In 1911, just a few years after arriving in Chicago from Germany, John Roeser Sr. decided to open a bakery. Nearly a century later, Roeser's (now run by John III) is the oldest family-owned bakery in the entire Chicagoland area. It uses exclusively fresh, seasonal ingredients, and prices are so low you might think they haven't changed since the bakery's conception; most cookies and pastries come in under a dollar and freshly made cakes start at barely more than $20.
The feel of Roeser's can only be described as sweet; elaborate birthday cakes, pastries, homemade ice cream and more than a dozen varieties of cookies and multi-layer cakes line every wall and display case of the store. The tortes are perfect for any occasion, and with flavors varying from chocolate tres leches to raspberry chocolate ganache to pina colada, they'll appeal to any palate as well. Orlando Serrano, who has won multiple local and national cake-making competitions—including one on the Food Network—makes a large majority of the bakery's goodies.
Roeser's may be best known for its special occasion cakes. The bakery will make intricate treats ranging from five-tiered wedding cakes to Winnie the Pooh birthday cakes with as little as same-day notice (although the staff prefers to be contacted at least a day in advance). And for the ultimate convenience in party planning, you can pick up balloons, pińatas, invitations and paper products at Roeser's Party Palace, located directly next door to the bakery.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Laura Brown