I don’t believe 99.8 percent of the hyperbole found on the Internet—especially from “expert” websites nobody’s ever heard of, like this one.
So when Afar declared Wild Love Bakehouse to be “The Best Bakery in America” last year, unleashing an instant social-media storm of civic bragging, I responded with a resounding harrumph. So all those American graduates of Le Cordon Bleu and École Lenôtre are sadly toiling away in futility, unaware of their inferior skills, eh? What the heck is “Afar,” anyway, and why should we trust its snap judgment? (Well, it’s a nice magazine, but still.)
As it so often turns out in our clickbait world, the actual post is not quite as conclusive as its headline (which ends with a question mark that most reposters neglected to include). Author Ashlea Alpern simply wrote a brief item about how she likes Wild Love’s pastry so much, she’s willing to drive out of her way to buy it: “It’s not that Wild Love Bakehouse is doing something crazy or radical down there in Tennessee, it’s just that they’re doing it so well.”
And I concur wholeheartedly: I will drive out of my way to pay $5 for a small pocket of dough, sugar, and air at Wild Love Bakehouse (1625 N. Central St., in Happy Holler, next to Mid Mod Collective and The Book Eddy) because it’s that frickin’ good.
I don’t know whether Wild Love is the best bakery in America, but for my tastes it’s certainly the best pastry shop in Knoxville. (Please note: When it comes to pastry, I am a flaky crust person rather than a cake person. Magpies cakes are works of magic, but I simply prefer less sweet sweets.)
Now, take a moment to scroll through the photo gallery below or go to the photos section of Wild Love’s Facebook page. I’ll wait.
There. Are you writhing in agony? If not, then you must reconsider your credentials as an eater of desserts.
God only knows how much butter Wild Love uses in its pastry dough—and I don’t want to know. But the result is well worth any increased risk of arterial plaque buildup. It has every texture altogether: light, crunchy, flaky on your initial bite, then chewy, doughy, and melty as you dig in. On mouthfeel alone, Wild Love’s pastry is a sensory overload of delight.
Then we come to the sweetness, which is usually derived from caramelized sugar or fruit compote or both. Or in the case of this blueberry croissant ($4), a triple threat that includes a light crust of raw sugar nuggets to provide a rough crunch. The sweetness doesn’t overwhelm the mild savoriness of the pastry dough, however—it’s just enough to urge you on for another bite beyond what you have available on your plate. (Or, I should say, aluminum trays, which may be impervious to shattering but are ugly and simply painful to eat off of when you use utensils. I wish they’d ditch them for some more inviting Fiestaware or something.)
I really haven’t had an underwhelming selection yet. The fruit handpies ($4) are the ultimate Pop-Tarts of my most fervent childhood dreams. The morning buns ($3.75) bristle with sugar and cinnamon in seemingly infinite rolls. The galettes ($5) are glorious miniature pies, clearly made by hand, that put to shame the oversized examples at grocery stores that appear to have been stamped from a machine.
Every visit is an exercise in resisting the urge to buy more choices than you can afford. And the coffee’s really good to boot.
Worth a return visit?
As many times as your conscience will allow you.