued by the most geometric dessert we have ever seen, the perfectly-triangular Nussecken, which was composed of two pieces of hazelnut shortbread with apricot jam, with a coating of chocolate – delicious! We were excited to sample some more esoteric Swiss treats at Zoss, and hope to be back soon for more inexplicably geometric pastries.
Some croissants are straight while others are crescent shaped…. but does it MEAN anything, or is it just decorative? Turns out France actually has laws about what each shape indicates. According to Everywhereist, in France, only all-butter croissants are legally allowed to have a straight shape (as seen below)! Any croissant, even those made with part margarine or other oils, can be crescent shaped. There’s your strange fact for the day.
We are always on the hunt for delicious baked goods, and other than the perfect macaron, one of our most elusive quests is for the perfect croissant. We have had many good croissants, but they all seem to lack the light flakiness we so desire. However, we may have just found one of our favorite croissants at a small bakery in Pilsen: Beurrage (1248 W 18th St). Beurrage is the brainchild of Jeffrey Hallenbeck, a self-taught baker, who developed the business out of a catering company. Beurrage has a variety of croissants available, from almond to chocolate to hazelnut banana to savory varieties. In a Chicago-y twist, there is even a pretzel croissant! For their generous size, we were also shocked at the reasonable prices ($3.50 for a pain au chocolat / chocolate croissant). We went with the chocolate croissant – and were completely delighted at how light and flaky it was. We’re talking shatter-into-a-million-flakes-upon-biting flaky. There was also a generous filling of dark chocolate, we hate when bakeries skimp on this, so we were in heaven. Of course, Beurrage also sells other things than croissants, like doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and danishes. However, with a croissant that good, who needs variety? We will be returning ASAP to stuff our faces with more croissant-y goodness.
If you do not know where to look, there is absolutely no way that you would find Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter by chance (100 E Walton St.). It is located half of a story up on the ground floor of a large concrete condo high-rise and is mostly hidden from view. The store itself is tiny (though it appears they have a pretty big kitchen) and consists mostly of a small counter and a few tables. However, despite its small size, this place is a serious bakery helmed by Belgian breadmaker Reynaud Hendrickx. Another hint of its authenticity, each time we visited, we were served by a delightful Francophone woman and the place was chock full of Francophone customers.
The breads – Belgian country, brioche and challah to name a few – are certainly the main draw, but we were also seeking something a bit sweeter – a purportedly authentic Liège Waffle made with Belgian pearl sugar. We absolutely had to try it! Unfortunately, our trip to Hendrickx came at a somewhat inopportune time – 7 PM. We realized this was certainly not the best time for a bakery at all, and there was only one waffle left! Our lone survivor waffle was very tasty, and we appreciated the signature bursts of caramel-like sweetness from the pearl sugar, though we were a little disappointed that it had not been made fresh. We definitely would have waited a few minutes for a waffle hot off the iron…maybe next time? The croissants are also excellent and come in both plain and more unique flavors like apple turnover and cherry/chocolate ($2.85 for plain, extra for fillings).
We were also delighted to find a hearty menu of soups, salads and sandwiches in addition to bread. The particularly generous sandwiches are served on thick slices of the signature homemade Belgian country bread, which makes a HUGE difference, and include such varieties as goat cheese/honey and curried chicken salad (Each $7.25). The “Belgian” salad ($9.25) was similarly fresh, and consisted of a composed plate with arugula, tuna, bread and capers. Our friends also had the soup of the day – split pea – that they greatly enjoyed. Over the course of a few visits we sampled some of their savory offerings, and each time we were impressed by the fresh and simple ingredients. No filler here, and there will surely be leftovers due to the generous portion size. We also like that they wrap up the leftovers in wax paper for you.
The first time we visited it was pleasant enough to sit outside, however there was also a little fishbowl-like sitting area, which, curiously, you have to go through the kitchen to access. Overall we highly recommend Hendrickx, and are glad to have found an independent option in the area. Hendrickx is a perfect place to stop for a little lunch before/after a day of shopping in the Gold Coast/Michigan Avenue or after an afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
While the French are known for impossibly delicate and flaky pastries, the Portuguese prefer denser eggy and sugary cakes. The Portuguese take on the croissant is much the same. We heard that Pastelaria Benard had a reputation for the best croissants in Lisbon we were eager to try them (though we did not know what difference a Portuguese croissant would have in store for us). Pastelaria Benard (Rua Garret 104) is located right off of Largo Camõesin the heart of Lisbon’s atmospheric Bairro Alto, right next to A Brasileira, one of Lisbon’s most internationally famous cafes. Benard, though less touristy, is just as antique, and practically exudes history.
In the old Pastelaria there is an entire shelf of croissants that are piping hot – fresh out of the oven – so we figured we were in for a treat. However, we were a little confused upon first bite. Yes, these so-called croissants were quite good, but nothing like the classic French croissant we have come to know and love. In this rendition, the dough is cakey and rich like a brioche, not flaky at all! At first we thought we perhaps ordered wrong – but they had given us two straight off of the “croissant shelf.” Though the alleged “croissant” was good in its own right, we are surprised the Portuguese have not given this confection another name, especially since the Portuguese have such creative names for their sweets. However, we have also seen French-style croissants in Lisbon also being called by the croissant moniker (or at least they appeared flakier than this). Very confusing! So be warned, pastry-philes looking for a croissant in Lisbon – you could be ordering a different treat altogether!
Finding quality croissants in America is hard. I had pretty much given up my search, but I’m proud to say I’ve found a worthy DIY alternative the Trader Joes’ frozen chocolate croissants. They cost $4.99 for one box, which had four croissants. They are frozen – but require some prep. They have to be left out overnight (9 hours according to the box) to rise, and should be finished with an egg wash before baking. I was impressed when I checked on my little croissants in the morning to see they had quadrupled in size. I am not a baker, but I hear this is a normal “bread” thing…
After baking for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, I was ready to sample the croissants, which had nicely browned. They were generously filled with dark chocolate, which was perfectly oozy and melty. They key to croissants, IMHO, is the flakiness, which I find missing from so many other varieties I have tried. These TJ croissants are awesomely flaky and buttery without being doughy. My one tiny qualm is the amount of fat in these puppies. Don’t look at the nutrition facts, they aren’t for the faint of heart. I meant to take pictures, but we ate the croissants so fast all that I would have gotten were crumbs and chocolate smudges.
We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.
To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.