My love affair with bakeries began at a very young age. Not being a morning person, the promise of a warm scone or donut nearly almost did the trick at getting me out of bed. I can still remember my excitement as a child, walking through the door of McKenzie’s, hearing the friendly jingle of the door bells and smelling the warm, sugary scent of fresh king cakes. Today, McKenzie’s is long gone but my obsession continues to grow and, as luck would have it, it seems that bakery options in New Orleans are also on the rise. Here are five places that I think are dishing out the best of New Orleans; some of the sweetest, crumbliest and gooiest treats around town.
1. Manhattan Jack – New to the Prytania Street neighborhood, this bakery and sandwich shop is owned and operated by Jack Petronella and his business partner Coleman Jernigan. Jack, a New Jersey native, makes wonderful buttermilk biscuits, handmade chocolates, and does a unique spin on Turtles, a local favorite, that features salted caramel and pecan shortbread cookies. And as an ode to the fallen McKenzie’s bakery, Jack also sells buttermilk balls from the Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe in Gentilly, and now also near the Dome.
2. Rivista – This teeny New Orleans restaurant, meaning “Magazine” in Italian, is a new neighborhood favorite of mine. Focusing on quality, owners Lisa and Chris Barbato offer customers a smaller variety of baked goods as well as weekday lunch and weekend brunch options. The heart of everything at Rivista is the local New Orleans food, opting to use quality, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Try their tomato tarts, blueberry lemon scones, and cinnamon rolls big enough for a family of four to share. For brunch, the artichoke stuffed with poached eggs and hollandaise is not to be missed.
3. Gracious Bakery – Make the workday a little less drab with an early morning trip to this shop on Jefferson Davis Parkway. Open at 6:30 a.m., Gracious has a sweet and savory cure for whatever ails you. Pretzel croissant filled with chocolate? You got it. Ham and cheese croissant with coarse-grain mustard? Coming right up. Their miniature Black Forest cakes are perfect for celebrating the small things and their specialty 9″ cakes–in flavors like Coconut Passionfruit and Southern Pecan–make celebrating the big things even more fun. Lunch begins at 11 a.m. and features fare like a Vadouvan-spiced chicken breast salad with mint-yogurt, Asian-spiced pork on a Kaiser roll, and Two Run Farms meatloaf on ciabatta with melted cheddar and tomato jam.
4. Maple Street Patisserie – This corner shop on Maple Street is like the “Cheers” of New Orleans bakeries. Pastry Chef and owner Ziggy knows his regulars and often gives the kiddies little treats just for stopping in. My Patisserie favorite are the glazed donut twists, but other popular items include blueberry muffins, almond croissants, and bear claws filled with raspberry jam and cinnamon. Ziggy can’t keep a king cake in stock during Mardi Gras, and his custom wedding cakes are so good, other local chefs come to him when planning their big day. Donuts sell out early (usually before 9 a.m.) and lunch is served every day but Sunday.
5. Breads on Oak – Driven by the passion to bring back old world baking methods to New Orleans, Sean O’Mahoney and his wife, Chamain, opened their bakery on Oak Street one year ago this month. In addition to offering popular loaves like Sourdough, Irish Soda Bread, Ciabatta and Baguette, they also make a very special loaf called “Ancient Grains Miche,” which takes three days to make and has a unique nutty, sour flavor, much like a combination of sourdough and wheat. For our health-conscious locals and visitors looking for a special treat, Breads on Oak also has gluten free and vegan brownies, cakes and cookies that are made fresh everyday.
All photos by Emily Smith.