Los Angeles, it turns out, is a bakery town, where neighborhood bread and pastry shops are plentiful. Pick up a croissant for breakfast, a baguette for dinner or a little something for in-between. Besides traditional cakes, pies and cookies, on offer are rustic sourdough breads, refined French pastries, Asian-inflected sweet rolls and gluten-free treats. Here are a baker's dozen of best-of's from some of our favorite neighborhood bakeries.
Best lemon bar: Euro Pane
The perfectly balanced lemon bar — not too tart, not too sweet, not too eggy, with the just-right ratio of filling to crust — isn't so easy to find. But at Pasadena bakery Euro Pane, Sumi Chang's has all the right proportions, with tangy, silky lemon curd and a simultaneously sturdy but crumbly shortbread crust. $2.35.
345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-8804, and 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 577-1828.
Best uber-buttery pastry: McCall's Meat & Fish
The Breton pastry kouign amann at Karen Yoo's bakery-inside-a-butcher-shop is as good as, or better than, any you've had in France — extra caramelized, over-the-top buttery and super flaky. That you can buy it while also picking up a couple of dry-aged ribeyes might make it all the better. $4.
2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 667-0674.
Best croissant: Proof Bakery
The croissants go fast at this Atwater Village favorite, so get there early when they're most likely still barely warm, the outer layers golden and crunchy and the inner layers supple and airy. It smells and tastes of creamy butter. Overall, dreamy. Plain croissant, $2.75.
3156 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 664-8633.
Best baguette: Bread Lounge
Bien cuit describes the burnished baguettes at downtown bakery Bread Lounge; it's the French term that literally translates to "well cooked." It often refers to baked goods just this side of too dark, but the extra baking renders breads with excellent crust and flavor, and it means the baker has the courage to push it to the edge. $3.50.
700 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 327-0782.
Best retro snack cake: Semi Sweet Bakery
The foil-wrapped, chocolate-covered, cream-filled Ding Dong of childhood memories may have neared extinction recently when Hostess almost shuttered for good. But snack cake simulacra will likely persevere even after the Ding Dong is dead. And they're better. Like the Ding A Lings at Semi Sweet Bakery, which come in flavors such as hazelnut crunch or raspberry. $2.50 to $2.95.
105 E. 6th St., Los Angeles, (213) 228-9975.
Best pan dulce: La Mascota
The selection of pan dulce ("sweet bread") at Boyle Heights panaderia La Mascota is consistently fresh, and you can't go wrong with its hand-shaped concha ("seashell"). Its sugary crust is crispy and crumble-in-your-mouth, and the interior is fluffy, soft and sweet. Mini concha, 25 cents; regular, 40 cents.
2715 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 263-5513.
Best Asian sweet bun: Oh My Pan
At this bustling San Gabriel bakery often described as a cross between Half & Half Tea House (the uber-popular SGV boba shop) and 85C (the pioneering Taiwanese purveyor of Eurasian breads), the brick toast piled high with sticky fruit, and the Dorito-topped squid ink bread may cause heads to turn, but its simple taro buttercream bun is a don't-miss. $1.40.
801 E. Valley Blvd., No. 105-106, San Gabriel, (626) 307-7719.
Best rye bread: Red Bread
Like most of Rose Lawrence's breads and pastries, her loaves of rye are leavened with her sourdough mother, which makes them tangy and robust and layered with flavor. This is a dark, dense rye, delicious on its own or slathered with butter. Bonus: Just ask, and the bakery will give you a little of its sourdough starter for your own bread making. $7.
13322 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (424) 272-5752.
Best eclair: Chaumont Bakery & Cafe
An excellent eclair is harder to come by than one might think. At Chaumont, Frederic Laski's Paris-inspired Beverly Hills patisserie, the eclairs are bountiful, along with other pâte à choux-based pastries: Saint Honore, Paris-Brest, cream puffs and religieuse. The eclairs are filled with lush chocolate, pistachio, vanilla, coffee or raspberry custards. $3.80.
143 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 550-5510.
Best sticky bun: Sycamore Kitchen
Salted caramel pecan babka roll — it just sounds like it's going to be good, right? And it doesn't disappoint — is a swirled dome of sweet yeast dough rolled up with toasted pecans and creme fraiche and brown sugar that becomes a sticky caramel. Perfect with a cup of strong coffee. $3.50.
143 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 939-0151.
Best fruit tart: Milo & Olive
Zoe Nathan's fruit tarts with their flaky, flaky crusts are rustic and beautiful. Seasonal fruit — at the end of summer it was apricots, and for the next several weeks, pears — and pastry cream are layered on top of yeasted laminated kouign amann dough. Which is genius. $5.50 per slice.
2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 453-6776.
Best gluten-free cake: Valerie Confections
A delicious, gluten-free chocolate layer cake (that's not a flourless chocolate cake)? Yes! This one is moist and luscious, made with buckwheat flour (buckwheat's not wheat but a "pseudocereal"). In between the layers is a milk chocolate ganache, and covering the whole thing is a bittersweet chocolate glaze. Served with slightly sweetened creme fraiche. $55 for a 9-inch cake.
3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 739-8149; 1665 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 250-9365.
Best baklava: Ara's Pastry
The varieties of phyllo- and kataifi-based pastries at Armenian bakery Ara's will wow: baklava, osmalieh (shredded phyllo filled with creamy cheese) and birds nests (rounds of shredded phyllo) topped with nuts. The phyllo pastry is house-made, and the baklava layered with butter is perfectly sticky, sweet, flaky, crispy and nutty at once. $9 per pound.
2227 W. Ball Road, Anaheim, (714) 776-5554; 4945 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 661-1116; and 17607 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills, (818) 368-3388.