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 WilliamsCinnamon roll at The Bristol.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsBeignets at Carriage House.
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Photograph: Arthur MullenMexican pastry basket at Frontera.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsChurros at GT Fish & Oyster
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsEgg Tart at Fat Rice.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsKingsbury Street Cafe
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsVanilla malt coffee cake at Lula Café.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsCoffee cake at Nico Osteria.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsCoffee cake at The Publican.
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsCronut 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

Restaurants, Contemporary American

Pretzel bread pudding at Ada St.

icon-location-pin River West/West Town

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

Cinnamon roll at The Bristol.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Cinnamon roll at the Bristol

icon-location-pin Bucktown

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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Beignets at Carriage House.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Creole

Beignets at Carriage House

icon-location-pin Wicker Park

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

Portuguese egg tart at Fat Rice.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, South Asian

Egg tarts at Fat Rice

icon-location-pin Logan Square

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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Mexican pastry basket at Frontera.
Photograph: Arthur Mullen
Restaurants, Mexican

Mexican pastry basket at Frontera Grill

icon-location-pin River North

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

Churros at GT Fish & Oyster
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Seafood

Churros at GT Fish & Oyster

icon-location-pin River North

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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Kingsbury Street Cafe
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Cheddar scone at Kingsbury Street Cafe

icon-location-pin River North

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

 

Vanilla malt coffee cake at Lula Café.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Eclectic

Vanilla malt coffee cake at Lula Cafe

icon-location-pin Logan Square
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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Coffee cake at Nico Osteria.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Seafood

Coffee cake at Nico Osteria

icon-location-pin Gold Coast

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

Coffee cake at the Publican.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, American

Cinnamon streusel coffee cake at the Publican

icon-location-pin West Loop

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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Cronut at Table 52
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Cronut at Table Fifty-Two

icon-location-pin Rush & Division

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

Restaurants, Japanese

Sweet potato doughnuts at Yusho

icon-location-pin Avondale

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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