America's 50 Best Bakeries (Slideshow)
November 13, 2013
From mom-and-pop shops to high-end patisseries, we present America’s best bakeries
50) Freed’s Bakery, Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ Freed’s Bakery is known for its specialty wedding cakes (which is no surprise, given its location), but its breads and pastries are just as good. The bakery, which opened in 1959, has a wide selection of cookies, like M&M butter cookies and rainbow cookies, as well as pastries including mini napoleons, apple strudels, and chocolate chip babkas. Freed’s Bakery also bakes bread on special occasions, like challah for Rosh Hashanah.
49) Amelie’s French Bakery and Café, Charlotte, N.C.
Amelie’s French Bakery and Café serves French pastries in a space they call "Parisian shabby-chic." Their desserts, however, are in no way shabby. Amelie’s serves tea cakes, lemon cream cheese pockets, and strawberry cream cheese croissants, as well as Sacher-Tortes, crème brûlées, Opera tortes, and fruit tarts. There is also a rotating selection of cakes, and you can order hazelnut, lemon raspberry, vanilla, and chocolate cinnamon chiffon cake by the slice.
48) Sticky Fingers Bakery, Washington, D.C.
Sticky Fingers Bakery shows that vegan doesn’t have to mean subpar baked goods. Their cupcake menu, which features daily changing seasonal and specialty creations, ranges from moist chocolate to peanut butter fudge cupcakes. The cupcake flavors are also available in cake form, and those not in the mood for cupcakes can try the Cowvin cookie, which is an oatmeal cookie sandwich with vanilla cream filling. The bakery also has vegan baked goods like brownies, hand tarts, coffeecake, sticky buns, and more.
47) Vaccaro’s, Baltimore
Vaccaro’s, an Italian pastry shop in Baltimore that opened in 1956, is known for its cannoli as well as its rum cake, which is an Italian rum-flavored sponge cake layered with vanilla and chocolate cream and topped with sliced almonds. The bakery's Italian almond paste cookies, with sliced almonds, pine nuts, or candied cherries, are also popular choices.
46) Poupart Bakery, Lafayette, La.
At Poupart Bakery, you’ll find a mix of Louisiana, France, and Italy, with breads including ciabatta, po'boy loaves, muffaletta, and pistolette, a Cajun fried, stuffed bread roll. The bakery also makes Mardi Gras King Cake, which is made from brioche dough that’s shaped into a ring and filled with cream cheese, fruits, and nuts.
45) Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries, Orlando, Fla.
Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries opened in South Orlando in 1971, and after more than 40 years, they are still serving wide selections of good old-fashioned baked goods, including checkerboard cake, cheesecakes, apple raisin strudels, gingerbread cookies, and Parker House rolls.
44) El Bolillo Bakery, Houston
Known for their bolillo bread and wide variety of tres leches cakes, El Bolillo Bakery has become a local Texas spot for Mexican breads and pastries. They also bake pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread), churros, fruit empanadas, and more. Their bakery is self-serve, meaning that you grab a pair of tongs and pile up your tray with baked goods. And since the products have low prices, it will be hard not to stock up on this sweet deal.
43) Termini Brothers, Philadelphia
Philly’s Termini Brothers, which has been around since the 1920s, is known for its signature cannoli, which come with fillings such as vanilla, chocolate, and ricotta cheese with chocolate chips and citron. You’ll also want to try the éclairs, biscotti, and pignoli cookies.
42) CH Patisserie, Sioux Falls, S.D.
World Pastry Team Champion and Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts winner Chris Hanmer brings European pastries to CH Patisserie, which is located in Sioux Falls, S.D. The bakery bakes "The Favorite," a petit gateaux, or small cake, with dark chocolate, vanilla bean, and praline crunch. Baked goods like French macarons, lemon tarts, pork and bean brownies, and bacon maple brioche will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth.
41) Karla Bakery, Miami
Karla Bakery is Miami’s go-to spot for great Cuban breads and pastries. The bakery, which opened in 1989, bakes a variety of breads, including Pan de Gloria, or sweet bread, and Pan Cubano, also known as Cuban bread. Their pastelitos come in flavors like apple, guava and cheese, coconut, and mango, but be sure to try the cappuccino cake.
40) Merridee’s Breadbasket, Franklin, Tenn.
In what was once an old hardware warehouse in downtown Franklin, Merridee Erickson opened her bakery in 1984 after three years of selling her baked goods from her log cabin in Fairview. Merridee’s Breadbasket is still open today, and although 30 years have passed, the bakery still serves from-scratch goods made the old-fashioned way. Customers visit Merridee’s for Viking bread, which is four-grain bread made without eggs or sugar. The Breakfast Braid, which is a braided loaf baked with a scrambled egg, ham, and white Cheddar filling, is another popular breakfast item. Those with sweet tooths will enjoy pies with made-from-scratch crusts and fillings, as well as tea cakes, a Southern specialty.
39) Missouri Baking Company, St. Louis
Yelp/ Crystal R.
From baklava to Louisiana pound cake, Missouri Baking Company bakes a wide range of products, but their gooey butter cake and cookies steal the show. Cookie flavors include German chocolate, peanut butter, cocoa mint, fig, chocolate drop, and amaretto. And the bakery is also known for its Italian baked goods, including cannoli. Bring cash, because they don’t accept credit or debit cards.
38) Manderfield’s Home Bakery, Fox Valley, Wis.
Fox Valley’s Manderfield’s Home Bakery has been following its baking traditions since 1934, offering a variety of European-style breads, donuts, Danishes, muffins, cookies, and cakes. The bakery uses recipes that are three generations old for their breads like baguette, ciabatta, and buttercrust. They also offer their own version of Wisconsin’s signature kringles, which are buttery Danish-like pastries. And don’t forget their award-winning French Silk Gateaux, a vanilla sponge cake with chocolate liqueur that’s layered with whipped cream and covered with a chocolate truffle ganache layer.
37) Oakmont Bakery, Oakmont, Pa.
Oakmont Bakery, one of the country’s largest retail bakeries, has rows of breads, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, donuts, and pastries for your choosing. The "Attitude Cupcakes" line, with its Elvis in Oakmont cupcake (a banana mousse-filled yellow cake with peanut butter frosting and white chocolate ganache), is a good place to start. Another popular item is the Oakmonter cake, which has cheesecake, fudge icing, and dark chocolate cake layers and is topped with milk chocolate frosting. The bakery bakes throughout the day, so it’s not uncommon to have a still-warm pastry in your hands at 5 p.m.
36) Red Truck Bakery and Market, Warrenton, Va.
In what used to be a 1921 Esso gas station in Warrenton, Va., former magazine art director Brian Noyes opened up Red Truck Bakery and Market, serving breads, jams, and pastries to customers. You’ll find homemade pies and jams made with seasonal fruits from local farms, Double-Chocolate Moonshine Cake, focaccia bread, and more.
35) Seven Stars Bakery, Providence, R.I.
Seven Stars Bakery offers made-from-scratch bread and pastries to residents of Providence, R.I. Their breads undergo a slow fermentation process for better flavor and texture, and their baked goods are made with local eggs, European-style butter, unbleached flours, and organic whole grains. Notable options include lemon pound cake soaked in lemon juice, olive bread filled with Kalamata and Moroccan oil cured olives, and ginger biscuit scones.
34) A & J King Artisan Bakers, Salem, Mass.
At A & J King Artisan Bakers, the emphasis is on traditional, artisanal bread and pastries. The bakery has a daily selection of breads, like olive bread and ciabatta, along with rotating weekly specials, including semolina apricot fennel and asiago chile. Their sticky bun is a popular choice, and caramel bourbon pecan bread pudding makes for another gooey treat.
33) Isgro Pasticceria, Philadelphia
Isgro, Philadelphia’s oldest family-owned bakery, opened in 1904, and their cannoli are still filled-to-order with a spoon with your choice of ricotta, chocolate, or vanilla cream. Their signature rum cakes come with ricotta and sliced almonds, and their popular zeppole, or St. Joseph's Day Cake, is deep-fried dough dusted with cinnamon sugar and filled with cream or ricotta.
32) Little T American Baker, Portland, Ore.
Portland’s Little T American Baker, headed by award-winning owner and baker Tim Healea, offers fresh bread and pastries starting at 7 a.m. on a daily basis. They bake throughout the day, so you might get lucky and get a chocolate praline roll or drop biscuit with lemon curd minutes after it has left the oven. Breads and sweets vary on a day-to-day basis, but the selections range from apricot rosemary bars to honey lemon pavés and baguettes to pretzel rolls.
31) Emmaus Bakery, Emmaus, Pa.
Emmaus Bakery, which opened in 1934, bakes rolls, breads, cakes, and pastries from scratch every day. Locals go for their cinnamon swirl donuts, bear claws, and peanut butter buns. Try their specialty vienna bread, or their fasnacht, a Pennsylvania Dutch Country potato dough donut made on Fasnacht Day, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.
30) The Denver Bread Company, Denver
Among many other options, The Denver Bread Company bakes its signature boule bread, which has a lighter sour flavor compared to San Francisco’s sourdough, as well as its popular batard, made with unbleached bread flour and organic whole rye, water, salt and yeast. The breads are handmade, and the bakery has more than 20 different kinds of focaccia flavors on its menu. Look for the chocolate chip cookies with walnuts made by Victory Love + Cookies, which was created by a former Denver Bread Company baker and manager who set up shop in the bakery.
29) Café Besalu, Seattle
Café Besalu, owned by James and Kaire Miller, is a small family-owned bakery in Seattle. Their croissants, ginger biscuits, and quiche are worth the wait, and the cozy atmosphere and mouthwatering pastry aromas inspire future visits.
28) Grand Central Bakery, Portland, Ore., and Seattle
Grand Central Bakery has been baking artisanal loaves from scratch since 1989, and the bakery has expanded throughout the years into 10 locations in Portland, Ore., and Seattle. Look for their Como loaf (an Italian-style white bread that’s become a popular selection), baked-every-Friday challah, and sour rye. We wouldn’t say no to hand pies, bread pudding, and triple chocolate cookies, either.
27) Ferrara Bakery & Café, New York City
Since its 1892 beginnings, Ferrara has remained open in Manhattan's Little Italy. The family-owned business serves old-school Italian pastries like chocolate-dipped cannoli, Italian cheesecake, tiramisu, and rainbow cookies. The goods are best savored with a cappuccino, and a scoop of hazelnut gelato to finish. A true New York classic.
26) Patisserie 46, Minneapolis
Minneapolis’ Patisserie 46 offers fancy pastries without the froufrou. John Kraus, the award-winning, nationally acclaimed chef and owner, opened the bakery in 2010, with the goal of creating a neighborhood spot where people could connect over good food. The patisserie also has a handful of breads to choose from, including their naturally leavened 46 Baguette, which is made from rye and wheat flour. Their sweets selection has éclairs, napoleons, a Mont Blanc chestnut tart, ginger chew cookies, chocolate and almond croissants, mini panettones, and more. The bakery’s confections, like their chocolate bonbons and fleur de sel caramels, seal the deal.
25) Bouchon Bakery, Various Locations
Chef and owner Thomas Keller was inspired by Parisian boulangeries, and decided to open Bouchon next to Yountville, Calif.’s Bouchon Bistro. Now, there are also locations in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, and New York City, where you’ll find the works: baguettes, brioche braids, raspberry almond croissants, chocolate tarts, T.K.O.s (the better version of Oreos), and, of course, the chocolate bouchon.
24) Momofuku Milk Bar, New York City
Momofuku Milk Bar creates modern, unique takes on home-style sweets. Chef and owner Christina Tosi has five New York locations, which sell cookies the size of your hand. Keep an eye out for the Compost cookie, which is a sweet and salty medley of pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, and butterscotch and chocolate chips. Their Cereal Milk soft-serve has that familiar taste of cereal-steeped milk that you’d find after eating a bowl of cereal (if you’re in the mood for actual cereal-steeped milk, they have that, too). And Milk Bar’s Crack Pie is a buttery pie that’s basically as addictive as its name implies. The bakery also has birthday cake truffles, as well as breads like a Bacon Bagel Bomb to start the day.
23) Mike’s Pastry, Boston
Mike’s Pastry is known as the go-to place for cannoli in Boston, but the bakery also has a wide variety of Italian and American pastries baked in-house. From boozy rum cakes to ricotta pie to lobster tail, a flaky pastry filled with either white cream or yellow custard, there’s something to suit every sweet craving. Mike’s Pastry also has notable Boston cream pies and red velvet whoopee pies.
22) Bakery Nouveau, Seattle
At Seattle’s Bakery Nouveau, you’ll find yourself tempted by the smell of brioche loaves, chocolate croissants, and baguettes that are baked throughout the day. And if that is not tempting enough, their napoleons, lemon meringue tarts, and handmade chocolates make it hard to choose just one item. Look out for the award-winning Phoenix Cake, which scored the most points in flavor at the National Pastry Championship. The cake has three mousse layers, a triple threat of pear, 70 percent chocolate, and caramel. The mousse is stacked between layers pecan dacquoise and chocolate sponge cake, and the whole cake is covered with caramel glaze.
21) François Payard Bakery, New York City
Award-winning pastry chef François Payard has three François Payard Bakery locations throughout the city, making it easier for New Yorkers to grab chocolate almond croissants in the morning or a loaf of pain de campagne, a country white organic bread, to take home. Payard’s signature roulé (rolled) cakes include flavors like Gâteau de Voyage, a vanilla bean and rum pastry cream with Basque and semolina dough, L’Ecureuil, a chocolate and hazelnut mousse with hazelnut cake and biscuit, as well as seasonally changing Gâteau Roulé offerings like orange blossom. Payard’s éclairs, which are filled with chocolate custard, make a satisfying afternoon snack, as do his raspberry lychee macarons.
20) El Brazo Fuerte Bakery, Miami
Miami’s El Brazo Fuerte Bakery has been serving Cuban bread, Cuban pastelitos (flavors include cheese, guava, beef, and guava and cheese), and cakes for more than three decades. Fresh pastries like Key lime tarts and napoleons come fresh out of the oven during the day, and for those who want a filling savory snack, their popular ham or chicken croquettes may do the trick.
19) Balthazar Bakery, New York City
Balthazar Bakery, located on SoHo’s Spring Street, is small but packed with breads and pastries. The shelves are stocked with baguettes, pain au levain, ciabatta, brioche, Valrhona chocolate roundels, potato onion slabs, dinner rolls, and more. On the sweeter side, the bakery also has croissants, pain au chocolat, shortbread cookies, and cinnamon sugar donuts, to name a few of their tasty selections.
18) Bien Cuit, New York City
With locations in Brooklyn and the West Village, Bien Cuit offers breads that are made with local flours and a small-batch mixing method, making it easier for bakers to control the fermentation process and bring customers great quality products. Their breads show the nuanced flavors that emerge due to the bakery’s use of the slow fermentation process, which takes 16 to 68 hours. Their miche, for example, has a blend of rye and wheat flours and is fermented for 68 hours, while the milk and honey bread undergoes a 24-hour milk-based fermentation. And their pastry selection has a blend of French and American choices, from the chocolate almond croissant (baked twice with brandy) to salted chocolate buckwheat cookies to a blueberry and lemon meringue tart with a basil infusion.
17) Clear Flour Bread, Brookline, Mass.
Clear Flour Bread, a bakery just outside of Boston, does Italian and French bread the old-fashioned way: made from scratch and shaped by hand, and baked in a stone hearth, without dough conditioners and preservatives. The bakery has been around for more than 30 years, and their baguettes, boules, and batards speak for themselves. Their award-winning morning buns taste of cinnamon and come with or without walnuts, and their croissants, cranberry currant scones, and molasses cookies have customers lining up all the way out the door on the weekends.
16) Floriole Bakery, Chicago
At Floriole, you’ll find critically acclaimed bread and pastries. The bakery sells baguettes, sourdough, and miche, though you definitely want to try their yeasted cornbread when it's baked on Tuesdays and Fridays. The cornbread is as light as sandwich bread and is made with local cornmeal and honey. Floriole’s fudgy brownies are made with Valrhona triple chocolate, and their almond crème croissant and fruit galette are also worth a try.
15) Liliha Bakery, Honolulu
Liliha Bakery opened in 1950, selling butter rolls, glazed donuts, dobash (chocolate) and haupia (coconut) cake, and more to Hawaii’s community. Liliha is known for its coco puff, which debuted in 1970 with not much success, but made a comeback in 1990 when now-retired baker Kame Ikemura tweaked the recipe. The coco puff, one of the bakery’s most popular items, is filled with chocolate pudding and topped with Hawaiian chantilly cream. The bakers crank up the oven and bake everything from scratch from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, making Liliha not only a local favorite but also a must-visit destination when you’re in Hawaii.
14) Maison Kayser, New York City
French chef Eric Kayser opened Maison Kayser in Paris back in 1996, and he now has more than 100 bakeries around the world in 13 countries, with all the U.S. locations currently located in New York City. The breads are baked on-site at each bakery using liquid leaven, a mixture of water and flour fermented at a certain temperature. Their pastries alone are worth a visit, especially their moist madeleines, pistachio financiers, brioche, and croissants. An excellent bakery needs "excellent products… produced by selecting the best ingredients which are transformed by bakers and pastry chefs who have a strong know-how," chef Kayser tells us, and we think Maison Kayser certainly meets the standards.
13) Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Portland, Ore.
At Ken’s Artisan Bakery, expect top-quality breads like country brown, baguette, pain rustique, and raisin pecan. Portland’s James Beard-nominated chef Ken Forkish also makes buttery croissants with local berries and hazelnut cream, brioche cinnamon rolls, canneles, seasonal fruit tarts, and hazelnut butter cookies, bringing us a blend of French and American baked goods.
12) Kiedrowski’s Bakery, Amherst, Ohio
Kiedrowski’s Bakery is meant to evoke memories of eating grandma’s baked goods, and at the shop you’ll find comfort foods like chocolate turtles, rockslide brownies, apple turnovers, Bavarian cream-filled donuts, and maple bacon cream sticks. Kiedrowski’s is known for its trademarked Snoogle, which is a Lady Locks cookie and cheese Danish hybrid that’s shaped into a stick and filled with cream. What started as a happy accident of having leftover lady locks and Danish ingredients turned into their best-selling item. And be sure to pick up some cinnamon apple raisin bread on the way home.
11) Three Brothers Bakery, Houston
Three Brothers Bakery serves savory Eastern European-style breads, like rye bread, Danishes, cheese pockets, Kaiser rolls, bialys, onion boards, and more. Their challah is so popular that it quickly sells out during Jewish holidays. The bakery, created by the three Jucker brothers, who all survived the Holocaust, opened in Houston in 1949. Today, the bakery is run by a fifth-generation Jucker baker, who sells other treats like chocolate fudge pecan pie, almond sticks, bobka chocolate coffee cake, and their famous gingerbread cookies, which have been baked with the same recipe since 1960.
10) Pearl Bakery, Portland, Ore.
Portland’s Pearl Bakery started small in 1997, but soon gained national acclaim for their breads and pastries. The bakery continues to make their baked goods by hand, using organic, local ingredients whenever possible. Pugliese, their signature bread, is holey with a chewy crust. The bakery uses several leavening methods, which is why you’ll find a wide range of breads, including wheat levain, paesanao, fig anise panini, multigrain boule, batard, and Pullman loaf. Their pastry selection features breakfast items like brioche, cornmeal pound cake, Irish soda bread, and chocolate croissants, small treats ranging from snickerdoodles to Parisian macarons, and larger treats like traditional layer cakes and tarts. Pearl Bakery also sells handmade bonbons and chocolate bars made from single-origin chocolate. Quite an impressive array!
9) Porto’s Bakery, Los Angeles
Porto’s Bakery offers quality Cuban cakes as well as their popular cream cheese pastry rolls, guava and cream cheese puff pastries, and potato balls, which are fried mashed potatoes filled with seasoned ground beef. The bakery, with its wide selection of cakes, pastries, sandwiches, and breads, has been a family-owned business since 1975. In the 1990s, Porto’s expanded their production selection with European-style goods, building upon the original selection of Cuban pastries. The quality and variety of their baked goods make Porto’s a thriving establishment in Southern California and one of America’s best bakeries.
8) Amy’s Bread, New York City
Amy’s Bread, which first opened in 1992 in New York City's Hell’s Kitchen, has two other locations, in Chelsea Market and the Village. The bakery delivers bread to more than 200 wholesale customers per day, but the three locations remain retail bakeries as well, giving New Yorkers a taste of handcrafted breads that are made through slow fermentation and traditional baking methods. Try the semolina with golden raisins and fennel (their signature bread), black olive twists, baguettes, and organic miche. The bakery also bakes old-fashioned layer cakes like coconut cream cake, cupcakes, cookies, biscotti, butterscotch cashew bars, oat scones, banana bran and walnut muffins, croissants, and more, satisfying both bread enthusiasts and cake lovers.
7) Salty Tart, Minneapolis
Located in the Twin Cities’ Midtown Global Market, Salty Tart has been serving sweets and savories for the past five years. Chef Michelle Gayer is known for her "crack-a-roons," or coconut macaroons, which Andrew Zimmern deemed better than his mom’s. The bakery also sells brioche rolls, which are filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, twice-baked ham and cheese croissants, rosemary corn cakes, and their famous Cheddar jalapeño bread. You’ll find a good selection of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, seasonal pastries, and tarts — there’s not much more you could ask for.
6) Levain Bakery, New York City
5) Macrina Bakery, Seattle
Chef Leslie Mackie opened Macrina in 1993, and her bakery became Seattle’s go-to place for artisan rustic breads. Macrina Casera bread complements every meal, and their popular rustic potato bread comes in loaves, rolls, and baguette forms. As for non-bread items, Macrina’s Whisper Cake, a white chocolate cake with lemon curd, whipped cream, raspberry layers, and white chocolate cream cheese frosting, is worth a visit, as is their red velvet cake. Their pastry selection features dozens of baked goods, including apple turnovers made with roasted Washington apples, buttermilk biscuits topped with strawberry or marionberry jam, and lemon sour cherry coffeecake.
4) The Standard Baking Company, Portland, Maine
The Standard Baking Company in downtown Portland is a bread lover’s paradise. Owners Alison Pray and Matt James bake a wide variety of breads, including rosemary focaccia, pain de mie, brioche, boules, and epi breads. Many order morning buns, but croissants, which come in almond, chocolate, plain, and ham and cheese, are popular as well.
3) Flour Bakery + Café, Boston
Flour Bakery’s "eat dessert first" motto is hard to disagree with when it comes to their freshly baked, breads, pastries, cookies, tarts, and more. Owner and pastry chef Joanne Chang has been bringing America’s comfort food to the next level since 2000, with sticky buns so good they beat Bobby Flay’s on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, lemon curd cakes with raspberry preserve, granola bars, Milky Way tarts, and chocolate cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting. The bakery’s banana bread or brioche with raisins make great morning treats, especially when served with a cup of steaming coffee during cold New England winters.
2) Dominique Ansel, New York City
We are glad that Dominique Ansel, the former executive pastry chef at Daniel, left the restaurant to open his eponymous bakery in New York City's SoHo two years ago. The award-winning chef is the creator of the highly coveted Cronut, which has inspired plenty of Cronut copycats across the world, but he is no one-hit wonder. His other pastries are top-notch and baked in small batches throughout the day, and Ansel’s creativity skyrocketed his bakery to the top of our list. You can’t go wrong with any item, but we recommend the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann), made-to-order madeleines, New York-inspired Paris Brest, Nutella milk bread, and torched-to-order frozen s’mores. "You have to cater to your customers and help them dream a little with desserts," Ansel told us.
1) Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
Tartine emerged as this year’s top bakery, and there are good reasons why. The bakery, opened by James Beard Award-winning chefs Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson in 2002, excels at both breads and pastries. Their bread, available in plain country or with walnuts, sesame seeds, or olives, is made from locally milled organic flours and sea salt and baked on a stone hearth. Tartine embraces its sense of place, using local produce to create delicious pastries like morning buns and banana cream tarts. The bakery remains a local gem, and those who can’t visit right away may want to try recipes from the two cookbooks, Tartine and Tartine Bread.