WICKER PARK — It’s been a long-standing Polish tradition to prepare paczki, the popular jelly- and custard-filled doughnuts, on Mardi Gras as a means of using up dough and sugar before the fasting of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
In celebration of the holiday, many bakeries across the city are providing their own spins on paczki (pronounced PUNCH-ski) Tuesday, which many Americans — Polish and otherwise — have adopted as "Paczki Day."
At Alliance Cafe & Bakery at 1736 W. Division St., employee Megan Stanton, 26, said she's "pretty pumped" about Tuesday's anticipated paczki rush.
Stanton, who's originally from Louisville, had never heard of the delicacies until customers started placing orders by the dozens last week for "Polish Paczki Day," which some start celebrating on Fat Thursday.
At Alliance, fans of the holiday treat can find a variety of flavors, including raspberry with rose glaze, apple topped with cinnamon sugar, vanilla bean pastry cream with chocolate ganache, bing cherry and fresh blueberry with lemon zest glaze.
Alliance's paczki are $2.25 each, according to its website. Bakery hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
At Oak Mill Bakery, 2204 W. North Ave., 15 varieties of paczki, including traditional prune, raspberry, lemon and apricot, are advertised near the window of the family-owned chain.
Prices for individual paczki range from $1.10 for plain dough to $1.65 for advocat (egg liqueur), and $2.25 for gourmet fresh strawberry and whipped cream or cheese-filled options.
At traditional Polish restaurant Podhalanka, 1549 W. Division St., worker Greg Jamka, 47, said Paczki Day is "a big deal in Poland."
Podhalanka plans to offer "between four to six varieties" of paczki for $1 and likely will give the pastries away free to regular customers or people who purchase entrees, Jamka said.
New to the neighborhood paczki scene this year is Francesca's Forno, which opened its Glazed & Infused walk-up doughnut window at 1576 N. Damen Ave. in May.
Glazed & Infused employee Megan Smerage, 22, said Monday that the shop will be selling strawberry, raspberry, vanilla creme and traditional custard varieties of paczki at all four of its locations, including the newly opened Lincoln Park outpost at 939 W. Armitage Ave.
The cost of paczki at Francesca Fornos is $3 each. Hours are 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday in Wicker Park and 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. in Lincoln Park.
Paczki fans in the Avondale/Logan Square area also can get their fix at the Red Apple Polish Buffet, 3121 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The Red Apple will offer raspberry, custard- and fruit-filled paczki for $1.25 each, during its regular hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mexican bakery Panaderia Azucar, 3415 W. Belmont Ave., will serve up pineapple and guava flavors of paczki to complement the traditional Polish fillings of blueberry, strawberry, apple and custard.
Panaderia Azucar's paczki are $1.50 each. Bakery hours are 4:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Victoria Johnson contributed to this report.