We discovered fantastic bakeries, offering bread, cakes, and sweets. Come along for a tasty ride to our favorite Mid-Atlantic bakeries.
As I walk in the door, the aromas from the baked goods are instant gratification. The golden glow of fresh-baked bread, croissants, and pastries demands inspection. Once I've selected the winners, it's time to enjoy one of life's greatest foodie pleasures—fresh, baked-from-scratch treats. I'll be sure and save some of these treasures from the best bakeries in the Mid-Atlantic states to take home for later enjoyment.
As a former professional chef and baker, I have plenty of hands-on experience baking from scratch. My most challenging job as a baker was on the Cook Inlet oil platforms in Alaska. I'd work a 12-hour shift from 7 pm to 7 am and bake Danish pastries, muffins, cookies, dinner rolls, pies, and bread for a crew of 30 to 120.
Twenty years after my cooking career ended, I embarked on a travel- and food-writing journey. In my travels, I'm always on the lookout for made-from-scratch bakeries. This type of small-town—or big-city—bakery used to be common until grocery stores started adopting an in-house bakery. One by one, mom and pop bakeries that were once numerous became an endangered species or disappeared altogether.
Lucky for us, there are still some fine bakeries throughout the US and several are in the Mid-Atlantic region. During the last seven years, I've discovered some fantastic bakeries, some producing artisan bread, while others specialize in cakes and sweets. Come along for a tasty ride as I share with you my favorite Mid-Atlantic bakeries.
Best Bakeries in the Delmarva Peninsula
Across the Chesapeake Bay is the Delmarva—Delaware, Maryland, Virginia—Peninsula, an area known for beaches, crabs, agriculture, and history. One of my first discoveries for baking excellence was Evergrain Bread Company in Chestertown, MD.
Douglas Rae, the owner, has been baking since his junior high school days and even built an outdoor brick oven to experiment with bread baking. After graduating from culinary school, Douglas set out to find internships in several bakeries across the USA. One of which is my favorite bakery in California—Della Fattoria in Petaluma.
After gaining experience at six bakeries from Maine to California and refining his craft, Douglas came home to open his bakery, and the rest is history.
Pop in for a latte or cappuccino to pair with a sweet treat, then hang out with the regulars at a sidewalk table. On any given day, Evergrain sells out of most of its wares—such is the quality of their baked goods. First to go are usually the Sun Buns, Everknots, and croissants.
Grab what you can to take home for later consumption. I find the Everknots, country white bread, apricot ginger scones, and everything bagels freeze very well. Check out their website for a list of bread, pastries, and sweets as the bread choices change daily.
Bavarian Bakery in Dover, DE
One of my fondest memories of traveling to Austria was the incredible cakes in Salzburg and Vienna. What luck I found the Bavarian Bakery and Deli in Dover to remind me of Austrian cakes. The Sister and brother team, Monika Urquhart and Andreas Janke, produce the best European-style cakes I've found in the Mid-Atlantic.
As if the cakes weren't reason enough to stop in, the loaves of bread like Dinkle Brot, Bavarian Rye, and Challah are. They also make delicious sandwiches to eat onsite or take away. My favorite cakes are the lemon coconut, German chocolate, and peanut butter explosion. My go-to sandwich is the Rueben, hot off the grill made with premium corned beef. If you're heading to the beaches and pass by Dover, the Bavarian Bakery and Deli is only a few minutes off the highway and is a must-stop.
Easton, MD—Foodie Hotspot
Thanks to a tip from the Easton visitor's center I learned about Sunflowers & Greens, part of the Paul Prager family of businesses in Easton, MD. What connects most of Mr. Prager's restaurants is an amazing bakery in the basement under Sunflowers & Greens. When I'm in town, I stop in at either Sunflowers and Greens or The Wardroom for lunch and see what breads, cakes, and treats are available.
Both of these restaurants feature the baked-from-scratch goods that keep me coming back. My wife and I love the walnut cranberry bread sold at The Wardroom on most days, and their rugalach is some of the best I've ever had. Occasionally we'll try a slice of cake and have always been impressed. Dog owners love the pup-friendly sidewalk tables in front of Sunflowers & Greens, The Wardroom, and Bas Rouge for dining alfresco. The wine-by-the-glass selection is perfect for those who are dining onsite.
Best Bakeries in Cape Charles, VA
Way down south on the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula is my favorite Mid-Atlantic town to spend two or three days. Part of the reason I love Cape Charles so much is there are two excellent bakeries in town. Coastal Baking Company is good for breakfast pastries, cakes, and cookies. Check out their lunch menu of Indian and Cajun specialties. Coastal Baking Company has a nice patio to devour your treats when the weather cooperates, which is quite often.
The Bakery on Mason is smack dab in the middle of downtown Cape Charles. Try a beautiful rustic sourdough or Kalamata olive loaf for a picnic on the beach. Several other loaves of bread are worthy also. Check out their cinnamon swirl loaf, which is excellent for French toast, or the baguettes for ham sandwiches.
My favorites at The Bakery on Mason are the pastries, scones, and a croissant with jam. Their cookies and cinnamon swirls will tickle your taste buds. The sandwich menu changes often and is perfect for a beach picnic.
Best Bakeries in Baltimore
It took me a few years to figure out Baltimore has two excellent French bakeries. The first bakery I tried was Patisserie Poupon on 820 E. Baltimore Street in downtown. During the Thanksgiving holiday season, they make a pumpkin cheesecake that's decadent and addictive. I love that they sell a single-portion-sized version to keep me from getting carried away and having two slices. The apricot tart is so good that if I took a bite and close my eyes, I'd swear I was in Paris.
Our dog Sophie loves Robert E. Lee Park, and we love that the park is close to Bonjour French Bakery and Café. The mango tart, passion fruit tart, and almond croissants are my favorite items in this small bakery/café. If I know I'm going to be in the area around lunchtime, there's a chicken sandwich on a croissant with my name on it.
They have a few tables inside and a front porch counter with six seats for eating on site. But with such a great park nearby, I recommend heading over to Robert E. Lee Park to enjoy your breakfast or lunch treats. Bonjour has been around for 22 years, according to their website, and I hope they have many more years to come.
West Chester, PA Serves Italian Treats
During lunch at Portabello's in Kennett Square, I asked chef/owner Brett if he knew any good bakeries in the area and he recommended I go to West Chester. He said, “Carlino's is not only a great little market, but they also have excellent breads, cakes, and Italian sweets.” Carlino's Market has their bakery in their Ardmore, PA location, that sends baked goods to West Chester worth checking out. We took chef Brett's advice and drove to West Chester the following weekend and found one of the best Italian markets in the Mid-Atlantic area.
Not only does Carlino's have an excellent selection of Italian grocery items, a deli, wine shop, and homemade pasta, but they also have delicious baked-from-scratch bakery treats. Our favorite bread is the semolina loaf or dinner rolls. Other not-to-miss baked goods are the Italian rum cake, tiramisu, Mama's ricotta cheesecake, and tomato pie (a Philly classic). Customers love both the Italian and American types of baked goods.
Best Bakeries in Charlottesville, VA
There are very few small towns that have the number of excellent bakeries that Charlottesville has. I am in awe that The Pie Chest, Albemarle Baking Company, Paradox Pastry, and MarieBette can stay in business being located so very close together.
The Pie Chest is known for delicious pies, both sweet and savory. I love their bourbon pecan pie, strawberry rhubarb, and pretty much every pie I've bought from them. Some of the savory pies are served hot for eating onsite, both breakfast and lunch pies.
Albemarle Baking Company is my favorite place for baguettes, croissants, and their single-serving cherry pie is out of this world. Paradox Pastry is an excellent place for lunch, pairing a sandwich with cookies or a slice of cake for a memorable meal. Paradox makes gorgeous cakes that you can buy the day of, or order ahead to get a custom cake for a special occasion.
MarieBette was the last of these four bakeries I tried, and I've been back recently for breakfast and treats to take home. Their petite kouign amann is the best I've ever had. This flaky-sticky roll is where butter has been asked to show why sugar, butter, and flour can be so good. One bite and you'll be hooked. Their ham and cheese croissant is a fine choice for breakfast, and the palmiers are good for taking home as they still taste great a couple of days later.
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Chances are I missed a bakery or two in my 12 years of traveling the Mid-Atlantic region, but this is a good start. If you food lovers haven't tried these bakeries, you now have a list to get you started on a trail of delicious discoveries. And if you're like me and think food and wine are essential pairings, check out the Mid-Atlantic wineries in Wonderful Women Winemakers of Maryland. Let Wander help you discover new recipes and restaurants as you explore.