Certain neighborhoods seem synonymous with baked goods (in my mind, at least). It’s hard to think about the Strip District without imagining the crunch of anise almond-scented biscotti at Enrico’s, or Millvale without the concentrated sweetness of Jean-Marc Chatellier’s macarons, or Bloomfield without Paddy Cake, bound by tradition (and string).
So here’s a tour of Pittsburgh via the city’s best bakeries. It’s a great reason (maybe the best) to explore a different neighborhood. (Bonus: we’ve got also got a recent list of the best donuts in Pittsburgh.)
Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery, Millvale
For the longest time, Jean-Marc’s was one of those charming Pittsburgh oddities — an authentic French bakery anomalously dropped into an otherwise industrial neighborhood. Now, there are a lot of great reasons to go to Millvale, from rock concerts to breweries to record shopping — and this bakery makes each trip a little sweeter. You can’t go wrong with the macarons, but you can also get savory Quiche Lorraine and chocolate, almond or vanilla cream-filled croissants, perfect for breakfast.
Farmer x Baker, Aspinwall and Fox Chapel
One of Pittsburgh’s best lunch spots is also an excellent bakery, as the name may indicate. Its location, at the new riverfront park in Aspinwall in a converted shipping container, can’t be topped. It crafts beautiful wedding cakes (Raspberry Rose, Burnt Almond, Strawberry Pistachio, etc.) as well as some of the city’s best bagels. There is an array of terrific sandwiches — a vegan Celeriac Pastrami Melt, a Lox Sandwich and a Rosemary Ham & Cheese Baguette — all on house-made bread. Farmer x Baker has a new market in Fox Chapel, too.
350 Degree Bakery, South Side Slopes
I haven’t actually been here yet, but through the magic of Harvie — the Pittsburgh-based personalized farm-share service that should take over the world — we’ve been ordering things from 350 Degree Bakery regularly. The Spinach Artichoke Hand Pies are perfect for a light lunch, for example. They also specialize in cakes (especially cheesecakes), and if you’ve had something delicious at a local, independently-owned coffee shop, it probably came from here.
Grandview Bakery, Mt. Washington
One of the best things about Grandview Bakery is that it’s open until 7 p.m. on Saturday nights. Sometimes you just want a cookie while you’re out walking on Mt. Washington gazing upon the best urban vista in America. I recommend the tart Lemon Kiss or a Peanut Butter Blossom with a Hershey’s Kiss on top. Grandview also makes delicious doughnuts and a great apple fritter, which seems to be in short supply around here.
Though it’s been here forever, a few years ago Pitaland remodeled its formerly drab, utilitarian pita-factory-with-groceries site into a bright, welcoming cafe-style market space, with jars of imported delicacies, buckets of olives, unusual items such as Armenian string cheese, and scratch-made baked goods such as spinach pies and baklava. It’s a great spot to get a quick, delicious and cheap meal (shawarma, gyro, falafel) and stock up on ingredients to make your own (pitas, nuts, ajvar, tzatziki, hummus, baba ganoush).
Panaderia Jazmin, Mt. Lebanon
We finally have a Mexican bakery in Pittsburgh, and it was worth the wait. This little sliver of a storefront packs a lot of flavor into a tiny space in Mt. Lebanon’s increasingly delicious Beverly Road business district. Start with the most incredible churros you’ll ever taste, and move on to the colorful striped conchas (“sweet bread”) and Cinnamon Apple Empanadas.
Mediterra, Mt. Lebanon and Sewickley
This large wholesale bakery did something unexpected, and built two restaurants around its baked goods — and the concept works beautifully. Mediterra uses traditional French baking methods (like natural sourdough starters) instead of commercial yeast, and hearth ovens built out of volcanic rock from the Alps. The Mt. Lebanon location is a former service station turned into a bright, outdoor-oriented cafe in the French fashion, with a market selling wine, cheese and bread. The sandwiches are a highlight — try the Breakfast Sammie with fried eggs, zhoug, garlic, almonds and pickled peppers on an English muffin. You can also get drinks, coffee, fresh juice, and Smoked Salmon Tartine Toast.
Anthos Greek Bakery and Cafe, Castle Shannon
There used to be an amazing Greek bakery on the South Side (Grencianland) that was open late, had a card game going at all hours upstairs, and didn’t even bat an eye when our friends’ baby pulled the fire alarm. It’s long gone, but I’ve been waiting for something similar to return to Pittsburgh. This isn’t quite that, but it’s something new — a Greek cafe with an emphasis on savory breads, not desserts. Here, you can pick up tsoureki, an almond-specked sweet bread with hints of cardamom and mahlepi (a powder made from fruit pits of a Persian cherry tree) and koulouri (Greek sesame bread rings). Plus, there are expertly made croissants and baguettes, because sometimes you have to play the hits. This bright, airy blue room is comfortable and welcoming, and there’s a full menu of breakfast and lunch foods like spanakopita and sandwiches on freshly-baked bread.
Mancini’s Bakery, McKees Rocks and Strip District
An old-school Italian bakery that knows what must be done and does it. You can get a bag of classic dinner rolls, or the specialty, the Original Italian Twist. But it’s almost impossible to walk out of here without getting at least one pepperoni roll to go, then eating the entire thing on the walk to your car. Or sit down and savor it with a side of pizza sauce or house-made Zesty Pepper Spread.
Enrico Biscotti Bakery and Cafe, Strip District
I always thought biscotti were a bit too dry to be delicious until I had them from Enrico’s. It turns out that they’re amazing when made fresh and by masters of the craft. Flavors range from anise and almond to white chocolate with macadamia nuts. Bonus: The cafe next door is one of Pittsburgh’s best semi-hidden Italian restaurants.
Colangelo’s Bakery & Cafe, Strip District
Attached to the Strip District coffee institution La Prima is this little Italian bakery that makes everything from cookies to spinach and tomato focaccia from scratch. You can also get a hearty pepperoni roll and enjoy it as a meal. (I do this).
Allegro Hearth Bakery, Squirrel Hill
Squirrel Hill’s transformation into an Asian food paradise has been surprising, but one constant over the years has been the savory aromas of Allegro Hearth wafting onto Murray Avenue. Like the neighborhood itself, it’s a melting pot of various ethnicities, classics and surprises, such as Chocolate Coffee Cardamom Babka, Brioche Loaf, Chocolate Cherry Sourdough, Apple Galette and Hamantaschen (Ashkenazi Jewish triangular filled pocket pastries). While the owner’s acclaimed vegan Middle Eastern restaurant, B25 in Lawrenceville, just closed, Allegro is here to stay — and everything is plant-based.
Paddy Cake Bakery, Bloomfield
Custom cakes (wedding and otherwise), cookies, baklava, eclairs, cannoli and other classics, dropped in a box and tied up with string — these are a few of my favorite things. Not sure why this is important, but the process of tying it up with string (not tape!) — as bakeries have done since time immemorial — somehow makes everything taste better; nobody knows why.
La Gourmandine Bakery, Hazelwood, Lawrenceville, Mt. Lebanon and Downtown
There are a lot of things to love at La Gourmandine’s many locations. However, given Pittsburghers’ penchant for cramming everything under the sun into a bun and calling it a sandwich — how about a sandwich you can actually walk with and eat, and not have explode all over you? Sacrebleu! A little taste of Lyon on the Mon, La Gourmandine makes some of the best sandwiches in town, and somehow they’re also among the cheapest. They slice fresh baguettes down the middle, put in something simple, like prosciutto and cornichons, or ham and butter, and that’s all you need. As for sweet stuff, there’s the Eclairs au Chocolat, which are soft buttery pastries filled with chocolate cream and topped with chocolate fondant, and the Pistachio Eclairs, which can’t be found anywhere else in the region.
The Butterwood Bake Consortium, Lawrenceville
A dessert cafe! Why aren’t these on every corner? There are thousands of places where you can stop in for a beer during a night on the town in Pittsburgh. But there are precious few nighttime cafes where you can stop in for a slice of cake. The only problem is that some of the full-sized cakes here look too beautiful to eat. But that’s the kind of problem I’m happy to have. There’s pie at Butterwood, too, and good coffee. And they’re open surprisingly late — until 11 p.m.
Five Points Artisan Bakeshop, Point Breeze
This is a great all-around bakery for both sweet and savory items. Their seeded fougasse baguettes, dark rye sourdoughs and challah can take even a forgettable dinner into exciting territory. Don’t sleep on their croissants, pastries and cookies, either. Every neighborhood needs a bakery like this. Five Points is expanding into the space next door (tentatively opening in November), adding a cafe and coffee shop in partnership with Espresso a Mano. Soon you’ll be able to sip some of the city’s best coffee here, as well.
Pink Box Bakery & Cafe, Squirrel Hill
This Taiwanese bakery features cakes, cupcakes and pineapple buns plus unusual items like pork taro buns and a hot dog-in-a-croissant type of pastry that seems to break all the rules. A great place to start is with a strawberry coconut layered bun or a savory green onion pork bun.
Gaby et Jules Patisseries et Macarons, Squirrel Hill and East Liberty
French-born Maître Patissier (Master Pastry Chef) David Piquard makes melt-in-your-mouth macarons (they’re meringue sandwiches with buttercream inside, but you probably know that) with flavors so bright and punchy that you’ll ride that sugar high all the way home. You can’t go wrong with sea salt caramel, maple pecan or pistachio, nor can you lose if you sample one of every variety at Gaby et Jules.
Prantl’s Bakery, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, North Side, Greensburg and North Huntingdon
High rents and a preponderance of expensive chain stores on Walnut Street in Shadyside probably should have priced out Prantl’s a long time ago. But Prantl’s bet everything on its secret weapon — its miraculous sugar-crusted, light-as-air burnt almond torte — and wow, did it pay off. Plus, they ship these delicious tortes all over the country via UPS.
Food Glorious Food, Highland Park
This tiny bakery in Highland Park seems to do it all, and well. It makes pies (try the chocolate and walnut, or the sour cream apple), cakes (I vote for the lemon curd or the orange-almond), plus excellent cheesecake brownies, apple turnovers, strawberry napoleon cookies, muffins, cupcakes, chocolate truffles — and even something called “Jewish Pizza.” That’s a lot of food (glorious food)!
Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop, Monroeville
It’s tempting to get married (or get married again) just to have a cookie table at your wedding. When I found out they don’t do this everywhere, I was sad for people everywhere else. If you’re planning a Pittsburgh party and grandma can’t bake all the cookies, your next best bet is Moio’s in Monroeville. From curiously savory pine nut-laden pignoli cookies and rich yellow butter cookies with a cherry on top to gooey chocolate thumbprints and sticky sweet coconut macaroons, Moio’s crafts fine renditions of all the Italian standards, plus a few surprises.
Oakmont Bakery, Oakmont
This beloved bakery has a massive new industrial-sized location but is serving the same great baked goods as always. Known best for its cakes and paczki, this place also cranks out an amazing array of cookies. The turtle thumbprints are a particular delight, as are the apricot kolache cookies and chocolate chip cookie sandwiches with creme in the middle, edged with chocolate sprinkles. There’s also a creme-filled sandwich cookie with crushed Oreos on top that’s the sugar bomb of your dreams. This is the go-to spot for paczki (Polish donuts) in Pittsburgh (during Lent).