BRIDGEPORT — The Paczki Day feeding frenzy is under way at Bridgeport Bakery.
"Two hours. Totally worth it," said Marie Glowzynski, of Irving Park, said while hauling her 3-year-old daughter — and two dozen paczki — out of the cramped old-school bakery, 2907 S. Archer Ave. "These are the best in the city."
Well into Tuesday morning, the lines stretched about three dozen deep down Archer Avenue, with hungry customers waiting to pick up their orders of paczki, the traditional Polish pastry deep-fried and stuffed with fillings like whipped cream or flavored jellies.
At the very end of the line stood Genny Petersen, 37, of Bridgeport. The antique store worker placed her order for five pastries Monday and was hoping to scoop them up quickly but anticipated she'd be standing on the icy sidewalk at least another hour.
"For five doughnuts. That's crazy," she said. "Isn't that crazy?"
One guy had come back three times, only to find the lines never subsided.
It's been that way since Monday, when at least eight employees crammed behind behind the counter and scurried to fill orders as locals — old guys, wise guys, city workers and neighborhood newcomers — filed inside to stake their claim on the orders, packed in boxes scrawled with last names as ethnically diverse as the area.
The bakery, managed for the last 39 years by Ron Pavelka, opened at midnight Tuesday and will stay open through the evening hours. The craze, known around the Chicago area as "Paczki Day," coincides with the pre-Lenten "Fat Tuesday."
Longtime bakery worker Amanda Henry Johnson, 29, said 75 pounds of flour, 2 quarts of eggs, 3 ounces of salt and 3 gallons of water are used to bake a batch of paczki, which yields about 78 dozen.
"And we'll fry about 40 batches, from start to finish," she said.
Last year, the bakery sold 2,142 dozen paczki — that's 25,704 individual treats — slightly less than the record of 2,580 dozen sold in 2010 (that's 30,960). Eighteen flavors are offered at Bridgeport Bakery, ranging in price from 95 cents to $1.35.
"We'll make them all day and have them all day. There's no cutoff point for us. We keep on making them," she said.
Miss out? Don't fret. Bridgeport Bakery sells four types of paczki throughout the year.
Bridgeport Bakery is at 2907 S. Archer Ave.