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Dinkel's: Nine decades and counting for sweet institution
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 5500 times since Wed Jan 1, 2014
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Dinkel's Bakery & Cafe ( 3329 N. Lincoln Ave.; ) opened in 1922 ( at 3327 N. Lincoln Ave. ).

To put that in perspective, at that point:

—Only one world war had taken place;

—Prohibition was ongoing;

—Warren G. Harding was president of the United States and Calvin Coolidge was vice president; and

—The Chicago Cubs had only gone 14 years without winning a World Series. ( Now, it's 105—and counting. )

Walking into Dinkel's recently, it was apparent that not much has changed; indeed, it felt like I had gone back in time. Dessert flavors, for example, are old-school, to say the least—and that's a good thing.

Luke Karl, the bakery's general manager and the husband of third-generation owner Sandy Dinkel, told Windy City Times that, indeed, few things have changed. "Every once in a while we'll do something like a pina colada cupcake and we have our maple bacon donut, which [is only available] on Saturdays," he said. "But we usually don't try to get too exotic. This isn't really the place for that."

However, there have been a few alterations. Starting August 2012, Dinkel's reincorporated a sandwich section. "My father-in-law, Mr. Dinkel, actually did the sandwich thing in the '90s and early 2000s," Karl said. "We were doing a ton of movies in Chicago at that point, so he catered movie sets. But then that dried up and moved on, and he had some staff changes so he closed that down.

"My wife and I are in the business now, and we were looking for ways to make ourselves more relevant. So we thought about bringing in the lunch crowd. We're still focusing on the bakery, but this is, like, a sideline."

By the way, regarding the sandwiches, they're named after neighborhood fixtures, such as The Woolworth ( turkey breast, bacon, red onions, Granny Smith apples, cheddar and tomato mayo )—and that one was divine. Others include the Dinkel's BLT ( which the sandwich chef insisted is one of the best in the city ), Ziggy's Ham Sandwich, Kotz's Caprese and many more selections.

Dinkel's also conducts tours. "We get a lot of groups that come through, such as elderly retirees, and I'll chat with them and give them free samples" Karl said. "But I always do four or five kids' tours a year. We have St. Andrew's right here, and the YMCA had a kids' class here. Kids love seeing people make roses and buttercream." I suspect many adults feel the same way.

As for those famed desserts, is there one that's the most popular? Karl said that it changes but right now it's the "vanilla cake donut with chocolate icing, which is sometimes called the chocolate cake donut." In fact, The Daily Meal ranked Dinkel's donuts among the top 25 in the country. ( Chicago's Dat Donut, Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee, and The Doughnut Vault were also on the list. )

Another popular item is the stollen, which I thought would be the dreaded fruitcake, considering it contains roasted cashews and almonds along with golden raisins and diced pineapple. However, this item—traditional to the southern Bavrarian region, Karl said—isn't nearly as dense, and is quite flavorful.

As for the Dinkel's experience, Karl said he wants the place to "be part of people's lives. I want people to have smiles on their faces when they walk in here. I don't want us to be dated, but I want us to be part of families' histories."

Basically, with Dinkel's you can't go wrong. Come for the cupcakes, and stay for the donuts, stollen, cakes, tarts, sandwiches—you get the picture.

I'm counting on all of this goodness to be the same when Dinkel's reaches 100. Maybe the Cubs will have won it all again by then.

This article shared 5500 times since Wed Jan 1, 2014
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