Sometimes all you need is good bread and butter. Or an impossibly flaky croissant. These artisan bakers across North America wake up at ungodly hours and pour their hearts and souls into making bread the old-fashioned way, along with fanciful pastries and sweets.
Reunion Bread | Denver
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Ismael de Sousa was one of the most beloved spin instructors in Denver before he opened Reunion Bread at The Source market hall. Now, his former students chow down on churro croissants and guava and ricotta danishes instead.
De Sousa's friendly team will happily offer samples of anything, from slices of naturally leavened rye and flax caraway or olive za'atar sourdough to golfeados – a wildly addictive Venezuelan sticky bun sprinkled with cotija cheese, inspired by de Sousa's childhood growing up in Venezuela.
Lost Larson | Chicago
Lost Larson Stone Mill — Photo courtesy of Anthony Tahlier
Bobby Schaffer was the pastry chef at fine dining restaurants Grace in Chicago, then Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, before moving back to Chicago in 2018. There, he opened Lost Larson in Andersonville with his sister last year, inspired by their Swedish heritage.
Their cardamom buns, lingonberry almond cake and tebirkes – a Danish poppy seed pastry made with the same buttery, flaky lamination technique used in croissants – are a few sweet favorites. Breads include pumpkin seed kelp, Finnish limpa flavored with anise and orange peel, and sunflower seed rye, all made with local, Illinois-grown organic whole grains milled in-house.
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Beaucoup Bakery | Vancouver
Beaucoup Bakery — Photo courtesy of Betty Hunt
This Vancouver bakery is known for sophisticated flavors both sweet and savory – like a jasmine blueberry croissant, double strawberry roulade and parsnip celeriac lentil tarte. Classic cookies in flavors like buckwheat chocolate chip and dark chocolate rosemary never go out of style either – and pair perfectly with a cappuccino.
The owners of Beaucoup Bakery are a young sister-and-brother duo, and instead of a traditional loyalty program, Betty and Jacky Hung operate an Acts of Kindness loyalty program allowing guests to earn points and pay it forward to strangers or provide lunches to Liberian schoolgirls through More Than Me.
La Farm Bakery | Cary, N.C.
La Farm Bakery — Photo courtesy of La Farm Bakery
You might not expect to find a French master baker in Cary, N.C., but Lionel Vatinet has become one of the pioneers in American artisan bread and La Farm Bakery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019.
Vatinet is most famous for his signature five-pound sourdough boule, and also experiments with heirloom grains including making a rice bread with Carolina Gold rice based off antebellum recipes. Visit their cafe and watch fresh loaves coming right out of the imported European hearth while munching on seasonal sandwiches and the white chocolate mini baguette for dessert.
Tartine Bakery | San Francisco
Tartine Bakery — Photo courtesy of Tartine Bakery
Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt have inspired a new generation of American bakers with their work at Tartine Bakery. The husband-and-wife team opened Tartine in San Francisco's Mission District in 2002, won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chefs in 2008 and most recently expanded Tartine Manufactory operations to Los Angeles at a location three times the size of the original.
In L.A., they're popping out approximately 4,250 loaves of bread and 6,300 pieces of viennoiserie daily, while still adhering to the same artisanal baking techniques.
Flowers & Bread | Columbus
Flowers & Bread — Photo courtesy of Jenna Powers
This Columbus bakery and cafe also hosts regular baking and floral workshops in their adjacent studio, true to the Flowers & Bread name. Learn to make wood-fired pizzas and breakfast breads at home, or munch on lemon lavender and orange dark chocolate scones while trimming baby blue eucalyptus for an everlasting wreath.
Buy a loaf of whole wheat bread studded with amaranth and sunflower seeds to go and, on weekends, the bitter chocolate rolls are divine.
Amelia's Bread | Indianapolis
Amelia's Bread — Photo courtesy of Amelia's Bread
Loaves of fragrant focaccia, cranberry walnut, tahini sesame and polenta bread beckon from the shelves at Indianapolis' best bakery. While the breads at Amelia's are Old World European, the croissant cinnamon rolls, peanut butter oat and browned butter chocolate chip cookies are decidedly all-American.
The bakery is named after head baker Charlie McIntosh's great-grandmother, the first in their family to come to America from Italy. Many of Indianapolis' finest restaurants serve Amelia's bread, including Bluebeard next door, Goose the Market, Milktooth and St. Elmo Steak House.
Union Loafers | St. Louis
Union Loafers pizza — Photo courtesy of Spencer Pernikoff
This St. Louis bakery and cafe transforms into a pizzeria at night. Their flagship sourdough is light and mild with a an open, custardy crumb, while seeded and semolina variations are also available along with ciabatta and caraway rye.
In 2019, they started working with The Mill at Janie's Farm, a local mill grain and grower and introduced 100% fresh stone-milled local wheat and rye bread. If you come in the evening, their spicy marinara sauce pizza is killer, with a perfectly charred, bubbly crust.
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Lilac Pâtisserie | Santa Barbara
Lilac Pâtisserie — Photo courtesy of Vanessa Weber Photography
The bread, cakes and pastries at this downtown Santa Barbara bakery and cafe are so good that it's hard to believe everything is gluten-free. Husband-and-wife team Gillian and Alam Muralles opened Lilac Pâtisserie in 2015 and Gillian has been diagnosed with celiac disease, so she focuses on making treats that people like herself can enjoy.
Her exquisite cakes are edible works of art and for daily indulgences, the lemon meringue tarts and chocolate cherry almond cookies are popular, as well as seasonal pies available by the slice.
La Panadería | San Antonio
La Panadería's tres leches croissant — Photo courtesy of Karissa Rangel
José and David Cáceres remember helping their mother sell loaves of freshly baked bread on the streets of Mexico City as young boys. They still make bread and pan dulce in Mexico, but opened La Panadería to share Mexico's baking heritage with their adopted hometown of San Antonio.
There's cranberry walnut sourdough, kamut bread for gluten-sensitive guests, vanilla and chocolate concha sweet bread and croissants in many glorious flavors like tres leches with fresh strawberries and tequila almond – a happy accident that came about one day when they ran out of rum for the almond cream.