Intown: 1394 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta; 404-872-6000
Dunwoody: 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd. NE, Atlanta; 678-397-1781
alons.com; Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Close your eyes when you walk into Alon’s. Breathe in the smell of freshly baked bread, artisan cheeses and burnt sugar. But don’t leave them closed for long – someone will run into you. This place is busy. And if you’ve ever eaten here, you know why. The food, especially the desserts and pastries, is incredible.
Alon’s is a bakery, restaurant, coffee shop and specialty market all rolled into one. The original Virginia-Highland location has limited indoor seating and is smaller than the Dunwoody location, which offers an expanded menu including gelato. Both stores have many gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Alon’s is just the place for a foodie family’s Valentine’s Day celebration. Valentine’s Day at Alon’s is all about chocolate, says assistant manager Mitch Morrow. Here’s where you can pick up a box of decadent, handmade chocolates in beautiful packaging for anyone on your list, including little ones. Specialties like raspberry rose chocolates are sure to be a hit, but if chocolate isn’t your sweetie’s favorite, there are buttery cookies, luscious desserts and flaky pastries. Colorful French macaroons in elegant boxes are almost too beautiful to eat.
If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home, pick up a roll of Alon’s ready-made cookie dough, which also makes a great teacher or co-worker gift. – Sherry Crawley
Buckhead: 61 Irby Ave. NW, Atlanta; 404-237-0202
Sandy Springs: 6289 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta;
henrisbakery.com; Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-6 p.m
No matter what part of the ATL you’re in, you’re never too far from the iconic Henri’s Bakery located in Buckhead and Sandy Springs. Atlanta party planners have called upon the exquisite taste temptations of Henri’s for over a century. Henri’s is French flair infused with Southern style. One taste and you’ll be ready to plan a party yourself!
The special “trip to the bakery” tradition lives on at Henri’s and seasonal treats abound. Remember how much fun it was to be rewarded with a treat from the bakery case as Mom or Dad stopped by for that special loaf of onion bread or chocolate babka? Valentine’s Day decadence doesn’t get any better than Henri’s original French desserts such as the seven-layer pyramid, crème puffs, perfect petit fours or chocolate dipped strawberries. But it’s the shimmering sugar cookies that are a hit with the kiddies that visit Henri’s. Besides an array of French pastries, you’ll find all sorts of breads, cakes, tarts, and treats ranging from cinnamon twists and macaroons to an array of Mediterranean cookies.
Henri’s also serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches – don’t miss the classic pimento cheese! – on freshly baked bread. Parents can enjoy a hot beverage from the espresso bar. Seating is available both indoors and out. Breakfast, lunch or afternoon treat, Henri’s is an Atlanta tradition! – Dana diLorenzo
186 Rio Circle, Decatur; 404-373-8752; facebook.com/mysouthernsweetsbakery
Mon., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat.-Sun.,10 a.m.-4 p.m.
No, you are not lost. Tucked away in the corner of an industrial-looking brick building not far from the DeKalb Farmer’s Market is Southern Sweets Bakery. It can be a little hard to find, but trust the locals – it’s well worth the hunt.
You’ve likely eaten a treat from the Southern Sweets kitchen and didn’t even know it. Opened in 1992, owner Nancy Cole’s bakery supplies dozens of area restaurants with decadent cakes, pies and goodies made from high-quality ingredients. It’s hard to nail down just one specialty – ask anyone in the line at the counter and they’ll probably each have a different favorite. From dense, creamy cheesecake and apple pie so good there aren’t words to describe it, to spicy-sweet gingerbread pound cake, each trip to Southern Sweets can make you change your answer. The “just a slice” portions are so generous that you’ll wonder how in the world you’ll ever eat it all – but trust me, you will.
Weekend manager Sanja Filipovic says the old-fashioned chocolate cake, which happens to be vegan is a standout. For Valentine’s Day, a heart-shaped version of this luscious, dark confection (just the right size for two), is coated in chocolate ganache and drizzled with white chocolate.
Serving breakfast and lunch along with treats in a laid-back atmosphere, Southern Sweets is a perfect place for a family-friendly Valentine’s Day. Gluten-free options and vegan treats are so good you won’t know the difference. – S.C.
101 North Park Square, Marietta; 770-218-9994; sugarcakespatisserie.com
Tues.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri., 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Located on the Marietta Square and surrounded by quaint and quirky shops, Sugar Cakes Patisserie is an ideal spot to celebrate Valentine’s Day, family style. Snag a sunny window seat in this bright and bustling bakery and try not to drool as you peer into the glass cases filled with tempting treats. Owner and pastry chef Ted Arpon has three kids of his own, so he knows how to please younger patrons. He says kids love the giant cookies that are always available – oatmeal raisin is his favorite. Strawberry cupcakes made with fresh berries taste, well, fresh; éclairs with a beautifully generous coating of rich chocolate are decadent; and buttery tarts adorned with colorful fruit are creamy and bright.
For an extra-special Valentine’s treat to share, try the velvety Mirage Cake, a house specialty of not-too-sweet hazelnut and chocolate goodness smothered in glossy, gooey ganache. This year, trendy French macaroons will also be available for your Valentine.
Open since 2006, Sugar Cakes offers a full breakfast and lunch menu (think crème brulee French toast and chicken salad on a fresh croissant) including gluten-free confections and options for vegetarians, all at reasonable prices and with friendly service.
1184 Concord Road, Ste. 1, Smyrna; 770-434-3115; mcentyresbakery.com
Tues.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
A favorite in the Smyrna-Vinings area since the 1940s, family-owned and operated McEntyre’s Bakery is a surefire pleaser of palates. A trio of McEntyre men (Steve plus sons Brandon and Ryan) mix, bake and decorate five days a week to fill several expansive bakery cases with made-from-scratch cakes, pies, cupcakes, donuts, pastries, cookies and breads. Yep, those almost-too-beautiful-to-eat wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and intricately decorated cookies are the handiwork of some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet!
The hand-decorated shortbread cookies featuring fun, seasonal designs are not only beautiful; they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The most popular kiddie treat is the “dough boy,” a decorated donut in the shape of a gingerbread man.
The Strawberry Dream Cake (or cupcake) is a Valentine’s Day (or any time) tradition for many families. Be sure to peruse the “ready to take home” case, where you will find McEntyre’s original butterice rolls. McEntyre’s also offers homemade soups, sandwiches and party trays. The picture (and specials) posted on McEntyre’s Bakery Facebook page has resulted in my family piling into the car to make an unplanned visit. Put McEntyre’s on your “must-visit” list! – D.D.