Reader: I just moved here from New York and I can't seem to find a great croissant. Help!
Craig LaBan: You haven't been to the right places yet, because Philly is having a croissant revolution right now! A couple of my current favorites, in fact, have New York connections.
My top pick is still Hungry Pigeon (743 S. Fourth St.) in Queen Village, where Pat O'Malley, who used to run the pastry production for Balthazar, is making flaky wonders rich with Euro-style butter and a kiss of local honey subbed for sugar. His croissant variations with almond paste, dark ribbons of Valrhona chocolate, and ham and cheese layered with creamy béchamel are particularly great.
Melissa Weller at Walnut Street Cafe (2929 Walnut St.), who made her name in New York at Rebelle, uses a sourdough starter and Beurre d'Isigny for her elegant viennoiserie, including her insanely delicious kouign-amann variation stuffed with chocolate-hazelnut cream. That once-obscure Breton pastry, in which the laminated butter dough is heavily sugared and folded in like a muffin for a caramelized crisp, is now de rigueur at any good croissant destination.
One of my new go-to KAs is the cardamom-sugared lovely at Suraya (1528 Frankford Ave.), the gorgeous Lebanese cafe-market, bakery, and restaurant in Fishtown, which right now is making some of the city's most beautiful pastries — French, but with a Levantine twist.
ICI Macarons & Cafe (230 Arch St.) in Old City is a hidden gem — it does fine croissants, as well as some excellent KAs.
The Le Bec-Fin-trained duo of Katie Lynch and Emily Riddell at wholesale-oriented Machine Shop Boulangerie in the Bok Building in South Philly have helped upgrade the pastry cases at several coffee shops around town, including Menagerie, ReAnimator, Elixr, Rival Bros., and Res Ipsa. I've also loved the croissants laced with exotic za'atar at La Colombe (if a croissant could be flavorful but light, this is it).
The Kettle Black (631 N. Second St.) in Northern Liberties makes its standard croissants with Amish butter and has an airy vegan version that has seriously whirling layers inside. The French-owned J'Aime in the Gayborhood (212 S. 12th St.) is also legit.
For my old-school francs, though, the most authentic croissants in the area — the ones whose sweet butter flakes truly whisk me back to Paris — are to be found just outside the city limits in Centre Ville Narberth at Patrick Rurange's Le Petit Mitron (207 Haverford Ave.) It's not the only great suburban croissant, either. Try them at Ardmore's Delice et Chocolat on your way to the train (9 E. Lancaster Ave.) or at the Buttery in Malvern (233 E King St.), where the pain aux chocolat was particularly memorable. The region's croissant revolution, I suspect, is still on the rise.