Celebrating Paczki Day at Bennison's Bakery in Evanston

Long before the doors opened, people lined up outside Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston with a taste for tradition. 

Paczki Day means business is booming as customers fill up on the Polish pastries for Fat Tuesday. Back in the day, making paczki was a way to get rid of all the lard and eggs that were prohibited during Lent. Now it’s considered an indulgence before the sacrifice.

"It’s the busiest day of the year," said Jordana Downer, co-owner of Bennison’s. "Oh it’s crazy," she said. 

Her father was directing a small army of bakers in the kitchen through the night.

"We started at midnight, after we ended late yesterday evening," said owner Jory Downer, who was frying dough in anticipation of big sales. "I'm hoping for 22,000, but that's for the season, not just for today. We've been doing it for about 10 days now."

Jory’s dad took over Bennison’s in 1967, but it’s been at the corner of Maple Avenue and Davis Street since 1938.

The biggest order today was for 1200 Paczki, which was headed to a Chicago restaurant.

Flavors include raspberry, blueberry, apple, prune, cheese, German chocolate and the most popular of all, strawberries and cream.

Jory said King Cakes are also popular, but typically just on Fat Tuesday and plenty of New Orleans transplants were in line to get theirs. They’re available in plain, cream cheese, apple cherry and praline pecan filled.

Despite the big demand for those round sugar-coated treats, one woman who waited patiently in line said she was just grabbing a doughnut on her way to work and didn’t know what the fuss was all about.