The swanky Chicago suburb of Lake Forest makes a fitting location for Gerhard’s Elegant European Desserts. Since opening in 1994, this fine French patisserie has built a strong reputation for its for luscious pastries and cakes. Commuters taking the Metra train into Chicago pop into the shop each morning for croissants, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake and strawberry muesli. (A pastry-and-coffee breakfast runs about $6.)
Gerhard’s location caters to shoppers wandering through the Market Square boutiques housed in the 1900s Tudor storefronts designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. In season, an awning shades marble sidewalk tables where carefully coiffed ladies sip tea and nibble cream puffs, tarts and buttery brioche. Inside, the decor is equally appetizing in shades of mint green, cream and black.
The fashionable confectionery’s best-selling cakes are the dark chocolate mousse, caramel feuilletine and chocolate marjolaine made with Swiss Toblerone. Seasonal cakes include cherry meringue flambe, pistachio, orange, coconut and passion fruit mousseline.