The stretch of North Avenue just west of Damen can be pretty lonely. There are just a handful of notable places to eat. But as of last month, the 2200-block of West North Avenue now features more butter, sugar and flour than most city blocks could ever dream of.
The Oak Mill Bakery has been a mainstay in the Polish community for years. But when the founder's daughter opened up the sixth location recently on the western edge of Bucktown, the intention was to make it more of a neighborhood cafe.
"I think it's a different take on it. I think it's more welcoming and warm. This is the only cafe that we have," said Alexandra Solak, the owner of Oak Mill Bakery.
Kolachkys and poppyseed strudels are no surprise. It's the coffeecakes, turnovers and muffins that seem to appeal to commuters and neighborhood residents. There are dozens of miniature cakes and tortes, including a decadent pear charlotte, which is available either as a mini, or a large party size.
"It's very different from what other bakeries carry. It's very decorated. So, you can just walk into the store and pick it up and take it to a dinner party," Solak said.
Just a half-block to the west, there is yet more butter, sugar and flour being transformed at the Cozy Bake. Owner Jennifer Kane has spent nearly two decades working for the Four Seasons hotel group. She most recently worked for the Peninsula Hotel in New York, but her latest project is the most simple. It's a return to how she began, back in the kitchen with her mom when she was 5 or 6 years old.
"I've sort of just evolved in my career, doing wedding cakes and sort of high-end fancy amenities and things like that, which is a lot of fun. But, I always wanted to get back to the cookies and cakes and breads things that we used to make together," said Kane.
Brownie pies, berry almond tarts and flourless chocolate cookies are familiar, as are giant layer cakes. But Kane also puts her hotel skills to good use, creating homey pumpkin bread, a moist cranberry-caramel cake and even homemade Oreos. She says even though the ingredients are first-rate, she puts an emphasis on service.
"When you work at five-star hotels, you're always told you can't say no to anything. So, we try to do that here, which is good. It's a good thing to learn," Kane said.
As for the timing of her opening, just weeks within that of Oak Mill down the street, Kane says the more high-quality baking going on in one neighborhood, the better.
"It's a good thing for us, I think; we see it as that. Because it just brings more people. This area is kind of booming now. It's getting more business, and yeah, even coming from New York, there are streets with five or six bakeries on them," said Kane.
Both bakeries can also make customized, special occasion cakes, and both have enough room so you can sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy your sweet haul.
2246 W. North Ave.
Oak Mill Bakery
2204 W. North Ave.