First Look: The New Artisan Boulanger Patissier, Philadelphia
Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
It's no secret that East Passyunk Avenue is the hottest restaurant destination in Philadelphia at the moment. It feels like every week another lauded chef announces an upcoming restaurant opening in the neighborhood, and what only ten short years ago largely felt like a bleak stretch of unoccupied and underused commercial properties has turned into a vibrant, diverse community of retail shops, bars, and both casual and fine dining restaurants.
Despite the shift, the tattooed and pierced punk kids can still afford to live in the neighborhood, and they mingle with stroller-pushing dog owners, old-school Italian immigrants, and the well-heeled Center City residents for whom the neighborhood is no longer too far South.
Sixteen years ago, before this vibrancy really took hold, or perhaps at its very early forefront, Cambodian immigrants André Chin and Amanda Eap opened their bakery, Artisan Boulanger Patissier, at Twelfth and Morris. Despite the distinctly Italian flavor of the neighborhood back then, the unassuming little French bakery became a neighborhood favorite.
Between fresh baguettes, chewy outside and pillowy soft within, their comprehensive line of viennoserie, and croissants of every filling, flavor and variety, (including a guilty-pleasure breakfast croissant of bacon, egg, and American cheese), it's no surprise the bakery is seldom without a line. It's a community-gathering place that predated every other trendy coffee shop in the neighborhood and remains a weekend ritual for many. It's hardly a neighborhood secret—the bakery has been featured in the media countless times, and in 2013 Chin was nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of "Outstanding Pastry Chef."
Following a dispute when their landlord sold the building, the couple made the decision to move—oven and all—to a new shop a few blocks further south. The move would afford them a fresh start and more space both in front of the counter and behind. After switching contractors twice, which put them a year past their originally-projected opening date, the duo finally opened their new shop at 12th and Mifflin. The space is bright and airy, boasting additional seating both indoors and out, as well as a gleaming new espresso machine and Counter Culture coffee brewed by Front-of-House Manager Sean Tully, himself an alumnus of La Colombe.
Having the space for a refrigerated display case has meant that the couple has added tarts and charlottes to their lineup of breads, pastries, and coffee. They've also added bahn mi, panini, and take out sushi fresh each morning, prepared by John Loc, Chef of the Oregon Avenue location of Upper Moreland's La Fusion.
Needless to say, long-time regulars and neighborhood newcomers alike are happy to have them, and their delicious pastries, back. Click through the slideshow above to see more of what's cooking at the new Patissier.
Artisan Boulanger Patissier
About the Author: Emily Teel is a loud-talking food writer and recipe developer in Philadelphia, where she's the food columnist for Grid Magazine. She recently returned from Parma, Italy, where she completed a Master of Arts in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. A 2011 Legacy Award winner with the women's culinary organization Les Dames D'Escoffier International, she's passionate about food and committed to the idea that everyone deserves access to meals that are both nourishing and satisfying. Follow along on twitter @brotherly_grub and see more of her work at EmilyTeel.com