The Best Bakery in America Is in . . . Knoxville, Tennessee?

It is. And it’s road-trip-worthy.

The Best Bakery in America Is in . . . Knoxville, Tennessee?

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Photo by Ashlea Halpern

That’s right, I said it. The best little bakeshop in the U.S.A. is located in Knoxville, TN. Not New York. Not San Francisco. Tennessee.

How good is Wild Love Bakehouse? So good that we drove 22,234 miles across 26 states and rerouted our itinerary three times just to eat here.

The year-old bakery was founded by Shaun and Meg Parrish, the husband-and-wife co-owners of K-Town coffee shop Old City Java. With ample seating both indoors and out, not to mention an alarmingly friendly staff (seriously, how are these people so cheerful at 7 in the morning?), Wild Love has drawn steady crowds ever since it opened.

The bakery’s eggs, milk, flour, and other ingredients are sourced locally or regionally. Monster breakfast biscuits, made with buttermilk from Tennessee’s cultishly adored Cruze Farm and topped with Tickiwoo Farm eggs and maple-glazed sausage from Crooked Road Farm, usually sell out by 9 or 10 a.m.

The lunching hour brings a wave of creative flatbreads, from-scratch soups, and flaky pot pies. But it’s the case of sweets and pastries that have out-of-towners like me taking the extra mileage hit.

The golden-brown hand pies filled with pear and rosemary taste like grown-up Pop Tarts. The photogenic carrot cake is laced with caraway seeds and slathered with beauteous mascarpone buttercream. Ham and Gruyère croissants, fig and almond galettes, moist pumpkin tea cakes, heavenly rosemary-pecan shortbread bars. . . 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.

You can bet your lucky stars the next time I’m driving to or from Pigeon Forge, Charlotte, Nashville, Asheville, Atlanta, or Chattanooga, I’m tacking on a detour to Wild Love—and buying a box or two to go.

>>Next: How a Tiny Tucson Bakery Is Preserving Local Heritage

Ashlea Halpern is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and cofounder of Minnevangelist, a site dedicated to all things Minnesota. She’s on the road four to six months a year (sometimes with her toddler in tow) and contributes to AFAR, New York Magazine, TIME, the Wall Street Journal, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Bon Appétit, Oprah, Midwest Living, and more. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @ashleahalpern.
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