Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
Though you're likely to wait in line for the pleasure, Tartine's breakfast pastries are worth it: a morning bun, with supple, flaky croissant dough wrapped around itself and coated in sugar, with a subtle hint of orange zest; a pain au jambon which packs as much smoked ham and funky, oozy Gruyère as your average croque-monsieur.
Tip: It may sound like an unlikely breakfast, but Tartine's bread pudding is a must-order.
Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC
We're of the belief that the best training a pastry chef can have in New York City is to work for Daniel Boulud; Dominique Ansel is the latest from the Boulud circuit to open up a pastry shop, and it's one of New York's best. All of the pastries are incredible, but we're partial to the DKA (Dominique's Kouign Amann, an insanely buttery flaky caramelized disk of deliciousness); an exceptional pain au chocolat; and the Gâteau Battu, which, when topped with butter and jam, is the best piece of "toast" you've ever had.
Tip: Want something savory? Try the "Perfect Little Egg Sandwich"—a tiny brioche bun with a perfect, jiggly disk of scrambled eggs, topped by melted gruyere cheese.
Les Madeleines, Salt Lake City
Romina Rasmussen's Salt Lake bakery is famous for their Kouing-amann, an insanely rich crumple of croissant dough, butter, and sugar, such that there's a little well of gooiness in the center. But their other pastries, flaky croissants and pain au chocolat, are worth a trip too.
Tip: The Kouing-amann are so popular that you can't order more than six at a time—unless you place a 72-hour preorder. (They ship across the country, too!)
Proof Bakery, Los Angeles
Their sandwiches (on housemade stecca bread) are awesome, their cakes ridiculous, their ice cream sandwiches irresistible—but Proof Bakery does pastries right, too. This summer, try the buttery pound cake Pastel Vasco with sweet-tart Blenheim Apricot preserves; and by the end of August, celebrate the return of the cinnamon- and cardamom-speckled morning bun pictured here.
Tip: Don't forget a coffee with that pastry— Ma and Yeekai Lim (of Cognoscenti Coffee) run the coffee program, with espresso beans from San Francisco's Four Barrel, and pour-over coffee from single origin beans for a black cup.
Crumble & Flake Patisserie, Seattle
Crumble & Flake was one of Seattle's most anticipated bakery openings of some time, the work of pastry chef Neil Robertson (Canlis, Mistral Kitchen), as proven by the crowds that hit the patisserie on the first day. What they're all coming for? Smoked Paprika and Cheddar croissants, tender cinnamon rolls, salt-speckled scones, and much more.
Tip: Show up early—even before opening hour—to get your pastries of choice! Lines form early, and their current opening hours are only "until we sell out."