My 9 Favorite Bakeries in Honolulu
Where a dining editor goes for all things cake and bread and pie.
We’ve entered a glorious new era of bakeries in Honolulu. We haven’t lacked for them in Hawai‘i (happy 105th birthday, Maui’s Komoda Store & Bakery!), but what’s happening now is new and wonderful. Five years ago, you could easily find Filipino ube cream cheese pandesal, Chinese sponge cakes and Japanese shokupan, which it seems only now the rest of the country has discovered. And the quality and variety of our European-style breads and pastries were beginning to, ahem, rise, with La Tour Bakehouse expanding its line. And then suddenly, in the middle of the pandemic, those two strains of bakeries, Asian and European (with a little of San Francisco’s Tartine), began mixing things up, developing new and unique styles. Now, pastry boxes reveal mango sticky rice Danishes and matcha Parisian flans. Here are my current favorite bakeries in Honolulu, a blend of old and new:
Wallflour Bake Shop
I try not to get too attached to anything at Wallflour because bakers Ellen Stavro and Javier Flores frequently change their pastries—past favorites such as a Mānoa Chocolate tart and pandan doughnut have now given way to new loves including a mango sticky rice Parisian flan and passion fruit mac nut praline tart. What is constant: in everything from their croissants to naturally-leavened milk bread, a precision in flavors and textures that reflects the bakers’ time working in fine dining restaurants.
I know people lament how hard it can be to reserve bread at Breadshop (tip: check the website on the day of for last-minute releases!), but I think back to the bakery’s early days, when you had to chase it down at the farmers market or the medical school even, and when Chris Sy, as the sole baker, made even more limited quantities than now. So Breadshop’s brick-and-mortar feels like a blessing of abundance—an abundance of country loaves and furikake focaccia and pastry boxes of ever-evolving creations like a kūlolo Danish or smoked carrot pastry that tastes like lox on an everything bagel.
My mood always lifts instantly when I walk into Brug’s warm, yeasty embrace. My go-tos at this chain from Hokkaido include the fluffy soft raisin bread and Hokkaido anpan, with a slightly less sweet red bean paste compared to others. And when I want something more substantial to chew on, the mochi bread.
Multiple locations, brugbakery.com
The Local General Store
When a butcher (Jason Chow) and baker (Harley Tunac Chow) team up, you get craveable wonders like longanisa croissants and lard chocolate chip cookies. But Tunac Chow also stands on her own, with one of my favorite chocolate croissants and seasonal sweets that take advantage of Hawai‘i’s bounty. Recent items included a brown butter mochi and guava jam Danish with kinako streusel, and a carrot cake with pineapple jam and a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.
Wednesday Blaisdell farmers market and Sunday mornings inside Kaimukī Superette, @thelocalgeneralstorehi
Beyond Pastry Studio
You see ube everywhere now, but Cristina Nishioka is one of the few who uses real and local ube, a much harder process than opening a bottle of ube extract. She folds it into her ube cream cheese ensaymada, one of the lightest ensaymadas in town. I try to go for Filipino Pastry Fridays, when Nishioka bakes delights like a chicken adobo pandesal, jackfruit cake and pineapple Spanish rolls.
At this cute and petite bakery tucked away in 808 Center, Megumi Watanabe Albritton offers exquisite Japanese-style cakes and pastries, including the best fresh fruit tart on the island, with a layer of almond cream at the bottom, and a Japanese strawberry shortcake that’s a study in simplicity—soft sponge cake, whipped cream (and real whipped cream, not whipped topping that’s common at many bakeries in Honolulu), and lightly tart strawberries that balance out the sweetness. While this cake is a staple at Japanese bakeries, CakeM offers individual servings of it that are like miniature cakes, which makes cake for one feel like even more of a special occasion.
B. Patisserie at Kona Coffee Purveyors
This bakery in San Francisco popularized the kouign-amann, and at this Waikīkī outpost, the sugar-crusted, flaky and buttery pastry is still one of the main reasons I’ll stand in line. But once I’m in front of B. Patisserie’s full spread of pastries and gorgeous cakes, I have a hard time not picking up a few extra sweets, from a passion fruit lemon meringue tart to citrus panna cotta to a hefty chocolate chip cookie that’s more like a river of chocolate bound together by a chewy and crisp-edged dough.
I visit Nanding’s for only one thing: Spanish rolls. Three warm rolls, with the butter seeping through the paper bag, rarely make the 10-minute walk home. Sometimes I’ll even double back and get more of those barely sweet and salty and soft breadsticks with their light cornmeal dusting. You have to eat them warm, and I’ve tried other items from Nanding’s, but they never live up to the wondrous simplicity of the Spanish rolls.
Another bakery that I go to for only one thing: the custard pie, silky and just barely set. Most times when I’m passing by the bakery, I have no occasion whatsoever to buy a whole pie. But I can’t resist, and I buy one, and I make an occasion happen.
125 N. King St., (808) 521-6261