Paczki. Pawnch-ki. No matter how you spell it, it is just plain delicious. Have no idea what I am talking about? Well, let me enlighten you, friend, and totally ruin your healthy eating resolution. Oops. But don’t feel bad. It’s just Fat Tuesday, Chicago Style.
You see, the paczki is a type of Polish donut that combines fried goodness with sugar, icing, and whatever sweet filling your hungry stomach can imagine. Think of it as a stuffed donut, filled with anything from fresh strawberries to custard to even liquor! In Chicago, Paczki Day is a huge deal, with paczki eating contests held and bakeries being open around the clock to fill huge orders by hungry Chicagoans of all ethnicities, not just the Polish.
Traditionally Paczki Day coincides with Fat Tuesday as a way to eat up all of the guilty treats hidden in your house before Lent begins, but in Poland they celebrate Paczki Day on the Thursday before Lent. No matter which day you choose to focus on, stick with my suggestions on how to celebrate with gusto!
The Traditional Paczki
My Polish family and I have devoured many paczkis, and we all unanimously agree that the best ones in Chicago come from my local bakery, the Central Continental Bakery. A European style bakery, it specializes in over forty—that’s right 40—different kinds of paczkis, ranging from traditional to fresh fruit and gourmet flavors. There is such a high demand for their fried treats that the bakery is open for 24 hours on Paczki Day…and as one who has been there at 11 P.M., I am shocked that it is so busy on a very late Monday night!
A few tips for ordering your paczkis from Central Continental: Either order online (you get to wait in a MUCH shorter line when picking up your pastries but you must do so IN ADVANCE) or go at a very odd time (such as my 11 PM visit) because it is a total and utter MADHOUSE on paczki day.
Stuffed Cupcake Delight
If you aren’t one for paczkis (I’m looking at you, my beloved husband), have no fear. You too can indulge in Fat Tuesday by hitting up my absolute favorite cupcake shop, Molly’s Cupcakes, for their mouth watering stuffed cupcakes.
Their flavors change regularly, but there are quite a few constant and popular standbys that I highly recommend: Cake Batter, Cookie Monster, Crème Brulee, and my personal favorite, the “Ron Bennington” aka chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch goodness. Swoon.
If you are looking to avoid the craziness of Paczki Day, Molly’s is the perfect place to enjoy a latte and dig into a freshly baked cupcake, with extra toppings from the sprinkle station if your heart so desires. My boys have a blast here because of their cool swing seats, the abundance of board games available, and the fact that they can create their own cupcake combination (I love that it can be in a miniature size, too) based on different cakes and icings.
A portion of their proceeds also goes to community schools, so there is even more motivation to indulge in a cupcake, cookie, or brownie.
Tricked Out Donuts
Looking for a fun treat on the go? Then look no further than Spunky Dunkers in Palatine. Their vast flavors, from Red Velvet to Peanut Butter and Jelly, put any other drive thru donut shop to shame. And their “Secret Menu” is the stuff that Fat Tuesday dreams are made of. I love how this small business makes everything from scratch and from long held family recipes so you truly feel a taste of home whenever biting into one of their delicacies.
Well, friends, if you aren’t hungry after reading this, you might just be INSANE. But if sweets aren’t necessarily your thing, be sure to check out this list of where to find the Ultimate Comfort Food in Chicagoland.
I’m off to fill my face with as much fried goodness as possible to showcase my Polish pride. Oh wait, it’s not Fat Tuesday yet? No problem. I’m just practicing. 😉