Acquired Taste

Let them eat croissants have had burgers char broiled, burgers fried, burgers every which way. Now they are looking for something completely different." So says Mel King, manager of Vie de France, a cafe and bakery in Washington, D.C. In city after city and in-suburban shopping malls around the U.S., the croissant, a flaky pastry that has long been a staple at breakfast tables in France, has become the hottest new entrant into the $31 billion-a-year fast-food industry.

Croissant outlets range from trendy restaurants to chains of cafes like California's Croissants USA. The leading...

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