6 Cronut Knock-Offs in Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger  |  August 19, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

We’ll never know what muse blessed Dominique Ansel with the inspiration for the Cronut, but the donut-croissant hybrid has attracted more attention than possibly any pastry, ever. (One could make an argument for the cupcake, but the social web was little more than a glint in Al Gore’s eye when Carrie Bradshaw first wrapped her lips around a Magnolia cupcake, so the hype was much more subdued.)

Though Ansel has now trademarked the name for his creation, that hasn’t stopped copycat versions from popping up in cities across the world. In Philadelphia, there are at least six places turning out similar treats. While you won’t find lines wrapping around the block like they do in SoHo, all the Philly knockoffs are popular and tend to sell out quickly.

Do these desserts live up to their reputation? An elderly gentleman we ran into on one of our tasting visits was anxious to let us know the knock-off he tried was the single best pastry he’s had in over 70 years of eating sweets. Considering that endorsement (plus plenty more online), you may want to give the sensation a try. Study your options below and start scheming.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Swiss Haus Bakery

    This Rittenhouse bakeshop was the first to recognize the potential of the hybrid and bring it to Philadelphia. Proprietor Jim Hausman calls his version the Swiss Cro-creme and sells each one for $5. Cro-cremes are very close to the original: a wheel of croissant dough is fried to a bubbling crisp, rolled in cinnamon sugar, then filled with vanilla pastry cream and iced with cinnamon glaze.

    Hausman says the recipe wasn’t too tough to figure out - “about 98% there on the first try” - but the real challenge was developing a production system to make 200 per day. If you want to score one, try calling to pre-order, or try your luck and show up around 11 AM on a weekday.

    35 S. 19th St.; 215-563-0759

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    Potito’s Bakery

    Between all three locations of this family-run bakery - the South Philly original, the new Walnut Street outpost and the Jersey Shore shop in Wildwood - nearly 10 dozen croissant-donuts are made each and every day. As befits a Philadelphia institution, the $5 pastries are known as Yo Do’cro.

    Do’cros come in two varieties, each made by slicing the fried puff in half and filling it with cream. In homage to Ansel’s creation, there’s a version with traditional Bavarian cream inside and a glaze on top. Skip that one and go right to the one stuffed with Potito’s famous ricotta-and-chocolate-chip filling. It’s possibly even better than a cannoli.

    1614 W. Ritner St.; 215-334-2996
    1315 Walnut St.; 215-545-2253

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    One Shot Cafe

    Co-owner Rebecca Baruno dismissed the fad at first, but when it started to catch on, she knew she could help satisfy desire for the trendy treats in Philadelphia. She recalled enjoying something very similar on a trip to Spain with her wife Melissa. Xiuxos is the name for a cylindrical, croissant-like pastry that’s deep-fried, dusted in sugar and filled with cream - it’s popular and common around Catalonia.

    In Northern Liberties, however, Baruno skipped the cream in her Kronuts, which actually makes them flakier and easier to pull apart. She makes them two or three times each week with two different toppings - maple walnut or almond caramel (for our money, get the latter) - and sells them for $5 apiece.

    217 W. George St.; 215-627-1620

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Artisan Boulanger Patissier

    “This kind of dessert isn’t really new,” says Andre Chin, who, with his wife Amanda Eap, owns East Passyunk’s best pastry shop, now reopen at 12th and Mifflin. When Chin was working in Paris bakeries, he saw plenty of “brioche beignets” that were deep-fried and filled with cream.

    The huge, layered versions available to South Philly now - for just $4.50 each - he’s calling croissant beignets, and they come with several fillings. On any given day you’ll find lemon and diplomat cream peeking out from between the pastry shells, but you can also look for versions with orange, hazelnut, raspberry and other flavors.

    1218 Mifflin St.; 215-271-4688

  • Frangelli’s

    At first, this bakery in deep South Philly priced its croissant-donut hybrid at around 75 cents, the same price as the regular donuts in the lineup. But word spread fast, thanks in large part to intrepid Philadelphia eater Holly Moore, who is also responsible for naming the pastries “Yonuts.”

    A cream filling was added to the glazed torus of fried croissant dough, and the price went up to $2.50 - still half the going rate. Though the bakery closes for the month of August, head to Ritner street after Labor Day to get in on this delicious deal.

    847 W. Rittner St.; 215-271-7878

  • Paris Baguette Bakery

    Tucked into the basement of the H Mart in Elkins Park is an outpost of this Korean-owned chain, which runs at least 15 cafes throughout Pennsylvania, New York and California. The croissant donuts here go for just $3 each, and are close copies of Ansel’s original (cream-filled and iced fried rounds of flaky dough).

    If you’re nearby, know that the pastries come out in waves - when we called around 10:30 AM on a Saturday morning, the first batch had sold out, but another tray’s emergence from the oven was imminent.

    7320 Old York Rd., Elkins Park; 215-635-2790