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Paczki Day: Mexican Bakery in Avondale Offers Traditional Polish Treats

By Victoria Johnson | February 8, 2013 8:02am

AVONDALE — A traditional Mexican bakery might not be the first place that comes to mind when looking to buy traditional Polish paczkis.

But in Avondale, Polish and Latino cultures meet at nearly every corner.

Panaderia Azucar prides itself in carrying 75 traditional Mexican treats, including favorites such as tres leches cake, conchitas and flan. But for a few days a year the folks at Panaderia Azucar make like all the Polish bakeries and start cranking out the doughnut-like treats filled with cream or fruit jelly.

Paczki (pronounced POANCH-kee) is actually already plural as the singular is paczkek, but English speakers have taken to calling a single one a paczki.

In Poland, the tradition is to eat paczki on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13). But many Chicago bakeries instead celebrate Paczki Day on Fat Tuesday.

 Mexican bakery Panaderia Azucar kicked off Paczki Day with the traditional Polish treats.
Mexican bakery Panaderia Azucar kicked off Paczki Day with the traditional Polish treats.
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Flickr/Mel Sharlene

For the first time this year, Panaderia Azucar kicked it off on Fat Thursday, and will sell them until Fat Tuesday, just like in Poland.

"We have a big, diverse customer base, so our customers love it when we have paczki," said Sandy Hernandez. "So we try to cater to everyone."

Hernandez, who is known to her customers as Sandy Cakes, has helped run the bakery with her family for nearly three years. Though they specialize in Mexican style breads and sweets, she said they enjoy the departure into the Polish treats, which are richer than American-style doughnuts.

Granted, they still add their own Latino touch. On top of the traditional paczki flavors of custard, strawberry and blueberry, they offer flavors not likely to be found in Poland, such as pineapple and guava.

"The pineapple and guava, that's really unorthodox, which is cool," said Dan Pogorzelkski, executive director of the Greater Avondale Chamber of Commerce and Polish culture guru.

The guava flavor had sold out by about 4 p.m. Thursday, but the Panaderia assures everyone they will be back in stock on Friday and every day until Fat Tuesday.