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Dear PoPville – What are you looking for in a Bakery?

by Prince Of Petworth April 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm 106 Comments


Dear PoPville,

I’ve lived in the district for several years now and am clambering for good, French style bread. I’ve worked for a few of these great bakeries in different spots of the country and DC simply lacks one.
My question is, what are folks in DC looking for in a bread bakery? What kinds of breads are missing that you can’t get in the District? If a small bakery were to open, what neighborhood would you want it located?

  • Catania is, indeed, a great place for Italian bread. If you can’t get there when it’s open, they also sell Catania bread at Latteri’s (http://litteris.com/). I’ve tried the “house” French baquettes at lots of stores, and for me the best I’ve found is at Harris Teeter.

    • Oops. Almost forgot. We have 3 outposts of Pâtisserie PAUL right here in Washington – the first in the US. (9th and Penn, Wisconsin Ave below M, and Connecticut and K). Their stuff is GREAT, and they have a beautiful web site. http://www.paul-usa.com/

      • Anonymous

        I think Patisserie Paul is a bit expensive — $4 for a chocolate eclair!

    • Anonymous

      i wish they had more retail days.

  • Alex

    Woodley or Cleveland park.

  • J

    can you have cupcakes? They are impossible to find in DC.

    In all seriousness good bread is very hard to find (we get ours from Panorama during the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market). What about LeDroit Park for location?

    • Anonymous

      i also like the bread at Field to City.

  • a

    Counterintuitive, but…gluten-free options! :)

    I miss cupcakes =(

  • Caprice is already in CH, and their baguettes are awesome, so I’d avoid opening there. I’m a huge fan of Bonaparte Breads which sells at the CH farmers market.

    For selfish reasons, I’d encourage you to open in Tenleytown. I’d be more interested in a retail store over a cafe, but perhaps some kind of hybrid would be nice.

    • Yes, don’t open in CH. La Caprice is pretty amazing and serves what you plan to offer.

    • My experience with Caprice was bad enough to keep me from returning. I’ve had better baguettes from Whole Foods, and their rye bread had cumin seeds in it. I won’t trust a baker who can’t tell the difference between cumin and caraway.

      Paul’s great, but their locations are not DC resident friendly.

  • Please buy Heller’s. Please.

    • MtPer

      Come to Mt Pleasant and take over Hellers. Lots of great new business coming here. Hellers has a great space and name recognition but terrible, sometimes spoiled bread and pastries. I doubt the owners really care about keeping it.

    • Not only do I second this suggestion, I’d pitch a tent on the sidewalk waiting for it to open.

      The only decent bread in MtP right now is from the farmer’s market. And people are dying for new business: witness the success of Beau Thai in just one month.

      I’d love the classics: pain a l’Ancienne, rustic Pugliese, Jewish rye, sourdough, brioche…but also I’d like to see whole grain options and more creative variations, like holiday and seasonal breads, or pair up with one of our local breweries and feature a beer bread.

    • Anonymous

      Can I sign the petition somewhere? Please take over Heller’s, every time I pass there I think about how great it could be, but isn’t.

      • MtPMan

        Yes, please take over Heller’s Bakery. There is high demand in MtP for a bakery, and Heller’s only exacerbates the problem. Their breads, pastries, cakes and other goods aways taste stale. The service is grumpy and the product is poor. Tantalus would sympathize with us. Calgon, take me away.

        • Yes!

        • Stephanie

          I always feel like I’m inconveniencing them when I order.

        • curlysue

          My Hellers rant–back in 2011 I was on my way to my home inspection in Mt P, I went into Hellers feeling sooo excited–this would be my new neighborhood bakery! I got online and surveyed the bakery case trying to decide what treat to get, and that’s when I saw a cockroach dancing about in the case. I haven’t been back since.

    • diskothek

      THIS! Been in the neighborhood for three years and have sworn off Heller’s because of a) bad food/coffee; b) bad service and c) other mediocre options. I’d LOVE to go to a real bakery down the street from me. Would go out of my way for it.

  • REAL Kaiser rolls. The ones that are crusty with a soft, somewhat chewy inside. The only place in the area with anything close is up in Chevy Chase/Bethesda…and not convenient to the subway, either.

  • This is a brilliant idea and I wish you much success! I have often lamented the trend away from specialty stores toward large supermarkets, etc. Dupont already has Firehook, which is easily accessible from Logan. Mt. Pleasant has Heller’s which is easily accessible from Columbia Hghts, so I vote in favor of U St. Corridor. This would help offset the insane number of restaurants opening up as well.

  • P.S. Pain au chocolat and almond pastries

    • amm

      chocolate croissants please!

      • Stephanie

        The chocolate croissants at Le Caprice are soooo good.

  • Lsmith

    Sourdough in logan circle/shaw

    • mla

      Second Logan Circle/Shaw. Need loaves of rye, sourdough, pumpernickel, etc. Also would love fresh bagels. I’ve been buying loaves at the new city market recently. I don’t want to buy my bread from a sweets/cupcake shop.

    • Yes, sourdough in Logan/Shaw! Any good bread really, but sourdough would be amazing. Also, a recent dinner at Central reminded me of how amazing their bread is. I would also be interested in good whole grain breads/seeded breads, croissants, brioche, bagels…ah bread, how I love thee. I feel like 11th street is just dying for a revitalization and you could be in on the front end of it.

  • KenyonDweller

    Saying that DC simply lacks a good French-style bakery seems pretty ill informed. Has OP been to Le Caprice in Columbia Heights?

    • Elle

      I was having just this conversation the other day. I live in CH, and I’ve been consistently whelmed with Le Caprice, for lack of a better words. Their baguettes are fine, but they don’t have the traditional-style more sourdough type ones, which are my favorite. Their pastries are hit or miss too. One week I got an amazing scone, the next week it was horrible. Everyone who works there is always super, super nice to me though, so I keep going back for that. Agreed though that CH doesn’t need another bakery as much as some other places.

      Heartily concur with the buy out Heller’s vote!

      • Anonymous

        exactly. the baguettes and croissants are good, but the bread itself is mediocre at best.
        And it’s expensive!

        • ch resident

          My experience with La Caprice is they will make any bread you request, especially more rare french loafs. You just need to ask. They have found that when they make a lesser known type of bread, people don’t know what it is and don’t buy it. They have made paesano for me on request at no extra charge or minimum order. Only bad thing about them is they run out of baguettes way too early in the day.

  • Bree

    I’d second a gluten free bakery (not necessarily Vegan, just GF!). My sister has celiacs and DC is pretty behind the times with gf-free options. I’d suggest Brookland (new Monroe St. Market development) or maybe somewhere else in NE?

    • BeverlyS

      +1 for Brookland.

      • anonymous

        +2 for Brookland.. We are SERIOUSLY lacking a good bakery and coffee shop. The cupcake place on 12th near RI is lame.

        • ksb

          Can NOT believe that cupcake place is still in business. Awful awful. A bakery in Brookland to partner with Zeke’s… fresh bread+fresh coffee+heaven.

          • ksb

            Fresh bread+fresh coffee=heaven.

        • lanier

          +3 Brookland! I agree with one of the commenters above that Panorama (which only sells to restaurants and at farmers’ markets) has some of the best bread in the city. Would be great to have a spot that has a variety of crusty loaves, with developed flavor and big holes.

    • Anonymous

      It’s definitely a niche market, but I’d love to have a gluten-free bakery with dairy-free and unrefined sugar options. My girlfriend is on an anti-inflammatory diet and is supposed to be avoiding gluten, sugar, and dairy, and it’s so hard finding things she can enjoy.

      • anon

        +1! A good percentage of people who are GF are also dairy free and there are few places that offer both in one. (Some places have a vegan option OR GF option which a lot of us can’t do either!) Also recommend sugar free or refined sugar free a la babycakes in NYC.

    • AR

      Another +1 for GF and vegan options.

    • John M

      Never heard of Chez Hareg on 4th, just down the street from CUA? Pretty good selection of pastries and dairy-free items. They even have a few tables and an espresso machine.

      • anon

        Is Chex Hareg gluten free and dairy free? B/c that is what previous commenters are looking for. Besides Sticky Fingers which offers a few items there aren’t a lot out there that do both.

  • LivetoEat

    Chatman’s Bakery on 9th Street (b/w m & n) recently closed. Place is cleaned and wired for a bakery/cafe. Only downside is that it is on the convention center side of the street.

  • good bagels! And would love a Shaw/Ledroit Park/Bloomingdale location!

    • The *only* bagels I know of in the entire metro area that come close to genuine NYC bagels are from the bagel shop in the 2100 block of P NW. I’ve been here over 20 years (lived in NYC for 15) and have tried countless attempts that were nowhere even close to what a real bagel is.

      • saf

        I would rather have Montreal bagels.

        And that’s the only thing I find lacking in bakery options. La Caprice – I LOVE THEM – has taken care of my other cravings.

      • Anonymous

        Might try to get Loebs deli to sell you some…but i think they bring them down from NYC.

    • YES GOOD BAGELS. The only thing that miss about living in Arlington is Brooklyn Bagels. Seriously I could get better bagels in my small Iowa hometown than I can in the nation’s capital.

  • Tim

    Something small, friendly, and comfortable. Like cafebesalu.com in Seattle. I can get good bread for the week at a # of places, but a cafe with drop-dead croissants or cardamom pretzels (who knew?) is lacking.

  • Anonymous

    Please open an Italian bakery with focaccia, ciabatta, and all sorts of delicious crusty Italian breads. And pizza doughs. And some nice homemade cheeses. Also please open in Glover Park!

  • mi6234

    Saint Michel Bakery is probably the best French bakery I’ve been to. Their white/multi cereal baguettes are rock hard on the outside but light and airy on the inside. Their croissants have a super light texture but taste like they contain an entire pound of butter. Put one like that in Mt. Pleasant and i’ll be there on the reg.

  • Paul

    I am a transplant from RI (my hometown had 4 italian bakeries within city limits) and Boston (which thankfully has plenty of bakers left in the suburbs, and the North End). I would love for a bakery to open up in the waterfront district. I miss places serving good Italian breads and pastries. Idealy, I would love a place where I could go and get italian bread, a zepolle, and maybe some rye or sourdough. Bonus points if I could get an honest to god cannoli. And RI style pizza

    If you are looking to open a store – here is a list of non bread items that I love finding in a good bakery. Spinach Pies, assorted cheeses/olives, pizza dough, Italian cookes. Good luck!!

    • Caroline

      Yes, I was going to suggest an Italian bakery. The’re all over the place where I grew up but there’s not a single one in DC. I especially love the assorted butter cookies those places always have.

      • Anonymous

        Not a single one…. Except the one in the photo.

        • Anonymous

          That’s not the same thing.

      • JL

        Vaccaro’s in Baltimore used to have an outpost in Union Station that had really good cannoli, cookies, etc. I think there was one in the mall at 2000 Penn too. The Union Station location was there for quite a while – I’d guess at least 10 years. The business is still going strong in Baltimore, too bad they are gone from DC.

    • lsmith

      +1 for RI pizza strips!

  • Anonymous

    I really like Le Caprice but I can’t afford fancy French bakery prices. Where is the bakery for the common people?!

    • PG

      Lyon Bakery. They usually have a stand at the market outside Union Station. I think it’s $2 for a baguette, $5 for a loaf (various styles.) Hopefully that market will open soon and they will be there.

  • a yankee

    if one of those different spots of the country was Providence, RI, how about anything like what Seven Stars makes? The best bread I’ve had in America. Think Georgia Avenue south of Petworth Metro for your location.

    And I’ve never understood why Portuguese sweet bread isn’t a bigger deal beyond the northeast, so that’s my vote.

    • anon in Park View

      +1 on Georgia Avenue south of the Petworth Metro!

    • Kate

      +1 for a Seven Stars outpost!

    • Lsmith

      +1 for portuguese sweet bread! I buy it every time I go back to RI!

  • Kat

    I would love a Bakery in Brookland that has great bagels!!!

  • Where would I like to see a bakery open up?
    Glover Park, Woodley Park or Cleveland.
    What bread am I missing?
    Bagels, hearty Italian, Georgian (country not state), Russian Rye, and sweat and savory breakfast breads/pastries.
    Something like Macrina in Seattle.
    Also – must have excellent coffee. No digital espresso machines but a nice La Marzocco and some Cafe Vita coffee.
    Oh and must be able to buy a half loaf so I don’t end up with a stale half loaf because I can’t eat the whole loaf (can but shouldn’t) in a few days.

    • Anonymous

      Artisanal bread can almost always be frozen. Ask your bakery to slice it for you, and put it straight in the freezer when you get it home. Then you can take out a slice or two at a time, leave it at room temp for 10 minutes (or put it in the toaster for under 2 minutes). No waste at all, and I guarantee you won’t be able to tell the difference wrt taste.

  • What’s missing – would love a good place to buy bagels, pizza dough, and small servings of bread (i.e., rolls or half loaves). I love bread but don’t buy a lot of it because the loaves are too big and I refuse to eat it if it’s stale. And if they sold authentic Italian pastries, I’d be there at least once a week.
    Where – would love it in SW, but if I’m being realistic as to the required market, my second choice would be SE Capitol Hill.

    • Anonymous

      Agree with everything you said except the part about having stale bread. That’s almost my favorite part because there’s so much you can do with it!

  • Aaron in Park View

    Good, french style bread would be great. I want a place with baguette baked fresh every morning, with some croissants and pain au chocolat.
    Would love something in the Park View area. Plenty of open retail space on the ground floor of the apartment building above the Georgia Ave. Metro…just saying :)

    • Lisa

      +1 for Park View, and some good bagels too

      • Annie

        +2 for Park View! My neighborhood needs a good bakery.

  • Elefaentchen

    A REAL bakery. Not these ones that sell mushy muffins in shrink wrap, leathery bagels and baguettes that resemble Wonder Bread. If you want a template go no further than Tartine in San Francisco. Hands down one of the best bakeries in America. The NY Times did a piece on them in 2007 (http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/travel/28Bite.html?ref=travel). I’ve eaten there many times. Real bakers who know what they are doing. Real ingredients. No short cuts. So good.

    • Bakerman

      Exactly. A REAL bakery is truly missing in DC. The Caprice owners are so nice but they aren’t baking bread or pastries like those found in true bakeries around the country (Tartine, Sullivan St., Standard, etc…). DC rents are so high it’s hard for potential small business owners to imagine turning a profit selling $3 baguettes. Throw in the high cost of a real bread oven (minimum 20 grand). But someone eventually will take the risk and do it. And if its done right, it’ll be a hit.

  • Breadlover

    Bloomingdale/Ledroit is the best bet. Just sell regular good baguettes, ciabatta and big round country breads. Guaranteed success!!!!

    • Anonymous

      +1000 !

      Come to Bloomingdale!

      • Anonymous

        +10000 for Bloomingdale AND we have storefronts for ya.

        We have a bakery and they are good people but don’t seem to want to be a community bakery. Seems like they wanted a kitchen but not a storefront. They have limited hours and only sweets, no breads. Sweets are limited. Not knocking them, just not what I was hoping for in an addition to the neighborhood. For me it is still like an empty storefront, always closed when I walk by and nothing to buy on my list of things to make me stop in.

        A full service REAL bakery that makes breads, specialty items, special orders etc, have a storefront with early morning service and a place to sit and eat it, hell offer a little sausage or egg on that croissant, you will make a killing in Bloomigndale. Key is, listen to your customers and give them what they want with a smile.

        • bb

          Yes. Partner with Grassroots Gourmet so you can expand their reach beyond the realm of the cupcake. Everybody wins. +1 on all the sourdough comments, and I would also like italian cookies.

        • Bloomingbread

          Absolutely agree! A neighborhood bakery is what is needed in Bloomingdale. Grassroots Gourmet is just a cupcake workshop, not a bakery, even less a community/neighborhood spot. There is strong demand for fresh bread and croissants in the neighborhood, yo just have to see how quickly the bread sells in the farmers market on Sundays!

        • eli

          Dear Grassroots Gourmet, please attempt to make something that I can’t bake at home. Would love to see you add decent bagels and pastries to your repertoire. I know how to make muffins already. I would definitely buy loaves of bread, croissants, donuts, and bagels from you.

          Another suggestion–a decent bagel shop/deli on Barracks Row would make a killing.

          • Anonymous

            Dear eli,
            Does a car mechanic service a bike? Why not, they both fix machines. Do personal trainers prescribe physical therapy exercises? Why not, they both work with the human body. Does a masonry worker install plumbing? Why not, they are both part of a house.
            These are specialties. These people have a passion for their work and are good at their field. Let’s keep it that way.

            Grassroots has a specialty, its everything they sell. Its what they are known for. Its their passion.

  • Rich

    DC needs good basics: bagels, breads, cakes. The supermarkets, including Whole Foods tend toward the awful in one way or another. Giant was actually pretty good per-Ahold. It’s difficult to find a decent rye bread. I’m sitting in Cleveland whe you can find superlative cannoli, rye bread, Italian bread, cakes— just about everything DC screws up.

    • I too fleed from the Cleve to DC but you’re right, Cleveland has amazing Italian bakeries, bagels, and pastry shops. I would love to see the poster here open a place like Presti’s, that place is always swamped and does a nice mix of breads, pizzas, desserts, and coffee in a really pretty space.

  • Catifish

    A homerun location would be Mount Vernon Triangle.

  • frickorfrack

    Here is a spot open for rent – Just behind the Car Barn on Capitol Hill – place is crawling with young families, strollers, nannies, and weekenders at Eastern Market ….you could do store front retail as well as serve the restaurants on H. Street & 8th Street. Good luck! (PS – I have no business interest in this, just now it’s for rent)


  • frickorfrack
  • Anonymous

    my suggestion would be to turn the firehouse on north capitol into a bakery and brew pub.

    • Anonymous

      Wow – I came here to say just that. This would be awesome!

  • Pd

    Anyone else like the italian loaf from Vace in Cleveland park?

    • saf

      i think they get their bread from Catania

  • DF

    Thanks for all the comments folks!
    I’m the questioner. The place I’m looking to base it on is this super small bakery in Kansas City:
    I’ve worked for Della Fattoria and Wheatfields, two of the best bakeries in the country. I got to try Chad Robertson’s bread before he opened Tartine (when he worked in Point Reyes). Those are the inspirations I’m drawing from. Hoping to get something in the works in a couple years.

    • JZ

      YES!! DF I’m so excited to hear this. Della Fattoria’s meyer lemon/rosemary/sea salt bread is a godsend. And any reference to Chad Robertson makes me happy. If you need a fan club, I’ll be #1. Good luck with your plans and making this happen.

      • DF

        Thanks for that!
        I do miss their meyer lemon. It’s a fun technique for making it too.

    • DF

      Check your inbox. :)

  • Some competition to Hellers in mt pleasant would be nice.

  • breader

    realistically speaking, the best areas for a bakery in my opinion are:

    14th street. between s and v
    barracks row
    h street ( though one is coming there)
    near the howard theater
    friendship heights
    near GW
    Adams Morgan ( don’t call it a comeback!)

    • saf

      There used to be a lovely bakery on Columbia Rd. Don’t remember its name anymore, but i still use the jelly roll pan and the bread knife that I bought at their going out of business sale in 1986.

  • Anonymous

    How about a good old school italian bakery – like the ones they have in North Jersey or Brooklyn? There’s nowhere in the city where you can get a decent cannoli.

    • Anonymous

      yes yes yes

  • JL

    Clambering? Or clamoring?

  • JZ

    Please good French breads: pain au levain with hearty flours and a real starter, baguettes with a crisp crust and light crumb. A real bread oven. I moved here from the Bay Area and really miss my Acme and Tartine breads. A place like that would make a killing in DC.

  • Jeff Lang

    I don’t think they do breads do to the size of the kitchen, but Room 11 is the best bakery/pastry/cake shop in town. Best scones, muffins and cookies. Oh… and you can get their honey goat cheese cake in an 8 inch cake form. They sometimes have gluten-free and vegan as well.

  • Anonymous

    I need Cuban pastelitos!

  • anonymous

    Saint Michel on New York Ave., just east of the White House, is a really great French bakery. Croissants, baguettes, country loaves, etc.

  • A bakery in Brookland would be awesome!

  • Anonymous

    Incredible French breakfast pastries and desserts similar to Poupon in Georgetown or Praline Bakery on Sangamore Rd. in Bethesda. OMG!!!
    Proper fresh hot sourdough like the Boudin bakery in SF. But I hear you have to have just the right strain of yeast and bacteria.


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