Sometimes, it takes a tourist to show you around your own turf. Such was the case a few weeks ago when my friends from North Carolina visited New York City on a research trip for their in-the-works bakery-meets-restaurant. They headed to my neck of Brooklyn for a bakery crawl and asked if I wanted to join.
Consider the bakery crawl the morning-person answer to the bar crawl. While the ambitious agenda and walk-everywhere approach are the same, there are a few defining features of a bakery crawl: Sharing is caring. Order a few pastries and pass ’em around. This way, you get to try more, while pacing your stomach. Eat on-the-go. There are no open-container laws against croissants, thank goodness, so take advantage. This isn’t the cutest way to eat, but it does stave off Butter Fatigue (crucial).
Here are the places we swung by, plus a few other neighborhood favorites. If you go to all five (go you!), follow the order listed below (and this map for reference) and the whole route is just over 2 miles.
French for Well Done, Bien Cuit celebrates those dark, dramatic crusts that are becoming more and more popular. The bakery and café opened in summer 2011 on Smith Street, has since opened two additional locations, and made its way onto countless “Best of” lists: One of the best bakeries in Brooklyn, according to Lucky Peach—and in all of New York City, according to Time Out Magazine. The perfect baguette, according to The Food Network. Best croissant, according to Grub Street. And one of the best baguettes in the country, according to Bon Appetit. Whew. Surprisingly, my favorite thing was none of those. It was the pecan blondie, with a crackly top and nutty, chewy crumb.
These doughnuts have been wooing New Yorkers since 1994. Everything from the dough to glazes, fillings, and toppings are handmade in-house—and, if your bakery crawl crew has both cake doughnut and yeast doughnut devotees, worry not. Doughnut Plant has both covered. While there are plenty of classic-round doughnuts to obsess over (including seasonal varieties, like gingerbread, marzipan, and roasted chestnut) don’t miss out on DP’s signature shapes: filled square and “doughseeds.” For the former, try the Coconut Cream (“We break fresh coconuts open daily”). And for the latter, the crème brûlée is as creative—and habit-forming—as a doughnut gets.
It’s hard to overstate how much Food52’s editorial team loves Ovenly. Our managing editor Joanna Sciarrino was there the day they opened. Our Creative Director of Genius Kristen Miglore not only featured their (secretly) vegan chocolate chip cookies on the site ), but in her latest book, Genius Desserts, too. And, as recipe developer Ella Quittner puts it, “I lived around the corner from Ovenly for a year, and ate at least 365 vegan peanut butter cookies and vegan chocolate chip cookies in my time.” At least.
“I remember when Runner & Stone first opened and my boss was raving about it,” Managing Editor Joanna told me. “I went soon after with a coworker and split a buckwheat baguette with butter and got a few rye brownies to go. Their stuff is really good and I'm sad I don't live closer (though it'd probably be an issue if i did).” I live half a mile away and, yeah, it’s kind of an issue. Runner & Stone isn’t a restaurant or bar or bakery. It’s all of those—at once. Which means you’re just as likely to enjoy a loaf of rye ciabatta as you are a rosemary-gin cocktail or A+ fried chicken. Heck, go ahead and enjoy all of those at once.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds made pie cool again when it opened in 2009. We can’t get enough of their smart, all-butter, vinegary-tangy pie crust that’s as flaky as can be. But the ultimate treat is visiting the shop (these days, there are several locations), where you can pick and choose from that day’s flavors. Actually, scratch that. Since you can buy by the slice, get all of them. The Salty Honey and Black-Bottom Oat are evergreen favorites—and any season fruit will be great.
Have you ever been to one of these bakeries? What are your favorite bakeries in Brooklyn? Share in the comments and tell us what to order!