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What's Wrong with Raleigh? Why No Interesting Bakeries?

Guglhupf, Mad Hatter's, Scratch, Daisy Cakes, Loaf, Monuts Donuts, and now Hummingbirds -- all unique bakeries in Durham. In Raleigh - Nada. Only the justly criticized CupCake place on Glenwood. Raleigh's really a wasteland when it comes to interesting baked goods. Hard to find anything that isn't saccharine sweet with tons of icing dumped on top.

What am I missing? Isn't this a great opportunity for an entrepreneur?

Hmmm. Come to think of it, there is Hereghty's but it really isn't innovative like the Durham artisan bakeries. And I still ache for that wonderful long gone Gourmandises de France. It was the best.

But, come on.. you artisan bakers, roll on down I-40. We need you.

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  1. Raleigh isn't a wasteland it is just that durham's are publicized. Raleigh has bakeries Hereghty to name one.

    Check through some of these..


    3 Replies
    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

      Yes, there are some ethnic bakeries, but I'm looking for baked goods a la the Scratch, Loaf, Daisy Cake, Hummingbird mode. Nothing in that artisan, creative, not too sweet, sometimes savory style that Durham has in abundance.

      And yes, I also agree that a great artisan bread like Rue Cler's baguettes and batards would be fabulous.

      1. re: TerryG

        Well what you describe is Durham and that is reflected in the type of businesses we have.

        1. re: TerryG

          Terry, I've wondered about this too. Raleigh certainly has the population to support this type of endeavor.

          I have known a couple of people who have opened or contemplated opening food businesses in Raleigh. The permitting process was very unfriendly to business. Months and months of waiting for inspection just to be told info which contradicted the prior directive.

          Perhaps Durham makes the process easier? Several folks I've known just didn't have the funds to be in limbo for a year or more waiting for the space to finally be approved.

      2. I don't even care about interesting bakeries. I just want a boulangerie - somewhere to get a nice loaf of bread. I used to love the Wellspring back in the day.....and the Big Sky (I think it was called) in Cameron Village.....

        3 Replies
        1. re: cackalackie

          Has anything shown up at any of the farmers markets that might be the start of someone trying to start a bread bakery?

          I know la farm is in cary.

          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

            La Farm and Annelore's German Bakery are the only ones I see at the Raleigh Farmer's Market. Not sure about any of the smaller markets around town. La Farm is way off in the wilds of Cary and Annelore's doesn't have a store. Guess I still have the bias for Gourmandises de France, but I was never a big fan of La Farm.

            1. re: TerryG

              I'm not a huge fan of La Farm's breads either, although some of their pastries are good. The town of Cary is (hopefully) approving construction on a new two-story building housing a German bakery (Annelore's). It will be located just south of downtown Cary on Chatham St. next to Chocolate Smiles. Story is here: http://www.carynews.com/2012/08/14/62...

        2. Wholeheartedly agree with you TerryG and cackalackie. I really wish we could get a great loaf of bread and and/or an awesome baked treat.

          One place that promises to fill this void is Yellow Dog Bread Co. They are going in just north of the Krispy Kreme, by Raleigh City Farm, along with Market and Escazu.

          I also used to hear whispers of Crumb opening an actual location in Raleigh.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brsmith2

            Funny that it has been almost a year to the day. Yellow Dog grand opening is Sept. 6th. Check out their FB page for me more info.

          2. Yesterday someone mentioned a new bakery downtown. It went in the spot which was a German bakery on that little street across from Artspace, the block where the Nepalese/Tibetan shop is. She said the husband of the German bakery died and the wife's heart was no longer in it so she sold it. The new place is Polish iirc, and said to have terrific cheese danish and sweet rolls.

            1. Speaking as a complete outsider to the Raleigh area, might part of it be the lack of culinary programs in local colleges? Charlotte with Johnson and Wales, and Greensboro with a decent community college program both have several bakeries.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Nocturnalbill

                Wake Tech in the Raleigh area has a pretty decent culinary program. Raleigh has a number of colleges and a university but I'm not familiar with their offerings.

                1. re: Nocturnalbill

                  I *really* doubt that professional culinary schools have anything at all to do with the absence or presence of traditional bakeries. I don't recall any pro training programs existing in the small towns of mid-New England or central new Jersey yet every neighborhood had multiple bakeries, some of them outstanding.

                  Before the current foodie craze, there weren't too many culinary schools around, respected or otherwise, yet people still managed to open restaurants, bakeries, pizza shops, etc. Even today, a culinary degree is a guarantee of absolutely nothing except a ton of student debt. So no, I can't even begin to see how one is connected to the other.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    I would guess the bakeries you mention in New England and elsewhere are long established, perhaps for several generations? Historically speaking, the entire Northeast area of the country has more of a bakery cultural due to the specific immigrant groups and their needs. In the past in the South (generally speaking) if you ate bread it was homemade. Often that would be cornbread because cornmeal was cheaper. Biscuits would have been the most popular wheat bread and of course nobody bought biscuits. I don't know if buying bread was popular until sliced sandwich bread became available.

                    Back to the question at hand I would guess leasing costs and permitting process, the same hurdles in Charlotte. Luckily we've had a few open up. There is another one supposedly opening up on N. Graham I think called 4th Ward Bakery. And we have some sellers at the farmers markets. The presence of trained bakers from the culinary schools certainly can't hurt.

                    1. re: billyjack

                      And don't discount the fact that most people I know actually think that the cakes and cookies from the supermarket bakeries and the warehouse clubs are really good.

                      1. re: rockycat

                        Yes, Rockycat, seems the foodie spirit is weak in Raleigh. North Raleigh in particular is still a bit of a wasteland. Save us from yet another tavern and sports bar. But they all seem to thrive.

                        1. re: TerryG

                          I don't want to get into a Raleigh vs. Durham food debate, but Raleigh's food scene (outside of the downtown area) is one of the big reasons that I almost never leave Durham to have a meal in Raleigh.

                          1. re: ToothTooth

                            Yep. Downtown Raleigh has some signs of foodie life, but still no bakeries.

                2. Raleigh's food scene is about like Charlotte's, which is to say, not much going on. It's why since I've moved back to NC, I think I've posted more about Durham/Chapel Hill, Asheville and Charleston than I have about where I actually live!

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: mikeh

                    Don't even talk to me about Asheville or Charleston. What I wouldn't give for one of their restaurants....

                    1. re: mikeh

                      Really? You don't think there's much going on downtown in Raleigh, food-wise? When's the last time you were there? J. Betski's. Seaboard 18. Raleigh Times. Vic's. Sitti. Poole's. Cafe Luna. Jibarra. Beasley's. Chuck's. Busy Bee. The Borough. Mo's Diner. Battistella's. I know I'm leaving more out...

                        1. re: sisterbeer

                          Had a very weird experience at Poole's once and haven't been back since. Food took an hour to arrive and the servers seemed pissed off that we didn't booze up to pass the time. Clientele also gave off a strange vibe - think Rolling Stones-aged folks dressing like they were 1920s-era flappers and acting way too hip/cool - it was practically vaudevillian grotesque. Also, the platings and portions were rather spare for what you got. After two entrees, an app and two sides (not an inexpensive meal), we were still famished and had to go to K&S Cafeteria (!) to supplement our dinner. Beasley's is owned by the same person, so I haven't been there. I love J. Betski's, but one restaurant does not a city make. Just listing "fairly good" restaurants does not mean Raleigh is a stand-out culinary destination such as Durham, Chapel Hill, Asheville, etc.

                          1. re: mikeh

                            My granddaddy took me to Poole's when I was little. Sounds like it changed ;D. There was no booze, waitresses wore hairnets.

                            1. re: Sue in Mt P

                              Yeah, this incarnation of Poole's was revived sometime in 2007 or 2008. I got the predominant feeling that it was about the bar and cocktails first, and then about the food once the chefs/servers got around to preparing it. That's not to say that approach isn't a draw for a fun evening when you're just hanging out with friends and not on a timetable, but it's just not what I was looking for that particular evening.

                            2. re: mikeh

                              I wasn't listing "fairly good" restaurants. These are as good as any I've been to in Chapel Hill or Durham. Humble Pie has been through a few iterations over the last 25 years, and is well executed (small plates, mostly, now. Brunch is still terrific.) Have not had the issues you claim to have had at Poole's, but to each his own. I don't dismiss a place after only one visit. If that were the case, I would have never gone back to Geer St. in Durham. <shrug> Perhaps I should remain happy that the out of towners aren't clogging up the tables at some of my favorite places.

                              1. re: sisterbeer

                                I'm in Raleigh and I frequently dine all over the area and beyond. There are a number of good restaurants in town, many of which you mention. But not many of the caliber that you can't get out of your mind to the extent that you are willing to travel out of your way to visit. There are restaurants which are so good that I will drive to Durham or CH just to eat there. It's not a put down on Raleigh - IMO there is a higher concentration of exceptional (to the area) restaurants on the western side of the triangle.

                          2. re: mikeh

                            Here's my theory: our food scene would be the best in the Southeast if we were one cohesive metro area rather than three cities (Raleigh, Derm, Cary) and a few towns spread out so far. I'd love to partake of Cary's Indian restaurants, but Cary is such a haul from my abode in Carrboro. RTP is what unites the area, but the giant expanse of woods and offices also keeps us apart.

                            Getting back to the question of bakeries, I fondly recall that Italian grocery by the Krispy Creme. S'pose they're closed now. We get our artisnal baked goods at the Carrboro Farmer's market. There are two bakers weekly, the naan guy and the non-naan guy. One is Box Turtle Bakery and the other is not...

                            1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                              Conti's was the Italian grocery. They closed several years ago - I still miss them! Pie Bird is now in that space.

                              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                Yeah, who wants to drive 30 minutes each way for dinner? I view going to Raleigh is basically leaving town (I live in CH).

                              2. re: mikeh

                                While I agree Asheville and Charleston have a better food scene than Charlotte, saying there is "nothing" in Charlotte simply isn't remotely true.

                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  Thank you, I was about to type the same thing.

                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                    I have yet to find anything in Charlotte for which there isn't a place in one of Asheville, Raleigh/Durham or Charleston that does the same thing better (I could probably limit that list to Raleigh/Durham and the statement would hold true). The exception might be Keaton's BBQ or Bridges Barbecue Lodge, but those aren't even in town.

                                    1. re: mikeh

                                      Have you tried Alson Bridges, also in Shelby. I find it superior to Bridges BBQ Lodge.

                                      1. re: mikeh

                                        I'll not start any city or restaurant battles because I like all those cities you mention. But Charlotte has better Vietnamese restaurants than all of them :)

                                        EDIT: I'll add Thai to that list as well. Japanese (non-sushi) also a possibility. I find Asheville in particular to be a wasteland when I want food from any Asian countries.

                                        1. re: mikeh

                                          That's a very different statement compared to your original comment.

                                          1. re: mikeh

                                            I had two great meals at Rooster's over on Morrison Blvd in Charlotte this past week. The place is a little pricier than my usual pick, but the food was worth it, even the sides. They have a succotash that I'm still thinking about. Crazy, right? Anyway, I recommend it. Great service and a great wine list, to boot.

                                            1. re: sisterbeer

                                              Interesting article in the NY Times about Charlotte's and food


                                      2. Part of the problem may be the perception of neighborhoods in Raleigh. I've been surprised how many people won't leave their defined part of town and often hear folks say they won't go outside of the beltline, or they never leave North Hills. Geez - it's not like Raleigh is that big or difficult to travel about (as long as you have a car).

                                        Perhaps the key is that Raleigh isn't particularly walkable, downtown excluded. Much of the population just wants to drive to the grocery and drive home. They don't want to make multiple stops. There aren't too many parts of town which have restaurants and food shops within a pleasant, walkable distance from home. Those areas which are walkable seem to be supportive of artisan purveyors

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          Laughing (just typed about how I don't want to leave my area). I know you and I have talked about this before. For me, having grown up in a city with a metro and taxis and things being within a 20 minute ride at most (at least most times), the drive to Raleigh seems like a major trek for dinner.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            I was referring to people in Raleigh who view another part of town, just 5 or 10 minutes away, as foreign! There are some defined perimeters not to be crossed (not safety or class oriented) which boggle this relative newcomer.

                                            I was thinking of our conversations about your choice of CH in part because of the walkability when I was posting! Most of Raleigh doesn't have that feature and I think that is part of the reason we don't have the same type of shops available.

                                            1. re: meatn3

                                              Oh, it was definitely the main reason we picked where we live in the area - we wanted to have that city feeling of being able to walk to restaurants. And it really is a great feeling here and in downtown Carrboro. I think you're absolutely right - it fosters a feeling of liveliness and bustle that encourages businesses to prosper. People are out and walking around, they're more likely to stop in for a pastry, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, whatever.

                                              I had no idea that Raleigh was so weirdly neighborhood defined.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                It is. Twenty-odd years ago when I first moved here, I lived maybe 10 minutes away from an old friend. Both of us were in the area now called "Midtown." She never came to visit me because I lived so far away.

                                                Growing up, getting to school meant a 20 - 30 minute drive each way and, when I was older, going to work or anywhere for recreation took at least 45 min - 1 hour. I had all the groceries, bakeries, pizzerias, and general shopping within walking distance, but who wants to be limited like that? Life happens everywhere, not just in your own little corner of the world.

                                                I still feel that driving half an hour to get something I like is no imposition at all. I've known for a long time that I'm in the minority here.

                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                  meatn3 and I pretty much agreed that it all comes down to what you grew up doing. I totally understand how if it is what you are used to, it seems like no big deal.

                                          2. re: meatn3

                                            We also don't support small, independent eateries or bakeries in Raleigh -- wonderful places like Conti's and Gourmandises de France just never got much love from the locals. But lines out the door for Sports Bars and Outback. Sad.

                                            1. re: TerryG

                                              Perhaps Conti's & the bakery should have installed giant televisions? Hmm...


                                              1. re: TerryG

                                                I would just edit TerrG's comment to say from "some locals." I don't disagree that there is a lot of room for improvement and I would really welcome a great bakery and a great diner / breakfast place here in Raleigh but on the whole I am also very thankful. Having worked in downtown Raleigh for 15 years, I'm very excited by the changes in the immediate vicinity and often think how lucky we are now. The difference between now and when I first started is really night and day--I used to eat at the Mecca, Cafee Luna, Berkley, Subway and Joe's Mom's on a regular basis and now hardly ever go to any of those places that are still here (I do go to BrewMasters in the old Joe's Mom's spot.) One other place that I do still go to, however, is the Square Rabbit which I'll just mention as a good source for cakes and cookies and the like as well as take out lunch. They don't do bread and I don't mean to suggest that they are necessarily in the same category as some of the other bakeries noted but cite them as downtown Raleigh support for good local mom and pop outfit.

                                                We consider ourselves residents of the Triangle overall and make an effort to get out and about to different areas (not as much as we used to before kids and we tend to do it more during the summer when the students are gone) but it's still not too bad of a drive to Durham or Chapel Hill to explore new places or visit old favorites.

                                                1. re: Guilty Gourmand

                                                  Now that I live in Carrboro, I find myself bashing Raleigh with the best of them. That being said, chains like Outback and Red Robin seem to be just as in Durham as they are in Raleigh.

                                            2. my take? Raleigh rents are just too high and honestly most people buy their bread and sweets from the grocery store. Durham, and especially downtown where most of the places listed are located, has incentives to attract small, independent shops and make the process relatively painless when getting started. Keep in mind that bakery margins are pretty low; there is a lot of labor in that croissant or ciabatta...and it's hard work to thrive when transaction averages are under $15.

                                              1. Isn't there a bakering over in Lafette Village as part of the grocery that is there. They have cannoli and napoleons. I'd do seafood in Raleigh before I'd do it in the Durham area. You all have some good spots like Coquette and Sawasdee for thai. I think you have durham/chapel hill beat probably in sushi as well.

                                                1. We live in Raleigh and drive to Durham for bread / bakeries and the farmer's market, and to Durham and CH to eat out probably 4 out of 5 times for nicer meals. It annoys one of my dear relatives who lives there when I say this but there's not currently a 'nice' restaurant in downtown Raleigh I'd rather eat at than someplace in Durham or CH.

                                                  Mikeh, I agree 100% with what you say about Poole's...I liked the food and the format much more when Christensen was at Enoteca Vin.

                                                  Yes there is a bakery in Lafayette Village but they do primarily sweets / pastries. Good sometimes very good but not great.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: D R C

                                                    I too miss Enoteca Vin, it was so much more grown up

                                                    1. re: chazzer

                                                      I do too. It was my "go-to" place when I wanted somewhere special and when I had friends in town. I like all the previously mentioned places. But I'm still looking for that "go-to."

                                                      1. re: cackalackie


                                                        Always reliable, always great, whether you went for a full meal or just late-night apps at the bar. Boy, do I ever miss Vin.

                                                    2. re: D R C

                                                      I like Sitti. Buku would be great if their food was better and more consistent. The layout is right. Some Raleigh restaurants are good but catering to a hipper vibe I think. Thats not to say that Durham Chapel Hill don't have those restaurants as well with G2B and One. I know Raleigh is trying to get there with the City Center and the Walt complex and the Jibarra and items moving into and around where Market is.. but each of these areas are distinctly different layouts and vibes (between raleigh, durham, cary, chapel hill and even hillsborough).

                                                      I don't know what the rent and permit obstacles are in each of those either.

                                                    3. Also they are making croissants. Maybe they are running soft openings... one should check them out and see.

                                                      1. I'm expecting to hear from TerryG any time now on Yellow Dog Bakery which is now open in Raleigh.

                                                        18 Replies
                                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                          It's definitely on my to do list -- most likely will go tomorrow. Missed the grand opening but did email the owners with one of my pet peeves: no hours listed on their web or FB page AND to their credit I got a speedy response. And hours are now listed -- an ambitious 7 am - 7 pm.

                                                          My bakery purchases will need to be limited for a few weeks since DH is on a weird low-iodine diet and can't eat anything prepared outside the house.

                                                          Anxious to hear what others think.

                                                          1. re: TerryG

                                                            I stopped by this afternoon and have a loaf of sourdough waiting for dinner. I wish them well. I also wish that they would realize that many of us with older eyes cannot read the cute little teeny tiny tags that tell you what bread you're looking at and its price. Probably after the counter staff gets tired of having to read off everything for many customers the signs will get larger.

                                                            There weren't that many pastries, which surprised me some. Most of them were cookies and scones which doesn't do too much for me since those are so easy to make at home. I'd only be buying things that I can't knock off in an hour or so myself. The scones did look very pretty and generously sized. They were priced at $2.50, IIRC.

                                                            The prices of the breads were very much in line with the price of La Bread breads at HT, if not lower. The pricing of the croissant was odd, though. A single croissant was $4 but a French batard was $3.75. Huh?

                                                            There are some service kinks to work out. There was a board of samples behind the sneeze guard but we were never offered any. We had to ask and that was after we'd already bought a loaf of bread.

                                                            I'm not familiar with the coffee roaster they're using, but they were offering an Ethiopian yirgacheffe today. My opinion of them rose appreciably at that point. :-)

                                                            If I lived anywhere near there I would probably be a more or less regular customer but I don't think I'll be going out of my way to shop there. I still really like La Farm.

                                                            1. re: rockycat

                                                              They are from what I can tell young both in the business sense and age. They'll learn quickly and based on Terry's response they seem to be on the ball about responses. My only guess to the pricing of the croissant is that it is more labor intensive than a baguette and material cost may be more.

                                                              1. re: rockycat

                                                                Um, that was supposed to read "La Brea" breads above.

                                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                    I don't know offhand the prices at La Farm. I was comparing the prices to La Brea at HT.

                                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                                  Here's the follow-up: The loaf was not sourdough. Apparently they gave me the French batard instead. Not what I was expecting, but it was good. Good crust (tell them not to put the bread in plastic and remind them not to pre-slice it) and an open, pull-y crumb. If you're in the area it's worth stopping in. I'd still like to try the sourdough, though.

                                                              2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                Well, Raleigh has itself an artisan bakery - kind of. Just had a baguette and pecan roll. The baguette is properly chewy (could be a touch more crunchy, but I prefer it more crunchy than most people). Rue Cler baguettes may be a hair better but I am satisfied. Good taste; nice holes.

                                                                Pecan roll is laden with toppings and sweet -- sweeter than I would like but no more than is customary down here. I would have preferred a croissant but at $4.25 they seemed a bit pricey.

                                                                I agree with rockycat that the selection of baked goods was pretty ordinary. Still looking for more creativity in the offerings -- a la Scratch in Durham , but definitely a good start.

                                                                And the good news was that they seem to very busy mid morning on a week day. I wish them well.

                                                                1. re: TerryG

                                                                  I would tell them personally that you appreciate the bread side of things and that you hope to see more variety in the pastry/sweets side of the business.

                                                                  1. re: TerryG

                                                                    Just mentioned the croissant price to my husband, who goes out each Sunday morning to buy us pastries at Weaver Street Market (which I think are pretty fabulous). He was astounded at the $4.25 price. He said the plain croissants at WSM are no where close to that price and even the chocolate and almond are less expensive. Not sure how this new place is justifying that pricing, especially since it is more than a baguette. I am thrilled that everyone on the other side of the Triangle has a new place, but hope they come to their senses on pricing. Few people are going to buy a croissant at that price.

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      Their response...

                                                                      "Great question. Each batch of our croissants takes about 8-10 hours to make. They are made in small batches, using sweet cream butter, pecans, chocolate, spinach, and feta. To achieve the flaky layers each batch gets 4 turns before they are given their fillings and final hand shape. Come and try one, we promise they are worth it! -Tanya"

                                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                        I once did a short documentary on "The Making of a Croissant" at the much longed for Gourmandises de France. I dragged my camera and tripod into the bakery at 3 am and filmed the very talented Denis Blanco make croissants from scratch. As I remember there were 52 steps -- many more than 4 turns before they were given their fillings. I think there were ready by 7 am -- so no more than 4 hours. I don't remember the price. My husband thinks the plain were $1.75 and the chocolate $2.25 but not completely sure. I just remember they were heaven.

                                                                        $4.25 seems steep and I doubt they would be as good. I'll try once though.

                                                                        1. re: TerryG

                                                                          A little off topic, but should there ever be an opportunity to view the film I'd be very interested!

                                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                                            It was for a class -- and based on the class requirement -- 2 minutes max. So, you can imagine, I wasn't able to film too many of those 52 steps. If I have a chance I'll try to dig it up and put it on vimeo.

                                                                          2. re: TerryG

                                                                            I was in Paris in May and didn't come across at croissant that cost that much. Surely they take just as much work in Paris as they do here ...

                                                                        2. re: LulusMom

                                                                          Additionally, it looks like (from a photo on Yelp) that La Farm's croissant range from 1.50-3.89 (almond) just for some perspective.

                                                                          And Loaf's twice baked Almond Croissant is $5.00. The higher prices are for the almond so a regular should be roughly $2 on average from these types of places. Maybe you should bring that up to them next time you are there.

                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                            None of WSM baked goods are expensive nor are they made in house.

                                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                              WSM used to make them at the WS location, but moved the bakery operation to the Hillsborough store a few years ago. That basically still counts as being made in house to me.