Fed up with the constant disappointment of the overly chewy, American-ized versions of croissants, I decided to look up some lists of the best croissants in the city. I took a couple of hints from the Wandering Eater’s Guide Part One and Part Two, as well as Delicatesse NY’s Guide, and embarked on a series of croissant crawls to see if I could find my golden fleece: a toasted, buttery croissant that pulls apart to reveal the sexy, stretchy layers I love.
Here are the top 7 picks from my crawls:
I was a little skeptical about this place when the staff members told me they could warm my croissant for me if I wanted. Heating up my croissant almost seemed like cheating, since pretty much every baked good tastes better when warm. I also thought that heating it might make the croissant chewier. But my curiosity, and my friend’s advice, got the best of me, so I took the staff up on their offer.
Turns out, I made a good choice. The moment that I began to pull apart this warm, glorious croissant and watch the layers of dough inside lightly stretch, I knew it was going to fulfill my Francophile foodie dreams.
Once I broke through the thin — not too crusty, yet perfectly crispy — shell, I discovered the rich, delicate layers inside. This croissant was buttery, but it wasn’t the most flavorful. The soft, fluffy, interior had such an incredible texture, though, that this place is now my go-to croissant spot.
Though not much to look at from the outside, La Toulousaine offers a heavy, plain croissant with a crispy and flaky outer shell and an inside full of perfectly pull-able layers. Situated close to Columbia’s campus, La Toulousaine is the perfect spot to get your French pastry fix.
#SpoonTip: Be forewarned that their plain croissant isn’t sweet so much as it is salty, and you’ll need plenty of napkins to wipe off the butter from your fingers after eating this viennoiserie.
Shape seems to be pretty important in the croissant world, but don’t be turned off of Balthazar’s plain croissants just because they look a little quirky. Not too salty, but plenty buttery and flavorful, the plain croissant from this little hole in the wall in the West Village had thick layers of soft dough. Don’t expect to get any seating at this place though, since they only have about four two-person tables.
If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy viennoiserie, Maison Kayser is definitely the place to go. Their slightly salty plain croissant was just so visually beautiful. Not too greasy and not too buttery, the dough was amazingly flaky, like college-student-making-weekend-plans flaky.
Since Maison Kayser is actually a French chain, it’s not surprising that they’ve got the goods. They also has multiple NYC locations, so keep this place in mind if you’re like me and often find yourself in the middle of the city and in desperate need of pastry.
Alongside the extremely fancy and intimidating Petrossian Restaurant sits the slightly less intimidating Petrossian Boutique and Cafe, where you can buy yourself a perfectly-salted croissant with soft layers of pastry dough while watching people shop for red caviar and smoked salmon.
Though they were out of full-size plain croissants by the time I got there (the scramble for breakfast food on the weekend can be real), I was able to snag an adorable mini one. Despite its thick, crispy shell, this croissant was definitely lighter than most of my other faves — nothing compared to the dense ones from La Toulousaine.
Honestly, it’d be worth the trip downtown just to see this place, though. The storefront of this tiny SoHo boulangerie (off the side of the main Balthazar restaurant) is so adorably French that it’s perfect if you’re back from study abroad and just miss that old-school French aesthetic.
They have multiple locations, so some form of the Bouchon brand can be found almost anywhere in the city. The Columbus Circle location serves voluminous croissants with an airy interior and thin, yet slightly dense layers of pastry dough — a contrast to the somewhat softer, stretchier layers that one finds at places like Mille-feuille.
Salted and buttery, the shell of the voluminous croissant here was not as flaky as some of the others I’ve tried during my pastry excursions, but it still gave off a good amount of crispy crumbs.
Honorary Mention: Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery
A boulangerie within a larger brasserie in the East Village, Lafayette offers an acceptable plain croissant, but the real attraction here (and the reason for it’s honorable mention) is the place’s large, airy, split-level floor plan and grand atmosphere that’ll make you feel très chic and très fancy. This is the brunching spot of my dreams.