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best east bay bakery

  • k
  • klutch Mar 19, 2003 01:23 PM

I have recently moved from SF to the East Bay and I am in search of the best bakery. Specifically, I'm looking for french pasteries and desserts. Any recommendations?

Thanks,
-klutch

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  1. La Farine on College between Alcatraz and Claremont is good for pain au chocolat and the like, and gets chowhound raves.

    Noe Valley Bakery has recently come to Solano (near San Pablo) and is reputed to be good for breads and pastries. (Haven't been yet myself.)

    Masse's Pastries on Shattuck between Vine and Rose is my personal favorite. Friendly atmosphere, good coffee, and excellent pear tarts, mini cheesecakes, fruit tarts. Not to mention all those wonderful 50 cent cookies, like financiers and almond crinkle cookies! I believe they're closed Tuesdays.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alexandra
      n
      Nathan Landau

      La Farine is good, Masse's is good, Toots Sweet is a good (non-French) pastry bakery. I am most underwhelmed by Noe Valley Bakery, it is a big fall in quality from Grace Baking which used to occupy the site.

    2. Don't forget Neldams. Old fashioned, but they make good cake and wonderful petit fours.

      Link: http://www.neldamsbakery.com/default.asp

      2 Replies
      1. re: Donna

        Of all the Bay Area bakeries, Neldam's may be the one I miss most. I've NEVER been able to find a bear claw that's even remotely comparable.

        1. re: a_and_w

          i second that. Try the strawberry shortcake, chocolate dream?or cloud cake and the sweet potato pie.

      2. La Farine on College is good. The bread is nice but the cupcakes and frosting horrible!! I've been on the hunt for the perfect crossiant. I feel everything is too big and under cooked here in the states. Seriously can't a girl get a well made crispy flaky crossiant? heh

        PJ

        5 Replies
        1. re: PateBriseej

          Feel Good Bakery in Alameda makes a good crisp, flakey croissant. Except on Wednesday, which must be the main baker's day off. But the one I just had for breakfast was great: nice deep brown color, shattering crisp crust and tender, stretchy interior. Delessio in San Francisco and Acme at the Ferry Building also make good croissants of the "not flabby, puffy and beige" variety.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            What time do they pull their bread in the morning? I stopped in one morning about 7:30 and all that was in the case were sweet things ~ I was looking for bread but a croissant would have worked.

            1. re: foodfan

              Good question. I've never seen a pattern, so I'll have to ask. I think on the weekends (Friday/Saturday) they actually bake some of their bread in the evening for the next morning (they do a couple of farmers' markets). I got ambushed when I walked by there a couple of Fridays ago and the current walnut bread was coming out of the oven.

          2. re: PateBriseej

            Here's the delayed (but wholly worthwhile) gratification path to crispy flaky croissant: bring home a well-made croissant, e.g. from La Farine or Masse's, pre-heat convection oven to 325F, heat croissant on rack placed on top of a cookie sheet (to allow better heat circulation) for 10-15 minutes, have sweet butter or apricot preserves ready to slather when croissant comes out of the oven. Warm flaky is so much better than room temperature flaky.

            1. re: PateBriseej

              Croissants: Bistro Liaison. They only do them between 7-10 in the morning. Every time I've popped in they've still been warm.

            2. French, La Farine.

              Crixa Cakes is equally good, but their stuff is more Eastern European.

              Bakesale Betty is also first-rate, though totally American.

              Noe Valley Bakery, some good stuff, but at the SF Ferry Plaza farmers market they have to compete with Downtown Bakery, which beats them on both quality and price.

              http://www.lafarine.com/
              http://www.crixa.net/
              http://www.bakesalebetty.com/

              10 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Noe Valley Bakery has been gone from Solano for a while now.

                Bakesale Betty's is partly American and quite a bit Australian as Betty herself is 'strine and her Lamingtons and plum pudding and occasional sticky toffee pudding are very not American.

                Again, Sweet Adeline's is great though totally American. Best lemon meringue pie ever. Good quick breads. Sweet potato pie!

                1. re: lintygmom

                  I've found Sweet Adeline's stuff disppointing.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Robert, what did you have? I recently had their Princess Cake, which was amazing, and their chocolate cake, which my family loved.

                    1. re: Missmoo

                      Some of my friends are big fans of the place so I've had various things at their houses and potlucks. Not sure exactly what.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I've got to side with Missmoo here, I know it's not terribly French-y, but Sweet Adeline's has excellent breakfast pastries, especially the fruit filled ones, and the service is so friendly. I also support it since it's in an area that needs more nice businesses.

                        1. re: goatcheesey

                          Try a head-to-head with Crixa sometime.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            But sometimes the Crixa (and I've only had two of their offerings) are too fancy. And since this posting I've had Sweet Adeline make a giant brownie/cake for my husband's birthday and everyone loved it. I would definately say it's a matter of fancy versus comfort style baking.

                            1. re: Missmoo

                              Not true at all, some of Crixa's cakes are quite fancy, but as you can see from the photos on the Web site, most of their pastries are extremely simple, just like homemade.

                              -----
                              Crixa Cakes
                              2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                There' times you need Crixa and other you need Sweet Adeline. I find them too different to compare. Also, Sweet Adeline is one of the few bakeries opne on Monday.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I have to agree with you rw!

              2. Why? I did have a quince/almond paste ring piece today that didn't measure up but in general it's like very good homemade.

                Crixa disappoints me--all whippy-cream without flavor.

                9 Replies
                1. re: lintygmom

                  Have you tried the non-whippy-cream items like the rugelach and the apple cake? The Boston Cream Pie is a take it or leave it for me.

                  1. re: lmnopm

                    I had an actual Frenchman to dinner (with my "boyfriend will gladly spend $500 for dinner for two" daughter) and so I got the European smash-ending-to-a-chateaubriand-dinner dessert and got the whippy-cream stuff sans flavor. It didn't inspire me to go back and now, for hearty bakery flavor, I have Sweet Adeline's so close to Crixa.

                    1. re: lintygmom

                      That's not typical of Crixa's stuff. The cream cakes tend to be strongly flavored with citrus or chocolate and booze, and they're a minority among dense, rich, Eastern European items.

                      1. re: lintygmom

                        Crixa is Eastern European and not French. They do better stuff in their baked buns, cookies and coffee cakes. Seriously, the rugelach is some of the best ever. And no one beats those biscuits (Pogácsa) they make. I have my moments with their pies which are open top and almost like deep-dish gallettes. The pumpkin is excellent. I see they have maple walnut pie on the menu today which sounds interesting, but a few of the pies have been a miss.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Deep-dish galette is an excellent description of their somewhat eccentric pies.

                          1. re: rworange

                            I wasn't quite aiming for French, as I feel he can probably get better in Paris, but for rich Eastern European. My grandparents had a bakery when I was young, full of refugees from Europe who loved teaching me to bake. Many of them had lost their families and missed having children in their lives so they'd stand me on a stool and help me roll out pie crust and such for tiny tartlets. Lots of flavored whipped cream items. Lots of sampling the kirsch.

                            I wanted a knock them on their asses dessert for a great but fairly easy to make dinner.

                            On your recommendation, I'll go back and try the rugelach. About weekly I stop into Adeline's and get something like their absolutely magnificent lemon meringue pie for my office staff. I could try the rugelach or such from Crixa if they open early enough.

                            1. re: lintygmom

                              Nope, the lazy sods at Crixa don't open until 9. I'm in the middle of my morning by then.

                              1. re: lintygmom

                                Even worse than that ... they open at 10. Not all their buns are equal either. I don't like the saffron buns and the Fatima's thighs are only ok, IMO. When the hit though, Crixa makes me lose my mind it is so good ... speaking of whipped creamy things, you have to try one of Masses mini black forest yule logs ... single serving ... they have these knock-out boozy cherries in them.

                                1. re: lintygmom

                                  and they close at 6. what happened to bakers hours.

                      2. Perhaps my favorite East Bay Bakery is the Bread Garden bakery, on Domingo, across from the Claremont Hotel. They're not more of a morning bakery than a dessert bakery. They've got my favorite sticky buns in the East Bay.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: peterme

                          You mean they *are* more of a morning bakery than a dessert bakery, right? Their scones are pretty good.

                        2. did i miss something? does no one frequent nabalom in berkeley, or have they closed since i moved away?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rmarisco

                            They almost closed:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39241

                          2. "Nabolom Bakery"...yes they are still there. Thanks I'm going to check them out!

                            1. "Nabolom Bakery"????

                              I thought this tread was titled "best east bay bakery?"

                              Not "The worst run Bakery with the most incompetent workers with bad attitudes in the East bay"

                              1. Yeah, love those bakery workers with the peppy attitudes that only low-wages can bring, eh?

                                I also rec. Arizmendi and Cheese Board for scones, pizza, Suburban Bread and their cheese rolls.

                                Nobody mentioned Acme? Their sweet rolls (yeasty with raisins and orange peel, I think) and their ham and cheese flaky turnovers (also apple) are fab.

                                Bakesale Betty's sticky date pud is to die for. I don't care for the Lamingtons. I like nuts with my choc, too and she only has a few (choc chips with nuts which they rarely have at Temescal Farmers' Market by the time I arrive. Can I help it if I like to stay out late sipping champers from crystal goblets while watching the sun come up over the East Bay hills from my penthouse balconey?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  "Yeah, love those bakery workers with the peppy attitudes that only low-wages can bring, eh?"

                                  Nabolom Bakery is a CO-OP, employee owned bakery.

                                2. Crixa Cakes is fabulous. I have a serious sweet tooth and am very picky. I don't care for whipped cream items, so I generally choose something on the right side of the register. That's the non-refridgerated section. I love their sour lemon cake, pumpkin spice cake, budapest coffee cake, flourless cholcolate chocolate cake, and numerous other things. Their rugelach are divine and I don't generally even like rugelach. Masse's and the Cheeseboard are also great places. Crixa Cakes has wifi which is cool. Ciao.............Wendy

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: WNB175

                                    A friend just gave me a chocolate mousse cake from Crixa and it was the best thing I've had from them so far. I've tried various things but I never tried the chocolate mousse cake before. My second favorite is the gingerbread.

                                  2. bakesale bettys
                                    crixa
                                    masse's

                                    as a southerner, i have to say that the only place i've found that duplicates the unmistakable redolence of a southern bakery is virginia bakery on shattuck. this is NOT to say they are anywhere near the best bakery in the area.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: bataille2

                                      What items do you like at Virginia?

                                      -----
                                      Masse's Pastries
                                      1469 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                      Virginia Bakery
                                      1690 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        The Boston Cream Pie at Virginia Bakery is wonderful.

                                      2. re: bataille2

                                        Long thread but it bears repeating - La Farine, La Farine, La Farine - for French pastry and cakes. I had the to-die-for mocha cake for a recent party and the pain chocolat is terribly decadent.

                                        I'm also a recent convert to Bakesale Betty's for American-centric treats.

                                      3. So many bakeries to name!! All within i would say a two mile (not really good at guessing though) radius of the UC Berkeley campus. Cheeseboard has really good buns in the morning, it's always packed! Bread Garden also has a good cheese baguette, and very delicious oatmeal raisin cookies, but less selection I feel. It has the typical brioches and whatnot. Crixa is more desserts, and has fancy cakes. La Farine has good morning buns and rustic baguettes- I would go there to buy fruit tarts.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: wongster

                                          Sweet Adeline takes it for me. She does an almond poundcake that is killer. And the summer cake is always light yet buttery and delicious.

                                          I pop in once a week to get my fix of their lemon cookies, which are the best I've had.

                                          1. re: zunzie

                                            I like sweet adeline's cookies. The thin small ones they keep in jars.

                                        2. I see nobody had added to this post in some time, so I'll include a relatively new bakery in the East Bay: Feel Good Bakery in Alameda. While their focus has mostly been on artisan breads they are now branching out and making some very good French-style pastries and tarts. And talking with the owner recently, it sounds like they will also be doing custom cakes and wedding cakes. I consider myself a modern bakery person, and Feel Good really does a great job. Their breads are second to none, and the pastries have that light touch and perfect balance of flavor that I'm sure will be enjoyed by the Chow Hound bretheren. Enjoy.

                                           
                                           
                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Bacotarian

                                            I mentioned them above in my December 2006 post. You're right, though, that while their breads were always good, over the years their pastries have gotten better.

                                            I've plugged their excellent croissants many times; when they have almond, it's amazing, but if they don't the bearclaws are also good. My main problem with them is that while the breads are reasonable, the pastries are expensive. That's actually a good thing, though, since it keeps me from buying too many, too often.

                                            -----
                                            Feel Good Bakery
                                            1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              :) I know that's true. But I'm inclined to forgive them since making good pastry really does take expensive ingredients, as opposed to bread which really relies on good starter. And I agree, great croissant. And nice French-style macaroons too.