Francois Payard's FPB Francois Payard Bakery

François Payard opens a downtown sugar temple

Soho already has a rich history of baked goods: Bread connoisseur Jim Lahey christened Sullivan Street with his no-knead bread, while tradition ruled within Vesuvios's teal sheath.

Although a few members of the old guard still stand (here's looking at you, Parisi), many of the storied dough houses have moved away or changed hands. But François Payard has reinvigorated the neighborhood's crumb factor by reopening his bakery in new downtown digs.

Payard takes his work seriously, as evidenced by multiple rooms for making chocolate, macarons, bread and pastries. His croissants are the ultimate confirmation: Each bite shatters the pastry in a flaky, buttery flurry. And a continuous train of fresh breads–baguettes, ciabatta, pretzel rolls–emerges warm from the wall of ovens.

But Payard's various expressions of sugar outshine the rest. Expertly made éclairs, doughnuts (pictured) and tarts join his signature truffles, and we were particularly taken with an orange-scented brioche one morning–and a silky lemon tart later that afternoon.

Don't let the classic French pedigree fool you, though: Payard still has room for playful endeavors. The shop's shelves hold squeezable tubes of bittersweet chocolate sauce, which almost dare you to raise an eyebrow at their cheekiness.

We'll let you decide how they're best used....

François Payard Bakery, 116 W. Houston St. (at Sullivan St.); 212-995-0888 or