Across the street from Zak the Baker is a parking garage that looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And diagonally opposed, there’s a store specializing in vintage cars and guitars that looks like Keith Haring sneezed on it. On this bakery’s block in Wynwood, every millimeter of surface area is screaming for your attention. But aside from the exterior - which sports a pretty rainbow pattern that’s still subdued in comparison to its neighbors - things look kind of bland inside Zak the Baker. Instead, the most interesting things you’ll find are the best bread and pastries in Miami.
Inside Zak’s hospital-white walls, there’s a rotating cast of croissants, danishes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and traditional Jewish baked goods like boureka and babka. The pressure to order can be intense - especially if there’s a waiting crowd behind you, so just start with the two options that are consistently perfect: the babka and a couple of dark chocolate rye cookies. The babka comes in nice big chunks, and it contains multitudes: both dense and chewy and light and flaky in all the right places. The rye cookies are also exceptional - somehow crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. And if you stop by on a Friday at noon when the challah comes out of the oven, take home a loaf so you can spend the weekend canceling plans and making challah French toast with your cat.
If you can’t live on cookies and rugelach alone, there are usually three or four delicious sandwiches and a similar number of toasts to choose from The menu changes, but the crunchy tuna melt is always available, and the nova and cream cheese toast is a great light lunch too. If you want to mix things up a bit after your third or 30th trip here, look out for the daily special, which can range from a salmon burger to the best grilled cheese and tomato soup you’ll ever have.
Even though it only opened its doors in 2014, grabbing lunch and far too many baked goods at Zak the Baker is already a Miami tradition right up there with day drinking at the Deuce and 3pm shots of gasoline espresso. Wynwood will no doubt keep evolving with flying e-scooters and virtual murals that download directly onto your pupils, but we hope Zak stays this way, without any blinding murals of sunbathing challah or corny graffiti floor poems that say something like, “Dough rises. So can you.” This place - and it’s pastries - are already interesting enough on their own.
There’s a really balanced cream cheese/salmon/sourdough ratio here. No one ingredient overpowers, which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever had an accidental bite of pure cream cheese. The toast isn’t super thick, so go for a sandwich or get a pastry on the side if you’re super hungry.
This is what you should get if you looked at the nova and cream cheese toast and thought, “more.” And if you fall in the venn diagram of people who like both salmon and reuben sandwiches (it’s a big circle), then this is the move.
The tuna tastes great, but our favorite part about this sandwich is that perfect buttery crust on the outside of the bread. It’s the sort of toast you’ve been striving for with every grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever made.
You get a really generous scoop of smoked whitefish and the cucumber adds a needed crunch to what would otherwise be a very squishy sandwich. It’s very tasty, but if you’re not a smoked whitefish person, skip it, because that’s definitely the star of the show here.
If we ever figure out how to make a cookie that has such a light crisp on the outside, yet remains so soft and gooey on the inside, you can rest assured we will spend the rest of our lives in the kitchen, making (and eating) that cookie. It’s probably a good thing we can’t come anywhere close to this salty little circle of perfection.
We’ve never had better babka and we doubt we ever will. It’s very difficult to decide between cinnamon or chocolate and honestly they’re both so good we can’t even give you a suggestion. Maybe flip a coin and let the babka gods decide?