It’s true the suburbs are no Chicago. There are no skyscrapers (no John Hancock Building, no Sears – I mean, Willis – Tower). Most things are spread out, so you can’t just hop on the train, and you have to get in the car to go to work, the store, even the park where you ride your bike. There’s also less of certain things, like boutiques or restaurant options, cheap apartments or people to run into at the corner coffee shop. We have some farms. We have bigger houses. We brag about lower crime rates.
But you who have lived in suburbs, tell me this: have you ever tried to find a bakery? At least in the Chicago area, it’s not easy. The few there are aren’t much of anything special, or overpriced, or hard to get to. One exception would be Vesecky’s in Berwyn, a long-time favorite of my family’s, which makes addictive hoska, that eastern European sweet bread with raisins and soft yeasty insides—if you haven’t been, go. And another exception would be this adorable little shop in Downers Grove, a long-standing establishment that is like one point for suburbs everywhere, and I say that proudly: Ingram’s Busy Bee.
The truth is, I’ve grown up loving the suburban things about Downers Grove, including its cute downtown—they have a little barber shop! and regular festivals! and gorgeous historic houses!—and its Tivoli theatre (where I recently saw and cried through the beautiful movie UP—have you seen it?), but I didn’t get to try Busy Bee until this year, mainly because it’s only available mornings (and never Mondays), and I’m usually not.
Last month, though, on a rainy Saturday in my flip-flops, walking over from the library where I’d met my brother who took the Metra into town, one bite was all it took for me to know one thing for certain: Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery makes amazing, you-will-love-them, and-all-of-this-just-for-one-dollar? pastries.
First, there are the sweet rolls—soft, flaky dough laced with icing, surrounding a sweet center of cream cheese or fruit jelly. Then there’s the coffee cake—melt-in-your-mouth goodness that has you coming back for bite after bite. I also loved a cinnamon-roll looking thing where every tiny morsel was rolled in cinnamon and sugar, the kind that covers your hands, leaving you to lick the last little bits from your fingers.
Last Saturday, we grabbed a bag full (for a grand total of $4) and headed to one of the flower-lined benches along Main Street, but not before stopping at the pizza place next door, which sells pizza by the slice, among a menu of other options.
The owner wrapped our slices in sandwiched Styrofoam plates and a paper bag when we said it was to go, but she didn’t flinch when we sat down at the red-and-white checkered tablecloth instead, burning the roofs of our mouths with the hot sauce and cheese.
And I guess somewhere between the pizza and the 15 minutes we spent pulling out sweets from a white paper bag while we watched cars drive by, I decided the suburbs have a few things going for them at least, which I’m glad to have found, especially last month and last Saturday, sitting next to someone from the city, while we sat under perfect blue skies and, ate.
Speaking of Downers Grove! You had to know another plug for the party was coming, right? If you’re nearby, stop at the pavilion in Gilbert Park on August 8, which is just a beautiful walk of pretty houses with big porches from the downtown area of Downers Grove. I’d love to meet you!
Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery
5126 Main Street
Downers Grove, IL 60515-4601
Main Street Pizza
5124 Main Street
Downers Grove, IL 60515
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.