Whether you're looking for a sweet-tooth fix or a healthy lunch, you can find it at the Austrian Bakery, a cheerful red-and-white bakery and delicatessen in Lincoln Park. With orderly shelves full of fresh-baked bread and a bakery case brimming with temptation (even with their mysterious Austrian names, these desserts are clearly enticing), Austrian Bakery does a brisk business with both the coffee crowd and grab-and-go lunchtime rush. (The sun-soaked windows and free wi-fi are two reasons you may find yourself lingering longer than intended.)
Sandwiches here can be selected from a list or built to order. Either way, you may want to opt for the "mini" (half) sandwich as these two-fisted beauties leave little room for dessert. The Austrian is the best-selling sandwich by far, with three different kinds of salami (Hungarian, Genoa and German) and provolone cheese on Rogenbaeck bread, slathered with house dressing. For a tasty vegetarian option, check out the Casablanca, made with basil, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella on sunflower seed bread, drizzled with Balsamic vinegar.
Once you've eaten a balanced meal, move quickly to the fun stuff: the bakery case. From delicate, melt-in-your-mouth eclairs to dense hunks of German chocolate cake, this bakery aims to please every palate. It's well known for its five varieties of mousse, including pistachio and white chocolate raspberry, but it's no surprise that the Austrian treats are achingly delicious and the real show stoppers. The Bienenstich ("bee sting") cake is a buttery brioche that's glazed with honey just before baking and layered with a sweet, creamy filling.
With sandwiches hovering around $7 and desserts right around $3, you can order both without breaking the bank.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood