UPDATE: They were just voted as the BEST DONUT SHOP IN ILLINOIS BY BUZZFEED!
My restaurant review of The Heart of Europe Cafe in Barrington, Illinois was published by LIVING60010.com. Click to read more about the latest news in zipcode 60010!
It took just one bite of their made-from- scratch Orange Marmalade Paczki to know that a piece of Europe has really settled in Barrington. I have never tasted a better Paczki and it wasn’t even Fat Tuesday! Paczki are a Polish yeast-based pastry filled with jams or custard. Traditionally they served the day before Lent. Paczki have become a craze in recent years during the month of February and are impossible to find the rest of the year. Well, not any longer! The Heart of Europe Cafe now makes them year-round, with the special bonus of being freshly baked, not fried.Polish sisters Emilia and Kasia, both in their twenties, opened The Heart of Europe Cafe in downtown Barrington in October 2015. The cafe is like a cozy kitchen with comfy seating, plenty of light, and a play area with toys for kids. Fresh flowers are on every table and each customer is greeted with a warm welcome from the friendly sisters.
I had heard about their signature “Spring Donuts.” Also called Chimney Cakes, Spring Donuts are a piece of bread dough coiled around a thick rod, brushed with butter, sprinkled with sugar and baked until crispy. It is large enough to share with 2 or 3 people. To eat it you just pull it apart starting at the top. My husband and I shared a Honey, Cinnamon and Nuts Spring Donut with a cup a coffee and we were hooked.
Each Spring Donut is made to order and comes out fresh and steaming hot to your table. I don’t know anywhere else in the suburbs you can get such a wonderful treat. Other add-on options include Nutella, Peanut Butter, Oreo Cookie Crumbs, or Sprinkles. In the summer months you can even fill the center with ice cream. This is a truly a unique food option in Barrington and should not be missed by locals. It is not something you can easily make at home since it requires special accessories to get it right.
After trying the Spring Donut and Paczki I knew that Barrington was blessed with truly talented Polish bakers. Emilia is the creative cook, and makes every cake, pastry, and baked good by hand. She uses primarily organic, natural ingredients and always offers gluten-free and vegan options. Up very early each day she bakes at least 6 new cakes or treats for the morning rush. Most of the recipes come from their grandmother and European family and friends. In addition to the Spring Donut, other popular baked goods include Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound cake, Chocolate Brownies and Lemon Bars. Emilia changes it every day so it worth stopping by frequently to see what she has whipped up that morning.
Another way that Heart of Europe lives up to its name are their Lattes and Hot Chocolate. The Latte is served the traditional way in a tall glass with distinct layers of coffee, milk and foam beautifully stacked.
The Hot Chocolate. Oh the Hot Chocolate! It takes 7 minutes for Emilia to make one serving. She melts imported Polish dark chocolate with heavy cream and other secret things for the most decadent drink imaginable. It is worth the wait! I was surprised that the regular coffee was weaker than what I expected, however a shot of espresso fixed that.
Emilia plans to add Polish soups and baked breads this fall to the menu. I want to be first in line to try her Borscht and multi-grain bread. You can follow them on facebook/heartofeurope to learn when the soups are put on the menu.
The real story behind the opening of Heart of Europe Cafe is the grit and determination shown by these hard-working entrepreneurs to make their dream come true. They had once lived in Chicago with their Mom for a short time as young kids. They recall living on Belmont Avenue, in the heart of the Polish community, and the love for Chicago that sparked in them. Their dream was to return to the U.S. someday and open a bakery.
So Kasia, Emilia with husband and daughter, and their Mom moved from Poland back to the U.S. in 2015. With a young child to raise, they decided to make the Chicago suburbs their home. Kasia and Emilia looked at 30 to 40 storefront locations before picking Barrington to open their dream bakery. They knew they wanted a small-town, European feel to the community, with a walk-in storefront, a family-friendly community with growth opportunities. Kasia explained how disappointed they were after looking at so many towns and storefronts with no luck. Their realtor insisted they check out one last place. As soon as they saw it they knew it was the one. It even had the brick wall feel they loved. Out of all the options in Chicagoland, Kasia and Emilia picked Barrington to build their dream. It was their first visit to Barrington.
Kasia handles the business side, and Emilia does the creative cooking. Without knowing another soul in Barrington, or having run a business before, they got to work, figured it out and never gave up. They are a perfect team, sisters & best friends, and role models for young entrepreneurs to never be afraid to follow your dream.
I was especially impressed to learn that Emilia and Kasia made over 1000 paczki by hand to fill orders for Fat Tuesday in a 48 hour period. The most popular polish bakeries in Chicago use machines or contract out their paczkis for orders of that quantity. Kasia, the business mastermind of the operation, is already thinking about how to scale up for next Fat Tuesday. I’m putting my order in now.
Heart of Europe Cafe also offers catering for events and parties. In fact, their decorated cakes and baked good orders have become 40% of their business in just one year. They cater desserts for one of Barrington’s Golf Clubs, and supply lots of adorable cakes for kids parties and bridal showers.
With all the other coffee shops in downtown Barrington, I think Heart of Europe Cafe has found their niche and will attract customers looking for authentic, made-from-scratch yummy food with a Central Europe flair.
Heart of Europe is located at 113 S. Cook Street, Barrington, IL 60010.
Phone (872) 808-9321
Monday – closed
Tuesday – Thursday 8AM – 5PM
Friday & Saturday 8AM – 4PM
Sunday 8AM – 3PM
No reservations required
Free street parking.
Price: Under $10
Special orders, private parties and catering available
Follow Heart of Cafe on Facebook and Instagram.