July 12, 2020

The joy of French bakeries

I think that all of us should have more French pastry in our lives. Not that I advocate eating a pain au chocolat every day of the week, but the occasional flaky, buttery bit of goodness certainly improves my day. I know that this short list represents a tiny fraction of all of the fabulous bakeries in the city; consider it a good place to start your bakery research.

Café Besalu
How is it that Ballard gets two (two!) fantastic classic French bakeries? It’s because there is the buying public there to support it, you say. And you’re right. I’ve been to Besalu a number of times and the line is always out the door. I like that as you’re standing there waiting to order you have a clear view of the pastry-making, and that what happens on that counter will soon appear in the case before you. They serve a nicely narrow selection of quiche, danish, brioche and croissants, and of course have the standard sort of espresso offerings. For a small place they have a decent amount of seating, with what seems to be a lower hang-out ratio for patrons.

Honore Artisan Bakery
I made my first trip to Honore just recently after hearing about it for a while, often in a sentence like, “If you love Besalu you’ll love Honore…” It’s true. It has many of the same offerings as its Ballard neighbor and in a head-to-head plain croissant tasting I can’t say that I prefer one over the other. Honore is even more tucked away in a small sub-neighborhood of interesting restaurants and shops, so it feels like a find when you make your way there. I like that the little bit of inside seating are street-facing counters and stools, and that the outdoor options are Adirondack chairs out front and bistro tables in an enclosed and planter-boxed area out back.

Bakery Nouveau
I’ve written about Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle before, but it’s so good that I don’t feel bad about a repeat mention. They produce the same sorts of fabulous French pastry as my two Ballard favorites above, and also do big business in sandwiches, pizza and a huge array of cakes, tarts, and macaroons. As well as being a lovely place to spend some time — definitely a higher hang-out ratio for patrons here than at Besalu — consider Bakery Nouveau for any take-away or party needs you might have. In fact, my first introduction to their food was at an event, so I know that they produce equally delicious results in large quantities as in small.

What do all of these places have in common besides the fantastic food? Really friendly top-notch service. I don’t think it’s such a stretch to say that being around buttery bits of goodness makes for happy customers and happy staff.

[The photo of a Besalu danish courtesy of smohundro]


  1. Couldn't agree more about Besalu – watching them actually make the pastries before my hungry eyes is intoxicating. I'm just waiting to see someone churning butter in the kitchen…