Unique Bakery opens in downtown Tacoma with macarons, croissants, kouign-amann, more
Tacoma’s Unique Bakery has opened at 925 Market St. And it brings with it something this city is short on – a deep selection of French pastries.
Local diners can swoop up croissants, macarons, cream puffs and other French/European bakery delights throughout Pierce County, but fetching that broad selection requires a bit of a scavenger hunt from Tacoma to Steilacoom. Start at Tacoma’s Corina and Celebrity Cake Studio, roar down River Road to Farm 12 in the Puyallup valley, then detour to Marvel Bay Cafe in Parkland, then head on over to Lakewood’s Boulangerie and German Pastry Shop and end your trip at Steilacoom’s brand new Delish Bakery.
That’s quite a trip.
But now? Now you can find what used to take a few trips all in one spot with a varied pastry case filled with carb-laden treasures.
Unique Bakery officially opened today, December 19. The bakery and cafe held soft openings Wednesday to Friday and my visits found as deep a selection as I’ve seen in Tacoma for European delights such as kouign-amann, pain au chocolat, pain au raisins, eclairs, cream puffs, almond croissants, fruit tarts, a wide selection of macarons and Danish pastries with myriad fruit fillings.
BACKGROUND OF UNIQUE BAKERY
The French bakery is the project of husband-wife baking team Roger Martinho and Mirtha Sanchez, who local pastry fiends will know as the previous owners of La Waffletz & Macaron Station in Freighthouse Square.
I remember when they opened the bakery counter in Freighthouse in 2015. It was a tiny walk-up counter and the bakery space was the size of a closet, yet Martinho and Sanchez produced a stunning assortment of macarons, the best selection I’d ever seen in Pierce County, plus liege dessert waffles plated with drizzles of tasty sauces and slices of fresh fruit.
The duo closed La Waffletz & Macaron Station in 2019 when Martinho underwent heart surgery, from which he’s completely recovered.
“I love this city and this country and I need to give back something and keep baking,” said Martinho in October when we first talked about his plans for Unique Bakery.
He and Sanchez said they’re thankful for the longtime customers who checked on them when Martinho was recovering from surgery. “Thank you to all our customers for your support,” he said. This week, those customers have been wandering in and wishing the couple well.
THE SPACE AT UNIQUE BAKERY
While Freighthouse Square’s La Waffletz & Macaron Station was a cubbyhole surrounded by a food court, Unique Bakery’s 3,000 square feet space feels so immense. Chairs are pushed up against one wall and tables against another, but when dining rooms can open again, there will be 15 tables with seating for 50 comfortably (just a reminder, but state regulations have shuttered all indoor dining across Washington state until at least early January).
THE MENU AT UNIQUE BAKERY
The pastry counter is beyond the seating area and beyond the pastry counter is a massive bakery kitchen that will churn out the French pastries, Italian desserts such as tiramisu, German-style cakes and desserts, cheesecakes and they even have plans to sell churros. Did I mention the liege waffles? Aside from the liege waffles from the food truck Munch Munch Waffles, since Savor Creperie closed, Unique Bakery will be the only local Tacoma spot to find liege waffles, those tasty yeasted waffled for which La Waffletz & Macaron Station were known.
Diners also will find the menu will evolve over time. Expect to see savory items such as mini quiches, sausage rolls, spinach and feta croissants and more. Because the bakery is open late, most days from 6 a.m. to at least 8 p.m, you’ll be able to stop by for a savory or sweet pastry and coffee, whether it’s morning or evening.
BACKGROUND OF THE BAKERS
Martinho and Sanchez met while working as bakers in a pastry corporation. Martinho has a background as a classically trained French pastry chef. His family hails from Portugal – his Portuguese grandmother taught him his appreciation for baking – and he grew up in France. He’s held all kinds of jobs in pastry, from corporate gigs to a bakery he once owned in Liege, Belgium. They operated La Waffletz & Macaron Station from 2015 to 2019 and after they exited that bakery as Martinho recovered from his heart surgery, they operated a wholesale bakery servicing local corporations with macarons.
ON A FIRST VISIT GET THE:
I bit into 15 different pastries each was more delicious than the last. For newcomers to this style of bakery, the pastry case can seem so overwhelming, so here’s a guide to the FIVE THINGS you should order first on a visit to Unique Bakery:
KOUIGN-AMANN: This is the first time I’ve seen kouign-amann in any Pierce County bakery case. The Breton cake famously was called “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe” by the New York Times, but you don’t need to know that to figure out that the pastry is loaded with butter. At the base is a sort of puff pastry that’s folded with so much butter, it’s the most prevalent flavor, and finished with caramelized sugar that gives the pastry a crunch at first bite.
PAIN AU CHOCOLAT: Flaky layers of croissant dough held a channel of chocolate. The flakey layers bit off with a satisfying crackle. Tip: I also saw pain au raisins.
CREAM PUFF: These carried that delicate chewy elasticity that all pastries based on pâte à choux have. A light-and-floofy poof of whipped cream was substantially more than a few bites.
FRUIT TART: Glossy glazed blueberries, strawberries and kiwi festooned the tart filled with a satiny, rich pastry cream.
MACARONS: Per usual, the display was loaded with a huge variety of macarons, those delicate Parisian cookies made with almond flour that carry a light crackle on the exterior and satisfying chew in the middle, usually sandwiched with ganache or buttercream. I spotted the usual suspects from the La Waffletz case that I loved – cassis, cinnamon roll, birthday cake, Tajin, rose raspberry, lavender, almond, pistachio, coconut, chocolate and more. One bit into the rose-raspberry and I was transported to Freighthouse Square. And the cinnamon roll? That zig-zag of cinnamon decorated the cookie tasted just as assertively as cinnamon as it always did at Freighthouse Square.
Welcome back, Roger and Mirtha! We missed you!
UNIQUE BAKERY AND COFFEE
Where: 925 Market St., Tacoma
Hours: They intend to be open most days at 6 a.m. and will serve into the evening, most likely 8 or 9 p.m. They’ll have shorter hours on Sundays. They intend to be open 7 days a week.
DID I MENTION THERE IS CANNOLI ON THE WAY TO PIERCE COUNTY
Cannoli is one of those desserts that is so elusive. I can name on one hand all the places that carry it – Marzano, Legendary Doughnuts, Corina Bakery, Steph’s Pizza – so when I see a place offering cannoli, I send up a beacon for fans for the Italian pastry. It’ll be offered at Verone’s Italian Kitchen & Sausage Company, which is opening this month, if all goes as planned, in the space that formerly housed Viafore’s. Read all about that here.