DINING: Beyond the bread at new Northside bakery

October 24, 2009

After three full meals at recent additions to the 86th Street and Ditch Road dining landscape, we thought we’d cap off the month with a treat—or, actually, a box of treats—from Great Cooks the Bakery (1321 W. 86th St., 202-2435).

An offshoot of Great Cooks & Co. catering—which also runs the RX Café at Community North Hospital—this is the farthest thing from hospital food you are likely to find.

It wasn’t my first visit. I’d stopped by the unassuming spot that opened in September and found its bagels (75 cents each/$9 dozen) to be hearty and chewy—certainly better than store-bought, but not necessarily ones I’d pass an Einstein to buy.

A bakery offshoot of Great Cooks & Co. catering now serves breads, bagels and treats at 86th and Ditch. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

This time, though, I found an abundance of pleasures. Turnovers ($1.95) each were sizable triangles that weren’t overstuffed with fruit. They had a sweet layer that balanced well with the deliciously flaky pastry and crystal sugar coating.

A Blueberry Coffee Cake ($8) was thick and substantial, with enough cohesion to withstand dunking. Brownie Squares ($1.75) were dangerously good, whether in basic chocolate, ultra-rich fudge or addictive butterscotch. Go on. Break off a piece and pretend you aren’t going to eat the whole thing.

Individual-sized pastry twists weren’t overly sweet and were accented with a hint of orange. A nice touch. Unfortunately, they were dried out by our mid-afternoon purchase. And when I called to check on the price and find out the name, the baker had no memory of such an item. Curious.

Great Cooks has a display case of cookies to choose from (75 cents each), including a variety of rolled rugallach. Even a basic chocolate-chip cookie proved a winner, with a soft center but solid exterior.

Great Cooks also offers six breads daily, plus a rotating lineup of additions. Egg Challah and Nancy Bread, for example, are available on Fridays. Bialys are on the menu on Sunday.

A downside? Well, the printed menu doesn’t list everything. And pricing isn’t terribly clear from the display. But the bottom line: This would be a better world if there were a good bakery like this one in every neighborhood. Here’s hoping for more.•

—Lou Harry



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