2006_5_GothamCroissant.jpgIt used to be that the only kind of croissants you could find were the fake ones—made without a trace of butter and not flaky at all. Now though it seems there’s an authentic French patisserie on every corner offering up flawless renditions of the pastry. But in the search for the best croissant, Gothamist still prefers the classic crescent at Patisserie Claude. The proprietor here—let’s call him Monsieur Claude—has been holed up in his tiny hot kitchen on West Fourth Street for years. Perennially sweaty and grumpy, he radiates a disdain for all things American. (Hint: don’t order American coffee.) But paying him obeisance is part of the charm. Regulars often form lines out the door of the unassuming storefront, but they never complain.

The croissants are the main thing—no pretzel versions, no danishes, no miche. And you couldn’t find a better croissant in Paris. On the outside they are so crunchy that eating them causes a racket. Then beneath are uncountable layers that get increasingly supple, all heavily perfumed with rich butter—and occasionally, we’ve noticed, hints of sugar and even pepper. In our opinion, no one else's quite compares. (Though Balthazar, Taralucci, City Bakery, and J’Adore come close.) What's his secret? We don't know, but we keep going back for more.