The Best Croissants in America

City Bakery, New York, NY
Photo: © City Bakery Brands

The crackling bronzed shell; the flaky, gentle layers within; the pure scent of butter as you tear it apart — a good croissant is a thing of beauty. Like a plain bagel or pizza Margherita, croissants are simple creatures, yet deceptively complex; only the best pastry chefs truly master the form. Here are 16 bakeries across the country that are turning out some of the best croissants around.

01 of 16

Bien Cuit (Brooklyn, New York)

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY
© Jase Kingsland

Translating to "well done," Bien Cuit'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, as well as almond, ham and brie, and artichoke and goat cheese croissants. The almond in particular — double-baked with brandy — often sells out by 10 a.m. on weekends.

02 of 16

Little Chef Pastry Shop (Princeton, New Jersey)

The Little Chef, Princeton, NJ
© Carey Jones

To best experience Little Chef Pastry Shop, show up around 9 a.m., 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 pastries from a baker as talented as he is dedicated.

03 of 16

République (Los Angeles)

République, Los Angeles, CA
© Michelle Park

Housed in a striking, soaring space, 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, 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.

04 of 16

Ken's Artisan Bakery (Portland, Oregon)

Ken's Artisan Bakery, Portland, OR
© Alan Weiner

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.

05 of 16

Little Tart Bakeshop (Atlanta)

Little Tart, Atlanta, GA
© Little Tart

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 Bakeshop 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."

06 of 16

Crumble & Flake (Seattle)

Crumble & Flake, Seattle, WA
© Crumble & Flake

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.

07 of 16

La Patisserie (Austin, Texas)

La Patisserie, Austin, TX
© Maggie Zhu

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.

08 of 16

Tartine Bakery (San Francisco, California)

Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, CA
© Tartine

It's hard to talk bread or pastry without invoking Tartine, long considered 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.

09 of 16

Proof Bakery (Los Angeles)

Proof Bakery, Los Angeles, CA
© Mack Hill

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.

10 of 16

Boulted Bread (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Boulted Bread, Raleigh, NC
© Jim Trice

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, they use heirloom whole wheat "Red Turkey" flour alongside conventional roller-milled flour, which 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.

11 of 16

Floriole Cafe and Bakery (Chicago, Illinois)

Floriole Cafe and Bakery, Chicago, IL
© Sandra Holl

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 passion 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.

12 of 16

Standard Baking Co. (Portland, Maine)

Standard Baking Co., Portland, ME
© Olan Boardman

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").

13 of 16

Bachour Bakery (Miami, Florida)

Bachour Bakery + Bistro, Miami, FL
© Antonio Bachour

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 James Beard Award semifinalist, creates all of the above each day with European butter and an eye toward classic technique.

14 of 16

Cafe Besalu (Seattle)

Cafe Besalu, Seattle, WA
© James Miller

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.

15 of 16

Neighbor Bakehouse (San Francisco)

Neighbor Bakehouse, San Francisco, CA
© Eric Wolfinger

Owner-baker Greg Mendel worked in pastry for 15 years, in every corner of the country, before launching Neighbor Bakehouse with his wife Christine Savage-Mindel in 2012. Their brick-and-mortar bakehouse 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.

16 of 16

Clear Flour Bread (Brookline, Massachusetts)

Clear Flour Bread, Brookline, MA
© Ken Rivard

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.

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