When we define a bakery primarily by its crusty, or at least savory, loaf endeavors, a sweet shop follow-up to those 10 Best Bakeries in L.A. is a must. And so we offer our 10 Best Pastry Shops in L.A. for your commentary.
Did we leave some great ones off the list? Absolutely. Ten is not as many slices of pie as we'd ideally like in any given week. And so we also give kudos to Simple Things for those tiny cutie pies (photo above), Sarkis and Aras Pastry for baklava, SusieCakes for obvious layered reasons and Magnolia Bakery on the Laker's cupcake front, just to name a few (several of those not listed here that specialize in a certain tiny cake you'll soon see in our 10 Best Cupcake Shops follow-up). Also note that we went with the more classic “baked” definition of pastry here, so chocolatiers and confectioners of note like Valerie Confections and Mikawaya, the 100-year-old mochi king in Little Tokyo, are noticeably missing as well (Yeah, we're hoping for a Top 10 Candy Shops follow up, too).
10. Porto's. The sheer breadth of oven offerings at Porto's three bakeshop branches is overwhelming: Cookies and brownies of every nationality, strudels and danishes, cakes, croissants and seasonal specialties, from good old American apple pie to a towering French croquembouche (dubbed an endearing “Croquem Bush” online). Wedding and birthday cakes, too. You might walk away saying Porto's is over-extended in the sweets realm. But look carefully, and you'll find the great comfort-food finds here hark back to the bakery's Cuban roots. Look for anything made with dulce de leche, from those classic kiss cookies (buttery rounds filled with a filling made of the caramelized milk) to a Napoleon reinvented with layers of dulce de leche in lieu of pastry cream. And don't forget that “refugiado” strudel, the Porto family's homage to Cuban guava marmalade and to their new cream cheese strudel-filled life in Southern California. (refugiado means refugee). 315 N. Brand Blvd. Glendale, (818) 956-5996; 3614 W Magnolia Blvd. Burbank, (818) 846-9100; 8233 Firestone Blvd. Downey, (562) 862-8888.
9. Bouchon. The L.A. satellite version of Thomas Keller's flagship Yountville bakeshop, Bouchon is more like a vintage hotel bakery stand than a bakeshop, meaning there's no place to sit. But sitting isn't the point when you're focused on that “Keller” version of a lemon tart, meaning the idea is not how high can you take that Southern meringue but how intensely flavored can you make each bite. Macaroons and other assorted pastries also abound, but not to miss is Keller's signature chocolate bouchons, those tiny, dense chocolate cakes baked in timbale molds. And despite crossing over into 10 Best Bakeries boundaries, we can't leave off the epi baguette, the fantastically crunchy Parisian classic shaped to resemble a wheat stalk that few bakers take the time to make today. 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9910.
8. Farmshop. The potted salmon rillettes lunches and family-style dinners at Jeffrey Cerciello's Brentwood Country Mart Farmshop outpost may be the Mercedes crowd's main draw. But even Cerciello says it's the pastries from baker Brittainy Turnquist that are the star here. And so with his blessing, we will happily be returning only for the pastry basket, the least expensive and very sharable offering on the breakfast menu at $12.50. Even better, you get to choose your own three pastries: A croissant (plain, almond or chocolate adorned) is a must, and that blueberry streusel muffin and chocolate-hazelnut Danish are hard to pass up. Or perhaps an herbed goat cheese scone? With all that, do you really need the house-made seasonal preserves and plenty of butter that comes with them? Of course you do. 225 26th St., #25, Brentwood Country Mart, Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400.
7. Pie n' Burger. The classic apple, custard and cherry pies are reason enough to frequent Pasadena's nearly 50-years-strong Pie n' Burger diner (that's a lot of rolling pin hours). Need more reasons? Anything meringue. And for a narrow window of weeks in the summer, a slice of olallieberry or fresh strawberry pie alongside them. 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 795-1123.
6. Clementine. Go for the chicken salad, stay for the homespun but hardly ho-hum desserts. The lemon bars, apple turnovers, butterscotch brownies and peanut butter sandwich cookies at Clementine just taste so much better than we remember them growing up. While you're there, we highly recommend you take home a few breakfast breads and muffins (apricot-ginger scones, whole grain muffins with seasonal fruit, those fantastic blueberry-sour cream muffins) for tomorrow. 1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 552-1080.
5. Susina Bakery & Café. There are few bakeries in L.A. where Italian and French pastry lines so artfully converge as they do at Susina Bakery & Café. Here, the profiteroles stand at attention alongside the petit fours, and the elegant caramelized pear tarts tatins and gem-like fruit tarts seem right at home with rustic biscotti and baci di damas (Italian almond cookies with Amarena cherries). Some particularly knowledgeable folks say the almond croissants, incidentally, are among the best in town. 7122 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, (323) 934-7900.
4. Sweet Lady Jane. Jane Lockhart has been the go-to West Hollywood “celebration cake” madam for more than twenty years for good reason. Those Sweet Lady Jane layer cakes are not only gorgeous, they come with substantial flavor smarts (Almond Roca, hazelnut-chocolate mousse, dulce de leche, raspberry-lemon). If you've never achieved greater layer cake understanding (One too many grocery store toothache versions as a kid?), Lockhart's seasonal cheesecake picks (pumpkin, raspberry), classic tarts (chocolate pecan, lemon meringue) and pies (cherry, apple) are good To-Go backup plans. And yes, there's always time to polish off a piece in the shop first. 8360 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, (323) 653-7145; 1631 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 254-9499.
3. Jin Patisserie. Bordering on a chocolate shop, albeit one with a broad sugar outlook, Jin Patisserie slips in under the pastry radar for pastry chef Kristi Choo's delicately tinted macaroons in an ever-changing rainbow of flavors. Caramel, lychee, passion fruit, rose… must we really go on? We must. Afternoon tea here involves Choo's version of miniature confection-like “cakes” (dark chocolate-cherry mousse, caramel-banana mascarpone cake, green tea mousse cake with red bean paste) are bedecked in Choo's molded and piped chocolate finery. 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-8801.
2. Joan's On Third. Some come for the cupcakes, we prefer the pan de mie (French country loaf), chocolate roulade (flourless chocolate jellyroll cake filled with whipped cream) and banana cream pies. Joan's on Third is the sort of place where even a classic bar cookie becomes more than the sum of its crust and lemon curd parts — here those tangy lemon bars are topped with piped peaks of toasted meringue. Even Nutella pound cake has been known to make occasional appearances. 8350 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-2285.
1. Huckleberry. Can one pastry chef, blueberry-stoneground cornmeal cake in hand, redefine the perfect dinner party/birthday/anniversary dessert in a city with ovens as large and diverse as L.A.? Perhaps not, but Zoe Nathan's stone fruit crostatas at Huckleberry have been giving those perfectly coiffed layer cakes and perky cupcakes some serious To-Go competition the past few years. Stock up on napkins, as nibbling here is often accented by fantastic amounts of butter in the guise of maple-bacon biscuits and incredibly flaky croissants (plain, or filled with various sundries like prosciutto or Valrhona chocolate). For lunch, a savory whole wheat-vegetable crostata would be satisfying enough on its own. But you're going to want to try a slice of that banana caramel pie, lemon pistachio cake and sure, the flourless chocolate walnut torte, too. This is the truly rare bakeshop helmed by the equivalent of a three-star restaurant pastry chef. 1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica (310) 451-2311.
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[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com]