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.
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5. Temple Bakery
2400 Curtis Street
Pie mistress Shauna Lott has been baking since she was five years old, giving the goods she whips up for Long I Pie a certain maturity. As for pie, her signature dish, Lott cooks hers in cast iron pans, which gives the crust a unique and delicious caramelized effect. Lucky for pie fans eager to get her goods, at the beginning of the year Lott opened Temple Bakery in Curtis Park, a shared baking space inside what was once a synagogue. Here, Lott works along with other bakers and sells the products in Temple Bakery's storefront. Head there to get Long I Pie treats like salted-honey lavender pie, cheddar-thyme biscuits and monster chocolate chip cookies, as well as other tasty options from Black Sheep Bakers and, in the evening, pizza by Eden Myles — co-founder of the space and owner of Five Points Pizza. Just make sure to get there early and take your treats to go; they often sell out well before noon.
4. The Noshery
4994 Lowell Boulevard
If you're looking for a cafe to while away the afternoon munching on crumbly scones and sandwiches on fresh-baked brioche rolls, then the almost-two-year-old Noshery is the place for you. Not only is the Berkeley space uber-cute, with repurposed doors as art and a bright, cheery atmosphere, but the goods rolling out of the kitchen are some of the best in the city. Owner Andrea Knight is behind the storefront, and here she and her team make biscuits, bread and breakfast pastries — a list that includes daily scones, sweet and savory turnovers, muffins and a bacon-cheddar bread perfect for avocado toast. It's the ideal breakfast and lunch place for Regis University denizens and neighbors in the surrounding area, but is worth the drive even if you live elsewhere.
3. Sugar Bakeshop and Coffee House
Funky, fun and flavorful are the three words that best describe Natalie Slevin's four-year-old sweet shop in central Denver. The walls have colorful art, the space proves bright and comfortable, and the pastries range from gluten-free to vegan to filled with butter, eggs and milk. Perhaps the most extraordinary creation comes in the form of a pop tart, which looks like the classic you had as a kid, but without that teeth-rotting sugariness. Plus, these pop tarts are vegan, not that you would know that from the rich, crumbly pasty that surrounds gooey fillings such as raspberry-peach, brown sugar or strawberry. Other nibbles not to be missed include the giant s'mores cookies, gluten-free coffee cake, a flavor-of-the-day muffin and cinnamon rolls. As you leave, tap out a love note to your favorite pastry on the public typewriter and pin it on the board. After all, it's nice to be adored.
2. Trompeau Bakery
2950 South Broadway, Englewood
If you find yourself driving down South Broadway in the morning, make sure a visit to this legit French bakery is on your agenda. Also make sure you go early; like many other top-notch bakeries, this spot often sells out before closing time. That's not surprising, given the history that Pascal Trompeau has in the bakery world. Both his father and grandfather owned and operated a bakery in France, and Trompeau followed in their footsteps by attending the France National Institute of Baking in Rouen. When he moved to Denver in 1997, he started his own shop, Cafe Bohemia. Though the location and name has changed over the years, both Pascal and his wife Barbara continue to offer buttery croissants, macarons, baguettes, batards, boules and more. Aside from the lovely baked goods, this Englewood spot benefits from lots of space, both inside and out, great for guests who want to sip a cup of coffee and try the whole menu.
1. Azucar Bakery
1886 South Broadway
Azucar Bakery doesn't just build beautiful decorative cakes for special events; it's also possibly the only Peruvian cafe in town, featuring lovely, flaky orejitas ("little ears"), sweet alfajores (shortbread rounds glued together with dulce de leche) and sponge-cake rolls called pionono filled with mocha crème or dulce de leche. Grab a cafe table at the pink-fronted store for a quick coffee and sweet treat or take home a box of your favorites. But great baked goods aren't the only reason Azucar is the best; owner Marjorie Silva's exceptional customer service has also garnered attention. Silva made national news by sticking to her principles while attempting to satisfy a difficult (to say the least) customer. For maintaining her cool while offering a solution to an obvious troublemaker looking for an easy target, Silva has earned the respect of civil-rights advocates, Denver's gay community and sugar lovers everywhere.