Portland has its craft beer, and Vancouver its culinary scene. But while Seattle also offers plenty of breweries and trendy restaurants, the Emerald City is unique in its abundance of artisan bakeries. Spread like butter across almost every neighbourhood, one can’t really miss them. Here are some of our favourite bakeries in Seattle to visit on your next trip.
Until they opened in Capitol Hill, Bakery Nouveau odysseys to West Seattle were as legendary as Krispy Kreme treks elsewhere in America. Baker William Leaman (former captain of the winning Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie team), can create a Sunflower Rye loaf and mould a Pistachio chocolate with equal panache. Leaman doesn’t revel in his celebrity, though. Despite being named one of the “Top Ten Next Generation Chocolatiers,” he still bakes comfort classics like carrot and chocolate cake.
Ballard’s Café Besalu only offers a few tables, but the ambience and freshly baked croissant aromas flow out onto the 24th Avenue sidewalk, where tables and a wide bench await. Like the best patisseries of Paris, it doesn’t seem right to take one’s croissant, galette or brioche away, even if it means leaning against the windowpane to eat it. Pastry chef James Miller lays claim annually to “best croissant in Seattle” accolades, but try the plum Danish or almond Schnecken to round out your cosmopolitan petit déjeuner.
Eltana, Top Pot Hand Forged Doughnuts & Mighty O Donuts
Okay, full disclosure, Eltana is not technically an artisan bakery, but founders Stephen Brown and Daniel Levin have revolutionized an integral element of the Seattle lifestyle: the bagel. Wood-fired and inspired by Montréal bakers at Fairmount and St-Viateur, these compact, delicious bagels have taken over local Sunday brunches. Other recommendations (well-crafted if not exactly artisanal), go to local Top Pot Doughnuts and vegan donut creator, Mighty-O. Both have somehow managed to make eating a chocolate-glazed doughnut feel almost healthy.
The Essential Baking Company
Known simply as “Essential” (as in “let’s meet at Essential at 10”), this organic bread-baking operation established the city’s love for heavily crusted European-style loaves. Fewer than 85% of the locals buy a daily baguette like they do in France, but this doesn’t stop the bakers from making a Parisian Baguette covered in poppy seeds and lavender. The loading dock-style patio remains a favourite summertime gathering spot, especially when tempted by Chocolate Sumapaz, Lemon Cremeux, and Raspberry Charlotte, among other luscious desserts.
Grand Central Bakery
It makes sense that a neighbourhood called Pioneer Square would possess at least one of the best artisan bakeries in Seattle, and Grand Central Bakery has occupied the historic Grand Central Hotel Building since 1989. Sitting in the vast arcade beneath brick arches munching on Irish soda bread or the original hearth style Como loaf just feels right. You might also take your twice-baked chocolate hazelnut croissant and coffee outside to one of three-dozen bistro tables in Occidental Park.
Grateful Bread Bakery and Cafe
If there is any question about the nomenclature of this Wedgwood neighbourhood mainstay, the cardboard cut-out just inside the door of Jerry Garcia answers it plainly. Regulars and visitors alike enjoy a high time inside or outside on the enclosed patio. Known for its homemade bagels and daily cinnamon rolls, as well as a variety of sandwich-style whole grain breads, Grateful Bread’s other temptation is its chocolate chunk cookies and scones – they’ll make you smile, smile, smile.
Rosellini’s Fine Cakes and Baked Goods
Located in the Ballard neighbourhood’s “Little Brooklyn” (the pizza joint next door is named Delancey), Rosellini’s purveys French-influenced baking. One can tell the time of year by the queue, which either forms down the hallway or out the door, based on the rain or lack thereof. The sublimely simple terrace is hidden away; the perfect place to pick apart a pain au chocolat.
Irwin’s Bakery & Cafe
Irwin’s Bakery & Cafe is everything a neighbourhood bakery should be: friendly and familiar with fabulous food. Proprietor Linda Fecher was a home baker who expanded her household oven into a household word in the Wallingford neighbourhood. Known for baking hundreds of pies during the holidays, visitors at other times of year will always find a pie or two on the counter, an excellent selection of scones and, the best chocolate chip cookie in Seattle, hands down. The atmosphere is part-small town grocer (Irwin’s began as a grocery in 1927), part-front porch and part-community centre.
Owner-baker Leslie Mackie is often credited with raising the artisan bakery renaissance when, in 1993, she opened Macrina Bakery in the downtown Belltown neighbourhood. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy and multiple James Beard nominee, Mackie named her first solo project after a 4th century mystic who created one of the world’s first communes. Mackie’s original rustic breads still anchor the offerings, but Macrina also makes the best buttermilk biscuits (a centre well of jam included) in Seattle. “Rick’s Chocolate Apricot Espresso” cookie is also known by name. One of the best artisan bakeries in Seattle, Macrina is located in trendy SODO.
Written by Crai S Bower