HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 24, 2008 09:02 PM

SF Bakery Tour

I'll be visiting San Francisco for three days at the end of July. We'll be staying near Union Square, no car. I'm a pretty good home baker, so I'd really like to visit some of the best bakeries in the city. Tartine is on the list. Any other suggestions? Your help is greatly appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lotta's on Polk is really good. Try their Princess Cake and their version of a San Francisco classic, Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake.

    I also really like Destination Baking Co. on Chenery in the Glen Park neighborhood (easily reachable via Bart.) Their fruit tarts are fabulous -- my favorite is the cornmeal crusted mini apple tart.

    Also, for great breads try Thorough Bread and Pastry on Church (reachable via the Muni streetcars K,L,M, T and F.) These products are baked at the San Francisco Baking Institute (http://www.sfbi.com) in South San Francisco, a school that has trained and helped many, many fine San Francisco bakers. Their baguettes and ciabatta are both superb as are their croissants.

    Lotta's Bakery
    1720 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Destination Baking Co
    598 Chenery St, San Francisco, CA 94131

    Green Street
    280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139

    San Francisco Baking Institute
    South San Francisco, CA, South San Francisco, CA

    1. Well, you can't come to San Francisco and ask about bakeries and NOT go to Tartine.

      Tartine Bakery
      600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      5 Replies
      1. re: Carrie 218

        "Tartine is on the list.Any other suggestions?"
        Thanks for the link.

        1. re: Carrie 218

          Agreed. Whatever you do, you must visit Tartine. If you have any friends in SF, bring them all because you're going to want to try one bite of everything they sell. Take a few meringues to go, and if you can compare them to the meringues at Dianda's.

          Delessio is another favorite of mine, especially if you like rich chocolate cake with a dense dark chocolate ganache. They have many delicious pastries as well. Adorable assortment of mini cupcakes. They'd be great inspiration for a home cook, but I find them to be too much topping and too little cake. I prefer the more homey creations with a big latte.

          Citizen Cake gets mixed reviews, but my experience has always been that eating desserts at the shop is a disappointment but cakes that people order for parties are stellar. I find the lemon cupcake to be usually good.

          Miette also gets mixed reviews, and since the Ferry Building is a must stop for food lovers you should at least go take a look. I've had good cupcakes and macaroons. I've also had bad cupcakes and macaroons. Yes, consistency is not their forte.

          Kara's Cupcakes if you happen to be on Ghiardelli Square doing the tourist thing. This is yet another cupcake shop like so many others that are cropping up in all major cities, but it's lovely and the fleur de sel chocolate cake is quite good if you are in the area.

          Delanghe on Fillmore for traditional French desserts. Good princess cake by the slice, or sometimes in petit fours form.

          Any of the various Bay Bread branches. They are called Boulange de __street name___ so you are bound to stumble across one. One of the few places that sell caneles. http://www.baybread.com

          And keep your eyes open. It's a great city for bakeries!

          1. re: Pei

            Thanks for those suggestions! I'd heard about Citizen Cake, but it sounds like your experiences there don't bode well for a visit. Also, I'd read about Miette on someone's blog, but if we are in the Ferry Building, I will give it a look. Delessio is now on the list, and I'll keep an eye out for a Bay Bread.

            It's a good thing we're going to be walking, otherwise I'd come home with a giant butt as my souvenir!

            1. re: LAmonkeygirl

              If you are at the Ferry Building on a Saturday morning, then you might want to try Frog Hollow inside the building. They have a variety of baked goods, including a very good fresh cherry turnover right now. I'd go for a warm turnover there if available over anything else. There are also a few bakeries selling their goodies outside, although I recommend you skip the Noe Valley Bakery stand (although the rughala - sp? - they make are very, very good, albeit sinful.)

              1. re: Mari

                The Frog Hollow pastries are amazing. I haven't had the cherry turnover, but I had the peach turnover a few weeks ago and couldn't get over how good it was. Downtown Bakery is also at the Ferry Plaza market, and they have good doughnut muffins and other baked goods.

        2. It depends on what you are interested in. If breads, Acme at the Ferry Building; if fancy traditional cakes, Victoria/Stella in North Beach and Dianda's in the Mission. There's also a myriad of places making frivolous pastries, plus Irish, Russian, Asian and Latin American, etc. bakeries.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Xiao Yang

            My husband is the bread baker, and I do the desserts. I'm looking for places with a similar vibe and aesthetic to Tartine. I'm from L.A., so we have a good variety of ethnic bakeries around town.

            1. re: LAmonkeygirl

              I believe Tartine does only a single bread, and that one only in the PM, so your husband may want to look beyond Tartine. I know it amounts to heresy around here to not be enamored of Tartine, but I personally could care less about sweets, but love The Staff of Life.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                Doesn't Acme do more than 1 bread?

                Acme Bread
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  It's not heresy. I always thought Tartine was very sloppy. I've never found anything there that wasn't done better elsewhere, but my friends mostly disagree with me. It's good for seeing Mission hipsters.

                  When I am in SF (I live in LA), my ideal would be to go to Boulette's Larder and lard up on their goods esp their caneles, Boulette's is a favorite place of mine but it's really pricey.

                  I prefer going to Acme bread in Berkeley because then you can go to Cheeseboard right after. Actually Cheeseboard has some breads I like, and the best selection of reasonably priced cheese in CA. I actually love that one Crixa Cakes as well, in Berkeley. Can't really think of anyplace like it in LA, at the moment.

                  I've heard such good things about Thorough that it's on my hit list for my next visit.

                  I think the Boulange on Pine is better than the one on Polk but that's just me. Pine's macarons are quite good.

                  1. re: choctastic

                    Crixa is fabulous and unique. Arguably worth a trip to Berkeley. It's 3-4 blocks from Ashby BART, Berkeley Bowl is right across the street, and on Tuesdays there's a farmers market a block or two away.

                    Tartine's bread is spectacular. I'm really looking forward to the expansion, Chad Robertson used to make the best whole-wheat bread I've ever had. The only other bakeries that are more or less in the same league are Acme, Artisan (in Sonoma), and Della Fattoria (in Petaluma).

                    Crixa Cakes
                    2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Crixa is fantastic, but it's best to go in the morning since they run out of a lot of their goods (especially on Saturdays).

                    2. re: choctastic

                      I wasn't dissing Tartine, just saying it holds little interest for me because I don't have a sweet tooth and don't like a lot of preciosity, and Tartine makes just ONE bread. RL may think it's the greatest bread in the world, but it's just ONE white bread.

                        1. re: chemchef

                          No, as I said several times it's white bread.

                          They made the best whole-wheat bread I've ever had at the Point Reyes bakery.

                  2. re: LAmonkeygirl

                    For bread, I heartily second Nancy's suggestion of Thorough Bread & Pastry. The bread is stellar. I can't overemphasize how great their bread is. I can't think of a better baguette.

                    Skip Dianda's--in my opinion, there's nothing they do really well. Skip Noe Valley. At the Ferry Building, get there early to sample something from Della Fattoria. And I do mean early--they run out of everything fast.

                    I also love Destination Baking Co., which segues nicely into Mission Pie, if you like good pie. Their new larger storefront just opened as well. I don't love their staff, but I do like their pie and coffee.

                    Since Nancy and I agree so strongly on Thorough and Destination, guess I gotta try Lotta.

                    Mission Pie
                    2901 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1. re: Atomica

                      Aha, the OP is from Los Angeles. I should have noticed her handle. I will edit earlier comments and agree that all cupcake places can be skipped. Delessio's mini cupcakes are still worth taking a look at because they are so creative, but other than that there are plenty of LA cupcake places that are the same as here. Dianda's is also skippable, except that when I'm in the area I like to grab a meringue because they are so cheap and big.

                      Emporio Rulli has some good eats, but nothing so extraordinary it blows LA bakeries out of the water. You can go to their cafe branch on top of Union Square and see a small sampling of what they have. If it really interests you, take the ride out to the main branch.

                      Cafe Madeleine is close to Union Square (O'Farrell past the Barney's). I usually only go for their incredibly rich hot chocolate, but the cakes and patries are fun to look at. Maybe more fun to look at than to taste, but since you're staying nearby.

                      Does Lotta's sell slices of cake? I walk by a lot but I don't know why it gives me the impression that only whole cakes are available.

                2. For bread, Tartine, Acme, and Della Fattoria (their bakery's in Petaluma, but they have a stand at the Saturday farmers market at Ferry Plaza).

                  Tartine's supposedly going to expand its bread offerings when it takes over a nearby storefront, but in the meantime they make only the one kind with minor variations (sesame, olive, etc.). Some people have reported you can call to reserve a loaf.


                  For pastries, Tartine, whichever is the best Bay Bread branch (Boulangerie at Pine Street? Boulange de Polk?), and Downtown Bakery (Healdsburg bakery with a stand at Saturday FPFM).

                  Dianda, Stella, and Victoria may be of interest if you don't have a good Italian bakery in LA. If you're in the area, check out Emporio Rulli on Chestnut.

                  Liguria in North Beach has great fresh-baked focaccia in the mornings.

                  I'm not sure Miette is of interest to a good home baker except in a "they want HOW MUCH for that!!!" sort of way.

                  StarBake is long closed, but Emily Luchetti's still the pastry chef at Farallon.

                  Liguria Bakery
                  1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I got the "levain" loaf from Della Fattoria at the farmers market, following the cue of the woman in front of me, and it was delicious. Ate from it all week.

                    I suppose it's pointless to reinforce, since you're already going to Tartine, but I'd strongly encourage you to get a croissant. They're far and away better than any in LA (and I just moved from there).

                    Great macarons at Bay Bread. I prefer the nutty flavors, and seasonal ones like pumpkin or rum-raisin (in fall, not sure what they have now).

                    I think my friend Daveena also recommended Liguria to me for focaccia. She said something about olive oil all over your hands... this was on a note of approval. She also said they run out fast. Generally I don't recall that LA has much in the way of Italian bakeries (tho you should check out the weekend olive-oil bread at Roma Market in Pasadena), so that could be something to focus on. Also, the SF Baking Institute has a cafe-outlet that's supposed to be good; a chef friend of mine recently took a baking course there and raved about it.

                    1. re: Cicely

                      Liguria is nothing short of a historic culinary landmark. They've been making focaccia for the same way, in the same oven, in the same corner store since 1911. I can boast that I was eating focacccia bread back in 1962 long before it became trendy, but so can nearly anyone who ever found themselves downwind of Liguria Bakery in the morning.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Did Tartine ever take over that space and expand its bread offerings?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        They're opening a bar. No word on another kitchen, or a bread bakery, but they had the place closed for renovations of some sort a couple weeks ago. They've also changed the bread crew since that 2008 post. Maybe someone has some scoop.

                    3. I second the recommendation of Frog Hollow. They have a risotto tartlet that I'm fascinated by, and again, it's at the Ferry Building, which is a good stop anyway. Before I moved back to NorCal, While you're there. you can visit Acme and Miette. Acme has the most amazing ham & cheese turnover. I used to get cookies from Miette to take home - they have some tasty shortbread that was nice to enjoy a couple days after my trip.

                      I think Victoria has Italian cookies that put any Italian bakery that I went to in LA to shame.

                      Citizen Cake is a landmark, so I'd say to go just to have been, but I'm like that. They have a bakery next to the restaurant, so you can just get a coffee and a pastry - I enjoyed their sandwich cookies and a lemon bar recently. You could even just try something at Citizen Cupcake at the Virgin Megastore, since that would be convenient to Union Square. I had a Key Lime Pie cupcake there that was out of this world.

                      And I'd say that you need a cookie (or 4) from Tom's in the Cellar at Macy's. Another Bay Area culinary landmark.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cyberroo

                        Virgin Megastore (with its Citizen Cupcake) has been closed for months!

                        1. re: plainfood

                          Yeah, mosts of the posts here are from 2008. I bumped it because somebody asked the same question and it's 98% up to date.