Sweet tooths, consider yourself warned: A baked treats mecca now resides in bright, airy storefront on North Avenue in Wicker Park
. With high ceilings and huge front windows, Bake has more natural light and feels more spacious than the typical coffeehouse. The calming environment, free wifi and full espresso bar with Metropolis coffee make it an ideal place for an extended stay.
There's not a lot of seating - the wood tables sit fewer than 20 - but Bake owns the adjacent lot, which houses patio seating in warm weather. It also happens to be kid-friendly - there are shelves with books, toys and coloring tools, as well as tot-sized tables and chairs - so there's often a child or two sharing space with adults indulging in sweets.
Oh yeah, the sweets. Although Bake is run by a husband and wife team of veteran luxury hotel pastry chefs, the goods in this simply decorated storefront are straightforward old standbys. The piece de resistance of this homespun approach may be the whoopie pie, a Whopper-sized sandwich of chocolate cake and cream filling that originated among the Pennsylvania Amish but which is right at home here in the Midwest. Lest you think all of Bake's offerings are decadent behemoths, there's also a wide range of muffins, scones, tarts, macaroons, brownies and breakfast breads.
While the menu items are simple, they're also fairly sophisticated, with well-balanced flavors - robust strawberries and chocolate chips don't overwhelm the muffin's moist bread, say. Nothing suffers from being overcooked and everything is extremely fresh (although if freshness isn't your primary concern, help yourself to the $1 day-old desserts). There's nothing here for fans of savory food, but sugar has been added with a modest touch, leaving nothing with over-the-top sweetness.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough