Denver has dozens of cute bakeries where bread and cakes are made or sold, from pie shops to bread palaces to croissant cafes. With so many good things coming out of our local ovens, it's hard to pick just who does it best. Do you like your pastries flaky, or buttery and dense? Maybe your favorite bread has a sweet-sour tang or melts in your mouth. Pies can be deep-dish or in a shallow pan, and the types of crust change depending on what the baker likes to do with his/her butter and flour. With all that in mind, each of these places does something well and goes beyond the basic grocery-store loaf or clamshell filled with cookies. Here are the eleven best storefront bakeries in Denver, in alphabetical order, with last year's Best Bakery winner in the number-one spot.
11. Babette's Artisan Bread
3350 Brighton Boulevard
It's best to eat the massive croissants from Babette's over a sink, grassy knoll or somewhere that won't require you to clean up the piles of buttery flakes the explode from these beautiful breads with each bite. Not that the mess should deter you; these are an excellent example of viennoiserie pastries. But wait — don't stop there. Also try a swirly sweet roll laced with pistachio or cardamom, rich almond croissants, and rounds of dark, crusty bread that speak of charming French villages and the old-school loaves you find there. The best part about the latter: If you don't manage to eat the whole thing with butter the second you get it, it will stay fresh for a couple of days and makes a superb toad-in-the-hole. As for the folks behind the bakery, they would be the darling husband-and-wife team Steve and Catherine Scott, who opened this shop inside the Source in RiNo in the fall of 2013. Steve has more than seventeen years of experience in the industry, something you can taste immediately.
10. Beet Box
1030 East 22nd Avenue
Every sweet morsel you find at this neighborhood shop is free of butter, milk and cream. Yes, that means Beet Box is 100 percent vegan, and in the world of cakes, pastries and doughnuts, baking something this way doesn't prove easy. Yet you might not notice the lack of dairy when you bite into the moist, flavorful baked doughnuts or try a flaky croissant that has a rich butter essence that makes you wonder if somehow there's cheating going on. There isn't. Instead, owners Blair Ednie and Michael Craig have worked magic with applesauce, almond milk and cocoa powder, and the treats at Beet Box remain fresh-tasting, light and delicious. Aside from breakfast pastries, there are also loaves of multi-grain bread, baguettes, gourmet cakes, darling cupcakes, sandwiches and tons of gluten-free goodies as well. Eat in the cute and spacious shop (there's a second room with booths) or take your order to go.
9. City Bakery Cafe
726 Lincoln Street
When owner Michael Bortz decided to open the cafe version of his popular wholesale bakery in April 2014, bread lovers in the city went bananas. Almost two years later, and Bortz's City Bakery Cafe remains one of the best places to stock up on loaves of sourdough, focaccia, beer pretzels, challah rolls and more. As a bonus, the 65-seat space offers a whole menu of sandwiches, all using the housemade ciabatta rolls, sour baguettes, demi-baguettes and wheat-berry bread.
8. Denver Bread Company
3200 Irving Street
Owner Greg Bortz started this cozy takeout and wholesale bakery in 1994 with the idea of creating a product made by hand, using only whole foods. His idea took off, and over two decades later, Bortz's Highland shop still creates some of the best bread in the city. A majority of the ingredients used come straight out of Colorado farms, from the potatoes gracing the two-pound potato loaf to the eggs used to whip up fluffy brioche. Also try the simple batard round, the focaccia, the three-pound boule and the laundry loaf, which looks like a baguette but uses more water, a technique that adds a longer shelf life to the long, skinny bread. One thing to keep in mind: Unlike most bakeries that open from 7 a.m. to early afternoon, Denver Bread Company's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., making it your best bet for fresh bread late in the day. Just make sure to bring cash.
7. Detour Bakery
1479 South Holly Street
Even though this South Denver bakery is nestled into a small strip mall, it has quietly become a pastry-lovers' destination. By 10 a.m., the piles of fluffy croissants, loaves of fresh bread and flaky pastries have dwindled, but you can still find plenty to munch on. For example, carefully folded pockets of croissant dough filled with yummy lemon-cream, apricot or raspberry custards prove a sweet treat for the morning — or go for the classic French breakfast of coffee and a chocolate or plain croissant. There are a handful of tables to plop down on, including a couple of picnic benches outside, but you can also take things to go. Say, a rosemary-herb baguette, a loaf of the pull-apart epi bread, hearty quiche Lorraine or individual tomato tarts. All are made by owners Jeffrey and Florence Payne, a husband-and-wife team who opened this delightful shop in 2013. Make sure to check out the giant cinnamon buns and decedent chocolate cake — that is, if you haven't had enough already.
6. La Fillette Bakery
4416 East Eighth Avenue
On an unassuming stretch of Eighth Avenue in East Denver, you will find Melissa Yanc's quaint shop, La Fillette Bakery, the ten-month-old retail branch of her popular wholesale business Sugar Vision. The French name means little girl, but there is nothing small about the bold taste of the goods coming out of the oven, which run the gamut from Danishes to French macarons to cardamom-chocolate coffee cake to piles of croissants, both plain and filled. Yanc honed her baking and pastry skills at Johnson and Wales University; she later went on to Uncle as a pastry chef and then Mercantile Dining & Provisions as pastry sous-chef. At her own shop, she showcases her skill with dough by whipping up fresh buttery croissants that have a pleasing chew, with more density than flakier versions. One of the secrets to such a great pastry? Yanc uses a 100-year-old sourdough culture that she obtained from Jason Farrar of Commonwealth Coffee Roasters.
Keep reading for our list of Denver's best bakeries...