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Chicago's 12 best brunch pastries

When you need a small sweet during brunch, Chicago restaurants serve up coffee cakes, churros, cinnamon rolls and more

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Cinnamon roll at The Bristol.
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Beignets at Carriage House.
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Photograph: Arthur Mullen
Mexican pastry basket at Frontera.
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Churros at GT Fish & Oyster
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Photograph: Martha Williams

Egg Tart at Fat Rice.

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Kingsbury Street Cafe
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Vanilla malt coffee cake at Lula Café.
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Coffee cake at Nico Osteria.
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Coffee cake at The Publican.
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Cronut at Table 52
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Sweet potato doughnuts at Yusho.
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Eggs and pancakes are the workhorses of brunch—they're the main event, and a brunch's success depends on them. But while most side dishes, like bacon, are just there to complement the rest of the meal, these pastries set themselves apart. These pastries—slivers of coffee cake, warm doughnuts, savory scones—are small enough to have in addition to a big entree, but they're packed with flavor, perfectly textured and so delicious we've remembered them long after brunch was over. Here are our picks for the 12 best brunch pastries in the city.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to brunch in Chicago

Our favorite brunch pastries

Pretzel bread pudding at Ada St.

Critics' pick

At brunch I often debate whether to get something sweet or savory (it's nice that omelettes vs. pancakes is my biggest concern on the weekend), so the idea of pretzel bread pudding is pretty appealing. Though still more sweet than savory, the bread pudding is a good compromise thanks to a salty pretzel topped with maple whipped cream and candied bacon.—Erin Delahanty

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West Town

Cinnamon roll at the Bristol

Critics' pick

We started our brunch with the cinnamon roll, but the Bristol's take on the classic is better for dessert: It's soft, warm, gooey and so delicious it's the last taste you want in your mouth.—Amy Cavanaugh

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Bucktown

Beignets at Carriage House

I've never been to New Orleans, but if the beignets at Carriage House are any indication of what I can find in NOLA, then I need to book a flight, stat. Served warm and dusted with powdered sugar, the beignets practically melt in your mouth. As if that wasn't a sweet enough start to the morning, they are served with a side of espresso butterscotch. The beignets don't need the sauce, but it sure doesn't hurt.—ED

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Wicker Park

Egg tarts at Fat Rice

Critics' pick

I didn't expect the standout item at the Macanese restaurant's new brunch to be two tiny tarts. But the lightly sweet custard, presented in a pastry shell, is so good, everyone should get their own order.—AC

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Logan Square

Mexican pastry basket at Frontera Grill

Critics' pick

Whether it's your main course or a side for the table, the $8 basket of pastries is a steal. There's a buttery concha, topped with streusel; a crunchy, carmelized oreja, similar to a French palmier; huachibola, a cream cheese–filled roll with sprinkles; and gordita de piloncillo, a corn-masa doughnut.—AC

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River North

Churros at GT Fish & Oyster

Critics' pick

While I love oysters, I'm thankful GT Fish & Oyster's brunch isn't just seafood-focused. The brunch menu includes an everything bagel–inspired monkey bread and these textbook-perfect churros, which come with a dish of orange cream cheese sauce on the side.—AC

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River North

Cheddar scone at Kingsbury Street Cafe

Critics' pick

Offered as a side or as part of the Kingsbury Café breakfast (along with eggs and ridiculous hash browns), the melt-in-your-mouth scone is rich, yes, but also light enough to allow you to shovel in plenty of other decadent dishes.—Laura Baginski

 

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Lincoln Park

Vanilla malt coffee cake at Lula Cafe

Critics' pick

The selection of house pastries rotates, but the vanilla malt coffee cake is my favorite—it's moist and not too sweet, with a dense crumb topping. Get it with a cup of the pour-over coffee at breakfast or brunch.—AC

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Logan Square

Coffee cake at Nico Osteria

Critics' pick

You won't go wrong with any of Amanda Rockman's morning pastries, but the rotating coffee cake (on my visit, chestnut, now blueberry) is simple but terrific. It has a tender crumb and a layer of filling running through it. It's even better with a tiny drizzle of honey, served on the side.—AC

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Gold Coast

Cinnamon streusel coffee cake at the Publican

Critics' pick

My brunch date wanted the doughnut, but I insisted we get the coffee cake. It wasn't a mistake: The coffee cake is light as air, with rich cinnamon flavor and sweet topping. We later sampled the doughnut after we traded some of our bacon with our neighbors (one benefit to communal tables!), but the coffee cake was the clear favorite.—AC

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West Loop

Cronut at Table Fifty-Two

Cronuts don't really fit with the Southern menu at Table Fifty-Two, but I'm not complaining. The pastry, which is served warm, changes fillings regularly, but my strawberry and lemon curd–filled pastry was so good, I'd try a cronut in any flavor.—AC

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Gold Coast

Sweet potato doughnuts at Yusho

Critics' pick

End your Sunday noodle brunch with these beauties—they're perfectly crisp and flavorful on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside.—Martha Williams

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Logan Square

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