Is there good bread in Austin ?
I just moved here from the bay area and I am missing good levian or any type of artisan ,bread does anyone have bakery or bread recommendations. Thanks Binnco
I have recommendations - the first of which is to rapidly and radically decrease your expectations.
The second of which is to hit Whole Foods and Central Market, each of which have a decent selection baked on site, and offer samples. Cental Market multi grain loaf and pain de campagne are regulars around my place.
I have been returning to Mandola's for their epi and semolina sesame rolls - I've had other good items from there as well, including a pretty decent baguette. Can't do CM baguettes, haven't tried WF.
Although the mileage of others may vary, I have tried repeatedly and finally given up on Upper Crust and Sweetish Hill.
Hang in there Binnco!
My favorite bread in town so far is the semolina loaf at Central Market. Maybe just because it's the only semolina bread I've had, but every other bread seems like a pale (and literally underbaked) imitation of real bread.
I grew up in Oakland eating Acme pain au levain, so I know what you're missing. I like Texas French Bread's white and wheat sourdough and "amber rye" more than anything from Whole Foods, Central Market, or Upper Crust, though the first two aren't bad. I particularly like the amber rye--it's not like dark rye bread, it's a crusty loaf with rye flavor that's more like rye beer than deli rye. Their bread's got a better texture and a MUCH nicer crust. I did like the "rustic" baguette from Whole Foods, though the regular baguette is just okay. When I moved here a year ago, TFB's bread seemed like it didn't have enough salt, but I think they've gotten a lot better.
when i moved here from boston, i was so sad about the lack of bread options.
upper crust and sweetish hill have been just blah to me.
and CM and WH are hit and miss (thank god for samples!).
my greenling delivery tends to have texas french bread stuff in it, and i have only been disappointed by the small amounts!
IIRC, i had a cranberry walnut load, some ciabatta, some foccacia and some basic type of loaf, and they all were really flavorful and toothsome.
From your local HEB, my favorite is their "from scratch" 8 grain bread.
Not the 6-grain - too much Rye (ick) flavor
Not the 7-grain - it contains HFCS
Not the 10-grain - also contains Rye and HFCS
In the 8 grain, the texture is not... 'health-food-ish', yet it's whole wheat, has no HFCS, and you can taste the individual components. A great breakfast toast and sandwich toast.
Binnco, you'll probably be rather dissapointed. One of the things I'm looking forward to during my trip to the Bay Area in 2 weeks is the bread. The only place folks are recommending that might impress you is Great Harvest. Forget Central Market. Whole Foods...uneven...if you're going to mention the last two, you should lump Texas French Bread and a few other local joints. All good, but not Bay Area caliber. At all.
Hmmmm.... could you offer some specific likes and dislikes, and dare I ask for recommendations? I agree, like many other things, Austin has no bread that is Bay Area caliber. I was born in SF and raised on Acme, and I'm saying try CM and WF before UC and SH. You disagree, taliesin15, but as someone who grew up on Bay Area bread (Metropolis, Grace Bakery, Tassjara, and the multitude of neighborhood bakeries from Russian to Guatelmalan), and someone who packs half a suitcase of bread home every trip back, I think the OP is asking for and should have should have a range of options to explore before having to book plane fare.
I've had three different kinds of bread from Mandola's, most recently the country Italian, and they've all been pretty good.
I recommend going to Grapevine Market and buying their frozen Le Brea bread and then baking it at home when you're ready to eat it. Costco also carries Le Brea (already baked) as does the Scholtzky's Bread Alone on S. Lamar. I think that buries any other bread in town.
I think the San Francisco Bakery on Anderson Lane (in the little strip center closed to Alamo) has great bread! It's the closest I've found to the sourdough I've eaten in SF.
I grew up with great family bakeries in New York City and Los Angeles so its hard for me to buy bread here, but I did find a great rye bread at Sasha's Gourmet Russian Market in Northwest Austin. They import it from a Russian Bakery in Chicago so it's not fresh but once you toast it, who cares. Great flavor, texture and crust. Yum.
So did I, and I really miss the Italian bread. For a while, I used to go to Hog Island and get their bread which they imported from Philly - but the last time I went, it was not the same bread. They must have changed to a local vendor. Damn! That was really disappointing.
Schlotzsky's Bread Alone used to have a bread called Como bread which had milk in the dough and it was a pretty good Italian bread. It was not a La Brea loaf - it was one they made there at the S. Lamar store. I don't know if they still make it, that was back when pastry chef Rebecca Rather developed their menu and she is long gone. The last time I tried to get one, the blank-faced teenager at the counter was not helpful in my quest.
But another bread that is pretty close to that Como bread is the Stirato loaf from the downtown Whole Foods. As with most things at Whole Foods I think they could have used a little more salt when making it, but give it a try.
Drive south to San Marcos and try Phoenix Rising Bakery. Much better than Whole Foods or Central Market.
Unfortunately I agree with everyone who says that you're probably going to have to lower your expectations. Bread here is just mediocre. You will be disappointed. That being said, maybe someone out there will read this post, get an aha moment, and open up an artisan bread shop in Austin. We desperately need one. And (fingers crossed) hopefully the community will support it.
They have a pretty tasty baguette (not exactly artisan..but better than any other baguettes I've had in town) at the Banh Mi shop Baguette House in the Chinatown Center on N. Lamar. I'm pretty sure they sell them for around $1.50 each.
Baguette House & Cafe
10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753
Oddly, Central Market used to have good bread when they first opened in the early '90s. They made a big deal of bringing in a baker from France, and some, not all, of the breads were actually decent. But he left, and the breads went down hill. Now they are insipid. On occasion, Whole Foods also had a decent loaf or two. But not any more.
I"ve made decent bread in Austin, so it's not the water. It's technique, dedication and actual knowledge of artisan methods. And the desire to carry them through. Apparently no one in Austin has that these days. Too bad.
Phoenicia's "french" bread is pretty good. And the Viet places that bake their own should be pretty good. But be aware, not that it really matters, that to get the extreme crunch in the crust, I think they use a bit of rice flour in the dough...some do, for sure.
4001 N Lamar Blvd # 100, Austin, TX
I have been hearing a lot lately about a woman who learned to bake delicious European style loafs while living in Germany, and is now delivering to a few neighborhoods - kinda like a bread version of Soup Peddler. I'm trying to get a "rustic round" or two for myself and report back to the group, but maybe someone has already tried Bona Dea bread and can beat me to the punch?
501 W Mary St, Austin, TX
I am blessed by having a weak palate so that I can be satisfied with tastes and flavors that might disappoint someone more sophisticated. I find that the fresh breads coming out of Whole Foods/Central Market give me the flavor and texture that I want for special occasions.
But for my regular healthy bread consumption I get the Genesis Bread made by Food For Life made from sprouted exotic grains and seeds from around the world and baked into one uncommon nutritious loaf.
Teff from the highlands of Ethiopia
Black Quinoa from the mountainous regions of Peru
Barley from the ancient Holy Land
Brown Rice and Spelt from the Far East
Amaranth and Chia from Central and South America
Soy from China's past
Flax and Rye from Northern Europe
Corn from Old Mexico
Kamut from Ancient Egypt
Millet and Sorghum from the plains of Africa
Sesame Seeds from the Near East
Pumpkin Seeds from the Mediterranean
Spring Wheat and Unprocessed Bran from Montana
Sunflower Seeds from the Dakotas
Found it! The Target Superstore at Parmer and I-35 North sells quite a few La Brea breads, (I tasted the baguette and the rosemary and I really do think it's La Brea -- as unbelievable as I still find it), including the baguette and the sourdough, but bakes it in the store under the Archer Farms label. Check the La Brea website for other Targets in the Austin area that also sell La Brea breads. Still having a hard time believing this ....