The month of March is one big party for a local couple that has built a thriving Barrington business around their shared passion for baking, cooking and celebrating the goodness of great homemade food. Matthew an Leone Clarke of Clarke’s Bakery and Deli are preparing feasts this month to celebrate Fat Tuesday today, St. Patrick’s Day next week, Barrington’s First Annual Celtic Fest AND their business’ 25th Anniversary. With a cup of kindness, two handfuls of hard work and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen, together the Clarkes have created a winning recipe that keeps loyal customers coming back for more.
If you drop by Clarke’s today, you’ll find Matthew or Leone at the counter, or it’ll likely be one of their two daughters who greet you. Stacey just graduated from college with a law enforcement degree and Kathrine is studying to be a teacher. Both girls grew up in the bakery and know their parents’ story well.
The Clarkes opened for business in 1986, the same year they married. They met working in the kitchen at the Schaumburg Marriott and started their marriage with big dreams of making a living right out of their own family kitchen. Matthew, the eleventh of 14 children, emigrated to the US from Ireland in the seventies with dreams of a better economy and opportunity in America. “I had a good education but I had no work. My motivation was to get out and see the world and get a good job.”
He started off in New York City and later moved to Washington DC where he was offered an apprenticeship with a distinguished pastry chef at a fine French bakery. During those same years, Leone managed Meeske’s Meats in Barrington before she accepted the job as a chef at the Marriott where they met. Leone grew up in Mt. Prospect and many of the bakery’s cookie recipes were created and shared by her own mother.
It was Matthew’s mother who passed along the secrets to the bakery’s popular Irish Soda Bread and Brown Bread recipes. The Clarkes each inherited the art of baking from scratch, a skill Leone says sets their business apart. “Really these kind of bakeries are a dying breed because it costs more to be a ‘scratch baker’ where, instead of using mixes, you use recipes and ingredients right out of your own cupboard, like eggs, butter, milk and cocoa powder.”
Clarke’s menu is brimming and full of surprises. They serve quality meats, they’re known for their delicious deli salads and they have some great “take and bake” options that you can bring home to feed your family. You’ll find specialty imported candy like “Crunch” and “Flake” bars, they serve a traditional Irish breakfast six days a week, starting at 6AM, and they even offer weekly Fish Fries from 5-8:30 EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT with beer battered cod loins and chips, just like you’ll find in Ireland. “Customer service is the number one thing here in Barrington. You have to be very friendly and know what you’re offering and give them a good product for a reasonable price. You can make something great, but without the customers, you don’t have a job.” If you’ve never been to Clarke’s or if it’s been a while, today is a GREAT DAY to stop by.
They’re serving their signature Fat Tuesday Pączkis, King Cakes and purple, green and gold Mardi Gras pastries. And you definitely don’t want to miss the Clarke’s St. Patty’s Day festivities and their anniversary celebration next week. They’ll be serving their signature corned beef and cabbage dinners on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights from 5-9PM.
A bagpiper will drop by for a St. Patrick’s Day performance and they’ll be hosting Irish Karaoke with traditional Irish tunes to help you get jiggy. In addition to corned beef and cabbage, they’ll be serving Irish Stew, Shepherds Pie, Cottage Soup, Pasties and a great selection of adult beverages. Matthew an Leone are so excited, they’re already kissing blarney and keeping it green.
You’ll find Clarke’s Bakery and Deli at 455 W. Northwest Highway in Barrington, you’ll find them on Facebook by clicking HERE, you can reach them by phone at 847-381-5113 and they’d especially love it if you’d pay them a visit the old fashioned way, face-to-face.