Chicagoans are living in the golden age of croissants. As if the buttery, flaky pastries weren’t rich enough, they're now being elevated to new levels at restaurants, cafes and bakeries all over the city, as pastry chefs infuse unique textures and flavors into all the nooks and crannies. From baklava-inspired versions to nostalgic varieties flavored with cereal, here are nine new croissants to check out in Chicago.
Baklava croissant at Nava
The newest restaurant at Soho House, Nava draws inspiration from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines for its all-day menus on the roof of the West Loop hotel and members’ club. In the morning, that means semolina pancakes, shakshuka and croissants with a Greek twist. Blending Mediterranean flavors with classic French technique, the baklava croissant is the handiwork of pastry chef Eric Estrella, who soaks it in simple syrup and honey, with splashes of orange juice and lemon for some fruity zing. They’re then stuffed and topped with almonds, pistachios and walnut cream.
113 N. Green St.; 312-521-8000
Maritozzi di cornetti at Nico Osteria
When restaurateur Paul Kahan sets the lofty goal of serving the best croissants in Chicago, it helps to have pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky in his corner. Inspired by the dark, caramelized croissants perfected at San Francisco’s venerable Tartine Bakery, Omilinsky turned to Greg Wade of Publican Quality Breads for some tips, including baking with spelt flour. “It adds another depth of flavor,” says Omilinsky. “Plus it was really fun to research croissants and collaborate with other chefs within our company.” The product of two months of intensive testing, the croissant is used as the base for a traditional Italian dessert called maritozzi di cornetti — “a super-traditional Italian sweet that uses something along the lines of brioche and it’s filled with sweet cream.” Subbing in croissant for brioche, Omilinsky splits the pastry open, soaks it in elderflower liqueur and fills it with almond cream, Marcola almonds and roasted vanilla pastry cream. It’s all finished with blueberry compote, spiced ricotta crema and Greek yogurt–elderflower gelato, resulting in the ultimate croissant dessert.
1015 N. Rush St.; 312-994-7100
Cereal milk croissants at West Town Bakery
We’re just gonna come right out and say it: Cereal bowl croissants are the new rainbow bagels. Equally vibrant but less cloying, the kaleidoscopic pastries are the handiwork of Chris Teixeira, who fills them with cereal-infused whipped cream and tops them with chocolate-covered cereal pieces. The cream helps to lighten up the pastry and make it less dense while adding fruity flavor to what is otherwise a butter bomb. As for the cereal itself, varieties include Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Oaxacan cheese croissant at Cafe Marie-Jeanne
When it comes to savory croissants, lots of bakeries just fold in cheese and call it a day. Not Cafe Marie-Jeanne. Upgrading the ol’ ham and cheese combo, the Humboldt Park restaurant features Oaxaca cheese and prosciutto, a pretty eclectic medley of classic Italian and Mexican flavors in one convenient pastry. There’s some jalapeño in there as well, bringing a bit of welcome spice to the equation.
1001 N. California Ave.; 773-904-7660
Blackberry-violet brioche at Cellar Door Provisions
Be sure to arrive early for a croissant at Cellar Door Provisions. Available only Thursday through Sunday, these things are popular for good reason, and they’re far from typical. As with everything this locally driven cafe makes, the croissants are imaginative and rich with flavor. Past examples include croissants filled with chocolate and currants, magnolia blossom croissants, bergamot croissants, green croissants brightened with Bordeaux spinach and versions made with sourdough. One of the cafe’s newest creations is a blackberry and violet caramel-laminated brioche (pictured).
3025 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-697-8337
Tasting menu dessert at Oriole
Although typically a breakfast snack, the modest croissant is now an exclamation point to the tasting menu at one of Chicago’s top fine-dining restaurants. The handiwork of pastry chef Genie Kwon, Oriole's adorable mini croissant is one of the few items that’s been on the menu, in one iteration or another, since the establishment opened last year. The current variety is filled with melty Ashbrook cheese, apple butter and rosemary, while past examples have included almond croissants with rose, cardamom and acacia honey, and another with raclette cheese.
661 W. Walnut St.; 312-877-5339
Croissant Benedicts at Margeaux Brasserie
Michael Mina's new French restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria features a variety of croissant Benedicts for breakfast and brunch, each topped with perfectly poached eggs, béarnaise sauce and Bloomsdale spinach, with the option of adding ham, smoked salmon or Maine lobster. They're such a genius idea, it's amazing they haven't been a thing in Chicago before now.
Gruyère croissant at Americano 2211
Come for the shakshuka, stay for the gooey Gruyère croissants. That’s the recipe for success at Americano 2211, the quaint Bucktown cafe-restaurant-bar hybrid that does a lot of things well. This is especially true of pastries, desserts and ice cream from accomplished pastry chef Nancy Silver. The sweets are all sensational, but savory pastries like this Gruyère version, rich and warm with copious amounts of salty, gooey cheese, are game changing.
2211 W. North Ave.; 773-360-8757
Savory croissants at Hewn
Going way beyond mere cheese, the savory croissants at Evanston’s beloved Hewn bakery include a spicy eggplant croissant baked with mozzarella and cilantro, a fragrant, zesty version with a Mediterranean tilt. There’s also one stuffed with heirloom Silvia bean purée, caramelized onions, Parmesan and chives, which offers a creamy contrast to the crackle of the pastry. They're all courtesy of head baker and co-owner Ellen King.
810 Dempster St., Evanston; 847-869-4396