San Francisco sourdough? You may have noticed beneath that smoky (wood-burning oven?) haze, L.A. has a new whole grain baguette, flaky croissant (even at LAX) and yes, crusty sourdough advantage. Here are our picks for the 10 Best Bakeries in L.A.. It's the savory bread starter course, if you will, as bakeries specializing in cakes, pies and the like are getting their just desserts in a sequel (10 Best Pastry Shops in L.A.).
But L.A. has really upped the crusty loaf ante in recent years, so even with a sweet-savory dividing line, we're inevitably going to leave some of our other beloved baguette stops off this list. All the more reason for you to add your picks below.
10. The Village Bakery and Cafe.There are cookies and sweets in abundance, but take a closer look at those crusty loaves. Village Bakery owner Barbara Monderine bakes more than a dozen varieties, including sourdough boules and baguettes made from a starter that she brought down from San Francisco. The shop also laminates its own dough (the technique for making croissants and other flaky pastry), a notable effort in today's purchased puff pastry era. "I bought this place for the oven," says Monderine of the French-made Pavailler deck oven she inherited when she bought the bakeshop. Yeah, we would have, too. 3119 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-8600.
9. La Mascota. There are dozens of assorted pan dulce, galletas by the hundreds and even an in-house quinceañera cake decorator at this Boyle Heights neighborhood favorite. But the crusty, chubby little bolillos (rolls) that La Mascota has been serving up to wholesale and retail customers for nearly 60 years have been the backbone of this family business. Grab a bag of bolillos to make your own tortas, or hit the bakery around lunchtime and grab one made in-house (a bolillo sliced and filled with lunch meats, carne asada or chorizo). And take a tip from regular customers: Always grab a few dozen of La Mascota's tamales for later. 2715 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 263-5513.
8. Mozza 2 Go. Following Nancy Silverton's bread career path is like reading a really good novel -- you never know what's going to be brewing in that yeasty starter next. On her storyboard timeline, those first crusty La Brea Bakery loaves and Pizzeria Mozza wood-fired pizza crusts have been going down a spongier foccacia path more recently. At Mozza 2 Go, that means a crunchy olive oil-enhanced bottom crust, fluffy foccacia center and a dimply top filled with rosemary or maybe some roasted onions or peppers, and plenty more olive oil. 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130.
7. Stone Ground Bakery. Those fantastically soft, buttery loaves of hand-braided challah may have earned Agoura Hill's Stone Ground Bakery top gluten honors over the years, but what really consumes German baker Abby Franke is that true stone ground quality. He's been grinding his own whole grain flour long before "artisan" grains became all the marketing rage for a much more compelling reason: No commercial flours met his exacting standards. A bonus: In his newly expanded bakery space, you can grab a pizza or a kosher pastry while you choose that whole grain loaf. 29105 Canwood Street, Agoura Hills, (818) 597-8774.
6. Maison Giraud. Alain Giraud's past L.A. outposts (Citrus, Lavande, Bastide, Anisette Brasserie) came with a sprinkle or more of French formality, but at Maison Giraud, there are far too many rustic baguettes lining the walls for that kind of vibe. There's also brioche and fougasse to take home for supper, pan aux chocolat for morning/afternoon walk-by snacking, and for the kids, mini jambon buerre (a sliced baguette spread with sweet butter and layered with ham). 1032 Swarthmore Ave, Pacific Palisades.
5. Proof Bakery. Those sea salt-studded baguettes at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village need no adornment. But we're not going to complain when they come dressed up as lunch hour sandwiches, either (salami with chive butter and fried fennel; pickled beets with pesto and potatoes). Keep in mind that lunch here can be an even greater discovery if you stick to the loose definition: Cheddar-chive biscuits, gougères and brioche getting its second wind as a vegetable strata. 3156 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 664-8633.
4. Euro Pane (West). Batards, ficelle, croissants and canelés, all re-envisioned in whole wheat. In 2011, Sumi Chang opened a whole grain-centric outpost to Euro Pane, her popular 15-year-old Pasadena bakery. At the new location, most of the bakery items celebrate one whole grain or another, but hardly in a health food way. Not convinced? Take a seat at the communal table made from an 80-year-old pecan tree and try a whole wheat cinnamon roll (Take out the cinnamon and sugar and you've basically got a whole grain dinner roll, right?). Euro Pane (West): 300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (across from Paseo Colorado), (626) 844-8804.
3. La Boulangerie (Les Délices Du Four). If you're lucky, La Boulangerie owner Thierry Warnier will be the one selling those crusty loaves at your local farmers market. His wood-oven charred baguettes, olive and raisin walnut-studded boules, and whole wheat country loaves come with an impressive crust-to-core ratio. Many of the larger loaves are conveniently sold in halves and quarters, so eating the proper French way (the day you buy it, no exceptions) is entirely too easy. Farmers markets: Mar Vista (Sun.), Westlake Village (Sun.), West Hollywood (Mon.), Calabasas (Sat.)
2. Milo & Olive. When Josh Loeb and pastry chef Zoe Nathan opened Huckleberry in 2009, L.A.'s idea of afternoon refueling forever changed from caffeine to chocolate croissants and rustic fruit tarts in rotating seasonal renditions. Now that Nathan has moved her dough proofer over to Milo & Olive, the couple's new bakery and café a few blocks down the street, you're going to want to add handmade bagels, multi-grain baguettes, country boules and vegetable flatbreads to your daily bread requirements. Milo & Olive, 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 453-6776.
1. Röckenwagner Bakery. If you've ever pulled apart a carefully knotted pretzel roll from one of Hans Röckenwagner's Westside bakeries and cafés, you won't be surprised to learn the German baker is also an excellent carpenter and woodworker (he makes much of the wood furniture and adornments in his shops). Taste his flagship cheddar cheese-covered pretzel twists and pretzel croissants, and it's clear that Röckenwagner has the palette to keep up with those nimble fingers. Arguably more impressive? To be a staple of L.A.'s ever-changing retail, wholesale and farmers market bakery scene for so many years, you've got to be good at filling your loyal customers' daily bread needs but also keep an eye on new whole grain scone territory. 3 Square Bakery & Café, 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-6504; Röckenwagner Bakery & Café, 311 Arizona Ave. Santa Monica, (310) 394-4267 and 12835 Washington Blvd. Mar Vista (310) 578-8171; and several farmers markets.
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Amy Scattergood and Elina Shatkin contributed to this report.
[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com