Philadelphia: Chestnut Hill Takes The Cake

I tell people I moved to Chestnut Hill — a leafy neighborhood about 10 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia– to be near the bike trails of the Wissahickon Woods. Read my hips. I was really more interested in the trail of powdered sugar leading to the few remaining private bakeries in town. Recently, strictly in the interest of research, I took a walk to see what’s new at some of my favorite spots.

Cake, photo by Stacia Friedman
Cake, photo by Stacia Friedman

At The Night Kitchen, the cinnamon buns are so buttery they practically squirt into your mouth. Miss your Bubba? Try a slice of the Jewish Apple Cake.

A few blocks away, Bredenbeck’s Bakery is an old fashioned bake shop that first fired up its oven in 1889. Its apple raisin tarts are addictive. And, where else can you find real pound cake by the slice, petit fours, and free samples? If that’s not enough to blow your diet. . . they have an ice cream parlor next door.

I was a fan of Cake, before it moved to a stunning atrium setting behind Robertson’s Florist. With a Zagat rating and capacity brunch/lunch crowds, it’s hard to get a seat. Don’t let that stop you from trying the killer cupcakes with enough icing to spackle Mt. Rushmore.

Up the hill, the home-grown mini-chain, Metropolitan Bakery features mainly artisanal breads, but some offerings, like the chocolate cherry and the French berry rolls, qualify as bonafide treats. They also offer wonderful croissants and danishes.

Finally, there’s the French Bakery, half the fun of which is finding it. Hidden like a bordello behind Chestnut Hill Coffee Company, it’s crowded into an inconspicuous cottage on a parking lot. In addition to Parisian-style pastries and croissants, the jovial husband and wife team who run the bakery make fresh soups, salads and sandwiches daily.

When I’m ready to burn off those cupcakes, I really do go for a walk in the woods. Wissahickon Woods, along Forbidden Drive, offers a scenic, flat 7-mile trail with covered bridges, picnic areas, a rippling stream, waterfalls and the historic Valley Green Inn. It’s part of Philadelphia’s 92,000-square mile Fairmount Park, the largest park within a U.S. city. Information: http://www.chestnuthillpa.com/dining

Chestnut Hill is one of Philadelphia’s prettiest bike-riding neighborhoods. Cathleen McCarthy checks out where else to explore on two wheels in the City of Brotherly Love.