The best part of Philly’s current bakery boom is the wealth of great croissants it’s brought.
Ten years ago — even five — it wasn’t easy to find a decent one in this city. Instead of pastries that danced the line between sweet and savory as their crackling crusts pulled apart to reveal feathery wisps of buttery goodness, most “croissants” sold in Philadelphia were sad copycats of cake-like dough rolled into limp crescents.
Not any more. Now there are at least a dozen bakeries and cafes putting out great ones. Which are worth a special trip? Here are the five best croissants in Philly, ranked from impressively good to truly amazing.
No. 5: Artisan Boulanger Patissier
One of the few Philly viennoiseries that’s been around for over a decade is this East Passyunk-area gem from the Cambodian-born, Paris-trained husband-and-wife team of Andre Chin and Amanda Eap. The croissants have a relatively slim profile — they’re less puffed out in the middle than others — but they still maintain a relatively airy interior enveloped by a flaky golden skin. Tip: Don’t miss the ones with sugary pistachio paste inside.
1218 Mifflin St.
No. 4: J’aime French Bakery
Marseilles native Bastien Ornano goes over the top in the most French way with the croissants at his month-old bakeshop in the Gayborhood: with butter. So much is packed into his dough that that the centers take on a golden tinge. It does introduce a slightly heavy taste, but the pastry is light as ever, with giant holes that make the insides look like sheets of yellow lace.
212 S. 12th St.
No. 3: Machine Shop Boulangerie
Le Bec-Fin alum Emily Riddell and partner-in-flour Katie Lynch opened their Bok Building bakery four months ago. The tumescent poufs they call croissants — made with all organic ingredients — have a picture perfect appearance. The dough has a fainter flavor than some cohorts on this list, but that’s made up for by an ethereal texture and shatter-ready crust. Since the shop is wholesale only, keep an eye on Instagram to catch pop-up bake sales or take advantage of daily deliveries at Rally in Bella Vista.
1901 S. 9th St. (Bok Building); 701 S. 7th St. (Rally)
No. 2: Walnut Street Cafe
In order to approximate the flour she used in Paris, head baker Melissa Weller adds a touch of whole wheat from Doylestown’s Castle Valley Mill to the croissants she turns out daily for this newcomer in the FMC Tower. The end result is pastries that are full in flavor but still gossamer light, with speckled insides that seem like they’ll stretch for miles when you break the delicate outer surface and tear off a bite.
2929 Walnut St.
No. 1: Hungry Pigeon
Pat O’Malley’s Twitter handle is @TheWalkingBread, but something like @TheSoaringCroissant would be more appropriate, considering his Queen Village cafe puts out the best renditions in the city — and possibly on the entire East Coast. His saddle-colored crust snaps when you squeeze it, then provides a toasty-rich undercurrent for the celestial filigrees that bubble apart with buttery succulence inside.
743 S. 4th St.