I’m not sure what came first: the Tweet or the craving. Nevertheless, on a Monday in April I decided to Tweet out my intense need for a croissant at that very moment. I asked for recommendations on where to get the best ones in Philadelphia, and y’all delivered. My desire for this French-associated pastry did not fade past that Monday morning, a day when a handful of bakeries are closed. Therefore, it was a treacherous time for me, and I’m sure, for my Twitter followers.
Croissant-gate may have seemed like a spontaneous event of hunger I should have kept to myself, but my love for croissants has always been a known unshakeable urge of mine. As a child of food allergies and a fan of bread, my family reigned me the Carbohydrate Queen, with plain croissants as my crown jewels. I spent a majority of my childhood erroneously covered in croissant flakes, and now, my 26-year-old self seeks out every opportunity to be crumbed up.
Since that Tweet, I’ve prioritized finding Philadelphia’s best croissant. I may not have the expertise to tell you what region inspired each crescent I ingest, but I know a good croissant when I taste one…and when I stand up to brush off the scraps. Here are my top picks:
As of date this article goes live, Fitz and Starts (743 S 4th St.) has my favorite croissant in Philadelphia and maybe, anywhere. Pat O’Malley’s croissants and pastries have been consistently delicious even through the restaurant’s rebranding and ownership shuffling – which is a feat in itself.
Eating a croissant or any meal, really, from Fitz is an experience akin to eating from, say, an Uncle who isn’t a chef but just makes good, home cooked food. The plain croissants are simple and familiar with no bending over backwards bullshit baked in. Give one to me two decades ago and I’d be just as happy as I am now after having consumed one. The chocolate almond croissant from Fitz is not a miss either with powdered sugar and slivered almonds baked on top and just the right amount of chocolate swirled inside.
Essen Bakery (1437 E Passyunk Ave.) is my runner up as my favorite croissant in Philadelphia. This self-described “little Jewish bakery in South Philly” and James Beard Award nominee was sold out the first time I visited. My golden rule for food is that if an establishment is sold out of an item, it must be good and a visit back is non-negotiable. Like Fitz, this croissant was very simple with a dense, soft dough in the inside and no fancy aftertaste. Flakiness potential? 10/10.
I prefer plain croissants, but Artisan Boulanger Patissier (1218 Mifflin St.) threatened my beliefs with its almond croissant. This realization didn’t come to me until I got very excited when I realized the other half of that almond croissant was waiting for me in the car while I was half way down Passyunk. Forego picking up a plain croissant (it didn’t necessarily give me shock and awe), and pick up Artisan’s almond croissant dusted with powdered sugar and nutty flavored filling. I was both covered in flakes and sugar, so Artisan are doing something right.
The most beautiful croissants in Philadelphia come from Vanilya Bakery (1611 E Passyunk Ave.) My plain croissant was a large puff with delicate folds and layers of all the colors of the croissant rainbow. This was the easiest and funniest croissant to pull apart, unraveling like a roll of wrapping paper. The inside of the croissant was pretty hollow and empty, but the aesthetics make it the perfect croissant for sharing on Instagram.
If you have a favorite croissant, Tweet me @shealynkilroy so I can seek accordingly.