Tracking down the best bakeries in Philly is a never ending (but noble) task – and one Tobey and I are willing to sacrifice ourselves for. Philly has such a great, diverse restaurant scene – and the bakeries reflect this diversity. We have written about some of these places individually (plus, check out our Best of Philly: Donuts), others are only listed here – either way, it’s handy to have them in one spot. To make the list, these places have to have something special (besides just tasty food)…
Trendy: Hands down, these are the prettiest pastries – but, unlike most pretty bakery items, they actually taste as good as they look. In addition to the sweet pastries, they also serve savory pastries, so it’s a lunch (or picnic) option. They serve good coffee (and fun unicorn hot chocolate!)and have plenty of cafe seating and free wi-fi. Cake Life Bakery, Fishtown http://cakelifebakeshop.com
French: This adorable little French bakery on Arch Street in Old City looks a little lost sitting by itself, but has a selection of the best European-style tarts in the city. It’s walk-up window service only, so perfect for enjoying on a park bench in Old City (or taking home to enjoy later… if you can wait that long!). Tartes, Old City https://www.facebook.com/tartesoldcity/
Lebanese: An amazingly pretty restaurant/cafe, they serve beautiful middle-eastern/french pastries (you can also get delicious meals – both at the cafe or in the restaurant). This one makes all the “best of” lists. Suraya, Fishtown https://surayaphilly.com
Pound cake: Yup, they actually sell the pound cake by the pound, which makes me laugh. There are a couple of choices (vanilla, chocolate and swirl -with vanilla or chocolate frosting). But, in my opinion, it’s vanilla all the way (and I scrape off the frosting – my Mimi would NEVER frost a pound cake!). But, that aside, this is a Philly classic and the pound cake is really delicious – nice and moist. Scrape off the frosting, add some raspberries and whipped cream… heaven! No seating. Stock’s, North Philly http://stocksbakery.dinehere.us
Sticky Buns: Barry’s makes the best sticky buns- both classic and seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin and apple pie. Sticky buns can sometimes be too dry -but not these. They are the perfect ratio of bread to sticky-ness. Both locations are in food courts/markets and have plenty of seating, but the Chestnut Hill location has limited hours. Barry’s Buns, Old City and Chestnut Hill http://www.barrysbuns.com
Italian (classic): It’s been around forever (the original location in the Italian Market opened in 1921 and moved to the current site in 1938- where it still has the original tin ceiling, tile floors, and wooden fixtures), and still makes some of the best cannoli in the city – plus, all the Italian classics, including biscotti and cheesecake (which Fred says is almost as good as his grandmom’s). Termini Brothers: The flagship store in the Italian Market, plus several other locations https://www.termini.com
Italian (classic) #2: Opened in 1904, Isgro’s is older, smaller, and less well-known than Termini, but it’s old school and delicious. Try comparing canollis from both places for a South Philly experience that beats Pat’s versus Geno’s (cheese steaks) any day. http://www.bestcannoli.com/1999/02/sweet-by-design/
Italian donuts: THE place to go for “franolis” – yeast donuts stuffed with canolli cream. No seating. Frangelli’s, South Philly https://frangellis.com/phone/index.html
Macarons: A nice break after touring the sites in Old City. Besides a great selection of macarons, they also have yummy filled shortbread and occasionally gingerbread made from a colonial gingerbread mold housed in the collection at the Museum of the American Revolution. https://www.icimacarons.com
Asian/Chinatown (classic): There are several good bakeries in Chinatown, but this is our favorite, because of the variety (plus, it is so inexpensive – individual buns are generally $1-$2), it’s easy to try something new/different without a big commitment). This is old school- grab a plastic tray and a pair of tongs and help yourself to any of the buns in the cases lining the walls. Go to the register to pay (and also to ask for any pastries in the front case). We love the Swiss roll and the cream horns. No seating. KC’s Pastries, Chinatown 109 N. 10th Street
Asian/French: This bakery has the prettiest pastries – French technique, but with Asian flavors. They also offer tea and coffee (including a tasty macha latte). Order to-go items at the counter or sit for table service. Table service pastries are generally served with ice cream. Everything is delicious, but our favorite is the crepe cake with Japanese fruits. A La Mousse, Chinatown http://www.alamousse.com
Mexican: A few blocks from the Italian Market in South Philly, this is the place to go for Mexican breads and pastries, including delicious churros. They also sell coffee and there are a few counter-style seats, but it is primarily a to-go place. Las Rosas, South Philly https://m.facebook.com/lasrosaspanaderia/
Cookie Dough: The place to go for edible cookie dough – in a cup, on a cupcake, topping a brownie, or sandwiched between 2 cookies. Sweet Box Bakeshop. Center City. Philly Desserts: Edible Cookie Dough (Sweet Box).
Bagels: There are loads of great bagel places, but our current favorite (central location, yummy, yummy sandwiches) is Chestnut Street Philly Bagels (http://www.chestnutbagels.com/). When I’m feeling really decadant, I get the sandwich with lox, bacon, tomato and cream cheese. Tobey is much healthier and always goes for the veggie sandwich. Their tie-tie bagel is extra photogenic:
Israeli: One of the latest additions to our our favorite Philadelphia restaurant chain (https://secretsofphiladelphia.com/2019/04/21/our-favorite-philly-restaurant-empire-including-one-whose-profits-help-fight-hunger/) is K’Far, an Israeli cafe. All their bakery items are made in-house, including the delicious borekas, Jerusalem bagels, and mini chocolate babkas.
Nice for Picnics or a post sightseeing snack: Nothing unusual about this bakery, just yummy treats (Loved the raspberry bars!) in a convenient location. It’s an easy walk from the Parkway museums, the Mutter, Rittenhouse Square, etc..
Argentinian: This friendly bakery/cafe in West Philadelphia specializes in savory empanadas and sweet baked goods like the yummy dulce de leche filled alfajores. https://www.jezabelscafe.com
Toast: If toast or sourdough bread is your thing, this is the place to be on Tuesday afternoons or Saturday mornings when they open to the public. They have a couple of outdoor tables, or you can get it to go (the bread freezes very well – we slice it before freezing). They also have pastries. The selection changes weekly. http://www.mightybreadco.com
Tobey says: My kind of research!