Our Favorite Bakeries Around Town

The city’s finest bakeries mark the spots of well-loved, well-fed neighborhoods
Posted February 13, 2014
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Café Besalu’s warm goodness on a plate

Cafe Besalu
Baker James Miller has long been the king of croissants in Seattle. At his petite café in Ballard, he stands stalwart behind the counter, turning out remarkable buttery croissants along with a handful of other pastries daily. Baked to just golden brown, fat in the middle with rounded ends, Miller’s croissants may be legendary, but the real surprise is the tender, sugar-topped ginger biscuit. If puff pastry is your thing, there is a lot more to choose from—spiraled Danish dotted with fruit or an onion-Gruyère combo for heartier snacking. The unpretentious café fills up quickly, though there is seating outside for anyone brazen enough to shrug off the weather. And really, with pastry this good, anywhere you sit should be just fine. Open Wed.–Sun. 5909 24th Ave. NW; 206.789.1463; cafebesalu.com

Honoré Artisan Bakery
Tucked into the cozy neighborhood between Phinney Ridge and Ballard, Honoré Artisan Bakery is one of those spots that’s most likely stumbled upon. You’d be smart to seek it out, however, and taste a sampling of the limited offerings this small bakery churns out. Here, pastry is baked to the last minute before burning, lending a deep caramelization to both sweet and savory options, such as the diminutive, scalloped canelé with a soft, custard-like center and a dark, thick crust that’s nearly black. When not in a hurry, grab a cozy spot at the window-seat counter or head to the secluded, petite patio out back, where you can linger over one of the fancy single desserts—among them, Ballard honey cheesecake and milk chocolate or hazelnut mousse with crisp praline. Equally rave worthy is the traditional Breton pastry, kouign amann—butter cake—with layers of salted butter and sugar. This sweet delicacy bakes up to a mass of salted caramel goodness at the hands of the adept owner and baker, Franz Gilbertson. And while the macarons, gougères and cakes are all delicious, kouign amann alone is worth an intentional trip to the neighborhood. Open Wed.–Sun. 1413 NW 70th St., Seattle; 206.706.4035; honorebakery.com

Larsen’s Danish Bakery
Walking into Larsen’s Danish Bakery, at the northern end of Ballard, reminds us of an earlier time. The interior houses one long pastry case running the length of the bakery, and is fronted by diner-era tables and chairs for anyone wanting to sit and nosh. Danish pastry isn’t known for its refinement, yet Larsen’s is full of flavor. There are plenty to choose from, including those stuffed with cream cheese and fruit, or the more simply presented cherry-filled pastry. Icing-drenched Danish are displayed next to trays of traditional crumbly cookies—these are less sweet choices and best served alongside a cup of hot tea, for dunking. Anyone outside of Seattle hankering for a taste of Denmark can order the pastry online to be shipped, and Larsen’s even offers the traditional kransekage, an awe-inspiring stack of almondy rings that can be made into a tower standing up to a couple of feet tall—and promises to make any celebration more festive. Open daily. 8000 24th Ave. NW; 800.626.8631; larsensbakery.com

Belle Pastry
This quaint bakery, tucked into charming Old Bellevue, is all butter, whipping cream and puff pastry. Striving for traditional French offerings such as macarons, crispy palmiers and buttery almond financiers, there are two full display cases to choose from. Eclairs, crème brûlée and Napoleons are ideal take-home desserts for an after-dinner indulgence. In addition to the bakery’s beautifully made sweet offerings are a few savory bites for lunch, mostly in the form of crêpes or quiche. Open daily. 10246 Main St., 425.289.0015. bellepastry.com. Also in Redmond.

Dahlia Bakery
Since Dahlia Bakery opened its doors in 2001, it has been a fan favorite, and, of course, offering Douglas’ famed triple coconut cream pie (in three sizes) helps inspire devotees. As if the pie isn’t seductive enough, Douglas’ professional bakers serve up some of the best pastry in town, from simple to sensational. Try the darling of all cookies, the peanut butter sandwich: two lacey peanut butter oat cookies filled with sweetened peanut butter. Or choose something more elegant, such as the date-butter-filled apple dumpling, which has been on the menu since the bakery’s opening. At $6, it’s a splurge, but one you won’t regret. This small bakery offers only sidewalk seating under an awning. Don’t forget to grab a loaf of bread for home, as well. Olive ciabatta, the Dahlia house loaf and the pecan-flecked levain are all sure bets. Open daily. 2001 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.4540; tomdouglas.com

Boulangerie Nantaise [CLOSED]
While many bakeries aspire to the kind of bakeries only found in France—by reproducing the country’s famously golden and crispy pastries—Boulangerie Nantaise has long walked the walk. Ten years ago, the original owner was a French company that hired all French staff and even shipped over its French bread starter. And the pastry here still smacks of authenticity, baked to golden and pulled from the oven in the last minutes before burning. Do not miss the tightly rolled croissant, or thin-tipped baguette, both of which promise to rival any bread you’ll find while strolling the streets of Paris. Nantaise also serves a short-format lunch in the way of soups and baguette sandwiches, the latter of which have a smear of Brie with slices of pear, or butter and ham, of course. C’est parfait! Open daily. 2507 Fourth Ave.; 206.728.5999; boulangerienantaisebelltown.com

Macrina Bakery

Macrina Bakery owner Leslie Mackie, the matriarch of all Seattle artisan bakeries, started her initial bakery/café in Belltown well before hard, crusty bread was all the rage. This small and welcoming space offers a multitude of loaves and morning eats, from sweet (we recommend the almost-healthy Rocket muffin, dotted with a spoonful of raspberry preserve) to savory (the onion bialy, a twisted bread dough slathered in caramelized onions and poppy seeds, while not traditional, is delicious). Be sure to check out the stack of day-old bread on special, a great bargain for making homemade croutons or breadcrumbs. The cafe is often bustling—come early and grab a table, which ensures excellent people-watching. Macrina also offers full-size cakes and tarts—a rare find for anyone needing a last-minute birthday cake or dinner party dessert—and some gluten-free and vegan options. 2408 First Ave., 206.448.4032; macrinabakery.com. Additional locations in Queen Anne and SoDo.

Capitol Hill
Crumble & Flake
Never has a business name been more apropos than at Crumble & Flake, a tiny and beloved bakery on Capitol Hill. Croissants here are the stuff that dreams are made of: Layers of dough cascade through their centers and are covered in a shatter-prone brown crust that guarantees you’ll be brushing crumbs off your shirt for hours. What the space lacks in atmosphere (this small walk-in-only shop offers no seating) is quickly made up for in quality—when it first opened, the fabled cinnamon rolls were cause for 6 a.m. queues. Thankfully, the fervor has slowed, and anyone lazy enough to sleep past sunrise now has a chance at partaking of Neil Robertson’s (formerly of Canlis) legendary pastry. Chief among the must-haves are the smoked paprika and cheddar croissant, complete with a burnt cheese lacquer. Cheweos are another popular choice, and rightfully so—a chewy cookie that tastes as though a French macaron and an Oreo cookie had a baby—they’re addicting. Open Wed.–Sun. 1500 E Olive Way; 206.329.1804; crumbleandflake.com

Eltana Bagels
Perfecting the art of the Montreal bagel, Eltana offers doughy rings that are chewy, dense, with a slightly smoky flavor and generously coated in sesame seed, poppy seed or salt (or a combination of all three). Eltana also offers a cinnamon-raisin bagel for anyone leaning toward the sweeter side. Simmered in honey-infused water, these bagels are then moved to a wood-fired oven and carefully flipped during cooking, ensuring that a ring shape (no flat bottoms!) is achieved and lending spots of char to the crust. Seattle-based co-owners Stephen Brown and Daniel Levin created Eltana to offer delicious hand-rolled bagels and Middle Eastern–inspired street food. Hence, the menu offers spreads spiked with za’atar (a traditional spice blend made from dried herbs, sesame seeds and other aromatics) and another that is a play on muhammara (a red pepper paste blended with walnuts and spices). You’ll also find a Mid-East spin on traditional lunchtime treats such as a sandwich piled with Tunisian roasted eggplant or a bowl of shakshuka served with a crispy bagel on the side. Open daily. 1538 12th Ave., 206.724.0660; eltana.com. Additional locations in Wallingford and at Seattle Center.

Chinatown–International District

Fuji Bakery
This sweet, window-lined corner bakery specializes in Japanese-French pastry, and it is so, so good. Imagine brioche cubes (yes, cube pastries) filled with smoked salmon pâté, buttery puff pastry topped with seasonal fruits and drizzled with chocolate, and warm, chewy curry buns that are gloriously greasy. Don’t leave without the simple but unforgettable milk sticks (mini baguettes filled with milk cream). There are locations at Interbay (where the baking is done) and in Bellevue (which is a shared space with an Eastern European deli and bakery), but the Fuji in the I.D. is our favorite. Open Mon.–Sat.. 526 S King St., 206.623.4050; fujibakeryinc.com

Columbia City

Columbia City Bakery
Columbia City Bakery owner and head baker Evan Andres (formerly of Macrina and Dahlia Bakery)spins gold daily. His passion is revealed in the inspired bread, pastry and cakes served in this revered neighborhood bakery. Hard crusts and hollow loaves are baked to perfection—you’ll never find an ill-proofed loaf for sale. Pastries are a work of art, as well, and range in influence from Scandinavian (filled Danish or bear claws) to Italian (a Sicilian prune cookie) to Persian (a sesame tahini cookie). Also on offer are several grab-and-go items, such as premade sandwiches (the mortadella is exceptional), granola and even pie dough for home baking. With plenty of room to sit down, this bright and bustling neighborhood bakery is worth the trip south, and while lines are often long, they move quickly. Open daily. 4865 Rainier Ave. S; 206.723.6023; columbiacitybakery.com

Belle Epicurean
Located at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Belle Epicurean offers a welcome reprieve from the soulless nearby fast-food joints offering a quick lunch for busy worker bees. With a more extensive menu than your typical bakery, Belle Epicurean, under the baking skills of Carolyn Ferguson, has a “petit plat” selection of warm quiches, brunch dishes (such as the calorie-rich pecan caramel brioche French toast) and soups or salads. The pastry here is presented in pretty cases, and the background music is French swing, giving the low-ceilinged space the feel of a Parisian café and adding to the posh vibe the bakery works hard to create. Expect the obvious pastries done well; croissants (warmed before serving), French macarons, brioche and tarts fill the shelves daily, and are fresh and tasty. Open daily. 1206 Fourth Ave.; 206.262.9404; belleepicurean.com. Also in Madison Valley.

The Essential Baking Company
While many bakeries are all flake and elegance, the Essential Baking Company is comfort food at its finest. Massive cinnamon rolls, hearty portions of lunchtime fare and too-big-for-one-hand mugs of coffee prevail at this time-honored outpost. The sweet offerings range from fruity muffins to generously iced scones and humongous sharable cookies. With a large selection of breads, including some gluten-free options, you can choose from a daily loaf or the fancier specialty items, such as challah or winter panettone. For lunch, find made-to-order sandwiches such as the grilled shiitake Reuben (a veg-friendly option, with braised cabbage and Russian dressing) or hearty salads and a rotating menu of soups. This cozy bakery/café offers a warm place to stop for anyone biking or walking the Burke-Gilman Trail, just up the hill from Gas Works Park. Founder George DePasquale is still involved and teaches occasional baking classes around Seattle. Open daily. 1604 N 34th St., 206.545.0444; essentialbaking.com. Additional locations in Bellevue, Georgetown and Madison Valley.

Flying Apron
Flying Apron is one of Seattle’s few gluten-free and vegan cafés, offering a full range of menu items without wheat or dairy. We’re the first to admit that making pie dough from scratch without butter or flour is no easy feat, but this bakery excels and offers up crispy, flaky dough for its pastry. Doughs are made from a variety of flours—quinoa, brown rice, oat and sorghum—and sweetened with agave, fruit juices or brown rice syrup. Baked goods are neatly labeled with each ingredient, for anyone with food sensitivities. Tucked in among the plates and cake stands of morning pastries (berry corn muffins are particularly good) and sweet treats such as a cardamom cupcake with chai frosting, are a whole lot of savory items: Dough pockets filled with sweet potatoes, chickpeas and onions are flavored with Moroccan spices and offered alongside hearty salads. Open daily. 3510 Fremont Ave. N, 206.442.1115; flyingapron.com. Also in Redmond.

ETG Coffee
Open since the early ’80s, this jewel-box coffee bar, located in the heart of Fremont, is easy to overlook. Enter ETG (Espresso To Go) through a heavily paned door, reminiscent of the building’s original construction, and squeeze into the space before ordering a cup of its curated and batch-roasted coffee or house-made chai tea. While ETG excels in perfectly pulled espresso drinks, you mustn’t miss the pastries. On most days, seasoned baker Eric Heiden reigns over a teeny space and easily turns out some of the best pastry in town. Tender and traditional currant or Scottish oat scones are a winning choice for mornings, while an afternoon craving begs for their cookies (the buttery chocolate chip is not to be missed), which bake up flat and crisp. A small fridge offers heartier fare: hard-boiled eggs paired with house-rolled sesame crackers, a bottle of kombucha or a small container of soft, earthy cheese. Open daily. 3512 Fremont Place N; 206.633.3685; etgcoffee.com

Green Lake
After 12 years of serving exquisite cakes and incredible pastry in this light-filled, airy Tangletown space, it’s a wonder this bakery is such a well-kept secret. You’ll fall for the orange buns, baked up warm and tender on Saturday mornings, and the chocolate cookies scented with orange-flower water. Take home a slice of sublime cheesecake, light as air yet incredibly rich, or owner and baker Hiroki Inoue’s specialty, green tea tiramisu. Or settle in for tea and a bit of soulful reading; there are Buddhist quotes to reflect upon posted on the counter. Even after all the sweets, you’ll likely leave feeling just a bit lighter. Open Tue.–Sun. 2224 N 56th St.; 206.547.4128; hiroki.us

Phinney Ridge

Fresh Flours
Fresh Flours was started by Japanese-born partners and husband-and-wife team Keiji Koh and Etsuko Minematsu, on a quest to provide Seattle with Japanese-inspired pastries—a niche concept that melds the techniques of fine French pastry making with ingredients from Japan. Since the original location opened in 2005, they have expanded into Ballard with a larger bakery and café, all the more convenient for grabbing one of their green tea pound cakes, or perhaps some green tea or black sesame shortbread cookies. For less adventurous pastry lovers, they have traditional French macarons, and a variety of Danish and scones, all of which are baked to perfection and rival those of any French pastry shop in town. Open daily. 6015 Phinney Ave. N, 206.297.3300; freshfloursseattle.com. Also in Ballard.

Pike Place Market

Le Panier
Le Panier is where Francophiles drop in to pick up traditional bakery items in a French atmosphere. Across from the stalls selling fresh produce, tourist tchotchkes and flowers, Le Panier is hard to miss —and harder to pass up. Along with croissants (delicious) and baguettes (thin, long and crispy), you will find small sablé cookies, full cream fruit tarts with thick glaze, meringues and the mother of all French desserts, the mille-feuille—layers upon layers of crispy pastry and cream that would make anybody swoon. Le Panier also sells Parisian-style simple sandwiches on baguettes, thin on the fixings but hearty enough for anyone craving sustenance during a stroll through the Market. Open daily. 1902 Pike Place; 206.441.3669; lepanier.com

Pioneer Square
Grand Central Baking Company
Opened more than 20 years ago by founder Gwen Bassetti (and now co-owned with her cuisine director and daughter, Piper Davis, and son, Ben Davis), Grand Central is dedicated to sustainability across the board and uses only Washington-grown, Shepherd’s Grain flour in its breads and pastries. It offers a long list of rustic breads daily—the Italian-style como is an excellent choice. For something sweeter, opt for the classic selection of muffins, Danish and tarts. You’ll also find dough—for puff pastry, pie, pizza and even chocolate chip cookies. While the bread and pastry are consistently spot-on, Grand Central truly excels in its lunch fare. Soups, salads and sandwiches all make an appearance on its café menus and are offered in whole and half versions. A favorite: the Reuben with house-roasted corned beef, house-made slaw and thousand island dressing, and Swiss cheese. Open Mon.–Fri. 214 First Ave. S, 206.622.3644.  Additional locations in Burien and Eastlake.

Queen Anne

Nielsen’s Pastries
East Coast transplants and sweet-tooth connoisseurs unite over their love of all things gooey at the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood gem, Nielsen’s. Well before the city went crazy for French bakeries, Nielsen’s was making Scandinavian pastry from scratch. Original owner John Nielsen retired and sold the bakery on the south slope to his protegée, Darcy Person, who runs the business today. Nielsen still stops by occasionally to work in the kitchen, happy to turn out trays of Scandinavian sweets: snitter, Danish and traditional apple kringle for the masses—or any local Danes in need of a taste of home. Marzipan rules at this small substreet-level bakery and perhaps shows itself best in the “Potato”—a cream-filled mound of choux pastry with a layer of almondy goodness and a dusting of cocoa powder. Offered is the requisite soup-and-sandwich lunch, though you’d be better served ordering a poppy seed Danish and calling it a meal. Open Mon.–Sat. 520 Second Ave. W; 206.282.3004; nielsenspastries.com

West Seattle
Bakery Nouveau
Award-winning pastry and bread whiz William Leaman, who spent his earlier years manning the ovens at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and The Essential Baking Company, creates almost-too-pretty-to-eat desserts, chocolates and bread. Because it’s the best neighborhood bakery on the west side, people come at all times of the day, for morning pastry, such as the popular twice-baked almond croissant; an afternoon lunch of soup, salad, sandwich or fresh-from-the-oven pizza; bread for the evening meal; or elegant whole tarts for special occasions. The bakery is furnished with only a few small tables, and they fill up quickly on weekends and late afternoons once school lets out, so plan to take your goodies to go. And while the pastry and bread are pricey, they’re worth it for the spot-on texture and flavor. Next time you’re in, ask about the Phoenix cake—a caramel mousse cake with alternating layers of pear and chocolate mousse, and a base of caramelized pecans on pecan sponge cake. Last spring, Nouveau opened a Capitol Hill location with a similar menu—showy Phoenix cake included. Open daily. 4737 California Ave. SW, 206.923.0534; bakerynouveau.com. Also on Capitol Hill.

White Center
Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant
You’ll likely feel overwhelmed when you enter White Center’s destination-worthy Salvadorean Bakery. There are pastries of all colors and flavors, filled with guava, cream cheese, puddings and whipped creams; some fried, some baked—all irresistible, especially the tres leches cake, heavy with caramelized condensed milk. Likewise with the fare on the savory side of the business (there’s an entire restaurant attached to the bakery), where Seattle’s very best pupusas are served, along with fried plantains, chicharrón and tender house-made tamales. If you’ve never made the trek to White Center’s neighborhood bakery, you’ll be kicking yourself for waiting so long. Open daily. 1719 SW Roxbury St.; 206.762.4064; thesalvadoreanbakery.com