Today is national French bread day, which is a timely prompt to check in with the city's booming ranks of small, artisan bakeries. There has been an explosion of new bakeries around town and many turn out traditional baguettes a different animal from our beloved, New Orleans style po-boy loaf, sometimes also called French bread here. Some of these new entries combine the baking operation with cafes and sandwich shops, adding to the options for a quick meal, a basket of pastries for the office or a loaf of fresh-baked bread for the home table. Here are four of my favorite baguette specialists around town.
Maple Street Patisserie
7638 Maple St., New Orleans,
This Uptown spot offers pan-European specialties from Polish-born baker Ziggy Cichowski, who doesn't stick to any one tradition but bakes up a rich variety of breads and pastries, including seasonal and holiday-themed goods. They also make top notch sandwiches with the daily breads for good quick lunches, including a great baguette sandwich. Look for an expansion with a second and more ambitious restaurant location on Earhart Boulevard coming soon. Click here for more.
1000 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., New Orleans
Opened in 2012, between Mid-City and Broadmoor (and right behind the Xavier University campus), Gracious is one of those hiding-in-plain-sight finds. With original sandwiches, quality coffee, a cool design inside, a bread basket for a baguette to take home and all the temptation anyone can handle in the pastry case this is the kind of place most everyone wishes would open in their neighborhood. That makes its crossroads location in the center of town all the more valuable. Click here for more.
Bellegarde doesn't have a fixed storefront location, but this small baker distributes his distinctive loaves wide across New Orleans restaurants, cafes, markets and even wine shops. Along the way Bellegarde has quickly built a very loyal brand following. Get a ham and brie sandwich at St. James Cheese Co., for instance, and you'll see how this textbook baguette compliments and enhances the flavors. For a list of locations carrying Bellegarde products, click here.
Breads on Oak
8640 Oak St., New Orleans
This is a new bakery that already feels like a neighborhood institution down at the far end of Oak Street. Walk in and the heady aroma of the busy baking operation in back fills the air, while up front the case and counter are loaded with pastries and breads. The miche loaf, a huge, dome-shaped loaf, is available cut into chunks for easier household logistics, while the textbook baguettes are sliced and stuffed for grab-and-go sandwiches. Click here for more.