Café Besalu | Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Some people are born with a sweet tooth, and a lucky few are born with an entire set of sweet teeth. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, we’ve got a delish bakery for you and your little ones to visit. It’s an indulgence that won’t break the bank, and to sweeten the deal, we’ve paired each bakery with a nearby fun spot for the kids. (Sugar in, sugar out, right?) And since these bakeries specialize in sweets from around the world, kids get a bit of a global experience in their snack.
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Hello Robin Bakery: Cookie and ice cream shop on Capitol Hill
522 19th Ave. E., Seattle, 206-735-7970
The first day Robin Wehl Martin opened her bakery, her kids had a scheduled two-hour early dismissal from school, an unscheduled two-hour delay for snow and she forgot to pick up her 4-year-old from preschool. From that hectic start in 2013, Robin’s eponymous cookie bakery has steadied the course and built up a sizable following. When we visited, she was wrapping a heap of "Mackles’mores" for a Paul Allen and Macklemore event. (You’ve heard of those guys.)
Hello Robin offers a dozen kinds of cookies a day, rotating some 14 or so regular flavors, some seasonal specials and leaving room for “baker’s whim.” Her kids, ages 9, 11 and 13, love the classic chocolate chip ($1.75), the flourless Mexican chocolate ($1.75) and that Mackles’more made with Theo chocolate ($2.25).
Robin opened the bakery with a nudge from her friend, Molly Moon Neitzel, and now offers ice cream sammies ($5.95) made with a scoop of Molly Moon’s ice cream. This can also be ordered as a single open-faced sammie ($5.05). Also new this year for the kids (and adults!) who prefer cookies to cakes: full-size cookie cakes. You can get a special message written on them, too. There's also a new kids' special that offers the perfect combo: a half-pint of milk with a cookie for $3.
Everything’s made right in front of you, on a big center island in the cheerful blue and white bakery. Kids can watch from a front-row seat; just pull up a stool. We lucked out on timing and tasted a chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Gooey, melty, perfect.
Also try: Everything at Nuflours (518 15th Ave. E., Seattle) is gluten-free, and products with eggs and dairy are clearly labeled. Nuflours puts brownies ($3.75), tiramisu ($5.95) and chocolate éclairs ($4.50) back on the table for people avoiding gluten. Their next big thing is now available! They now offer gluten-free cake donuts in three flavors: chocolate-chocolate, pumpkin cinnamon with pecans, and vanilla with lemon glaze and sprinkles ($3.75 each). Also check out their fabulous array of holiday products, including vegan gingerbread houses and fully-wrapped chocolate mint sandwich cookies (stocking stuffers, anyone?).
Pair it with: Just a short walk down 19th Avenue is Miller Community Center (330 19th Ave. E.), a hub of the neighborhood. Check out a free and well-stocked toddler gym on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (check back for continuing schedule). They also have a toddler playroom open weekdays during the community center's open hours. When the sunshine really gets going, the kids will love the spray park and playground right outside.
Despi Delite Bakery: Filipino bakery in Beacon Hill
2701 15th Ave. S., Seattle, 206-325-2114
Why are those pastries purple, you might ask? It's the purple ube yam and its eye-catching color makes it the star of many Filipino desserts. At Despi Delite Bakery, you’ll find it marbled in a loaf, sprinkled with shredded cheese and sugar in the ensaymada, and — our favorite — tucked inside sweet rolls. The mini ube rolls ($3.65 for a bag of 8) is the bakery’s bestseller and they're just the right size for little hands. Another irresistible pick is the pan de coco ($2.95 for a bag of four), which is a hamburger-sized sweet bun stuffed with coconut.
The bakery doesn’t look like much from the outside: a gray box, with baking operations in the back and a retail store up front. It’s not fancy, just delicious.
Also try: In 2017, Despi Delite opened a second location in Everett. Find it at 3713 Broadway.
Pair it with: Despi Delite Bakery is one block from the Beacon Hill light rail station, which makes getting there just as fun as eating the goodies. The bakery is also two blocks from the Beacon Hill Library, a branch known for its linguistically diverse programs. A mile away is fantastic Jefferson Park, with a skate park, spray park, play equipment and beautiful views.
Yummy House: Hong Kong-style bakery in the International District
522 6th Ave. S., Seattle, 206-340-8838
If you're unfamiliar with Hong Kong-style desserts, know that you won't find that decadent, hurts-your-teeth-it’s-so-sweet kind of cake here. Hong Kong-style pastries and cakes are light and not too sweet. Think angel food cake, not fudge. My go-to celebratory cake is the fresh mango ($40 for an 8-inch cake). If an entire cake is too much commitment, Yummy House sells cake by the slice (most are $3.95) so you can sample all the flavors.
Yummy House also makes buns that are big and bready, the size of a saucer and with a decent amount of filling. Some crowd-pleasers to try are the red bean bun, lotus seed bun and taro bun (all $1.45 each). Find a seat by the window and people-watch while you snack. Yummy House is on a busy street kitty-corner from Uwajimaya and there’s always something interesting to see.
Also try: Head to Fuji Bakery (526 S. King St.) for a fusion of Japanese and French flavors. Find other Fuji Bakery outlets at 1030 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle, in the Interbay area of Seattle and inside the Bellevue Uwajimaya store at 699 120th Ave. N.E., Bellevue.
Where to play: The Donnie Chin International Children's Park (700 S. Lane St.) is a beautiful pocket park in the middle of the ID. Kids can climb on the installation art: a bronze dragon in the sand pit, colorful drums and a big bronze ball. It’s fun and beautiful, and recently renovated. Tip: Find even more fun spots to explore in our insider's guide to the ID.
Café Besalu: French bakery in Ballard
5909 24th Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-789-1463
“Would you like jam for your croissant? It’s nectarine today,” the cashier says. Would I?! A crunch into that flaky shell dabbed with nectarine jam and summer exploded in my mouth.
Café Besalu is famous for its croissants ($3.25 each), but my older son's favorite is the ginger biscuit ($2.85), with just a tingle of spice and a whole lot of sugar crystals on top. Prices start at $2 for a single cookie, and go up to $4.95 for the quiche.
Even on a weekday morning, the tiny bakery is bustling with happy carb-seekers of all types, from a dozing newborn and her family to a hipster couple with a little dog. The crowd of admirers in front of the display case never lets up.
Pair it with: A Jehovah’s witness chatted me up outside Café Besalu, but there’s no proselytizing at Ballard Playspace (1460 N.W. 73rd St., Seattle) inside a neighborhood church. The playspace, about a mile from Café Besalu, is a ministry of Ballard Church, and it’s free and open to everyone. It’s easy to spot the entrance – just look for the gaggle of strollers parked outside.
Inside, kids can scamper through a human-size hamster maze and tickle their feet on the artificial turf with lots of balls. There’s an area padded with a thick mat just for babes under 2. Bring your own snack (nut-free, please) and remember to wear socks.
The Salvadorean Bakery: Salvadoran bakery in White Center
1719 S.W. Roxbury St., Seattle, 206-762-4064
It was a very good sign when I walked in and was the only non-native Spanish speaker in the house. From the entrance, you’ll see a dining room full of families on the right, and a service counter on the left, festively decked out in piñatas.
Where to start? Try the empanada de guayaba ($.90), which is like a (better) Pop Tart filled with guava jam, minus the frosting. Or the cinnamon crispi ($2.50), which resembles dinner-plate-sized Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But enough with the gringo analogies, Salvadoran pastries are delicious on their own. The quesadilla ($1.50 for a mini), not to be confused with the Mexican quesadilla, is a hearty muffin made of flour, cream, cheese and butter. The budín de banana ($2.75), a bread pudding with rum, raisins and banana, was too rich for my kids, but I enjoyed the dense and moist slice.
The bakery/restaurant/grocery store carries an impressive array of goods from Latin American countries. We’ll be back to try the pupusas. Also worth noting is the variety of authentic holiday cookies and breads offered throughout the month of December.
Pair it with: The state’s only bicycle playground is a short drive away, at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (11050 10th Ave. S.W., Seattle) so bring along the bikes and scooters. Or try another new-ish indoor playspace for kids under age 8, Lil’ Bug Studio (10007 13th Ave. S.W., Seattle). Read more about both spots in our review.
Kiki Bakery: Taiwanese bakery in North Seattle
13200 Aurora Ave., Suite E., Seattle, 206-617-7688
At Kiki Bakery, young women at the front counter are busy wrapping buns in individual bags, and you’re free to linger as long as you like over the selection of Taiwanese pastries. There are a lot of fun and unusual flavors to take in, like a polo pineapple raisin bun ($2.50), a green tea red bean bun ($1.90), and a macha red bean bun ($2.15). Some of the smaller pastries are displayed in a plexi-covered counter island, like a jewelry store. The hard-to-find pineapple cakes are worth searching for ($2.25 each). Kiki’s prices are a tad higher than other Asian bakeries, but still affordable. Most pastries fall between the $1.50 and $2 range.
Don’t let the name of the pork floss bun ($1.95) scare you. It’s savory bread topped with dried, shredded pork. Pork floss, or “rou song” is a staple for Chinese kids, just like mac and cheese is for kids in the U.S. Kiki also made me nostalgic for my childhood cartoons, with special order cakes depicting Doremon, Hello Kitty and Totoro.
You can also find Kiki Bakery in on the Eastside (15230 24th St., Suite O, Redmond).
Pair it with: Kiki Bakery is located in a shopping plaza on Aurora at N. 130th St. It's right near the Asian Food Center, which is great for picking up tropical produce, like dragon fruit and longan. It also has good prices on meat and seafood — it often has salmon for $6.99 a pound.
Your kids will also love a visit to the free "zoo" next door — the PetSmart store, with wildly entertaining fish, hamsters and parakeets. Pick up a free fish info brochure to sneak in an educational science lesson.
Need more ideas on living adventurously with the fam? ParentMap's new book "52 Seattle Adventures With Kids" is here! From secret hikes to off-the-radar bike paths to tree house hotels, this must-have Puget Sound adventure guide offers a bounty of ideas for affordable family outings, all year long.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2017 and was updated for 2018.