Around the World in 12 Cookbook Shops

April 23, 2018

There's something magical about a cookbook shop, especially when everyone seems to be sharing their recipes on Instagram and the treasured cookbooks that come out make their ways into homes via online orders. Cookbook shops freeze time, forever embracing the excitement of thumbing through a rare title or finding that book your mom always talked about, as well as the endless possibilities before you on a shelf of titles about dim sum and profiteroles and cheese pairings.

Stepping into these stores is like stepping into precious clubs for those who simply love food in any capacity, except these clubs are all-welcoming.

There aren't as many shops devoted entirely to cookbooks as we'd like, but—thankfully—there are enough to journey to in different cities across the globe. Their existence celebrates another era, one that centered around brick-and-mortar destinations and the leisurely perusal of books, while championing the popularity of cookbooks today through forward-thinking chefs and gorgeous photography.

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They can also serve as windows into life in their cities, highlighting local cooking or activist missions and gathering customers in back kitchens for fresh-cooked meals. For all of these reasons, we’ve started our dream list of cookbook shops around the world. By no means exhaustive, this grouping is just a starting point for how we’d love to get to know places from Maine to Amsterdam.

Sydney: The Cookery Book

Photo by Google Maps

Dive into an entire section on charcuterie—or smoking meats, or dairy-free diets. Or, maybe you’d rather shop by region, perusing nearly 60 titles just on Spanish and Portuguese fare, or nearly 50 on Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. Settled just on the peaceful outskirts of Sydney, Australia, The Cookery Book is a true one-stop shopping for all your cookbook needs. Its stock is comprehensive but well-curated, and the staff is ready to guide you through your adventure so you can be sure to find a tried-and-true classic or an under-the-radar gem.

San Francisco: Omnivore Books on Food

Photo by Pen and Fork

Celia Sack was a rare book specialist at an auction house before opening Omnivore Books on Food in Noe Valley, and that knack for finding treasures that are limited edition, out of print, and perennially sought after is part of what makes the shop so special. That uniqueness also comes from the frequent talks and signings that Sack hosts with authors and chefs, as well an emphasis on global thinking and highlighting international cuisines that don’t normally get the spotlight.

Amsterdam: De Kookboekhandel

Photo by De Kookboekhandel

De Kookboekhandel owner Jonah Freud prides herself on making her shop a hub of international culinary knowledge, with titles new and old, beloved and almost impossible to find coming into the shop just to leave again in the hands of a happy new owner. Freud is an authority on cookbooks in the Netherlands, reviewing them for various outlets, so shoppers can trust anything on her store’s shelves is fit to inspire both professional or amateur chef alike.

Seattle: Book Larder

Tagged “a community bookstore,” Seattle’s Book Larder is more than just a shop. It’s a gathering place for anyone who loves food, from enthusiastic eaters to experienced chefs. In addition to an inventory that ranges from cookbooks to food essays and new to antique, the shop has a calendar packed with talks, classes, and discussions. Even for travelers passing through, classes on oysters that include a full dinner or talks with Lidia Bastianich are events to catch.

Paris: Librairie Gourmande

Photo by Fearless Fresh

Librairie Gourmande isn’t the only cookbook shop in Paris, but it’s picked time and time again as the favorite of locals, travelers, food adventurers, and chefs. The compact Montmartre store is jam-packed with an almost overwhelming selection of books from around the world, antique to hot off-the-presses. It’s one of those places you should prepare to spend an entire afternoon in, and that won’t be a problem. Let the staff be your guide and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch an author signing. Bonus points: There’s a section of children’s cookbooks so you can get the whole family in the kitchen.

Portland, Maine: Rabelais

It was Rabelais and meeting its owner, Don Lindgren, that inspired Celia Sack to open Omnivore. The quiet shop 20 minutes outside of Portland is considered a gold standard for cookbook shops with its expertly curated selection. Rabelais focuses on the rare and even out of print, making it your pilgrimage destination for food and drink books you can’t find anywhere else. Titles reach back to the sixteenth century, so you can look to history for inspiration or simply add a new treasure to your bookshelf.

New Orleans: Kitchen Witch Cookbooks

weekends of bookstores & art markets 📚

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Kitchen Witch Cookbooks is another one of those truly special stores that also functions as a community gathering place. On any given day, you might find a vegan pop-up serving food, a launch party bringing together locals and globetrotters alike, or an author lecture turning into a spirited and spontaneous discussion. Owners Debbie Lindsey and Philipe LaMancusa keep their store colorfully decorated and filled with books that celebrate the Louisiana region but stretch all over the world. Their vast knowledge and love of the inventory is clear in their ability to guide customers and talk about any title.

New York: Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

Ruled by Ms. Slotnick herself, with an encyclopedic knowledge of her vast and eclectic collection, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks reigns supreme in New York. It’s a go-to for chefs, a research haven for food writers, a treasure trove for travelers, and even a source for New York-shot films. Some of the books are new, but the focus is on old, especially rare and out of print. Titles are arranged by topic, so you’ll find your must-have whether you’re searching for pasta, cocktails, etiquette, or chef biographies.

London: Books for Cooks

Photo by Cool Cities

Brimming with antiques and lined with pastel cafés, Notting Hill is quite possibly the most charming neighborhood to imagine strolling in search of rare cookbooks. The reality won’t disappoint in coziness, appeal, or selection at Books for Cooks. Proof of the welcoming vibe lies in this report on the store’s lunch program, in which co-owner Eric Treuille works with two chefs to pluck a cookbook from the shelves and turn it into a meal for customers. There’s a lot to choose from, too, with the shop carrying more than 8,000 titles. Any place where you can eat what you read and read what you eat is a true treat.

Boston: Stir

Photo by Boston Chefs

Boston’s Stir is another cookbook shop that ties its books together with the experiences of cooking and eating, all right within its walls. Chef and owner Barbara Lynch carefully curates the store's inventory, selecting the most inspiring and informative titles on international cuisines, wine, cheese, pastry, and more. As necessary as perusing the selection is, so is catching one of the cooking demonstrations. Some classes are formal in their teaching; some are structured (or unstructured) as chic dinner parties where the guests can grill their chef on technique; others still focus on certain cookbooks and their standout recipes.

Montreal: Appetite for Books

Photo by Prével

Owner Jonathan Cheung got the idea for Appetite for Books from a Vancouver store called Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks (now closed), which was based off the concept for London’s Books for Cooks. Cheung’s shop brings that sense of food-lovers’ community to Montreal with his selection of titles that speak to absolute beginners and total pros, alike, and his classes: knife skills, demos concentrating on a chosen cookbook, cooking dishes from a spotlighted place like Syria.

Chicago: Read It & Eat

Photo by Read It & Eat

What you’ll do at this Chicago shop is right in its punny name. With a little luck, you’ll catch one of the demos in the test kitchen at Read It & Eat, where cookbooks are being pulled from the shelves and explored in real time. There are also formal classes, as well as frequent author talks and discussions. Most importantly, though, the book selection won’t disappoint, no matter your tastes. Pick up cookbooks from a range of eras and regions (a book just about purées! A Breaking Bad-themed dessert book!), chef memoirs, food essays and histories, and even guides to food styling.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Both are wonderful, full of fantastic books on food - old and new, and with knowledgeable and welcoming staff. Now I want to tick off some of the other bookshops - better than a bucket list I think! Here in Beijing I don't know of a cookbook shop but will try to find out.”
— Herschelian

Do you have a favorite cookbook book shop? Share them with us below!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Molly Reese Lerner
    Molly Reese Lerner
  • Chuck
  • Herschelian
  • Ivo He Na
    Ivo He Na
  • Mary
Courtney Iseman

Written by: Courtney Iseman


Molly R. May 16, 2019
Babette's in Vienna is another wonderful addition to this list!
Chuck August 14, 2018
Books for Cooks in London is just across the street from The Spice Shop, very much worth a visit.
Herschelian April 29, 2018
I've had the good fortune to visit Books for Cooks in London many times, and Omnivore in San Francisco once or twice when visiting my daughter there. Both are wonderful, full of fantastic books on food - old and new, and with knowledgeable and welcoming staff. Now I want to tick off some of the other bookshops - better than a bucket list I think! Here in Beijing I don't know of a cookbook shop but will try to find out.
Ivo H. April 24, 2018
Koch Kontor is the place to go, in Hamburg (Germany)
Mary April 23, 2018
I discovered Books Cooks on my last day in Seoul two weeks ago. They don’t have a website but Google for photos. We walked in just before a downpour. Perfect spot for a pot of tea and two tiny scones. Wide selection of books, tea and treats!
Kate M. April 23, 2018
What a great list to start a cookbook store travel quest with, and love to see others chiming in with others. There are so many great spots! Thank you too for the beautiful photo of Art of the Pie! Makes me darn proud. Food52 you are the best!
AMM April 23, 2018
Here's a favorite in Auckland: I try to stop in whenever I am there.
Hana A. April 23, 2018
Big fan of Kitchen Arts and Letters here! This is by no means an exhaustive list, as we know there are so many wonderful establishments out there. Please keep 'em coming and we can always revisit in a follow-up post, thanks!
ChefJune April 23, 2018
I disagree.New York in incomplete. Bonnie Slotnick has a nice enough shop, but I prefer Kitchen Arts and Letters. Nach Waxman is the legendary proprietor, their selection is vast.and they are always welcoming.
Emily S. April 23, 2018
I know you have New York covered but Archestratus Books + Foods in Brooklyn is charming and has delicious food!