Established in 1973, this is one of Pilsenís sweet stalwarts where interloping gentrifiers, UIC students, blue-collar folk and families from the neighborhood meet up for classic Mexican bakery fare. A continuous swarm of pastel paper doily streamers, a smattering of pinatas and a huge team photo of the 1986-87 Chicago Bears decorate its interior.
To help yourself to the sugary assortment, just grab a silver tray, a pair of tongs and slide open the glass-faced wooden cases lined with cinnamon tostadas, churros, fruit-filled empanadas and conchas (a traditional Mexican bread with scalloped icing that mimics a seashell).
Toward the back, beneath the Bears poster, lies a bevy of cast-iron racks stocked with sheet pans of freshly baked pastry straight out of the oven. Those in the know skip the cases and pull still warm loaves of bread and airy tarts from the racks, and the proprietors donít seem to mind.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant