The best artisan bakeries in Seattle

Portland has its craft beer, and Vancouver its culinary scene. But while Seattle also offers plenty of breweries and trendy restaurants, the Emerald City is unique in its abundance of artisan bakeries. Spread like butter across almost every neighbourhood, one can’t really miss them. Here are some of our favourite bakeries in Seattle to visit on your next trip.

The best artisan bakeries in Seattle
The Essential Baking Company covers the shelves with everything from heritage breads to handmade cookies © Crai S Bower

Bakery Nouveau

Until they opened in Capitol Hill, Bakery Nouveau odysseys to West Seattle were as legendary as Krispy Kreme treks elsewhere in America. Baker William Leaman, 2005 captain of the winning Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie team, can bake a Sunflower Rye loaf and mould a Pistachio chocolate with equal panache. Leaman doesn’t revel in his celebrity, though. Despite being named one of the “Top Ten Next Generation Chocolatiers,” he still bakes comfort classics like carrot and chocolate cake.

Cafe Besalu

Ballard’s Café Besalu only holds a few tables, but the ambience and freshly baked croissant aromas flow out onto the 24th Avenue sidewalk, where tables and a wide bench await. Like the best patisseries of Paris, it doesn’t seem right to take one’s croissant, galette or brioche away, even if it means leaning against the windowpane to eat it. Pastry chef James Miller lays claim annually to “best croissant in Seattle” accolades, but get a little flaky and try the plum Danish or almond Schnecken to round out your cosmopolitan petit déjeuner.

The best artisan bakeries in Seattle
Wood-fired bagels at Eltana have taken the city by storm © Aaron Leitz

Eltana, Top Pot Hand Forged Doughnuts & Mighty O Donuts

Okay, full disclosure, Eltana is not technically an artisan bakery, but founders Stephen Brown and Daniel Levin have revolutionized an integral element of the Seattle lifestyle: the bagel. Wood-fired and inspired by Montréal bakers at Fairmount and St-Viateur, these compact, delicious bagels have taken over local Sunday brunches. Other flavour shout outs (well crafted if not exactly artisanal), go to local Top Pot Doughnuts and vegan donut creator, Mighty-O. Both have somehow managed to make eating a chocolate-glazed doughnut feel almost healthy.

The Essential Baking Company

Known simply as “Essential” in Seattle (as in “let’s meet at Essential at 10”), this organic bread-baking operation established the city’s love for heavily crusted European-style loaves. Fewer than 85% of the locals buy a daily baguette like they do in France, but this doesn’t stop the bakers from making a Parisian Baguette covered in poppy seeds and lavender. The loading dock-style patio remains a favourite summertime gathering spot, especially when tempted by Chocolate Sumapaz, Lemon Cremeux, and Raspberry Charlotte, among other luscious desserts.

The best artisan bakeries in SeattleEssential Bakery’s terrace fills weekends from open until close © Crai S Bower

Grand Central Bakery

It makes sense that a neighbourhood called Pioneer Square would possess at least one of the best artisan bakeries in Seattle, and Grand Central Bakery has occupied the historic Grand Central Hotel Building since 1989. Sitting in the vast arcade beneath brick arches munching on Irish soda bread or the original hearth style Como loaf just feels right. You might also take your twice-baked chocolate hazelnut croissant and coffee outside to one of three-dozen bistro tables in Occidental Park.

Grateful Bread Bakery and Cafe

If there is any question about the nomenclature of this Wedgwood neighbourhood mainstay, the cardboard cutout just inside the door of Jerry Garcia answers it plainly. Regulars and visitors alike enjoy a high time inside or outside on the enclosed patio. Known for housemade bagels and daily cinnamon rolls, as well as a variety of sandwich-style whole grain breads, Grateful Bread’s other temptation is the chocolate chunk cookies and scones – they’ll make you smile, smile, smile.

The best artisan bakeries in Seattle
Honoré is part of a French bakery renaissance in Seattle © Crai S Bower

Honoré Artisan Bakery

Located in the Ballard neighbourhood’s “Little Brooklyn” (the pizza joint next door is named Delancey), Honoré purveys French-influenced baking. One can tell the time of year by the queue, which either forms down the hallway or out the door, based on the rain or lack thereof. The sublimely simple terrace is hidden away; the perfect place to pick apart a pain au chocolat or muse over macarons.

Irwin’s Bakery & Cafe

Irwin’s Bakery & Cafe is everything a neighbourhood bakery should be: friendly and familiar with fabulous food. Proprietor Linda Fecher was a home baker who expanded her household oven into a household word in the Wallingford neighbourhood. Known for baking hundreds of pies during the holidays, visitors at other times of year will always find a pie or two on the counter, an excellent selection of scones and, the best chocolate chip cookie in Seattle, hands down. The atmosphere is part-small town grocer (Irwin’s began as a grocery in 1927), part-front porch and part-community centre.

The best artisan bakeries in Seattle
Handcrafted pastries are a Wallingford staple at Irwin’s Bakery © Crai S Bower

Macrina

Owner-baker Leslie Mackie is often credited with raising the artisan bakery renaissance when, in 1993, she opened Macrina Bakery in the downtown Belltown neighbourhood. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy and multiple James Beard nominee, Mackie named her first solo project after a 4th century mystic who created one of the world’s first communes. Mackie’s original rustic breads still anchor the offerings, but Macrina also makes the best buttermilk biscuits (a centre well of jam included) in Seattle. “Rick’s Chocolate Apricot Espresso” cookie is also known by name. The latest of the artisan bakeries in Seattle, located in trendy SODO, Macrina buzzes all day with full service lunches served in an industrial, reclaimed wood accented environment.

Booking a trip to Seattle? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it simple for you to travel all over North America, bringing these local bakeries in Seattle within easy reach.

Have you visited any of these artisan bakeries in Seattle? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.

About Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital. www.FlowingStreamWriting.net www.Twitter.com/craisbower
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