What with all the paleo-boosting, anti-gluten vibes floating around the universe lately, you might think the glory days of baking were done. Far from it, at least in the Twin Cities, where we’re in the midst of a flaky, buttery boom. Along with the area’s iconic bakeshops—Salty Tart, Patisserie 46, St. Agnes, Franklin Street—the following eight are getting up at the crack of dawn to push boundaries and help redefine what makes us one of the best places to score bread, scones, and muffins this side of the Seine. So grab a cup of coffee and pull up a baguette. It’s just getting good around here.
Photos by Eliesa Johnson
Groundswell is a coffee shop, café, wine bar, gift shop, and bakery all rolled into one very hip and minimalist package—in a place not usually associated with hipness or minimalism: the down-to-earth Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. It’s where you’ll find wild rice Minnesota Nice cookies, a killer savory bacon-rosemary gruyere scone, and plenty of delicious alt-bakery treats such as vegan banana bread and gluten-free muffins. Dabblers can enjoy a cupcake flight, but know that the pros go straight for the salted honey caramel cheesecake cupcake. 1340 Thomas Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-645-6466, groundswellmn.com
Honey and Rye Bakehouse
If only we could replace more defunct dry cleaners with bakeries like Honey and Rye, what a world it would be. Ever since this place landed on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, locals have been streaming in for fresh artisan focaccia and sourdough, pretzels, and the game-changing chocolate coconut cream pie. If you only have time for a quick fix, there’s a grab-and-go bin in the doorway that runs on the honor system: drop in your $3 and be honored with a beautifully crusty baguette. 4501 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 612-844-2555, honey-and-rye.com
Bittersweet Gluten Free Bakery
Gluten-free bakeries have come and gone around these parts (remember Cooqi?), but none can boast the craftsmanship and committed following that BitterSweet currently enjoys. The entire Eagan shop is devoted to gluten-free (and sometimes dairy-free) treats: brownies, cookies, cupcakes, and many breads (including breadsticks, hamburger buns, pizza crusts, and take-and-bake pancake and cornbread mix). How good is BitterSweet? So good that even gluten gluttons will have a hard time telling the difference between these GF goods and traditional treats, which must be why you can find BitterSweet’s stuff all over the metro. 2105 Cliff Dr., Eagan, 651-686-0112, bittersweetgf.com
French Meadow Bakery
Since the early ’90s, French Meadow’s original bakery-café, in Minneapolis’s Wedge neighborhood, has been an oasis for vegetarians and natural food lovers alike (it was the first certified-organic bakery in the country). But as it saw the trend take off, it decided to take flight too. You can now enjoy French Meadow’s signature bakery items (including buttermilk scones, stuffed French toast, and its version of a Cronut) at the State Fair and at a new Grand Avenue outpost in St. Paul, which also includes a beer and wine bar. 2610 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-7855; 1662 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-789-8870, frenchmeadowcafe.com
Angel Food Bakery
You wouldn’t expect the bakery arm of Hell’s Kitchen to be a sedate, quaint bakehouse. Indeed, Angel Food Bakery’s vision of heaven comes with crystal chandeliers and alphabet donuts. Yet since 2012, downtowners have been jamming the place for their fix of sassy treats, from whiskey-bomb cupcakes to out-of-this-world savory pretzels decked with garlic and cheese. The bakers here like to live on the cutting edge: They were the first in the city to debut a version of the Cronut (theirs is a Cro-Knot) and they’ve recently debuted The Hangover Cure: an egg, meat, and cheese breakfast sandwich on a glazed donut bun. 86 S. 9th St., Mpls., 612-238-1435, angelfoodmn.com
When it opened in 2004, Rustica was a groundbreaker for local artisan bakeries. But when it moved from its original location to the bustling center at Calhoun Village a few years ago, it knew it had to evolve. And so it has, with a café menu built around Steve Horton’s hearty breads, with gorgeous sandwiches like the shaved mortadella with gruyere or the simple but elegant grilled cheese. This not-so-small transformation has forced customers who were popping by for a cake or the legendary chocolate chocolate chip cookie to stop, gather, and linger for a while. 3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com
The Buttered Tin
The idea of the bakery-café may have been popularized by Panera, but it has been perfected by The Buttered Tin. This little sunny spot in Lowertown St. Paul is less than a year old, but it seems like it has lived in the neighborhood for ages. It is a magnet for the loft dwellers who come for breakfast and lunch. And you can’t help but be mesmerized watching pastry chef Alicia Hinze as she artfully decorates all manner of celebration cakes and cupcakes. The Buttered Tin has earned a loyal following for its cheeky Lowertown Twinkies and TBT Ho-Hos, and the craftsmanship of its dense and satisfying sunflower bread is undeniable. 237 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-224-2300, thebutteredtin.com
Up in Anoka, the 50-year-old Hans’ Bakery has had a rebirth. Kelly Olsen bought the shuttered bakery and reopened it with a fresh, modern update, even while (wisely) keeping all the old recipes from the former owners. Try the iconic Bee Hive, a light almondy pastry cake split in half and filled with custard crème so subtle and fresh that it’ll wipe your memory of the over-sugared things you’ve been eating. Then there’s the Texas donut, a perfectly balanced, doughy goodie about the size of your kid’s head. No wonder Hans’ already has lines out the door. 1423 5th Ave., Anoka, 763-421-4200, hans-bakery.com
Check out these fresh, new bakers:
Aki’s Bread House | For German breads and oodles of real pretzels. 2506 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-578-7897
Bogart’s Doughnut Co. | A stalwart from the Kingfield Farmers Market gets its own shop. 904 W. 36th St., Mpls.
Black Walnut Bakery | Sarah Botcher’s pop-up bakeshop at the Nicollet Mall farmers’ market. Nicollet Mall, Mpls., mplsfarmersmarket.com
We didn't choose our favorite local bakeries without getting a few bites in between photos. See some of our favorite pretty pastries and sweet treats—and where to get one of your own.