The Best Croissants in America
Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY
Translating to “well done,” this popular Brooklyn bakery’s name is an indication of its baking philosophy: Breads and pastries are all baked longer than you might expect. In the case of croissants, that means an enticingly dark outer crust that’s caramelized and deeply flavored. Chef-owner Zachary Golper, twice nominated for a “Best Baker” James Beard accolade, creates pain au chocolat, almond, almond chocolate, ham and brie, and artichoke and goat cheese croissants as well. The almond in particular—double-baked with brandy—often sell out by 10am on weekends.
The Little Chef, Princeton, NJ
To best experience The Little Chef, show up around 9:00 am, when Edwige Fils-Aimé pulls his croissants from the oven—suffusing his tiny shop with the aroma of fresh-baked pastries. The Haitian-born pastry chef is a one-man operation with a devoted fan base — his few dozen plain, almond, chocolate, and raspberry jam-filled croissants vanish almost as soon as they’re tucked into their display cabinets. But arrive early and you’ll be rewarded with textbook-perfect pastry from a baker as talented as he is dedicated.
République, Los Angeles, CA
In a striking, soaring space once home to Campanile, République has earned wide acclaim for its bistro fare, and just as much for its pastry program, among the best in Los Angeles. Executive pastry chef and co-owner Margarita Manzke oversees all baking onsite, including the beloved croissants, made with organic flour and butter from Normandy, with the dough laminated fresh every day and baked every morning. Rotating savory croissants are on offer, along with kouign amman and pain au chocolat, with plain croissants always available — well, until they sell out.
Salty Tart, Minneapolis, MN
After racking up the accolades as Executive Pastry Chef for Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Michelle Gayer opened her own bakery in 2008 — a 400-square-foot space from which emerge pastries both traditional and whimsical. Plain, chocolate, and ham-and-cheese are standbys, and seasonal offerings like sweet potato almond croissants keep things interesting.
Ken's Artisan Bakery, Portland, OR
A relentlessly curious culinary mind, Ken Forkish is the rare baker who turns out top-notch versions of the fundamentals — his breads, pizzas, and pastries are universally considered among the best in Portland — while managing to innovate as well. At Ken's Artisan Bakery, beautifully layered butter croissants are joined by the hazelnut-blueberry Oregon Croissant, a raspberry-rose version, and a pain au chocolat loaded with far more Valrhona chocolate than you’d find in Paris. At his newer bakery Trifecta, in Portland's Central Eastside, he’s developed new croissant doughs, including a chocolate croissant dough for a Double-Chocolate Croissant; a Honey-Rye croissant dough that’s then filled with ham; and a Raspberry Croissant with raspberry puree in the dough itself.
Little Tart, Atlanta, GA
After living in Paris for years and beginning every morning with a croissant or pain au chocolat, Sarah O’Brien wanted to bring that baking tradition to Atlanta. Having trained as an intern at a Parisian bakery, she first launched Little Tart at local farmers’ markets, and still abides by a farmers’ market philosophy, with all of the shop’s eggs, dairy, honey, and jam coming from the Atlanta area. While her croissants, savory Vidalia onion danishes, and pecan escargot have all earned widespread acclaim, O’Brien is always striving for better, working toward her croissant ideal — “the perfect specimen that will transport me right back to a park bench in Paris.”
Crumble & Flake, Seattle, WA
Baker-owner Neil Robertson left a career as a graphic designer and web developer for a life in pastry, leading him to open Crumble & Flake in 2012. His rich, flaky croissants are made with a sourdough starter, complementing the flavor of pure butter. But the more unusual croissants are the real showstoppers: smoked paprika croissants made with sharp cheddar cheese, with extra sprinkled on top for an almost grilled cheese-like burnt-cheese crust; a decadent twice-baked pistachio croissant; and seasonal flavors including pumpkin and eggnog.
La Patisserie, Austin, TX
Chemical engineer-turned-baker Soraiya Nagree took the leap into pastry more than a decade ago, and after launching her successful brand Luxe Sweets, opened the first La Pâtisserie in 2010. Today, she and head pastry chef Lezlie Gibbs run two shops, selling all manner of pastries, macarons, and of course croissants. From start to finish, each croissant takes three days — “a true labor of love,” Nagree calls it — whether a classic butter or a pain au chocolat, almond croissant, or rotating miniature croissants like the current chocolate-almond.
Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, CA
It’s impossible to talk bread, or pastry, without invoking Tartine, long held up as one of America’s best bakeries. James Beard Award-winners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson have built a small empire on their baking prowess, and while the breads are the stuff of legend, the pastries are no less impressive. Tartine croissants are gutsy, not dainty, with a shatter-crisp crust and seemingly endless buttery layers; the pain au chocolat and pain au jambon are each delicious beasts, not skimping on the ham or the chocolate.
Proof Bakery, Los Angeles, CA
One look at Proof Bakery’s crisp, golden croissants and there’s no doubt there’s a masterful baker behind them. Pastry chef and owner Na Young Ma produces one of the best croissants in the Los Angeles area, but her almond croissants are still more impressive — baked, then filled with a pastry cream-almond filling, then topped with more sliced almonds and baked again. Unlike some twice-baked versions, it retains its tender, buttery interior, while gaining a perfect nutty crunch.
Floriole Cafe and Bakery, Chicago, IL
Trained at the California Culinary Academy and an alum of Tartine Bakery, Sandra Holl had true baking credentials under her belt even before she launched a stand at Chicago’s beloved Green City Market, and then opened Floriole in 2010. Pastry has always been a particular passio for Holl, and her ham-and-cheese croissants are incomparable, with Nueske's ham, Otter Creek raw milk cheddar, and a bit of grainy mustard as an unusual addition. Other croissant renditions include lemon pistachio, chocolate rye, whole wheat — and she’s even working on a vegan croissant, made with coconut butter.
Boulted Bread, Raleigh, NC
Partners Fulton Forde, Sam Kirkpatrick and Joshua Bellamy each bring their own culinary and baking expertise to their Raleigh operation, notable as both a bakery and a stone mill — flour is the linchpin of every baked good, so Boulted Bread mills its own. For their croissants, it’s heirloom whole wheat "Red Turkey" flour alongside conventional roller-milled flour; it joins cultured organic butter in a dough that proofs slowly, ferments overnight, and bakes to a deep, caramelized brown. Featured pastries rotate with the season, including a current maple roasted carrot croissant with locally made feta.
Standard Baking Co., Portland, ME
Back in 1995, baker-owner Allison Pray developed the croissant method that Portland’s Standard Baking Co. would use for decades to come: the dough laminated with 83% butterfat European-style butter, hand-rolled daily, and slowly fermented over 36 hours for complexity of flavor. Today, head pastry chef Natasha Holgers bakes these daily along with pain au chocolat and Asiago & Prosciutto di Parma (known to regulars as just “ham and cheese”). Almond croissants appear from Thursday through Sunday, with the new Pistachio Frangipane croissants from Monday to Wednesday.
Bachour Bakery + Bistro, Miami, FL
It can prove near impossible to choose a single pastry from Bachour’s enticing lineup —how about a pecan croissant, or a baklava croissant, or dulce de leche? Or you could sample the Latin America-inspired guava and cheese croissant. Or the European-influenced hazelnut-chocolate gianduja. Pastry chef-owner Antonio Bachour, a recent James Beard Award semifinalist, creates all of the above each day, with European butter and an eye toward classic technique.
Cafe Besalu, Seattle, WA
Long held up as the pastry to beat in Seattle, Besalu’s butter croissant deserves all its acclaim (and the frequent lines out the door). With pastry chef James Miller at the helm, the plain croissants are small and golden brown, flaky and tender-middled. Served with a homemade jam, it’s the kind of pastry one could easily make a morning habit out of — unless you defect to the pain au chocolat, that is.
Hungry Pigeon, Philadelphia, PA
After seven years as the pastry chef running Balthazar Bakery’s wholesale production, Pat O’Malley knew how to create an incredible croissant — but he could never serve it fresh. So at his Philadelphia eatery Hungry Pigeon, he bakes off croissants that don’t journey anywhere farther than the pastry case. “After years seeing all the beautiful products boxed up, put on cold trucks, and shipped all over the city, it's really satisfying to be able to serve a great croissant that still has some of the warmth and life left in it from when it was initially baked.” Generally sticking to the basics, O’Malley creates pain au chocolat, almond croissants, and ham and cheese — simple croissants that showcase the pastry itself.
Neighbor Bakehouse, San Francisco, CA
Owner-baker Greg Mendel worked in pastry for fifteen years, in every corner of the country, before launching the Neighbor Bakehouse business with his wife Christine Savage-Mindel five years back. Their brick-and-mortar bakehouse, opened two years ago, turns out gorgeous butter croissants — rich with a deep butter flavor, yet flaky and light. But perhaps still more impressive are Mendel’s utterly original creations: His croissant flavors include twice-baked caramelized hazelnut-amarena black cherry; pistachio-blackberry; kimchi-black sesame; and the much-loved Everything Croissant, styled after the everything bagel, thus covered in seeds, onion, and garlic and filled with cream cheese and green onion.
Clear Flour Bread, Brookline, MA
European in its philosophy and in its menus, Clear Flour is the sort of unassuming local bakery that every neighborhood wishes it had. Though perhaps best known for its boules and baguettes, the croissants are equally impressive, utterly classic in their crisp shells, flaky layers, and pure butter flavor. Plain, chocolate, and Gruyere croissants are bakery standbys, while special occasions might call for apricot or raspberry.
City Bakery, New York, NY
Two words: Pretzel croissant. An inspired fusion of the two baked goods, it’s made over a 48-hour process in the classic method, with a buttery laminated dough — but with a heavy-handed sprinkle of rock salt and sesame seeds over the top of each one. It results in a pastry that’s more savory than sweet, salty enough to prove addictive, and genuinely worthy of its cult following.