Sweet spots: Revisiting some favorite bakeries, doughnut shops in the Tri-Cities

Stories about the dangers of consuming too much sugar are easy to find and the warnings are important to heed.

For a guy who could likely qualify for the “Sweet Tooth Hall of Fame,” these articles do catch my attention and some of the suggested behavior changes could possibly help control the urge to devour any cookies, cakes or pies in sight.

Doughnuts are in a league of their own. They are difficult to pass up because they look and taste so darned good, but my stomach has engaged in several skirmishes with doughnuts over the years. Sometimes the stomach wins, other times the doughnuts claim victory, resulting in a belly ache.

It has taught me to never eat a whole doughnut in one sitting. When I do bring some home from a bakery or farmers market, I eat only a small portion and save the rest for the next day or two. It seems to hold the hostilities inside my stomach at bay.

But it has never discouraged me from ranking local bakeries as some of my favorite places on the planet. It’s dangerous to have Crumbl Cookies and Nothing Bundt Cakes franchises nearby, as those products often find their way into my mouth. And it is wonderful.

The smaller bakery operations deserve support as well, and that is why I have written about most of these places over the years. As things change in the bakery world, it is important for my sweet tooth as well as the curiosity of my readers to share an “all things bakery” update.

Some of the doughnuts, which are freshly made each day, at Dear Donuts cafe in St. Charles. Courtesy of Dave Heun

Dear Donuts, St. Charles

First on my list is Dear Donuts, at 570 S. Randall Road in St. Charles. Last year, I wrote about owner Sarah Park and her family operating this bakery that had a different twist with cream-filled brioche doughnuts.

It’s been good to hear the place is popular, so much so that it can be hard for them to keep the doughnuts on the shelves. A reader mentioned that a Tik Tok advertisement from Dear Donuts sparked a big turnout of young people, which the owners have been targeting as a market. They ran out of doughnuts quickly that time.

But this is something Park explained a year ago — that the style of doughnuts they make take quite a bit of preparation time.

Patrons of this shop have come to know that waiting for doughnuts happens on occasion, but it also is a good idea to order ahead of time, maybe even the day before.

Ultimately, I am glad to see these young people doing well in the doughnut business world.

Eric and Deanna Keilty operate Gather Bakery on State Street in Geneva. Courtesy of Gather Bakery

Gather Bakery, Geneva

I’ve mentioned Gather Bakery a few times in the past, but this time the bakery operated by Deanna and Eric Keilty has found a permanent home at 315 W. State St. in Geneva.

Previously, Gather Bakery sold its bread, cookies and other treats out of the Boardwalk Shops in Batavia and a pop-up location in the Geneva Commons.

Classes and special gatherings for kids — like a cookie kit for making your own treat (a big hit with my grandkids) — are also offered at this bakery.

A steady flow of customers came into Gather Bakery during my recent stop. And that’s the whole idea behind providing bakery goods.

Homemade pop tarts at The Corner Grind in Elburn are made by bakers Molly Fraser and Austin Dabbert. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

The Corner Grind, Elburn

When Graham’s 318 recently closed in Geneva, it was just a matter of time before some of its bakers would turn up in another coffee shop location.

Austin Dabbert and Molly Fraser are now working at The Corner Grind, at 2 S. Main St. in Elburn. In addition to providing fresh bakery items at the café, they cater weddings, parties and holidays.

In an example of how time flies, Corner Grind manager Hannah Zamecnik mentioned the shop is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

“Elburn and surrounding area residents have been so supportive of the business, from the time we opened in 2014, through the pandemic,” Zamecnik said. Support continued when new owners, Illinois Crafted, acquired the store two years ago, she added.

“We’ve always had yummy baked goods, but Austin and Molly are going to elevate our selection in a new way,” Zamecnik noted. “The great thing about being in Elburn is that all of our employees really get to know our customers, and vice versa.”

  Sisters Amy Toppel, left, and Amanda O'Connor at Mad Batter Bakery and Confections in downtown St. Charles. O'Connor is co-owner and Toppel, who used to manage the bakery at Blue Goose Market, is the baker and manager. Brian Hill/

Mad Batter, St. Charles

Open for nearly three years now, Mad Batter Bakery and Confections at 320 W. Main St. in St. Charles has become a favorite of many.

It does earn an “award” of sorts from me. The photos they post online of doughnuts are as good as any I’ve seen.

That’s still the calling card of this bakery — all sorts of cakes and doughnuts with special themes and decorations.

Owner Amanda O'Connor and her sister Amy Toppel, a former longtime baker at The Blue Goose in St. Charles, have a good thing going in this downtown location.

How to get Hahn’s

Some lament the loss of Hahn’s Bakery in downtown Geneva, but most should know by now that you can still order Hahn’s products online as it operates out of a kitchen at 731 N. 17th St. in St. Charles.

The Hahn’s website has store hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday posted for special-order pickup.

You can still spot Hahn’s goodies at local farmers’ markets, and a friend told me she saw Hahn’s products available when watching the home-shopping QVC network station on TV.

Other notables

It’s likely I am missing a location or two here. I feel like I have been to most of the spots, but not all. Among those I have been to, but not too often are Harner’s in North Aurora; Heidi’s Cake and Pastry; Hey Sugar and Fresh Donuts in Geneva; Bosa Donuts, Small Cakes and Dimple’s Donuts in St. Charles; and Dunkin’ in Batavia, and Duck Donuts in the Geneva Commons.

If I were writing strictly about my chocolate addiction, Graham’s, the All-Chocolate Kitchen, Kilwin’s and Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts in Geneva would all get a mention.

No matter which one is a favorite, remember to keep your sugar and added sugars intake at sane levels. But you don’t have to neglect your sweet tooth.

When I told my physician I thought I was addicted to cookies and other sweets, he said, “So am I. Just try to do them in moderation.”

Note: He was looking at my health chart at the time and felt there was no serious concern about sugar overload. That was a surprising revelation.

A Graceful expansion:

In the category of “Well, that doesn’t surprise me,” we see that The Graceful Ordinary restaurant owners Chris and Megan Curren are opening a new restaurant in downtown Aurora and forming the O&D Hospitality Group.

Anyone who has noticed the accolades for The Graceful Ordinary at 3 E. Main St. in downtown St. Charles the past few years can surmise these folks know how to offer an upscale dining experience — and expanding that skill seems natural.

The new restaurant, the Vicolo, will be at 7 S. Broadway in Aurora, bringing Italian cuisine and fresh-baked goods to local diners.

Plans also call for work being done on an adjacent small park for outdoor dining use. The Currens are targeting early 2025 for the Vicolo opening.

‘Boot’ open that trunk:

Having never participated as a seller in a church rummage sale, I can’t say for sure, but it seems like the St. Charles Episcopal Church has been onto something that would make the presale setup easier.

The church, at 994 N. Fifth Ave., will host its second annual Car Boot (Trunk) Sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

The church parking lot will be full of cars with trunks containing housewares, clothing, antiques, books, toys and other items.

As if that isn’t interesting enough, the Taco Madre food truck will serve food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those wanting to enjoy lunch. Homemade baked goods will also be on sale.

The sale benefits the various ministries at the church.

Lots of scholarships:

Sophia Janel Brummel-Noorali of Batavia and Lilly Coats of Geneva were students highlighted among the 509 students from Plano to South Elgin who were awarded scholarships from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley.

Brummel-Noorali attends Florida Gulf Coast University and Coats studies at Marquette University.

Scholarship recipients submit applications for the foundation’s scholarship program — and it pays off when chosen. The foundation reported that, collectively, those in the 2024 program will receive a record $3 million over four years.

High school seniors, college, graduate and trade students are eligible to apply for the program.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.