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.
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).