In a post about great Seattle pastries that I did back in July, I mentioned that Cafe Besalu has been a consistent favorite for best croissant in the city. And while it is delicious (the weekend lines will testify to that), the croissant isn’t the only draw of this Ballard neighborhood institution. The pastry case is full of plenty of other treats, ranging from fruit danishes and galettes to brioche to biscuits.
And that’s not even getting into the savory offerings. The onion and gruyère pastry is a popular choice, and many will be quick to tell you that Besalu makes the best quiche in the city.
Behind the counter, pastry chef James Miller is the steady hand in the hot kitchen, churning out trays of delicacies. The plain croissant is a given, but what else should you order when you get inside? Read on to see are my recommendations to round out your breakfast tray.
The plain Croissant ($2.50) is on the slightly small side, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in buttery flavor. Plus, this plain croissant has a perfectly flaky exterior with an inside crumb that has just enough pull to it. Brave the lines and eat in, and you’ll get some homemade jam to accompany the croissant—though there’s so much butter you might not need or want it. And since they’re small, you’ll surely want two!
Given the quality of the plain croissant, it’s no surprise that the Pain au Chocolat ($3.00) is another good choice. As with the plain croissant, you want to eat this while it’s warm if possible, as the chocolate within adds decadent richness to this buttery croissant. Personally, I’d pair this with a hot chocolate.
Besalu always offers a wide variety of fruit-flavored pastries, changing with the seasons. If your timing is right, I especially recommend the Plum Danish ($3.00). The shape alone had me particularly star-struck, with the points providing more crunchy texture if you like the “ends.” The fresh plum makes this a sweet but slightly tart treat.
Nut-lovers will love the Almond Schnecken ($2.75). As with the Plum Danish, the shape drew me in. Schnecken is German for snail, and as you eat your way to the schnecken’s center, the texture changes from crisp to soft and tender—but buttery and nutty along the way.
Slightly different but simply delicious is the Ginger Biscuit ($2.10). You won’t want to put gravy on this one, as this simple but sophisticated biscuit showcases the flavor of ginger, sweetened by just a sprinkling of sugar crystals on the surface. For those who don’t want their pastries too sweet, but still with a little “candied” flavor, this is a fine choice.
A weekend shot of Ballard’s Cafe Besalu, before the crowds arrived. Still, the inevitable dog and stroller are sitting outside the bakery. Moments later, there’d be a line out the open door, the buttery smell of baking sweeping out onto the sidewalk.
(Originally published at Serious Eats on November 7.)