Ask anyone south of Cermak where to get a jumbo, buttery croissant and odds are they'll point you to the Medici Bakery. From puffy and plain to stuffed-to-the-brim, croissants have been luring South Siders here since this cafe expanded from a small window in the front of the Medici restaurant next door. Spinach and feta, turkey and cheddar, and ham and swiss croissants line the bakery shelves next to sweeter fillings like chocolate and the occasional raspberry or cherry.
Entering the Medici Bakery, your eyes will go right to the baked goods. Once you've peeled yourself away you'll see there's not much else to look at in the clean-lined cafe. With only four high wooden tables in the small, light-drenched space, you can either wait for a seat or head to the bench-packed park across the street. If you opt to wait, pass the time by watching the open kitchen behind the counter, where you might catch a glimpse of Gracie, a 20-year baking veteran at Medici (her apple pie is so good it bears her name).
Muffins, cinnamon rolls, Mexican conchas and sour cream buns round out the bakery case, along with sugar-laden pecan pie, apple pie and dense, buttery carrot cake. But Medici is as serious about its bread as it is about its savory snacks, decadent sweets and Fair Trade coffee. Plenty of locals rely on the Medici Bakery for their daily bread, from classic white, wheat and rye to olive ciabatta and semolina. The cinnamon raisin bread is moist and sweet, with enough raisins and spice to make it a neighborhood favorite. The bread menu rotates, so if you don't see what you're looking for ask what day it'll be back on the racks.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood