Bread is such an important part of a restaurant meal. It's the first solid thing to hit the table, the first impression made, the first clue as to what we might expect about all that's to follow. If it's stale or cold or dry or just plain lousy, we're not only disappointed but worried. Bad bread never bodes well. It means the kitchen is careless or -- worse -- doesn't know any better.
Fifteen years ago, the best we could hope for from independent restaurants was that they bought bread from a terrific local baker. There was cachet in that (in fact, bakeries were one of the first sources restaurants ever cited) and there still is. But nowadays, more and more restaurants are baking their own breads, showing their commitment to "made in-house" and taking their cool quotient to a whole new level. Here are eight local restaurants who've made bread a DIY project.