I hail from the West Coast and, living in Burlington, I often long for the expansive realm of restaurants that Portland, Ore., offered me. In this small town, I tend to fall into dining ruts, repeating the same spots over and over again: Duino (Duende) for an affordable plate of chicken and waffles, or Farm House for a lamb burger, or Pho Hong for a crispy Vietnamese crepe.
When I try to branch out, the evening ends in failure. One evening, my sister and I were determined to try a new dinner place for once. After a half hour of searching, we could only find Das Bierhaus and ordered a disappointing and overpriced plate of brats.
Despite this, I am more than pleased with Burlington's daytime offerings. The bakeries, brunch and breakfast restaurants, and cafés here are divine. I was surprised to realize that Burlington's baked goods were tastier, flakier, and more diverse than the European baked goods I encountered on a recent trip to southern France.
My favorite Burlington bakery has been August First for its heavenly Hungarian sweet rolls and crusty olive bread. Recently, through, I've found myself drawn like a moth to the flame of Panadero's ovens. The bakery itself has been around for a few years, but the small store boasts new owners, a new layout and new recipes.
The best test of a bakery is the croissant, so naturally that was the first item I tasted, followed by a ham-and-Swiss croissant, a sticky bun, and a miniature lemon-lavender tea cake. They certainly passed my taste test! The croissants were satisfyingly buttery, flaky and otherwise flavorful, but they also held their shape, rather than oozing or crumbling all over their platter like many croissants do.
Ryan Bunce, the current baker, met the previous owners at the farmers market. When the latter decided to have a baby and move to Michigan to start a brewery, they handed off the shop to Ryan and his wife, Jessica. Ryan kept many of the menu items the same, such as the bread flavors and mini fruit tarts, but he added pizza and a few sweet and savory pastries.
You can find Panadero at the Burlington farmers market as well, although I prefer their cozy, sunny little shop on North Winooski Avenue. I usually pick up a coffee next door at Viva Espresso and then sit for a pastry at Panadero. Before the change in ownership, there was no space to sit down; you were confronted by the counter as soon as you stepped in. Now there is an angled space large enough to waltz in front of the pastry counter, singing praises of toasted granola and chocolate chip cookies.
Bunce uses his mother's recipe for the chocolate chip cookies. Everything else stems from his own creation and ambition, and from years of hopping from one bakery to the next, picking up tricks of the trade. Not only are the goods tasty, you also will never find a day-old cookie or tart. They bake everything from scratch each morning before 7:30.