In grad school, where I’d listen to lectures on Foucault and workshop short stories, I managed to find, along with new favorite authors, a passion for something beyond the classroom. Some people had exercise; some, clubs or organizations. I had bakeries. Like most big cities, Chicago is filled with small bakeries, and, heady with the smell of yeast, these houses of perfect pastries and bread became my welcome reward for studying and turning in papers.

The routine was this: meet my also-student brother somewhere on campus, toting our bags and books and usually bundled for cold weather, and head somewhere new. Sometimes we’d eat en route, while walking down the sidewalk or grabbing the El; sometimes we’d eat at the bakery itself; sometimes we’d package our desserts and come back to the school food court, killing time before whatever class I’d have. And just like watching movies or sleeping in on weekends, this was a hobby with immediate appeal.


You know, a friend of mine, a Chicago attorney, commutes via long train rides to her job every day, so I asked her once, How do you do it? And she told me this: she embraced it. Rather than dreading the commute, she took back the hours of downtime and used them for reading, communicating, even praying—turning the time into something she looked forward to. I always liked that. I guess you could say, essentially, collecting bakery visits became my method of embracing. Chicago winters seem a little less bitter when you have warm bakery in your pocket, and I stand by that.

There was Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park, which makes a brownie to rival Nigella Lawson’s recipe—and that’s saying something—as well as killer chocolate coconut macaroons and fluffy whoopee pies; Swirlz, home of the best cupcake frosting I’ve ever tasted and where the owner gave us free samples one night; Pasticceria Natalina, featured in Chicago Magazine; and Dinkel’s, the one with the most seating space and all kinds of cakes. (It’s really a wonder I didn’t gain 20 pounds, but for all the walking.)

bittersweet lakeview

This last weekend, I revisited Bittersweet in Lakeview, a charming little spot with striped awnings and glass cases filled with sweet treats. The first time we went, I think it was a Saturday afternoon, and we’d just come from a pizza place (another hobby/obsession). This time, we were just leaving an apartment showing and running down rainy sidewalks where snow was melting, the December weather in the high 50s (!).

my macarons

When you go to Bittersweet, get a macaron. Bittersweet’s are the French variety, colorful little sandwiches of delicate cookies and delicious cream, and they’re the best I’ve had in the city. The mini brioche was also quite good—flaky layers of dough opening to a rich chocolate center. As another plus, this bakery offers yesterday’s cupcakes at half price, as well as nicely packaged bags of broken pastries for $1.50 a pop. Whatever you order, one thing’s for sure: from the moment you step inside this gorgeous shop, you’ll be swooning at the array of desserts.

But don’t take my word for it: Visit!

Bittersweet Pastry Shop

Neighborhood: Lakeview
1114 W Belmont Ave
(between Clifton Ave & Seminary Ave)
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 929-1100

*Oh, and in case you’re wondering: I liked the chocolate macarons best. Almost enough to make me want to make my own batch, but then I’d eat them all, and, unfortunately, I don’t walk around the city every day now.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Carrie

    So when I read that you got some pizza this weekend (as you usually love to do when you are in the city) it got me thinking. You love pizza. You love baking. How about a dessert pizza? It sounds… decidedly Shanna. I’d love to see what you would come up with. :-)

  2. Chessa

    There are so many delicious bakeries in Manhattan, as well! These places sound incredible. I hope to make it to Chicago sometime soon (I can’t believe I’ve never been there!) and will definite;y check one (or more) of these out!

  3. MC

    What a lovely post, you know, it’s strange because I would actually prefer commuting on public transportation than driving to my destination. I always think about all the knitting and reading I could be doing while commuting, instead of driving. Blah! I guess it’s always greener on the other side!

  4. Lan

    so i left you a comment this morning for this post but my computer decided to act up. the gist of it: i love bakeries. what i especially love about them tho, Bakery Crawls. what i don’t love, the sugar overdose at the end of said crawl. i organized one over the summer, complete with ratings on service, decor, taste and price. if i ever, ever make it to chicago again, we must do a bakery crawl.

  5. Shannalee

    Carrie, You’re adorable. I actually did make a dessert pizza once, but, well, let’s just say when you put a ton of nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chips and some other things on a pizza crust, you find out there is such a thing as too much sugar.

    Chessa, Oh, I bet! Have you visited Magnolia? Is it all I’ve heard?

    MC: No, I totally agree with you. Trains > driving, any day. The thing with my friend, though, is she’s commuting two hours every day via train. Better than cars, but still long.

    Lan: Really?? I have always wanted to do a bakery crawl! I am so in, so I’m crossing my fingers you’ll end up visiting Chicago again!

  6. amy

    mmmmhhh, macaroons!

  7. Pingback: The Best Pizza in Chicago. Period | food loves writing

  8. jessiev

    hoo boy. you’ve been to bleeding heart organic bakery? bc you seem to find all the good ones…

  9. Shannalee

    JessieV, Love their Earl Grey cookies! Haven’t actually been inside but have driven by, and was given those cookies once. I need to go.

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