Hellas Pastry Shop legendary for sweets, spinach pie
April 28, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The Greek community that used to live along Lawrence Avenue, in Lincoln Qquare, has long since moved to the suburbs.
But there's one business that hasn't budged, still attracting fans for its legendary spinach pies and sweets.
Consistency is a trait most successful food businesses strive for. Consider Hellas Pastry Shop in Lincoln Square. The business has been here since 1969. Toula and Konstantinos Spanos have run it the past 23 years.
"As far as our recipes, they all have remained the same. Everything we kept as we found it; we added a few things, but not many," Toula said.
One thing hasn't changed - and probably never will - is their spinach pie. Toula begins with cooked spinach and onions, a well-beaten egg.. plus dill and two cheeses: creamy ricotta and crumbly feta. Everything is combined in a bowl, then placed onto phyllo dough; the front of which is brushed with butter, then it's rolled up and baked. The result is a fantastic snack just about anytime of day. A similar-looking treat is the Galaktobouriko, which contains custard, honey syrup and cinnamon, rather than spinach.
There are obviously lots of sweets here, most of which have some type of almond, walnut or honey in them. Spanos' baklava is legendary - jammed with chopped walnuts that have been enhanced with cinnamon, cloves and sugar - but she also uses that same filling for her flogeres, a cigar-shaped treat that gets rolled up with a little bit of butter between the layers of phyllo.
"Drenched with syrup - honey syrup. It's very crunchy, you can eat it with ice cream, you can eat it in chocolate, you can eat it plain. I like it very cold," said Spanos.
Another favorite: the apricot-almond macaroons. Almond paste is piped onto a paper-covered sheet tray, then it's carefully lifted and pressed onto slivered almonds, which become embedded on the outside. After it's baked, the inside half gets piped with apricot filling, and the two halves come together to make a tiny sandwich.
"It's very soft and chewy, people love it, it's one of our best sellers," she said.
Spanos says whether its kourabiedes or kataifi or even simple honey cinnamon cookies.. anyone who appreciates those dominant ingredients of walnuts, honey and cinnamon will love Greek sweets.
"Greek cookies are delicious, everybody loves them," she said.
So as you're driving down Lawrence, and you see the sign for bakery, don't think it's all sweets. They do have some savory items, like the spinach pie, but clearly, it's all about the cookies, custard and honey syrup.
They also sell gift baskets, and if you happen to stumble in on a day when toula is making her famous moussaka, be sure to ask for a slice.
Hellas Pastry Shop
2627 W. Lawrence Ave.
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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