“They call this Carb Alley.” That’s what one of the bakers told me about 24th Avenue NW in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood when I poked my head in at Tall Grass Bakery to ask about the gorgeous baguette they had in the window. I knew I had found my next neighborhood to explore!
Ballard is one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s well known for its Scandinavian and seafaring roots. Take a drive through Ballard in the summer and you might mistake it for a lazy fishing village in Tampa or Key West. Fish shacks line the main thoroughfare. Paddleboarders flock to the shore. The smell of sea salt is in the air. But along 24th Avenue, wheat and yeast have become the heart and soul of the street. As a girl whose heart goes pitter-patter for pastries, I was happy to fill my weekly carb quota here in one day.
Getting here: I drove to 24th Avenue. There is some street parking available in front of the bakeries and along the side streets near the shops.
1. Cafe Besalu
This trip was caffeinated courtesy of an artfully crafted latte from Cafe Besalu. It was also my first bakery stop along Carb Alley. This small family bakery boasts to be “possibly the best croissant bakery on the entire American continent,” so you know I had to try one! Super flaky and chewy, I can’t argue with their logic. (By the way, don’t turn down the homemade jam they offer with the croissant.) I also had a slice of mushroom quiche, one of several varieties.
A one trick pony Cafe Besalu is not. All of their handmade pastries look divine. No wonder there are often long lines of patient customers waiting inside the shop. You might need those extra few minutes to make a decision.
Just behind the counter, while you wait, you can watch the staff carefully rolling out dough and nimbly manipulating the ingredients that will soon become these melt-in-your-mouth pastries. Another one of my favorites is the Cardamom Pretzel. Just the right amount of sweetness.
2.Tall Grass Bakery
Right next door to Cafe Besalu sits Tall Grass Bakery. I was nearly bowled over by the bread selection here. Each loaf is so beautiful and unique, I would feel guilty tearing into it. The menu is quite impressive: Classic Baguette, Companion, Sourdough, Oat and Honey, Hominy, Pumpernickel… and many more. My husband and I eat loaves of bread so rarely that I couldn’t bear to buy more than one for fear it would go dry or moldy. Head spinning, I asked what was good that day. The baker suggested a pretzel that had just come out. I happily said “yes!” I also picked up a baguette and made an Herb Dipping Oil that evening.
3. Larsen’s Danish Bakery
My last stop along Carb Alley was to Larsen’s Danish Bakery. It’s a short drive north of the other two bakeries. If you are super indecisive like I am, good luck settling on just one treat at Larsen’s. They have just about any kind of pastry neatly displayed in a huge case; donuts, cookies, cakes, bread, danish, sweet and savory croissants, and the crown jewel – the Danish Kringle.
Layers of flaky, buttery crust are filled with almond paste and raisins, then topped with sugar and sliced almonds. A whole Kringle could feed a family – and that’s not an exaggeration. They’re bigger than my head, but if you just want a taste, Larsen’s also sells their Kringle by the piece.
4. Golden Gardens Park
After successfully navigating Carb Alley, with an arsenal of goodies in tow, there’s no better spot to sit and enjoy the fruits of 24th Avenue NW than Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. The view of the Olympic Mountains from the beach is so peaceful. It’s the perfect way to end an afternoon of decadence.