Former cooking-school instructor Bill Millholland opened his Uptown shop with two goals: Give people pastries and sandwiches for the early part of the day, and cheeses to nosh on later. At present, the noshes take a back seat to the breads and pastries, which fill the shop’s counter. Daily coffee cakes have a pleasantly dense, pound cake–like crumb, whereas sticky buns with hints of honey are notably soft. Huge sandwiches are satisfying, but the flatbreads are a little overcrisp. 1303 W Wilson Ave (773-989-7393).
Best bite The focaccia, just one loaf in the bakery’s ambitious bread program
It was only a matter of time before the folks behind the Flirty Cupcakes truck opened a storefront. But who knew they’d use this opportunity to expand their repertoire from cupcakes to cookies, muffins, brownies and “Pop-Tarts”? Those tarts (much smaller than Kellogg’s makes them) sport flaky, fall-apart crusts—frankly, they do more for us than Flirty’s cupcakes do. 1030 W Taylor St (312-852-4441).
Best bite A chocolate crinkle cookie that’s chewy on the edges and soft in the middle—a good alternative to the pedestrian brownie
Poland-born baker Fabiola Tyrawa opened this River North café in February. Everyone here is extremely nice, and the decor—plush red curtains, minimal natural light—took us right back to an underground coffeehouse in 1980s East Berlin. (Or, you know, what we imagine one might have been like.) A puff-pastry “croissant” with a dollop of goat cheese in the center and a dense plum tart weren’t terribly impressive, but we liked that they weren’t too sweet, either. 714 N Wells St (312-397-3300).
Best bite Ipsento coffee (such as flavored lattes) and Rare Tea Cellar teas
Marybeth Flynn’s West Loop bakery is named for her mother, photos of whom line one wall. All sweets—from cookies to brownies to pies—are miniature. This is cute (bite-size cookies, adorable!) but also may be causing some technical challenges: The chocolate-chunk cookies were dry, the pound cake overly spongy. A savory breakfast hand pie was bland, and a vanilla sandwich cookie seemed to be sandwiching pure, warm butter. 939 W Randolph St (312-243-3959).
Best bite Light—but still moist—bite-size brownies drizzled with chocolate