I hail from the west coast, and living in Burlington I often long for the expansive realm of restaurants that Portland, Oregon offered me. In this small town, I tend to fall into dining ruts, continually 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. I can’t break the pattern, and 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 cafes here are divine. I was surprised to find on a recent trip to southern France that Burlington’s baked goods were tastier, flakier, and more diverse than the European baked goods I encountered.
My favorite Burlington bakery up until last month was August First for their heavenly Hungarian sweet rolls and crusty olive bread. Recently, through, I have 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 lavendar 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 farmer’s market. When they 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 farmer’s 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 waltz in front of the pastry counter, singing praises of toasted granola and chocolate chip cookies.
Ryan 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.