Providing Greek sweets and "over 30 years of excellence," the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop's doors open to rich yellow walls, deep blue hanging lights and long glass cases filled with colorful pastries and cookies. The smells engage the senses, too: Fresh baked breads line the back wall and cinnamon and lemon linger in the air.
Bags of Greek coffee and Attiki honey sit neatly on display behind the counter, along with pre-packaged cookie assortments. The menu spans the pastry palate, so please do not leave with only one baklava (the classic walnut and honey mixture baked in phyllo dough).
Bougatsa (for $1.99), another genius phyllo treat, comes filled with creamy lemon custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar, cinnamon and honey. A lot bigger and a little less rich than the baklava or the equally incredible floyeres (a baklava variation including walnuts and almonds dripping in honey and dipped in chocolate), the perfectly light, lemony and flaky bougatsa hooked me.
Those looking for something a bit more savory will find spanakopita filled with fresh spinach, dill, onion and feta cheese, or the less green tiropita, a feta and ricotta cheese-filled phyllo pie. The open-arm service might make you want to stay and have a seat, if you're in no particular hurry. Five round tables look out the front windows at a clear shot of the Sears Tower, as a flurry of regulars pop in for a loaf of bread or a quick treat to enjoy on their way home. I wasn't quite ready to stop after eating my floyeres, so I took a bougatsa to go. It was sold to me on one condition: That I "stay happy," a stern yet warm order from the man standing between my bougatsa and me.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Heather Blaha