New bakeries across the country are taking the time to bake up loaves that are good enough to stand on their own.

By Justine Sterling
Updated June 13, 2017
© Con Poulos

Bread can be more than a side dish or a sauce-mopper. When it’s good—really good—it can be dinner by itself. And these days, really good bread is everywhere. New bakeries across the country are taking the time to bake up fresh, delicious loaves, long-fermented and made with local ingredients, that are good enough to stand on their own. So take advantage of the trend and pick up a main-course-worthy loaf from one of these incredible bakeries.

Publican Quality Bread, Chicago
Paul Kahan’s Publican Quality Bread isn’t open to the public, but you can taste its products at restaurants like Publican Quality Meats, The Publican and Blackbird, and you can also buy loaves at Chicago-area shops Local Foods and Treasure Island Foods. The secret to the bread’s airy texture and lightly sour flavor? Head baker Greg Wade allows his dough to ferment for at least 30 hours (the sourdough ferments for 60). Breads include nutty multigrain, cornmeal and roasted potato, and crusty baguettes and whole grain ciabatta.

L’imprimerie, Brooklyn
Located in an old bakery-turned-print-shop-turned-bakery across from a White Castle in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, L’imprimerie (which translates to "print shop") is helmed by French expat Gus Reckel, who focuses his efforts on making tangy, crunchy-crusted sourdough. He also offers fougasse, a Provencal-style focaccia made with a sourdough base and flavored with fresh thyme and olives. That loaf has earned him a following of dedicated regulars who come back to the bakery every weekend just to buy it.

Bread and Salt Bakery, Pittsburgh
Baker and owner Rick Easton’s bread had a fan base before he even opened Bread and Salt, thanks to the bread CSA he ran. Now that the doors to his shop are open, anyone can get Easton’s long, crusty rounds, which get their exceptional flavor from organic flour, local wheat and natural fermentation. Right now there are two breads on offer: the pane casereccio, made with Turkey Red heirloom wheat, and the pane local, which is made with locally grown and stone-milled wheat flour. There are no small loaves at Bread and Salt. Easton bakes huge rounds because he believes the texture and flavor is higher quality in larger loaves. You don’t have to buy a whole round, though; Easton also sells his bread by the pound.

Trading Post Market and Bakery, Cloverdale, California
The team behind celebrated San Francisco restaurants AQ and TBD are also responsible for this new wine country bakery. Baker Aaron Arabian uses a stone hearth to bake breads like crackling baguettes, country levain and fluffy focaccia topped with vegetables from the bakery’s garden. The fruit breads are so packed with fruits and nuts that they basically count as dessert.

A Baked Joint, Washington, DC
For years, Baked and Wired in Georgetown has ruled the DC cupcake game with inventive flavors like Flapjack and Dirty Chai. Now Tony and Teresa Velazquez, the team behind the neighborhood stalwart, are focusing on bread with A Baked Joint. The coffee-house-café-lounge-bakery features a large, open kitchen where they bake all of the breads. “We wanted our customers to be involved in the beautiful process of bread making,” Tessa says. “To see our bakers roll out the dough—as well as smell all those yummy fresh bread smells.” While the menu includes loaves like whole wheat sourdough, sprouted rye beer bread and chocolate-cherry sourdough, the signature bread is the country sourdough, which is made with a blend of red winter wheat, whole grain rye and whole wheat flours. Baked in a hearth oven, the loaves have a dark, blistered crust and tangy, nutty flavor.

Willa Jean, New Orleans
Pastry chefs Kelly Fields (the Besh Restaurat Group) and Lisa White (Domenica and PIZZA Domenica) joined forces to head up this new bakery and restaurant, one of the latest additions to John Besh’s empire. Named for Fields’s grandmother, the menu at Willa Jean is distinctly Southern, with dishes like hot boudin and griddled meatloaf, but the real heart of the menu is the bread, which shows up in almost every dish and is also available to buy. Made with locally milled grains, breads include seasonal pumpkin babka and seeded wheat.

Proof Bakeshop, Atlanta
Billy and Kristin Allin, owners of Decatur’s beloved Cakes & Ale, teamed up with bakers David Garcia and Abigail Quinn to open this bright and airy bakery and café. Though it’s hard to resist Quinn’s ultra-comforting confections, like her sticky toffee pudding cake, the bread here is crunchy-crusted, perfectly charred and fantastically fluffy on the inside. Loaves like country sourdough, ciabatta and the baguette are available daily, while breads like the seeded loaf and anadama (a yeasty, molasses bread) are only sold on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Grateful Bread Company, Golden, CO
The family owned and operated bakery has been supplying Denver and Boulder restaurants and bread-lovers with incredible, artisan loaves for over a decade, but this year Grateful Bread is kicking things up a notch with their new custom-built mill. Soon, breads like whole grain and pumpernickel will be made with locally grown, bakery-milled flours. For chefs, the new mill will mean access to hard-to-find small-batch flours made with grains like einkorn and buckwheat. The flours and loaves will also be available for regular retail sale at the bakery for the first time starting in December. Customers will be able to buy bread-making kits as well as individual bags of flour.

F&W's new series reveals the best ways to maximize your food year through travel, wine, cooking, tech, style, events and experiences. Use #BESTFOODYEAR on Twitter and Instagram to tell us about the ones you want to try. We'll continue to share more tips with the hashtag throughout the year and want to hear about how you celebrate food every day, too.