Best Bakery 2022 | JL Patisserie | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Bahar Anooshahr

At both locations of the celebrated JL Patisserie, the options are overwhelming in the best way. A small pastry case displays delicate desserts, macarons, eclairs, and cake slices. Next, a large counter is covered with breads and pastries, mostly everything made with flaky, crunchy, butter-filled croissant dough. The pain au raisin is a favorite, a big swirl of flaky dough, crunchy on the outside and soft within, brightened with bursts of flavor from juicy raisins. The ham and cheese croissants blur the line between breakfast and lunch, and the cream-stuffed cruffins make a decadent dessert. We like to keep up with what the bakery is doing on their TikTok account, which is full of light-hearted videos that never fail to make us hungry.

Proof has been a staple at nearly every farmers' market in the Valley for a reason, and it's not only because they operated out of a converted garage until last year. Jon Przybyl and Amanda Abou-Eid create their pastries and decadent breads from a single sourdough starter named Harriet that they've perfected since her start in 2010. Using a sourdough base for all their breads and pastries has additional health benefits (because of fermentation) and adds an extra dimension to the flavor. In addition, Harriet balances sweet pastry fillings in a way that a grocery store bakery could never. Przybyl and Abou-Eid also make a point to use seasonal ingredients when available. The bakers constantly rotate pastry fillings, such as a cinnamon pear danish in the spring or lemon curd filling a few weeks ago. Other must-tries at Proof, which you can find at farmers' markets in Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Gilbert, include the pain au chocolat, morning buns, and the classic country sourdough.

Bagelfeld's has officially put Phoenix on the bagel map. Started by Charles Blonkenfeld as a pandemic pivot, the Brooklyn-born chef grew up on bagels, but it wasn't until 2020 that he started making them. The process takes three days and uses old-world traditions like slow-fermenting, hand-rolling, boiling in malt syrup and honey water, and baking to a burnished exterior, for a New York (chew and flavor) meets Montreal (size and sweetness) finish that's all Phoenix. Not only do Bagelfeld's bagels bookend both the bomb breakfast sammies at Stoop Kid and the sell-out Saturday sandwich at Nelson's Meat + Fish, loyal followers line up at farmers' markets and the recently opened brick-and-mortar on Thomas Road. Standout flavors include asiago, jalapeño cheddar, and fennel raisin, and all pair perfectly with their house-made schmears (lemon and herb cream cheese on an everything bagel — yes please). The only downside is they sell out quickly.

If you feel like getting twisted, The Salted Knot has you covered. Sure, "getting twisted" could be defined in many ways, but in this case, it means you have a hankering for a soft, hot, buttery pretzel. This Tempe-based business was founded during the pandemic by Maria Vassett and Chad Day for a couple of reasons. They were interested in starting a new side-hustle business, and they liked the idea of providing patrons with something that would make the challenging world events feel a little less stressful. The pair developed a signature recipe through trial and error until they got their perfect blend. Nowadays, folks are lining up at their booths at area farmers' markets to get their fix. Covered in butter and salt is one way to enjoy these mouthwatering doughy delights, or maybe you'd dig one that's buttered and topped with a heady everything-seasoning blend. Sweet pretzels are on the menu, too — cinnamon sugar blends with the melty butter to make you downright giddy.

Evie Carpenter

Owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung of Sweet Republic are always pushing limits when it comes to ice cream. And it is this reason why Sweet Republic has become a local favorite, as well as a nationally recognized bucket list item for tourists who visit the Valley. The peppermint ice cream has hints of real mint that taste natural and not manufactured. If you're looking for an ice cream adventure, order the s'mores sundae — a scoop of vanilla and chocolate in a homemade waffle bowl, topped with the softest marshmallow. Kids will get a treat as the cashiers will torch the marshmallow right in front of them. The ice cream isn't made with any preservatives, sweeteners or additives — there's a deliberate choice to make everything taste natural. In the summertime, there's a guaranteed line out the door and while patrons wait, they can play any number of games, like Jenga or tic-tac-toe. Locals may want to make it a goal to try as many flavors as they can. There's a decidedly friendly vibe at Sweet Republic, and along with the rotating flavors on the menu, it'll keep you coming back for more.

Driving through central Phoenix's Melrose District, you can't miss LIX Uptown Ice Cream — the colorful shop, which is a recent addition to the neighborhood, has a giant inflatable unicorn on the roof. LIX makes ice cream with the lactose removed, meaning it still includes dairy, but is friendly to those who are lactose intolerant. The result creates creamy, silky flavors such as rosemary butter pecan, mint chip, s'mores, and Gansito, a Mexican snack cake with strawberry jam and cream. The mango sticky rice flavor combines rich ice cream with a tart mango sorbet for the perfect refreshing treat. We love to make LIX the culmination of an afternoon spent hitting the Melrose District's many fascinating vintage shops.

Some people turned to Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy TV show as an escape this year, but we found a far simpler way to beat the doldrums and bring a little bit of Italy into our lives. We just slipped inside Cool Gelato Italiano, where friendly faces and fabulous flavors make you forget all about the heat and the hustle. Whether we're craving something light and fruity like a sorbetto or something richer, like Italian custard or hazelnut, we always discover way too many tempting options. It's all about the taste here, rather than fancy decor or upscale presentation, yet everything about the shop is clean, bright, and beautiful. Best of all, we can sit indoors and enjoy small paintings by local artists, or head outside to sit under cafe tables shaded by umbrellas to watch people and their pets parade by.

Wildlings Photo Co.

When you wake up in the morning craving bacon, don't bother to whip out your frying pan. Just cross your fingers and hope the daily rotation at Chin Up Donuts includes their savory Whiskey Pigness doughnut with bacon and maple goodness. The shop offers tasty options you won't find elsewhere, such as the Sriracha-Cha doughnut and other savory options. We love their scratch-made brioche-style doughnuts, and the fact that they have gluten-free options. Plus, the shop is full of surprises. Sometimes they have free film merch on the weekends or do creative collaborations with local chefs. And just walking into the store can enhance your mood, thanks to the playful decor that includes macrame and disco balls. It's the only doughnut shop where we can't resist taking at least one selfie every time we pop in, and there's even a small wall of merch so you can get a fun souvenir of your time there — without spending a lot of dough.

Nami is an extension of Green New American Vegetarian — the longtime Valley eatery with two locations that introduced metro Phoenix to vegan dining. An array of puffy, yummy doughnuts is among their breakfast items and sweet eats. They're lightly crispy on the outside while fluffy and airy on the inside; diverse flavor components match those textures. Oh, they're also huge. Downing one is plenty satisfying, but with so many delicious choices, it's hard to stop there. You'll eagerly await their return when you find the ones you like. In the meantime, there's plenty to tempt you. The French toast varietal is an airy version of the popular breakfast dish in doughnut form. Chocolate pistachio is another must-have — the lip-smacking pastry is a velvety chocolate affair topped with a nut crumble that perfectly merges the flavors. Raspberry lemon is a divine combination of sweet and sour. Flavors can change daily, so check back often.

Are you creeped out by bees but love the taste of smooth, rich honey? AZ Queen Bee, aptly located in Queen Creek, is the place for you. These little insect whisperers concoct delectable whipped honeys and honey straws, plus adorable gift baskets, soaps, decorative honeypots, and plenty more accessories you're sure to be abuzz over. Owner Audra Waddle ditched her dull day job and devoted her life to these fuzzy creatures. When she's not collecting honey, Audra uses a specially designed bee vacuum to remove pesky bees and then transports them to one of her many apiaries, where they are given a second chance at life.

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