Midnite Patisserie

The Secret Is Out: Underground Grand Rapids Bakery Brings Chic Treats to West Michigan

If you have a sweet tooth half as commanding as mine, then one visit to Midnite Patisserie's Instagram account—full of precious, Parisian pastries, little cakes crowned with various fresh fruits, and impossibly, perfectly laminated croissant dough—is all you'll need to to know you're seeing something special. This isn't just food; it's art you can eat.

I first heard about this "secret neighborhood bakery" through MLive's Local Eats series piece by Rose White. My wife and I have been living in Grand Rapids since 2019 and haven't explored the city too much during these pandemic years. Midnite Patisserie is exactly the sort of place that can make an unfamiliar city feel like home. It has all the style and underground intrigue of the pop-ups we chased in Austin, except this operation seems to be here to stay. How lucky we are for that.

Midnite Patisserie is the project of Anna Varchola, who began by selling these delicacies from her window, and as demand grew, so did her need for need for more space. Pickup now happens on Saturdays at Amethyst Bee Cakery (425 Norwood Ave. SE), with which Varchola shares a kitchen space to accommodate the hundreds of pastries people bring home each week.

Don't try to order in-person though—Midnite Patisserie operates on a pre-order only model. This keeps an air of special exclusivity about the menu of rotating delicacies, which Varchola posts to Instagram and Facebook every Thursday at noon. Orders are taken online via MP's website, and they sell out fast. By Varchola's estimate, “Croissants usually go in under 10 minutes and everything else, maybe 20 minutes to an hour.”

Varchola keeps the menu fresh by introducing some new items periodically, like this week's spicy maple bacon and smoked gouda croissant. Other favorites are the sweet financiers and the Midnite Bar (think: elegant cosmic brownie) but the croissants, specifically the everything bagel-flavored kind, are by far the most popular. Toppings and fillings aside, these have captured the appetites of West Michiganders because of Varchola's technical proficiency. It is hard to find a croissant as beautifully layered and buttery outside of metropolitan French bakeries because of the intensity required to laminate upwards of 55 layers of butter and dough. This is hard work, and the proof is in the pastry.

On our first visit, we ordered an everything bagel croissant, a Midnite Bar, the plum hibiscus tart ("hibiscus curd, butterfly pea flower chantilly, plums, blueberries & kiwi berries in a sablée shell"), and a maple blueberry financier ("brown butter almond cake, maple syrup, fresh blueberries"). Flavor-wise, our favorites were the tart and the financier (my wife preferred the floral fruitiness of the tart and I liked the simple sweetness of the financier), but the showstopper was, unsurprisingly, the croissant. Once filled with the requisite cream cheese and seasonings, it became much heavier than expected, and might be more suitable split between two over coffee. Its joys are primarily textural—one feels each flaky layer collapse into buttery shards as they make their way to the creamy middle. Without doubt, this is the most savory thing I have ever eaten. Each flavor has its own song to sing here and the whole production feels especially big. For us, it was a little much, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone choosing indulgence over subtlety; there's room enough for both.

After arriving at Amethyst Bee Cakery, you will descend a few steps (yes it is actually underground) and announce yourself at the counter, after which your food will be packaged to order in a little pink box (see below). From ordering to eating, Varchola promises fun and delight. You'll have a full day to think of picking up the treats you secured on Thursday, and by Saturday you'll have MP's iconic box in-hand, to the envy of everyone who missed their chance.

What does the future look like for Varchola and Midnite Patisserie? She says, "If everybody could just stay patient with me, I’ll have as many croissants as people want to buy soon."