Untitled photo

Bakery Nouveau

Untitled photo

French cuisine doesn’t do it for me. No desire to eat bouef bourguignon, vichyssois, or bouillabaisse. Crepes stink and croissants are for pansies. And have you eaten in French restaurants? Teeny tiny pickled portions? French fused Thai? What is that? I ate at a French restaurant in downtown Seattle once *cough*Brasserie*cough and after three months of paying off that exotic trip on my credit card and still smarting from the sneering scorn from the surly staff, I came to terms with the fact that French Food? She don’t like me so well. That is, until my Bakery Noveau experience.

First of all, park in the back. Finding a parking spot on California is as easy as winning a gold medal while hotdogging your snowboard across the finish line. Once you’ve parked, go through the secret sidewalk to California, turn right, and prepare to start waiting in line down the sidewalk that leads to the door of the tiny Bakery Nouveau. It’s probably not all that tiny, but with fifty people packed into a double-looping line in front of the glass counters, it feels about as small as a pinky toe. As we walked toward the store, a couple arrived before us and upon seeing the line, the girl said “What the…. Do you want to come back later?” He said, “Why? It’s always like this.” Probably an exaggeration, and certainly I was wondering if the wait would be worth it, but fifty folks waiting in line for bread can’t be wrong, right? A line that was probably being controlled by a pastry nazi, and these people were willing to be treated like vermin just to nab a perfectly puffed pastry? I had to see if it was worth it.

James spotted a table and snuck in while I hobnobbed with the patrons. It’s not just the yuppies who frequent the Nouveau, oh no. There were students, mothers, boyfriends, and kids. And then there were rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists. Just your regular Saturday Seattle crowd. Once I let it be known that it was my maiden voyage, the suggestions started coming in all directions, the main one being “Try one of each. And two twice-baked croissants.”


As I looked and appreciated the beautiful pastry, it wasn’t without cynicism. I’m a wedding photographer. It’s my experience that the prettier the cake, the, well, to be nice, the more unpretty it’ll taste. After waiting for the last buggerer in front of me to get served, I was asked, “Who’s next?” “Tell me, schatze, ” I said, leaning over the counter. ”Is it twue what they say about you people’s croissants, the way they are…gifted?” I pointed down to the case in front of me.

Untitled photo

The thing about Bakery Nouveau is that when you ask people if they’ve been there, they may get a glazed look and hem and haw, right up until you say, ”You know, that almond croissant place.” Oh yeah, they say. Followed by eyerolls, moans, groans, and “Ohh, the twice-baked mecca? Yeah. Awesomeness.” I know, I know! I said croissants stink! But read this description: classic croissant soaked in simple syrup and filled with delicious almond cream. It is topped with sliced almonds and additional almond cream. The only thing missing from that description is something about deep-frying. To be fair, you could probably soak anything in simple syrup and fill it with almond paste (and it is more like a paste than the cream they mention) and it’d be good. The counter girl gave a blank stare at my question (not a Blazing Saddles fan, poor girl) and asked me how could she help. I ordered a double chocolate chip cookie, slice of cheesecake, and a twice-baked almond croissant. I asked about the sandwiches/baguettes, but they were sold out except for the chef’s special. Not a single sandwich in the shop with the exception of a Reuben. The chef’s special must not be so special if it’s the only thing left on the shelf. Less specials, more traditionals, man. She explained that they had been overwhelmed with business and offered pizza. I asked for the cheese and she explained she couldn’t heat it because there were three hundred eleven people in line behind me and they might shank me if I didn’t get the hell out of the way. I took my brown bag and slid down the line to pay. $14 for my bag of goods. Now’s the time to be fair to the French food service folks. The pastry workers were exceedingly pleasant and helpful. They moved customers through the line with speedy grace that almost made me want to head out to Bastille for brunch. Not really. The cheese bread was good even at room temperature, but I like cold pizza. The cheese was sharp and tangy, and the garlic gave good flavor. Made me want to try other varieties.  The cheesecake. First of all, who knew cheesecake was French? Second of all, Bakery Noveau makes the best damn cheesecake in Seattle. And as my thighs can tell the story, I’ve had a lot of cheesecake in Seattle. I’ve always said a restaurant is only as good as its simple dishes–creme brulee, potatoes, steak. Cheesecake has about five ingredients–cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla, crust. And this crust had not one hint of cinnamon that so many lazy pastry chefs resort to in order to add flavor. The vanilla they use is “gooood vanilla” a’ la Ina Garten. High quality ingredients put together right, that’s what that cheesecake is. The double chocolate chip cookie? Skip it. As we were about to dig into the last, most highly touted item on the menu, a couple of bushwhackers slid into the table beside us and started chatting us up. I thought they were just trying to get into my croissant, as bushwhackers are wont to do. It was at this point I had an epiphany. I’ve lived in Seattle for almost six years now, and have to say that people here are not outgoing and excessively friendly. But this had been the exact opposite of my experience in this bakery. I now know why. The people in Seattle are hungry. They’re tired of coffee and cigarettes and just want some food. At Bakery Nouveau, everybody knows their mouths are about to go to a happy place and the demeanour lightens. Bushwhacker number one even offered me a bite of her pear pastry. 

Untitled photo

Seattlelites. Sharing food. With strangers! No, you get out. I politely said no because I was afraid she’d expect a bite of my croissant, but I did eat the offered bite of her oat and date bread. Delicious! I caved and offered some cheesecake, but they’d already tried everything we had. As I mentioned in the beginning, so long-winded ago, I don’t eat croissant. Butter-flavored air isn’t my idea of a good use of calories. As my mouth was filled with the most amazing flavors, it became clear that this twice-baked croissant had no room for air. It’s filled with butter and sugar and almond and more butter and more sugar and then almond again. I’m serious. Look. So yes. The almond croissant is everything they say. The bakery is fantastic. The people who work there were exceedingly friendly, and the customers, muggers, and Methodists were so damn nice (because they were so damn sated, I know it!), I’m thinking about relocating to West Seattle. Bakery Nouveau is the best bakery in Seattle. To be fair, I’ve tried only about a dozen of them, and I’ve only had four different items (five counting the bread sample, thanks anonymous bread giving bushwhacker), but when three out of the four very different items taste so very very good? Winner winner pastry dinner.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In