Goodbye gluten-free — bread pudding is back, big time! Whether it’s in the form of an ooey, gooey, boozy dessert or a hearty, savory side dish, chefs are once again embracing this classic. Here are eight interpretations of the humble, satisfying dish from a few of our favorite restaurants.
The Macintosh, Charlestown, South Carolina
With a last name like Bacon, it’s befitting that Macintosh executive chef and partner Jeremiah Bacon would eschew the sweet for a signature savory side. He compares his Bone-Marrow Bread Pudding to a “savory French toast” and says word of mouth about the popular dish regularly brings in new diners ready to try his creative, upscale American plates that also include beet panna cotta and broccolini with pickled mustard seed, fish sauce, and naval oranges. While the bread pudding was at one point just a winter entree, it became so popular he decided to serve it year-round as a side. “It is so rich that a little goes a long way — which makes it a great item to share with the table,” he says. Make a reservation at The Macintosh.
Palace Café, New Orleans
Forget the spicy gumbo — decadent dessert is just as much a staple at Palace Café, where the signature third course, white chocolate bread pudding, has been the choice of diners since the café opened in 1991. A booze-free, kid-friendly alternative, it’s safer than anything you’ll find on Bourbon Street since the raisins have been replaced with white-chocolate chunks and the whiskey sauce takes the form of white-chocolate ganache. A more adult version is available at Bourbon House (Palace’s sibling restaurant in the French Quarter), featuring chocolate banana bread pudding complete with bourbon butterscotch sauce. Their boozy brunch features bourbon French toast with the bread pudding custard, paired with an adult milk punch — a blend of milk, gelato, and Old Forester bourbon. Make a reservation at Palace Café.
White Dog Café, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
What could be more comforting than food served in a Mason jar? For pastry chef Kelly Levasseur, possibly only desserts using her grandmother’s recipes. “Growing up, my grandmother was famous for her pineapple bread pudding — everyone can relate to it, it’s a little sweet piece of home,” she says. “We want to be creative with our recipes, but at the same time keep a feeling of home and comfort.” This season, two of three White Dog Café locations offer treats straight from Grandma’s kitchen: Roasted Pineapple Bread Pudding with coconut marshmallows, crushed almonds, topped with vanilla ice cream. Make a reservation at White Dog Café.
BREADBAR, Los Angeles, California
With a name like BREADBAR, it’s no surprise that almost every menu item from breakfast to dinner — and happy hour — features a piece of leavened love. But without a doubt, desserts there are among diners’ favorite dishes (“The bread pudding was off the chain amazing,” writes one reviewer). Each of seven varieties of loaves baked daily has its own artisanal story, honoring centuries of French tradition, says baker Fawzi Abboud. “We became well-known because of our bread pudding,” he said. “Customers visit our restaurant just to have it, especially new ones, who start asking for the recipe,” he said. “A restaurateur came in and asked me to name any price for it.” The most recent hit includes raisins and chocolate chunks. Make a reservation at BREADBAR.
Abby Lane, Boston, Massachusetts
Not in the mood for dessert? No matter. While Abby Lane may be nestled in the heart of histrionics — Boston’s Theatre District — blue-haired chef Jason Santos of Hells Kitchen fame has embraced a more reserved approach to select menu items. His Apple, Cheddar, and Sage Pudding served alongside a succulent and savory apple-brined pork tenderloin, is just right to chase away nips of cold air from the Northeast’s harsh winters. “It’s comforting,” he said. “I personally love savory bread puddings and don’t see them that often, so I definitely wanted to add one to our menu.” Make a reservation at Abby Lane.
SoBou, New Orleans, Louisiana
A medley of textures and temperatures delight the taste buds at SoBou, where executive chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez counts the Cherries Jubilee & White Chocolate Bread Pudding as his favorite dessert. Featuring boozy brandied cherries and brioche bread, this cherry-on-top of a meal stays hot and moist on the inside with a crisp, caramelized outer layer featuring crunchy candied pecans and icy housemade vanilla bean ice cream. Since SoBou doesn’t have a pastry chef, Gonzalez creates all of the sweet treats himself and says he likes to generate excitement for nostalgic desserts by presenting them in a new way. Cases in point: crustless pecan pie in a jar called Pecan Pie, Not Pie and Bananas Foster on the Half Shell, served in a sizzling-hot skillet. Make a reservation at SoBou.
Sweet Lorraine’s, Southfield, Michigan
No matter what the season, Lorraine Platman makes it a point to include bread pudding on her menus. A British transplant who came to Detroit for the Ford Motor Car Invasion, Platman likes to feature the UK’s ultimate homey dessert with seasonal fruits like Blueberry Bread & Butter Pudding; cranberry (and lingonberry for winter), along with Sticky Bread Pudding with housemade caramel. “I started as a baker so we always have fresh baked desserts, breads, and cookies on our menus,” says Platman. “I could go on and on but basically, I’m all about comfort food.” In addition to her café and bar locations in greater Detroit, Platman has several outposts dedicated to the ultimate American hearty treat at Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac N Cheez. Make a reservation at Sweet Lorraine’s.
Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.