There’s a reason why it’s called “breaking bread.” Offering up bread at the beginning of a meal is an age-old gesture of hospitality, a way to make guests feel welcome as soon as they sit down. Rather than simply offer soft rolls and hard butter, plenty of restaurants are offering boss breads. We’re talking the likes of crème frâiche biscuits, Gruyere-laced popovers, and jalapeno cornbread muffins. The kind of stuff that makes you forget you’re on a carb-free diet. Here are a dozen delicious restaurant bread baskets (with apologies to our gluten-free diners – look away!).
Birch & Barley, Washington, D.C.
There’s a word that always makes us smile when we’re dining out: free. The thing is, we would happily pay for this bangin’ bread board, but we’re more than happy to enjoy it on the house. The selections rotate regularly, but it might include a pretzel roll, a crème frâiche biscuit, and an olive roll.
Barton G The Restaurant, Los Angeles, California
There’s a bit of magic at work here. When your bread comes to the table, you’ll probably think that the server accidentally brought out some dessert doughnuts instead. Actually, the rounds are savory, finished off with basil, cheddar, pink peppercorn, and black truffle “frostings.”
Urban Farmer Steakhouse, Cleveland, Ohio
Hey, nice cans! The tin tubes are used to bake mini silos of cornbread for dinner service. During brunch, they hold zucchini bread, which gets a shower of freshly grated chocolate when served.
Andiron Steak & Sea, Las Vegas, Nevada
Meet the pop stars of the bread basket world. These Gruyere-laced popovers boast a crackly crust. The warm puffs arrive with whipped butter dusted with black Hawaiian lava salt.
Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Nashville, Tennessee
Chef Maneet Chauhan serves an Indian-inspired bread basket. Freshly baked naan is accompanied by a selection of seasonal chutneys, sauces, and butters. Selections in the past have included spicy pineapple chutney and traditional raita.
Osso Steakhouse, San Francisco, California
A boule of sourdough topped off with rosemary and garlic is very nice. It’s even better when it arrives in a small cast iron skillet brimming with a creamy chorizo sauce. And it’s even better still when it’s finished off with a shower of cheddar cheese and quickly baked. Certifiably addictive.
Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, Dallas, Texas
Biscuits and cornbread are just two of the many, many reasons we love Southern cuisine. The bread basket here can include a mixture of cream biscuits and jalapeno cornbread muffins. Sorry, y’all, but we’re going to eat them all ourselves.
Mastro’s Steakhouse, Palm Desert, California
Why have just one bread when you can have four instead? The quartet of options includes a salt-crusted pretzel roll, French baguette, garlic crostini, and rustic wheat bread. Spare yourself the decision-making process and devour one of each.
Scarpetta, Miami Beach, Miami
The Italians know how to do bread right. There’s crusty ciabatta with three accompaniments – eggplant caponata, mascarpone whipped butter and garlic and citrus infused olive oil – and stromboli stuffed with housemade salami and cheese. Mama mia, we can’t wait to get our gluten on!
Aureole, New York, New York
House baker Peter Edris is the baron of bread. The options coming out of his ovens are ever changing, but always enticing. Currently, he’s crafting pain de campagne, sourdough baguettes, raisin-dotted challah rich with citrus and herb notes, and focaccia accented with chives, green onion, chervil, and basil.
RPM Steak, Chicago, Illinois
We can never resist Parker House rolls. They’re comfort food incarnate. The cluster of pull-apart buns is intended to make them easy to share, but we’re prone to keeping them all for ourselves.
Daniel, New York, New York
Boulud group boulanger Francois Brunet crafts an impressive array. There’s light sourdough pocked with flax, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, focaccia with sweet garlic, parmesan, and thyme, olive-studded ciabatta, mini sourdough baguette speckled with poppy and sesame seeds, and sea salt-dappled brioche. Oui, oui, we would like one of each.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.