Hails from: Boston.
Area locations: The bakery made its local debut in the West End in 2020 and expanded quickly. There are now five more cafes in the District—the latest is in upper Northwest’s City Ridge development—as well as locations in Clarendon and Bethesda.
Coming soon: Cafes in Old Town and on 14th Street, plus a downtown DC baking facility.
Founded by: Film producer turned pastry chef Tzurit Or.
Backstory: Or started her baking business selling brioche and cookies from a Boston farmers market in 2007. Shortly after, she opened her first standalone bakeshop, and there are now 20 cafes in Boston, along with the Washington outposts. Helping fuel the expansion: former Panera CEO Ron Shaich, who now owns more than half the company.
Name translation: “Daddy” in Yiddish. (Tatte rhymes with “latte.”)
Baking style: Israel-born Or, who learned to bake from her mother on a kibbutz, shows glimmers of her homeland’s flavors on her menu: nutty halvah atop the brownies, Jerusalem-style bagels dipped in sweet syrup, and cheesecakes made with Israeli cheese. But many pastries and breadstuffs conjure France.
Oprah-approved chocolate-chip cookies? No, but Tatte’s quiche landed on Winfrey’s list of favorite things in 2014.
Decor: Penny-tile floors, soaring white walls, Thonet bistro chairs, and a Nancy Meyer–esque mix of marble and rustic wood.
What to get: Almond croissant and pain au chocolate; creamy tomato soup; smoked-salmon/avocado tartine; prosciutto-and-fig panini; feta-stuffed boureka (a savory pastry); roasted-strawberry turnover; chocolate-swirled meringue or berry-topped Pavlova.
What to skip: Oily veggie-laden flatbreads and pasty cherry-pistachio bars. You’ll find better kouign-amman and Linzer cookies elsewhere.
What to drink: Bottles of housemade minty lemonade; iced chai.
Nice touches: Loads of gluten-free options, plus an array of pantry goods such as baba ganoush and bags of granola.
You might see: DC-based TikTok celeb/mukbang enthusiast Gabby Eniclerico (a.k.a. @slothgirl420) digging into scrambled eggs with prosciutto.
Hails from: New York’s Upper West Side.
Area locations: Georgetown and downtown Bethesda.
Coming soon: The brand will soon expand to Chicago.
Founded by: Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald, who dreamed up their business while training for a triathlon nearly 30 years ago.
Backstory: The pair started their company in the mid-’90s as a bread business. It expanded to the Hamptons in 2000 and opened its Georgetown location—the first store outside New York—in 2020.
Name translation: French for “leaven.”
Baking style: McDonald’s specialty is breads—Levain’s loaves are expertly crafted—and many of the confections lean bready, too.
Oprah-approved chocolate-chip cookies? Yes. They’re Taylor Swift–approved, too.
Decor: The chic blue-and-white cafes—Bethesda is grab-and-go, while the Georgetown location has a few stools—feature cute hand-painted maps of their neighborhoods on the walls.
What to get: Baguette sandwich with butter and jam; rocky-road cookie; blueberry muffin; breads like walnut-raisin.
What to skip: Hear us out—if you’re a fan of flat and chewy chocolate-chip cookies, these aren’t the ones for you. The ginormous rounds are cakey and heavy (six ounces each!) and very sweet. A sticky bun and cinnamon brioche were dry.
What to drink: Valrhona hot chocolate or a cold brew.
Nice touch: Cookie fans who can’t make it to the bakery can find frozen versions at Whole Foods.
You might see: Visiting celebrities such as Rafael Nadal.
Hails from: New York’s SoHo.
Area locations: An airy and beautiful indoor/outdoor cafe at Bethesda Row.
Coming soon: Spots in Union Market and Georgetown.
Founded by: Couple Elisa Marshall, a former event planner, and Ben Sormonte, an ex–corporate lawyer, along with French chef Armand Arnal, who has since departed.
Backstory: The trio opened the first Maman in 2014, and it has grown from a single Manhattan cafe to a lifestyle brand, with jewelry and linen collabs, outfit suggestions on Instagram, and 22 locations, including in Toronto and Montreal.
Name translation: French for “mom.”
Baking style: Country French meets Instagram bait.
Oprah-approved chocolate-chip cookies? Yes—the big, nutty confections were on her 2017 Favorite Things list.
Decor: Peak coastal grandma, with ornately patterned tablecloths and plates, rustic old farm tables, and flowers everywhere.
What to get: Breakfast sandwich (or bowl) with eggs and bacon jam; spinach-and-artichoke quiche; truffled croque monsieur; housemade Oreo; almond croissant.
What to skip: The bland tartine slathered with browned avocado; the dull watermelon gazpacho.
What to drink: We’d pass on the honey-lavender latte and instead stick to bottled French juices—or, later in the afternoon, cocktails, which include a tomato martini accented with a basil leaf.
Nice touch: You can rent the space for a private event.
You might see: Folks taking a break from shopping at nearby stores such as Serena & Lily and Jenni Kayne.
Hails from: New York’s West Village.
Area locations: The bakery partnered with the local restaurant group Knead Hospitality to open a cafe across from Nationals Park in 2020. A much larger location/commissary kitchen arrived last year in Arlington’s National Landing.
Coming soon: More area locations are planned, but no word on where they’ll be.
Founded by: Financial analyst turned pastry chef Umber Ahmad.
Backstory: Back when Ahmad, an MIT grad, worked in finance, Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was a client. He learned about her love of baking and encouraged her to make it her day job.
Name translation: There’s no direct one, but the Urdu word roughly means “the essence.” The X factor that makes something distinctive.
Baking style: Ahmad merges elegance with nostalgia in her classic French and American cakes and pastries.
Oprah-approved chocolate-chip cookies? No, but she’s a fan of the scones.
Decor: Soaring marine-blue cabinets, plenty of brass and marble, and more penny tiles and Thonet chairs.
What to get: Brioche doughnuts with pastry cream; croissants either filled with turkey and Gruyère, split to make a smoked salmon sandwich, or fashioned into sweet monkey bread; coconut cake; cherry scones.
What to skip: Not much—but if we’re being picky, the almond-chocolate croissant was too heavy on the filling.
What to drink: Canned La Colombe lattes.
Nice touch: Gorgeous black-and-gold packaging.
You might see: A glut of Amazon staffers—the National Landing outpost sits at the epicenter of HQ2.
This article appears in the October 2022 issue of Washingtonian.