Whether you come by your love of buttery baked goods via a stint in Parisian pastry school, or simply fancy yourself a Francophile, there's good news: if you're looking for a close-to-perfect croissant, there's no need to hop the next 767 to Charles de Gaulle. Seattle happens to have a number of solid representations when it comes to the buttery crescents, and that's before we even start discussing its descendants like the pain au chocolate.
Le Rêve's golden child: the plain croissant.
This flaky, delightful accompaniment to a good espresso--simple, yet symbolic of all that is right in breakfast--is named for its traditional half-moon shape, but remembered for its many layers of puff pastry. Think that the last great croissant you had was in a patisserie in Montmartre? Give one of these local bakeries a chance, and we promise you won't be disappointed.
The croissants from this legendary neighborhood cafe are a testament to the fact that baked goods--always and without exception--are best right out of the oven. Show up in the morning and you'll be greeted with warm croissants that dissolve in your mouth; come by in the afternoon, and you'll find a specimen that's still very pretty but now just a little too dry. This means you should definitely go in the morning, and while you're at it, stay through lunch to enjoy a Columbia City Bakery sandwich.4. Le Rêve.
This Queen Anne newcomer to the Seattle pastry scene has it all going on: amazing morning sweets, gorgeous desserts, savory lunch options, and a mean cup of coffee. Only true croissant fans could choose something so simple as a plain when faced with the temptation of La Rêve's other delicious offerings, but even that simple croissant is praiseworthy. The ends of the crescent are tucked in and under, meaning they don't get the same crisp you'll find elsewhere, but the result is a consistent texture throughout, with a distinctly buttery taste and nice, though denser, chew.
Boasting perhaps the most Parisian atmosphere, this tiny Ballard bakery conveniently nestled next to Delancey bakes small amounts of French pastries in the morning, followed by a few afternoon quiches and a rainbow's worth of macaroons, plus a special case of decadent, full-size cakes and eclairs available anytime. Show up early to grab a croissant--baked to a bit darker brown around the edges, but with an interior so slight it virtually melts on your tongue. Best get one of their kouign amanns, too.
2. Bakery Nouveau.
Bakery Nouveau's butteriest breakfast.
Most people pop into this very neighborly West Seattle bakery for one of their legendary twice-baked almond croissants, though you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't try the original as well. If the mammoth size of all the croissants here discourages you, well, you're simply not cut out for this. Embrace the size, and be thankful that you only have to count this as eating one croissant, when in fact you're likely ingesting the calories of three. Bakery Nouveau's delicious variation relies on its perfect texture: slightly crispy with a soft chew that leaves a lingering sweetness. Don't worry if you don't see any in the case, as they're frequently kept in baskets behind the counter and all you have to do is ask.
1. Cafe Besalu.
The croissant, and its best buddy ginger biscuit, from Besalu.
The croissant at this Ballard bakery is clearly the one to beat, and everyone in town seems to know it. Lines on the weekend (and really, most weekdays) snake out the door, leaving hungry customers trying to keep their cool while seeing the croissant count diminish with each person ahead of them. Besalu's ginger biscuits are divine, but the croissant is king: rich, buttery, and just salty-sweet enough, with a perfectly flaky exterior yielding to the visible layers of its soft, delicate interior. For some variation, Besalu provides you with housemade jam upon request, but the plain pastry here is so good you'll have eaten it all before even considering jam. In fact, we strongly recommend ordering two--one to eat immediately, and one to eat after you get home and wish you had another. You'll make it up at the gym tomorrow, right?