Bread, often equivalent to the word "food," is an indispensable staple in many parts of the world. Throughout history -- in religion, magic, and custom -- this deceptively simple foodstuff has ensured a seat at our table of survival. Where to find some of the best of it in the Valley? Here are some of our favorite bread bakeries.
10.) Breadcrafters In the bread business for over 15 years, this Phoenix bakery and cafe hidden in a shopping center near Paradise Valley Mall features specialty breads like rosemary and Valencia sea salt and whole wheat honey nut cranberry as well as sandwich breads, buns, and rolls. Get bread to go or stick around and enjoy a style from a selection of nearly 20 hot and cold gourmet sandwich selections indoors or on the patio.
9.) Karsh's Bakery This unpretentious kosher bakery on the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Missouri has been around since the 1960s. Cakes, pastries, and sweet treats share the spotlight with all varieties of "the best rye bread in town," a full line of egg breads (challah), sourdough, chewy bagels, salt sticks, and several kinds of rolls, including crescent, onion, and egg. There's no seating here and the bread's sliced at the point of sale, so grab your bread fresh and ready to go.
8.) Wildflower Bread Company This Scottsdale-based chain with more than 10 bakery and restaurant locations makes artisan bread with zero additives or preservatives daily at each location. In addition to featuring a specialty bread each month, selections such as bagels, rolls, and ciabatta, levain, pasilla chili rye, pretzel, and red, white, and blue bread are served daily. Sandwich and a salad while you shop? Of course.
7.) Whole Grain National Bread Co. What to do when you really love bread? Start a bakery, of course. Bread lovers Ron and Kris Anderson started theirs in Mesa in 1995, and with over 25 varieties of fresh, natural bread to choose from, it's not for the indecisive. Besides everyday selections of breads, buns, and dinner rolls, check the website for days when specialties like cranberry walnut, cinnamon chip, and The Great White are up for grabs -- good days, indeed.
6.) AZ Bread Co. The sought-after booth at several Valley farmers markets like Mill Avenue, Old Town Scottsdale, and Roadrunner Park, this breakfast and lunch café in Tempe from owner Carol Phillips is at its bread-ly best on the road. You'll spot the shop from the sheer bounty of baked goodness in tow, with delights like kalamata olive, apricot walnut, and cranberry orange breads waiting to be purchased, taken home, and devoured.
5.) Breadsmith Headquartered in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, this retail bakery shop founded in 1993 with over 30 independently owned locations has received awards for its European-style breads from Bon Appétit magazine, Modern Baking, and the International Culinary Salon. Arizona's only Breadsmith location, in Mesa, serves up hand-crafted artisan breads made fresh from scratch -- from crusty, European-style breads to soft-crusted sandwich breads, specialty breads, and sweets.
4.) Gluten-Free Creations No wheat? No problem. Since founder LynnRae Ries was diagnosed gluten-intolerant in 2000, this bakery, with locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, has made tasty, gluten-free, scratch-made breads its mission. Featuring gluten-free rolls, buns, sandwich breads, and specialty breads like wild rice bread and pumpernickel, customers say the goods hold up better than anyone out there. And with dairy-free choices as well, there's something for almost any diet.
3.) New York West Pastry & Bake Shop It doesn't get more old school in Arizona than Sun City. Maybe that's why Hugh and Pat McGurgan, who owned a bakery in Chester, New York, for over 10 years, opened their shop on the border of Glendale and Sun City in 2000. Since then, folks from all over the state have made the journey to this family-owned tradition for sweet treats (including the popular Devil Dog cake), and fresh baked rolls and bread including rye, Italian, French, and a heavenly pumpernickel worth the trip.
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2.) Jonathan Robins Bakery This wholesale bakery operation of fresh-baked goodness, started in 1992 by former South African Jonathan A. Robins, only interfaces with the public through a single source: Tempe Farmers Market, the daily indoor market in downtown Tempe. There, its sliced deli and specialty breads, pastries, and artisan breads made with organic flour, like the swoon-worthy kalamata olive, can be snatched straight from the source.
1.) MJ Bread To certified master baker and member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America Michael John, breadmaking is serious business. Preparing his breads from scratch, employing Old World practices, and using fresh ingredients, John, who shares space with gifted wife and cake queen, Tammie Coe, creates signature breads for his select list of upscale, single-unit restaurant clients (Breadfruit, Postino, and Bertha's Café to name a few) as well as offering a variety of baguettes and dinner rolls to the public at his little shop on Roosevelt Row.