If you're a pastry fiend, then the question you ask when visiting a new city isn't about the best cup of coffee or the best brunch spot. The question is where can I get a great croissant? There's something so lovely about starting your day with a flakey, buttery croissant, perhaps accompanied by coffee or tea. If you're heading out for a day of touring new sites, it's a nice way to get something in your stomach that's not the usual yogurt or oatmeal, and not quite as heavy as sitting down for a full brunch. A croissant, a latte, and a newspaper is my preferred way to start any day that I have off, and so I am always seeking the best places to get those things wherever I am. What I'm looking for is a place where pastry isn't an afterthought-I know that plenty of cafes in, say, Brooklyn carry the very good Balthazar croissants alongside their carefully crafted coffee, but no one is really going there for the pastry. When I'm on the hunt for a croissant, I want to find a place that loves them as much as I do.
Croissant tourism is extremely real. And so here, a brief run-down of where to get a really good croissant in several American cities. By no means is this a comprehensive list-thanks to the magic of butter and the wiles of pastry chefs, there are many, many great croissants in many cities. But for my fellow croissant people, here is a good place to start.
Continental Bakery, Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is my hometown, and whenever I head back there, I try to make a morning stop at the Continental, a darling little bakery tucked into suburban Birmingham. There are an array of pastry options, as well as fare for a light lunch if you get there later in the day. The breads are also very good, if you need to pick up a gift for a host or just something to smear red pepper jelly and goat cheese on later in the day. The croissants are large and flakey, and perfect with a dollop of jam, a cup of coffee, and a book.
Le Croissant D'Or, New Orleans, Louisiana
Though Le Croissant D'Or isn't too far from the bustle of the French Market, this cafe and pastry spot in the French Quarter always has an air of tranquility about it. You can grab a bowl-sized cafe au lait and one of their sticky-sweet croissants and relax outside in the courtyard, or grab a table in the window to watch the passersby. Honorable mention here also to Kelly Fields' great restaurant Willa Jean, in the Central Business District, which does delightful things with pastry, though I'm always too distracted by the cornbread and biscuits to bother with croissants.
Proof Bakery, Los Angeles, California
A good friend and fellow croissant person steered me to the Atwater Village patisserie Proof several visits ago, and we ended up visiting more than once. They make, yes, an excellent croissant, but that's just the beginning. If you manage to be there on a day when Proof has their morning buns, another feat of lamination sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, then do not hesitate to go for that, too. And grab another pastry for later. You'll thank me.
La Gourmandine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When I asked Pittsburgh natives where to go in their fair city for my morning croissant rituals, everyone in my (admittedly somewhat small) sample pointed me to the Gourmandine in Lawrenceville. It's a French bakery with a capital "F"-you have your baguettes, your various delicacies filled with hazelnut or pistachio cream, and your baskets full of boules. And yes, indeed, there are croissants, as buttery and flakey as you would hope, in a sunny, perfect spot for your morning. Or afternoon. Croissants don't have a clock.
La Brioche, Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is a biscuit town, so finding an excellent French croissant is always a treat. La Brioche has that and so much more. Located in a kind of open mall space in the artsy district of Fondren, La Brioche has pastries that are both elegant-looking and very, very good, plus the table space to sit and relax while you enjoy them.
Crumble & Flake, Seattle, Washington
The very name of this Capitol Hill bakery suggests the kind of buttery fare that they serve up, an impressive array of pastry items both laminated and otherwise. The plain croissants are reliably excellent, but there are also variations, like chocolate cherry, pistachio, pecan chocolate and smoked paprika cheddar, to consider. A croissant person is likely to be extremely happy here, is what I'm saying.
La Patisserie, Austin, Texas
In the land of breakfast tacos, you still might want a pastry breakfast now and then. Enter this French patisserie and macaron shop, which stuffs the requisite glass case-and-counter with many perfect pastry specimens, including miniature croissants for when you just want a couple bites of pastry, and not the whole she-bang. There are two locations in Austin, for whenever your croissant craving strikes.
Little t American Baker, Portland, Oregon
All croissants, if they're made properly, should remind you of butter. That's because a lot of butter goes into them-layers and layers of the stuff, chilled and spread and baked just so. But something about the croissants at Little t is extra buttery, and extra rich, but in an airy delight way, rather than a dinner roll that landed in a plate of melted butter way. Little t also does muffins and baguettes if you're into that kind of thing.
Comet Coffee, St. Louis, Missouri
The recommendation for this microbakery and coffee spot mini-chain comes from our excellent assistant culture editor Kate Welsh, a St. Louis native, who is also a croissant person. The cafe offers up both sweet and savory version of the breakfast treat to have alongside your latte or hot beverage of choice. Comet also runs a separate croissanterie, which serves croissants every morning from 7 a.m. until they're sold out. Now that's what I'm talking about.
Lucette Grace, Raleigh, North Carolina
Fellow croissant person and senior food and drink editor Kat Kinsman pointed out this spot, and just looking at the menu is enough to make me want to book a plane ticket. The contemporary patisserie has a menu full of flakey, buttery options, including a scallion biscuit, but the thing that you're going there for, croissant-wise is either the salted butter or triple chocolate croissant. If you want to grab a buttermilk fig scone or kouign amann on your way out, I'm not going to stop you.
Tartine, San Francisco, California
I was suspicious of Tartine at first because any time I mentioned San Francisco to a croissant person, they would get this feverish light in their eyes and exhort me to go there, and possibly smuggle home baked goods for them if I could. That kind of hype always makes me nervous, which is probably why it took me too long to watch Mad Men. But hey, turns out that these croissant evangelists were extremely correct because Tartine is really, really good. The Frangipane Croissant? It is like the Beyonce of almond croissants. Go.
Flour Bakery + Cafe, Boston, Massachusetts
What Tartine evangelists are to San Francisco, Flour evangelists are to Boston. This local chain doles out pastries of all kinds, but the croissant is definitely a highlight. The sticky buns are another. The sandwiches also get rave reviews. To be safe, come back for breakfast and lunch. Special shout-out also to Wellesley Bakery, which is our intrepid intern Gabrielle Van Tassel's preferred Boston-area place to score a ham and cheese croissant.
Bachour Bakery + Bistro, Miami, Florida
Bachour Bakery, the pastry outlet for chef Antonino Bachour, definitely knows its way around a croissant, as well as an assortment of tiny cakes and tarts. The plain croissant is excellent, but if you're looking for something with a sweeter kick, you can't go wrong with the Nutella croissant.
Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, New York
This Smith street bakery is to me what a bug zapper is to mosquitos. I can spot the storefront from a block away and start getting hungry, no matter that I might be on the way to a meeting or a movie. All of the baked goods are very, very good, and the croissant is excellent. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Industry City's own beloved Colson Patisserie, where heavenly croissants are baked all day long in several flavors and sizes. They also have a location in Park Slope which, rumor has it, the mayor frequents.
The Little Tart Bakeshop, Atlanta, Georgia
An Atlanta Farmers Market mainstay, the Little Tart makes croissants that are worth getting up early for. They also have a stand-alone cafe at the Krog Street Market if you can't haul yourself out of bed on time which, who can blame you. The flavors aren't zany-they stick to butter, chocolate, almond, and ham & cheese-but when someone executes a classic so well and faithfully, who needs to complain.