Where To Find The Best Soft Pretzels In The US

No matter how you roll it, knead it, or knot it, few amongst us can resist a pretzel. No, not the hard variety readily available in your grocery aisle. Instead, we're talking about the soft pretzel, the one that sits proudly atop many a restaurant's menus as the ultimate break-bread appetizer and can be found at any amusement park or ball game. When done well, a truly good soft pretzel has a golden brown, crispy exterior that opens to a pillowy, yet ever so slightly chewy interior.

Don't get it twisted, though. The pretzel's origins may lie centuries ago in Europe, according to Taste. But here in America, we took it upon ourselves to really get creative with the form. We've forged a new path for the carb that you can now find in bites, knots, sticks, and even larger-than-life versions that accompany little dishes of mustard varieties and pretty much all the cheese dips. Let's just say it's come a long way since 7th century Italy.

Buckle up (and get ready for a whole lot of pretzel puns), because we're headed across the country to discover the best soft pretzels in the U.S. Our list is comprised of a little of everything — there are neighborhood pubs, an actual pretzel factory, and even a roadside shack in here. And don't get salty if your favorite is missing, as we all know that true beauty is in the eye of the pretzel beholder.

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Factory

It's unclear if we'll ever uncover the real truth of how pretzels first arrived in America, but we do have a few good guesses. According to History, it's long been rumored that pretzels arrived with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and were used as a trading tactic with Native Americans, though actual evidence for this claim is pretty scarce. Another theory is that German immigrants (who surely love their pretzels) brought them over when they settled in Pennsylvania in the early 18th century. What can't be disputed is that innovative entrepreneur Julius Sturgis took his passion for the combination of water, flour, and salt and claimed his rightful place in American history as a true king of pretzels.

According to Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, their namesake founder opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States in 1861. Still in operation to this day and even open to the public for tours, this Lititz, Pennsylvania tourist spot is a chance to take a glimpse into the history of our beloved bready knot. While they also make stand-out hard pretzels -– and in fact take credit for inventing them (via History) — after you take a stroll through the factory and try your hand at twisting a pretzel, you can grab a soft pretzel in the gift shop. Freshly baked on-site, this straightforward, no-frills soft pretzel continues to wow us.

Tarpon River Brewing

With its inherent high carb count ready to coat the stomach, there perhaps may be no better pairing for a beer than a good soft pretzel. Florida's bubbling craft brew scene has catapulted the sunshine state to the national arena, at least in terms of beer and, for a few spots, really great pretzels. Just north of Miami in downtown Fort Lauderdale, you'll find Tarpon River Brewing. This unique gastropub is outfitted with industrial-sleek décor and allows visitors to peek into the brewing process first-hand as their beer is brewed on-site and in plain viewing of guests.

The vibey space doles out some incredible craft beers, like the cleverly named IPA Hopsta La Vista, but they also serve an impressive food selection worthy alone of a visit. Standout wings and burgers aside, we're visiting the local spot for the appropriately named Big *ss Pretzel. They brush the huge pretzel up with butter as it's cooking and finish the surface off with a sprinkling of salt before serving. The accompanying homemade spicy mustard is delicious, but we'll always upgrade to add their house-made IPA cheese sauce.

Esther's German Bakery

We couldn't talk about the best pretzels in the United States without a nod to the Germans. They may not have invented the 'bretzel,' as they call it (via Pennsylvania Center for the Book), but they've certainly made it one of their own and it's since become synonymous with their culinary heritage. According to Plated Cravings, German-style pretzels are unique and feature a darker brown exterior that comes from a pre-baking method where they dip the dough in lye or baking soda. These are also shaped differently than other styles of pretzel, using a method that results in a thicker middle that grows thin towards the top.

Located just an hour south of San Francisco in Los Altos, California, Esther's Germany Bakery is the real deal, serving their German pretzels to many of the Bay Area's best German restaurants. You know it's legit when you learn that the spot was opened by a husband and wife who came to America from Germany in the late 1990s (via The Daily Meal). Their pretzels are the closest you can get to a taste of Bavaria in the US. They also offer a collection of other drool-worthy German delicacies and baked goods like apple strudel, potato pancakes, and bratwurst.

BaseLine Tap House

Our next stop may be found clear across the country within driving distance of the Atlantic Ocean, but it still fully embraces the sips, sounds, and bites of the West Coast. Don't let its location in a theme park — Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, to be exact — throw you off. BaseLine Tap House impresses us not only for their standout selection of Cali brews and on-tap wines and cocktails, but their small yet still mighty food menu. This indoor-outdoor bar meets lounge will seriously have you rethinking the whole concept of theme park food.

Maybe you're visiting here for their cheese and charcuterie board or their coffee-rubbed rib-eye beef puff, but the Bavarian pretzel is our preferred way to satiate our appetite on those marathon park days. Made for sharing, this jumbo-sized pretzel is served with spicy mustard and a so-good-you'll-want-to-lick-the-bowl beer cheese fondue. It also pairs nicely with their Ace Space Blood Orange Hard Cider on tap. Mickey pretzels be darned.

Immergut Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels

It's long been thought that pretzels are a sign of prosperity and good luck, which is why they were worn as necklace charms by 16th-century monks, according to Wine Enthusiast. Well, you will certainly be in luck if you happen to find yourself in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Amish community in Eastern Pennsylvania has been handcrafting some of the finest homemade foods for hundreds of years, resulting in a booming tourism industry. But first, you'll have to put down the local dairy ice cream and their impeccable cheese, because here you'll also find what may be the pinnacle of pretzels.

Pretzels arguably originated in this region, so it's not surprising that some of the best can be found here. Immergut Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels is a small brick-and-mortar location in the heart of Lancaster, just steps away from Kitchen Kettle Village, a popular shopping destination. They shine with a classic Pennsylvania Dutch-style pretzel. These pretzels are delicate yet provide that wow-worthy chewy texture we love about the style. After baking, they are dipped in a vat of butter and then salted before serving — though we probably already had you at butter. It's a bit of a mess to eat, sure, but is still an utter explosion of flavor. Good luck eating another pretzel ever again.

Ralf's Bavarian Pretzels

Just south of the Canadian border you'll find the coastal town of Bellingham, Washington. The hip town is known for its standout foodie scene consisting of quite a few bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. Here, you'll also find Ralf's Bavarian Pretzels. An ode to the traditional bakeries baker Ralf Sigl visited as a child while growing up in southern Germany, this place does pretzels extremely well indeed.

Sigl's secret is in using all organic ingredients and, rather than using a machine to make the signature treat, bakers here form each and every pretzel by hand. The result is an absolute melt-in-your-mouth, cathartic carb experience. If you're "knot" into a classic pretzel, they also made standout pretzel buns and unique pretzel sticks of both savory and sweet varieties, including flavors like chocolate, turkey, and havarti. Don't be shocked if the line is well out the door for this small town hot spot.

Quinn's Neighbourhood Pub and Eatery

In an unassuming strip mall just south of Nashville, Tennessee, you'll find Quinn's Neighbourhood Pub and Eatery. This family-friendly pub is home to a standout draft beer list and impressive menu, including brats and several varieties of mac and cheese, like their Nashville hot with fried chicken and blue cheese crumbles. They also have some of the best soft pretzels you'll ever find at an Irish-inspired watering hole.

Cleverly named the pretzel logic, the secret to their soft pretzels is in the not-so-conventional method of cooking: flash frying. It was a happy accident that led the restaurant to create these twisted little things. As a Quinn's staffer told Tasting Table, the kitchen staff was met with quite a challenge when the pizza oven suddenly went out one day. A very creative cook had the close to genius level idea to throw those babies in the fryer, and they haven't looked back since. The flash-frying method gives the pretzel a slightly crisped exterior while maintaining the pillowy nature of the soft interior. They are served with a Dijon mustard and an impeccable three-cheese blend sauce.

Pretzel House

We find ourselves once again in a theme park. This time, we're headed to Hersheypark, located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, just west of pretzel's humble roots in America. You may have come here for the chocolate bars but you'd be wrong to pursue only that treat. As you're strolling the sweetest place on Earth, we insist that you grab a hand-rolled pretzel from the park's aptly named Pretzel House. Other theme parks will be left to bow down to their superiority and you'll soon see why.

The Pretzel House dishes out the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch style recipe and in near-perfect execution, which you might not expect or find at such a high-volume location. The flavor is buttery and the chewy-to-pillowy ratio is pretzel perfection. While we love the classic salted version you can also grab unique varieties that include a dusting of parmesan or garlic as well as cinnamon sugar, cinnamon raisin, and even jalapeño. If that wasn't enough, they not only serve classic cheese dip but vanilla buttercream icing, honey mustard, and of course, chocolate!

Coffee Tomo

Don't be misled by the word 'coffee' in this local spot's name. Our quest for the best soft pretzel takes us next to a place not exactly known for being carb-forward, either, but forge ahead. Los Angeles may be known for its bustling coastline and whittling waistline, but the city is also home to a quirky coffee shop that impresses us with not just their house-roasted coffee drinks and teas, like a Spanish latte or butterfly lychee. They've also got fantastic pretzels.

Coffee Tomo is a local haven and sanctuary for those looking for a jolt of caffeine, of course. And not only do they in-house bake standout classic sea salted pretzels, but they produce some of the more interesting varieties on our list. You can dine on a sweet potato and cheese pretzel or one filled with pickled jalapeños, for instance, as Irvine Weekly reports. Regardless of the exact flavor, these pretzels are soft and always fresh, made using only high-quality ingredients.

Craft Brewed

Nashville has its claims to fame for many things. The well-visited tourist locale is home to country music, hot chicken, and ultra-popular bachelorette spots. What a resume! If you pull back the curtain and step away from the obvious tourist traps, there's an incredible restaurant and bar scene of hidden gems. Do as the locals do and head to Craft Brewed, located in the city's Melrose neighborhood.

Just over a mile from downtown, you'll feel far removed from the honky-tonks and sheer pandemonium of Broadway here. Craft Brewed, a taproom meets bottle shop, serves an extensive beer list in a laid-back welcoming space with plenty of seating indoors and outdoors on their beer garden patio deck. They don't serve much in the ways of food, but they do have likely one of the best pub-style pretzels in the city. This savory homemade pretzel is massive and the perfect accompaniment to your beer. It's served with a generously portioned bowl of beer cheese, too, fully completing your taste experience.

NBC Sports Grill & Brew

One might overlook City Walk as another hogwash tourist haven with lackluster food and overpriced nonsense, but you'd be wrong. Located at Universal Studios Orlando, the dining and entertainment here is actually a burgeoning gastronomical hotbed. You can sip on an expertly crafted cocktail as part of the old-fashioned program at Big Fire or feast your fancies on house-made pasta at VIVO Italian Kitchen.

If your tastes are a little more mainstream, NBC Sports Grill & Brew offers standout pub-style food in a spacious and modern sports bar setting. They are also home to one of the biggest soft pretzels on our list. Their large soft pretzel is seriously big, with an equally impressive presentation to boot. With just a touch of salt, this can easily be shared with 3 to 4 people. This comes with a solid ballpark style mustard but we're never one to shy away from the jalapeño queso.

Harpoon Brewery

You may have come to Boston for the excellent seafood, but we've arrived in one of America's oldest cities on a mission — a pretzel mission, that is. Located in the seaport district, Harpoon Brewery is a massive German-style beer hall with copious amounts of indoor and outdoor seating where you can sip on their signature beer selection or also try some limited edition patched and hard ciders. The Harpoon Brewery kitchen dishes out the usual pub offerings, like sandwiches and pizza, as well as soft pretzels that blow the standard bar bite out of the water.

Handmade every day, their pretzels are super doughy and the ideal yin to the yang of your beer. They also dish out an estimated 3,000 of these pretzels a week, according to MassLive. As if the salted version wasn't already perfection on its own (its infused with beer after all), you can bring your pretzel game to the next level with their house-made sauces (some of which are also infused with beer). These include the ale mustard, IPA cheese, garlic parmesan butter, and a bacon ranch sauce. If you're in the market for something of the sweet variety, they also have a cinnamon sugar version that'll be sure to delight your sweet tooth.

FatBelly Pretzel

We're always looking to spread love like mustard, especially when it's directed toward a small family business. FatBelly Pretzel is a relatively new concept in Nashville. They don't operate a brick and mortar location but they do host pop-ups around town and are regulars at several popular farmers markets (via Nashville Scene). If there was a way to make pretzels cool, Chef Levon Wallace, formerly of Couchon Butcher, is doing it. What started as a way to make his family and himself happy quickly turned into one of the greatest things to come out of the drab pandemic, and we're all thrilled.

The little operation that could quickly spread thanks to social media and a word of mouth following. The pretzels made here are totally unique and a hybrid of the Bavarian style, with crispy arms and a big chewy presentation, hence the name. FatBelly Pretzel doles out a solid classic salted variety but, for the more ambitious, there's an everything version as well as a pretzel that's dipped in melted butter before it's generously coated in cinnamon sugar. Of course, with a chef of this magnitude behind the knot, there are also some irresistible scratch-made sauces on offer, like horseradish mustard, whipped pimento cheese, sweet cream cheese frosting, and our favorite, 100% made-from-scratch sharp cheddar cheese sauce. You can also indulge in your pretzel-filled journey with a snickerdoodle pretzel crunch cookie or even a muffuletta with a pretzel bun.

Busy Bee's Farm Market

We've saved what may be the best, if not the most unique by far, for last. If you're cruising through the rolling hills of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish Country, you might completely miss this next spot. At first glance, Busy Bee's Farm Market looks like any other property along the long stretch of road. You'll see a standard farming house, barn, and garage. Upon further inspection, however, this roadside hidden gem is actually a garage converted into a small market. Family-owned and operated, they sell a selection of handmade goods, Amish trinkets, and fresh produce.

They also sell a perfectly executed, hand-twisted Pennsylvania Dutch style soft pretzel. Baked on-site, this pretzel is so good it's been said to bring many to tears (okay, we're exaggerating a bit). It's soft with a subtle crisp to the exterior and has basically everything you're looking for in a soft pretzel. Oh, and did we mention it's literally dripping in butter? Yep. Italian monks may have invented it, but the Amish have certainly perfected the soft pretzel. Mic drop.