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.