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Your favorite Bay Area bread

Please tell me your favorite Bay Area bread. We're trying to come up with an everyday bread for our family and I'm ashamed to say, in the bread-paradise that's the Bay Area, that we still haven't found one.

We're looking especially for suggestions for whole-grain non-sourdough bread but are open to trying other breads on occasion. We live in North Oakland and my office is in West Berkeley -- so recommendations near there are especially welcome.

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  1. Henry's Harvest Rustic Multigrain- Grace
    Arizmendi- Oakland
    Acme- all of Acme's breads
    Golden Harvest- Oakland
    Bay Bread- City
    Tartines Bread in the city

    La Brea Bakery based in LA, has a great 9-10 grain bread and Andronico's sometimes carries it, it travels well and last for a couple of days.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      oh and Grace's Muliti Grain bread which I happen to have and just made a grilled cheese sandwich with

      1. re: Lori SF

        Thanks, Lori. A multi-grain bread is exactly what I'm in the mood for. Do you know where I might find it?

        1. re: coriander

          here is a link-

          Most markets that have a decent bread selection will carry this, I only know of the places in SF. Maybe calling them to find out where specifically in your area. I am sure Whole Foods or many of those great markets over in the East Bay have it. It is a great bread, when fresh great dipping in olive oil, once it sits for a day or two great for grilled sandwiches, toast, french toast, etc.


          1. re: coriander

            I have the second the suggestion from LoriSF about La Brea's bread. Even though it's not from the Bay Area, it is great. I bought a whole grain bread that I really enjoyed. La Brea's bread can be found at Whole Foods and even Costco. What's nice is that it's baked half-way in Southern California and then shipped. And then it's baked to full freshness at the final destination store, so it's just as good as locally made.

          2. re: Lori SF

            I love the Grace Baking breads. The Pugliese loaf is a staple in our house (it isn't whole grain, though).

          3. re: Lori SF

            We've been thrilled wtih all of the various rolls and smaller loaves at Acme. We're always hauling our stash back on the Bart from the Ferry Building on Saturdays.

          4. There's a seller at the Temescal Farmers Market that has a great whole grain bread, it's called the Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, or something like that. I really like it, and I'm annoyed that I can't remember right now the name of the bakery (it has "Bay" in it, I'm pretty sure). The market is on Sundays.

            1. Feel Good Bakery in Alameda makes a wonderful whole-grain bread called "Wholey-Moley" -- if you can't make it to Alameda, they sell at some local farmers' markets (Sunday, Jack London Square, for example).


              1 Reply
              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I agree, and would caution anyone not to eat too much of its bread like I do. I like Feel Good's French baguette, as it has a great crust. I also like a couple of breads that have dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, but I can't remember what they're called. I enjoy Feel Good's pizza too for a quick snack.

                I don't care for the cookies I tried; I think they keep them too long. The cases are filled with sweets made on days prior, whereas the bread is always fresh. That said, I once enjoyed a fruit tart there that was quite good, but over priced.

              2. For me, Acme's "pain au levain" is the best bread in the world. Picked up still hot in the morning, all I need is a little butter and good preserves and I'm all set. It's not whole grain, but it's certainly more complex than a boring white loaf. Also, it has a small amount of sourdough starter, I believe. Please, give it a try. The folks at Acme tell me that they actually prefer the larger loaf to the smaller one, although the smaller one is already pretty darn great.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jess Leber

                  I agree with the Acme levain bread and would add the Tartine bread as my other favorite.

                2. Vital Vittles sounds like cat food but is a wonderful whole-grain bread. It makes great toast. It's organic, too. You can buy it at their store in West Berkeley, but the hours are funny. I often find it at Grocery Outlet. It's a great deal.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Glencora

                    Oh my god -- that's so funny. I really did think it was pet food! (I used to have one of those "only in Berkeley" moments when driving past the place.) Now that it's deemed fit for human consumption, I'll definitely try it.

                    1. re: coriander

                      My favorite is the 3 seed bread. But you might like the 12-grain.

                      1. re: Glencora

                        They also sell it at regular markets but the best loaves are sold at the Farmers markets. Which brings up Esther's German Bakery which is sold at the Sunday Montclair Village Farmers Market. I also like The Bread Garden next to Rick & Anns.

                        1. re: rworange

                          In what way are the loaves at the farmers markets better?

                          1. re: Glencora

                            I would occasionally buy VV at what was Tower Market and Berkeley Bowl and not impressed. Just your standard 'healthy' bread. I almost didn't even want to bother with the free samples with the farmers market, but glad I did. It just tasted so much better. Don't know if it was the particualar variety (don't remember). I'll pick up a loaf occasionally but only at the farmers market. Glad to know that you can buy it at the bakery. Didn't know they sold retail.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I do think that it is too "healthy" for sandwiches, but it makes really nice toast.

                              1. re: Glencora

                                I just discovered Vital Vittles bread this weekend, and I completely agree. It is amazing as toast, but for regular sandwiches it's slightly too dry.

                                Dave MP

                                1. re: Dave MP

                                  When I buy it at the farmers' market it's usually very moist. At the store, sometimes on the dry side.

                              2. re: rworange

                                Vital Vittles grind their own flour fresh daily, gives the bread a lot more flavor. Usually I get it at the farmers market, but when I get it at the Bowl it's sometimes still warm.

                                All the different breads are minor variations on the same dough, except the sourdough.

                                It's so soft it's problematic for sandwiches unless you toast it, which I always do.

                            2. re: rworange

                              Esther's German Bakery is now being sold at Berkeley Bowl.

                              1. re: wally

                                Supposedly they sell at the Alameda Farmers market too. Thanks for the tip on BB.

                      2. For whole-grain, Vital Vittles. If you work in West Berkeley you can go to their outlet.


                        My personal favorite is Acme levain, but it's sourdough (though not usually very sour) and mostly white flour.

                        1. If you visit SF on the weekends, two big thumbs up for Tartine. The bread comes out of the oven at 5; you can call in advance to reserve a loaf.

                          1. Judy's Breadsticks - whole grain with either sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. Not the sort of thing I'd serve with dinner, but I love the sunflower seed one toasted with butter and strawberry jam for breakfast. Wish they made a plain version.

                            For white breads: Acme Sweet Batard, Bouchon Bakery Baguette

                            1. Give the Bread Garden a try.


                              They are in you area and have a decent variety of whole grain breads.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Scott M

                                For a great multigrain bread, the Acme Upstairs bread is my choice.

                              2. Piedmont Grocery is now selling pullman loaves (or, to be accurate) half pullman loaves from Artisan. There's a sourdough and a mixed whole grain. Both are good and happily sandwich shaped.

                                1. We are so fortunate in the bay area with so many artisan breads. The winner in the sweet bread catagory is Semifreddi's cinnamon bread. All around winner Acme Levain.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: foodseek

                                    I'm a big fan of Artisan Bakers in Sonoma. That's why I was so pleased that Piedmont Grocery is carrying their sandwich loaves. They're super nice too. Took my students there a couple of years ago and they gave us a great demo, including baking some of the most amazingly crisp 80% hydration baguettes. It's too bad you can't buy baguettes like that...at least I haven't found any.

                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                      Artisan's multigrain is worth trying. Unique style, good flavor, but very crumbly.

                                      I like their "Italian Country" which is a mix of white and whole wheat. Excellent flavor. it's a common fallback when the store's sold out of Acme levain.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I've been making the most wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches using their sourdough pullman loaf this week. Yum!

                                    2. re: foodseek

                                      Acme Levain wins in most cases for me. Making croutons, bread salad, sandwiches, bread crumbs...etc. The only bread that wins for eating straight up with some butter is the huge loaves of Rosemary and coarse sea salt bread from Della Fattoria in Petaluma.

                                    3. Wow -- so many suggestions. It looks like the Acme levain is the clear favorite. I'm going over there today to get that -- even though it's sourdough and not fully whole-grain --and maybe also the Upstairs bread, which, I assume, is what they serve at Chez Panisse upstairs. I can't wait to try all the suggestions, though. Thanks!

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: coriander

                                        I always find the Upstairs a bit dry. I think CP actually serves levain both upstairs and down these days. The pain d'epis (same dough as the rustic sweet baguette, just a different shape) is the other Acme bread I buy regularly.

                                        Note that the bread purchased directly from Acme on San Pablo is (at least nine times out of ten) noticeably better than the same purchased from a supermarket.

                                        1. re: coriander

                                          Acme does sell a 3/4 whole wheat Levain also.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              That's good to know. Otherwise, I would have naturally gravitated towards that: if levain's good and whole-wheat's what I want, whole-wheat levain would have been ideal. But alas!

                                              1. re: coriander

                                                Try it and see what you think.

                                                The baker who's now at Tartine used to make the best whole-wheat loaf. Maybe he'll bring it back after they expand their space.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Um, are y'all talking about bread to store for a few days for making sandwiches, or straight-up comparing Acme's bread to Tartine's when fresh? I've probably never had Acme bread within a few hours of the oven (they're East Bay-based; me, very West Bay) but none of the Acme breads I've eaten here in SF has been in the same league with fresh Tartine bread. The head-to-head comparison at Delfina (where the bread plate is half Acme, half Tartine) is . . . well, it's no comparison. I may never have had Acme's levain, but I'd be shocked if the folks who make the bread I've had at Delfina make a different one that's in the same quality ballpark as Tartine's. I've assumed that Acme is a good regional-level mass producer of competent breads (they're in grocery stores, right?), while Tartine is a superlative baker of very small amounts of the very first quality of artisanal breads, and that comparing them would be like comparing, say, a good basic Ravenswood Zin with the finest small-lot, hand-crafted reserve Zin in greater Sonoma. By never having had an Acme levain fresh from the oven in Berkeley, have I fundamentally misunderstood what league they play in?

                                                  1. re: readingstand

                                                    Never stopped by Acme in the Ferry Building for the breads baked on site?

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      Funny you should ask, for shortly after posting the above, I did just that. (I work across the street.) I got their levain, for (I think) the first time. It was certainly competent and enjoyable. As for comparison to Tartine's country loaf (which is at least a pretty close cousin of levain), well, I'm on the fence as to whether Acme's is in the same league; I could certainly respect the idea that it is. But I have a hard time imagining someone truly thinking it *as good* as Tartine's (and here I reiterate *when fresh*; Tartine's bread is only transcendent the day it comes from the oven; by the next morning, it's comparable to what I just had @ Acme). Acme's crust had some crispy firmness without toughness, and its interior was somewhat moist and airy, but it was perceptibly weaker on all those counts than Tartine's (which I just had an hour ago to ensure a fair test), and the flavor was definitely less strong. If it's in the same league, then Tartine is, say, the Colts, and Acme is, say, the 49ers (or, for non-football fans, Tartine is, say, Yo-Yo Ma, and Acme is the second cellist at the SF Symphony).
                                                      I don't have a trained or terribly discerning palate, and so am usually deferential in my food views, but I feel strongly that the difference here is pretty stark. Does anyone who's had Tartine's bread the day it was baked think Acme's comes closer than "in the same league, but significantly less good"?

                                                      1. re: readingstand

                                                        well this interesting part of the thread got me curious, so i grabbed a tartine walnut loaf at about 5:25 on a friday afternoon. it was crowded, but the line was not out the door.

                                                        the loaf was warm, and remained so until i cut into it about 20 mins. later. the crust, first of all, has an outer blistered crispy crackly shell over a 1-2 mm layer of brown leathery hide. where the flesh of the bread is separated from the crust by a bubble, the crust can darken to near black.

                                                        the virgin cut yields steam and room-filling aroma. the texture when this fresh is voluptuously moist, actually steamed in character. it reminds me of the fermented rice flour steamed cakes you used to be able to get all over chinatown. the bread appears to be made from high gluten flour, as it is very slightly translucent and highly elastic. if it were any moister, it would begin to flirt with the border into gooeyness. the bubble structure is chaotic and varied, with most falling between medium to coarse in size. the flour is fine and smooth, but by no means is it white. with the slight translucence, it suggests parchment with some slight purplish shading. a slight sourness becomes more apparent after day 1, and it holds more moisture longer than most.

                                                        i would guess it is over 3 pounds when fresh. $5

                                                        this is a substantial bread, and while i too am no expert, the characterization "trascendent the day it comes from the oven" seems well supported.

                                                        i did not have an acme beside me for a head to head, but iirc the style of the acme is different. not this swarthy and muscular. this loaf sits upon your cutting board like a lion on a throne, waiting to let loose his roar.

                                                        i'm eager to try another acme, but perhaps we can't really compare ballroom to tapdance. rather enjoy both for what they are, and relish the fact that we have good examples of both from which to choose.

                                                        1. re: echo

                                                          Chad Robertson (Tartine's baker) prefers a wetter dough.

                                                    2. re: readingstand

                                                      Acme levain purchased direct is in the same league with Tartine's loaf. You can get it at the Ferry Plaza in SF.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        i got a levain at acme berkeley a few weeks ago, and as readingstand and i suggested above, it is NOT the same style of bread as tartine. the tartine loaf is a powerhouse. the acme was far dryer, lighter, finer, and more uniform in color and texture. i have the impression that if you were a visitor from out of town and were served a warm basket of either at a SF resto, your curiosity would be captivated by the tartine loaf, which you'd probably finish first.

                                                  2. re: coriander

                                                    However, I have discovered that Acme's Seeded Wheat loaf (a traditional rectangular loaf) is really great for sandwiches and makes terrific toast. It can be found at BB as well as at Acme on San Pablo. It has a marvelous taste and texture.

                                                    I also like Acme's Pain de Mie which I've only seen at the San Pablo store. Leave it to Acme to make sandwich bread great.

                                            2. Campbell Bread Baking Company located in Campbell also sells its no-preservative sandwich bread near Oakland. They have a nine grain, the "Birdman" (my favorite), Challah, and a number of other varieties. They are available at Adronicos, the Berkeley Bowl, The Village Mkt.


                                              1. When I can get it, my favorite is the seeded wheat from Della Fattoria. Getting it means getting down to the Sat morning farmers market before they run out (SF), or scoring the random loaf at Whole Foods on delivery days.
                                                Recently I bought the levain, when left with little choice, it's very good as well. The Meyer Lemon and Olive varieties are more "treats" for me, but they are not as satisfying or toothsome in my opinion.
                                                It's a great bakery, with great people running it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: rabaja

                                                  I second this! I can't think of anything that comes close to Della Fattoria's seeded wheat. It's delicious and so darn healthy, it's almost like those sprouty loaves you get at the health food store but really holds together. I served some to guests the other night and they couldn't stop eating it.

                                                  I'm also a big fan of Acme's Walnut Levain.

                                                2. must second Acme's pain au levain although I am

                                                  1. Panorama's whole grain breads are great - we get a 9-grain from them every week, and the whole wheat walnut is excellent too, as is the whole-grain rye. Unfortunately, this may not help the OP, since according to their website the only place to buy this bread in the east bay is the Saturday Oakland Grand/Lake Farmer's Market - which is where we get it.


                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: chompy

                                                      Their rye is some of the best in the area. Weird that they have so few retail outlets.

                                                      1. re: chompy

                                                        I like Panarama too but I have seen them recently at the Friday Oakland Farmers market, the Civic Center Market (forget which day) and the Saturday Alemany Farmers market. At one time they did Jack London Square but I haven't been there in years. I'd give them a call and see where they really sell as the site might be out of date.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          BTW, Panarama breads are available at Faletti Foods, the new market at Broderick and Oak in SF. The first time I've ever seen them. But, they are pricey!

                                                        2. re: chompy

                                                          Wow! I've never heard of Panorama and it can be found at the bottom of my hill on Saturdays? Am I lucky or what?

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            Don't knock yourself out. It is good if you happen to be at a market that sells it. However, there is A LOT of better bread in the area.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                For my tastes, the Acme rye bread (not corn) sold on Friday at Saul's, is rye perfection. Also like the rye at The Bread Garden a whole lot better. Haven't tried Esther's rye yet.

                                                        3. For my money, the best bread is at La Farine, on College near the corner of College and Claremont. They also have awesome scones, morning buns and croissants. I know it's not whole grain, but their sweet batard makes me all qiuvery.

                                                          1. I kind of like the Russian Rye breads they sell at the Russian bakery store on Balboa and 5th and 6th or 6th and 7th. Two kinds, light and regular. Very crispy when toasted like a french bread, but what suprised me was the high fiber content, it was like 3 or 4 grams per serving.

                                                            1. I like most of Acme's breads, as well. I'm a big fan of the levain, and also their ciabatta. Even though I live a couple of blocks away from Tartine, and used to enjoy many of their products (before the insane crowds -- I just can't take it any more), I've never had their breads, due to their bizarre baking schedule.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Squeat Mungry

                                                                You can reserve a loaf. You should, it's arguably the best loaf in the area, definitely a must-try for any serious bread lover.

                                                              2. Another vote for Acme. Also I really love The Cheeseboard and Arizmendi's City and Suburban loaves.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: rjf

                                                                  Acme is good and love the Panarama baguette (But at nearly $6, it's a bit much). Andronico's makes very good bread--sold under their label. Some of the best crusty baguettes I've tasted. Also, the Boulangeries (Bay Bread) all around SF--I'm sure someone else mentioned them.

                                                                  1. re: cafecreme

                                                                    That's some mark-up! I think I paid 1.95 at the Grand Lake farmers market.

                                                                    1. re: cafecreme

                                                                      Panorama's baguette is $6!!?! You're kidding. That's more than three times Acme's price.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Sorry it took me so long to respond--I'm new to this and sort of lost track of this thread. I got home with a Panorama baguette one day without even having looked at the price--and saw on the wrapper that it was $5.60 or something like that. I thought it was a mistake and then checked my receipt, and yes, that was it. I was astounded--I would never knowingly pay that for a baguette, though it is a huge one (and very tasty). The next time I went to Faletti Foods (which is now my local go-to shop), I checked their hand-written price list, and the baguette was priced at under $3 so I got one, and brought it up with the cashier, but she said, no this one costs $4.86 (or something like that). I was very frustrated, but they gave me a price cut (I think). I'm confused and have not bought another one. One of my problems with Faletti is that it's not always easy to tell the price of items. They are a new store, but it's come up a few times. I'm thrilled they're in the neighborhood, but besides being pricey, it's a little confusing.

                                                                        1. re: cafecreme

                                                                          Maybe they're pricing it by the pound. Not common in the US, but more common in Europe.

                                                                  2. Although the baguettes seem to be sourdough based, and your post indicates you'd rather have something else, the Cheeseboard Collective makes some great breads. I also really like their morning "sweet" offerings - brioche, scones, pecan rolls, Chocolate Things, Wolverines, etc, etc.

                                                                    Does the Phoenix Pastifico still sell at the Saturday Berkeley Farmer's Market? They have some good bread offerings. Their olive bread is especially popular.

                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                    1. re: emery_jc

                                                                      Phoenix sells at the Saturday market, but the olive bread is the only bread they sell. Delicious but there are so many strong-flavored olives in it that it's not really suitable for any purpose other than just eating it as a snack. Which is fine since it's so irresistable that it's not likely to make it home anyway.

                                                                      I totally disagree on Cheese Board. First-rate cheese shop with great prices; third-rate bakery (worse than Semifreddi or Grace). Breads are dry and leaden, crust chewy rather than crisp.

                                                                      Some of their pastries are tasty but they're sloppily executed, e.g. the muffins rarely rise properly. The shortbread is excellent, particularly the hazelnut and candied ginger versions, except when they undercook it.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        I agree about the Cheese Board's breads. Too "health-foody" for me. But their cheese rolls are one of my all-time favorite things.

                                                                        1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                          I don't agree at all. I like the baguettes at Cheeseboard. MUCH better than Semifreddi or Grace.

                                                                          They make a nice seeded baguette. Acme practically spit on me when I asked for a seeded baguette which my Roberto enjoys.

                                                                          "On no" said Acme in Berkeley. "We don't make THOSE".


                                                                          Come on. Just say you don't have a seeded baguette. Don't make me feel like I'm committing a culinary sin by asking. I mean, just WHAT is wrong with a seeded baguette.

                                                                          I agree about the cheese buns. Much ... MUCH better than the swill Acme sells at the Berkeley shop.

                                                                          I have ALWAY been happy with the baked goods at Cheeseboard. Even at the most inconsistant ... and I have NEVER found much inconsistancy ... and I eat there OFTEN .. they are so much better than most. Love the scones and the Christmas fruitcake.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            Boy, Cheeseboard's bread must be very different from Arizmendi's. Arizmendi's city bread and suburban breads (Lakeshore branch) are pretty terrible in my op. Tough and not very crusty. Love my crust.

                                                                            I think that the Acme worker who said they didn't make THOSE was probably just standing up for the home team. I still think they make the best bread by far (except for one loak I had from Tartine) in the Bayarea....if you get it from the bakery or from BB.

                                                                            Btw, I've never had anybody wait on me at Acme (Cedar/SP} who was in the least snobbish.

                                                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                                                              I find Arizmendi's breads and rolls to be too rough-hewn. They'll give your arms a workout trying to wrestle them apart. The cheese rolls would have to be warmed up a little before I would find them the least bit pleasant to chew. I do find much of it very crusty. My husband likes the fig-fennel bread, but that stuff, again, is like a rock.

                                                                              The Acme people in the FB are some kind of manufactured drone. They are charmless and devoid of even the smallest bit of personality, at least everyone I've dealt with over many visits, weekend and (mostly) weekday. There's one odd robotic person who hisses only the word "Yesss" after every utterance the customer makes. Unsettling.

                                                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                                                The employees at the (Acme) store in Berkeley are very nice and friendly.

                                                                              2. re: oakjoan

                                                                                I believe Arizmendi uses the same recipes as Cheese Board. Some people like their stuff.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  I also used to wait with bated breath for Wednesday and cheese scones at Arizmendi on Lakeshore. After a while either I got completely tired of them or they got more tasteless. Now I can't taste any cheese in them, although I know it's there because of the orange blobs. I do love the texture, though...just can't get excited about the blah taste.

                                                                                2. re: oakjoan

                                                                                  All I said was "do you have any seeded baguettes?" Seemed like a yes or no question to me.

                                                                                  I'm not a fan of much of the bread at Arizmendi / Cheeseboard except for the baguettes. The quality varies from store to store. I don't like the baguettes in Emeryville ... too thin and more crust than bread.

                                                                                  I had two lovely baguettes this week from Cheese board I never had before. I had a sweet baguette that was wonderfully chewy.

                                                                                  Then they had a great, to me, cheese baguette. Not as much cheese as the cheese rolls and same flavor.

                                                                                  There's probably some other loaf I like, but it is the baguette I make a special trip for.

                                                                                  Something new to me ... I haven't been in a while is the experimental Friday roll/ bread. Last week they had a delicious sweet roll with walnuts and blue cheese.