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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.

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  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.
    http://www.lottasbakery.com

    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.

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    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.

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      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?

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                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).

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                    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.

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                    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.

                  http://www.tartinebakery.com/menu/Bread

                  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.

                      2. I don't believe anyone's mentioned Arizmendi Bakery yet, but in my opinion it's worth a visit. Also, extremely transit-accessible (via the N Judah line).

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                        Arizmendi Bakery
                        1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: iOrderTheLamb

                          The Arizmendi bakeries are spinoffs of the Cheese Board in Berkeley and use mostly the same recipes.

                        2. Everyone has been so helpful--thank you! I'm really looking forward to sampling San Francisco's bakeries. When I lived in S.F. twelve years ago, I was young and broke, now I'm less young and slightly less broke, so I will enjoy the city's offerings. Thanks again from a grateful L.A. 'Hound.

                          (P.S. If you are in L.A., *please* do not, under any circumstances, go to Sprinkles. They are dreadful and dreadfully overrated. We have many other cupcake bakeries that are decidely better.)

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: LAmonkeygirl

                            Have a great trip! One last addition: cheese wheels and gougeres (they might call the gougered something else) at ACME are wonderful, either on site or slightly toasted the following day. I have even had friends bring them from SF to LA when I lived there, and frozen them in an airtight container. They keep well for as long as a few weeks because of the high cheese (fat) content.

                            PS. I totally agree!

                            1. re: Pei

                              How do you like Acme's gougere compared to Tartine's gougere? I think Tartine's are fantastic (and might even make Xiao Yang reevaluate Tartine).

                              1. re: SteveG

                                Acme makes something called a cheese roll, which is very different from a gougeres.

                                Their savory pastries are very good, but to me the regular levain and the pain d'epis (or if they're out of those, the rustic sweet baguette made from the same dough) are the must-try items for a home baker.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Doesn't ACME make something that looks more like a gougere? Not the cheese roll, but a big cheesy puff that usually sits next to it? I'm totally blanking on the name, but I will check next time I am there.

                                  1. re: Pei

                                    They make a smaller more or less spherical cheese roll and a larger disc-shaped one.

                                    The Ferry Plaza bakery may make some items I haven't seen, mostly I go to the Berkeley bakery.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      They seemed to have more in Berkeley but it just may be is crammed into a smaller space and with the usual line there isn't much time to check out the full selection, at least early in the day.

                                2. re: SteveG

                                  A cheese wheel like Acme's (and prices like Acme's) might make me weaken, but what the hell would I be doing in that neighborhood, anyway?

                            2. Just to put a twist on this, some of these bakeries have visible baking activity and others don't.

                              I love Thorough Bread and Pastry's products, but they only do very minimal work on site, most happens at the San Francisco Baking Institute

                              Tartine's work area has a big plate glass window facing the street, and they work through the day putting out fresh stuff continually. If you're there around 4 PM you can also see them loading or unloading big loaves of their bread from the bread oven. Next door to Tartine on 18th is Pizzeria Delfina, which has an annex where they make the pizza dough and it can be fun to watch if they're using the conveyor belt kneeding machine.

                              Acme's Ferry Plaza location has plate glass windows on the back side that faces the bay. I have a particularly fond memory of strolling along the waterfront after a huge meal downtown, and pausing to watch them proof hundreds of croissants for a while around 11 PM or midnight.

                              I would definitely try to hit the above 3 bakeries, plus maybe Liguria Bakery. I find DeLissio's cakes headache-inducing sweet, but some of their other stuff is good such as chocolate tartes, Brazilian-style french toast (think buttery churro in terms of texture and flavor), and some of the pastries.

                              If you'll be here on a Saturday, you should definitely go to the Ferry Plaza farmer's market, which is behind the building that contains Acme. If you do that, I'd go first to Della Fattoria toward the back of the market, buy a few pastries to snack on and a baguette and whatever else struck my fancy, then to Acme to see if there's anything Della Fattoria didn't have that I want that day. Acme's products are good, but Della Fattoria's are better.

                              24 Replies
                              1. re: SteveG

                                Does Della Fattoria make better levain than Acme, or vice-versa? The answer might vary from day to day.

                                I will state categorically that either is better than the Poilâne that provided the original model.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Good point on the levain, but if I want that type of bread I lean toward Tartine's loaf--I don't know if it's technically a levain, but it definitely has a long fermentation for complex flavor and good structure. The original poster should consider having dinner at Bar Tartine (561 Valencia, a few blocks from Tartine Bakery), where generous quantities of the bread can be had with dinner. It's so good I almost asked them if I could take the leftover bread off my plate home for breakfast.

                                  1. re: SteveG

                                    I do the same thing at Delfina, though we always request just the country bread. We are in a constant battle to stop eating the bread so we can make it through all the wonderful dishes we order.

                                    1. re: SteveG

                                      In a head-to-head with Tartine's country loaf, Acme levain, and Della Fattoria levain, I'd bet on Tartine.

                                      Tartine's is white, Acme's has some whole-wheat, Della Fattoria's has some rye. All else being equal, I prefer a "gray" bread.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Acme's pain d'epis are much better than Della Fattoria. Seeded wheat is something that Della Fattoria has that no one else has. Levain, it varies.

                                      1. re: wally

                                        I second Bay Bread (usually hit Pine/Fillmore location) I love the canelles there. Cheese Board (Berkeley) is also great in the morning. I like Toot Sweet in Berkeley for Almond Crossiants. Plus even if you have tried ethnic bakeries. You must stop at Golden Gate Bakery (Near Jackson on Grant in Chinatown) they have hot custard tarts that are flaky and melt in your mouth. Just look for the line, and yes they are worth the wait. Not a bakery, but I really like the Pecan Pie at Memphis Minnies. Not too sweet and loaded with pecans. Not sure if Cafe Madeline makes their own cakes, but they are pretty good.

                                        1. re: myst

                                          FiDi frequenters will know this, but I found out yesterday that Bay Breads has a stall at the Thursday morning Crocker Galleria farmers' market. It's a small market that gets started around 9 a.m., though some stalls aren't open until closer to 10. Bay Breads had their caneles, an assortment of croissants (I loved the cinnamon orange), a lot of danish type pastries, apricot almond tarts, a few breads, and some other things. A nice assortment near where the OP is staying.

                                    3. re: SteveG

                                      And Acme croissants are excellent. Especially the ham and cheese croissant and the apple turnover-thingy they make with the croissant dough. Golden Gate bakery not only makes great egg custard tarts, but also coconut tarts and coconut macaroons.

                                      Note that many people have praised the macroons at various places. Some (but not all) of those places actually make "macarons" (French macaroons, which are a pair of chewy meringue disks with a thin layer of filling sandwiched between them), not what Americans generally think of as macaroons.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        I think macarons are the ones deigned to gross people out with their da-glo colors. Who wants to eat a pink cookie?

                                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                                          Who wants to eat a pink cookie? Pretty much every child on planet Earth, and then they grow up and most of us still like them.

                                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                                            You afraid it's going to turn you into a girl? ;-) My main objection to them is not the color but the price. They're pretty darn expensive for a couple of bits of cookie!

                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            "And Acme croissants are excellent. Especially the ham and cheese croissant"

                                            I think Tartine's is better; at both, I'd only get it warm--cold is less appealing.

                                            1. re: xanadude

                                              Thorough's ham & cheese croissants are excellent, but MUCH lighter than Tartine's.

                                              1. re: xanadude

                                                It is annoying that the people at Acme won't slip it into one of their hot ovens for you! And I misspoke slightly. It's not a ham and cheese croissant; as the other RL noted, it's a ham and cheese turnover made with croissant dough.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I'm not sure I've ever bought a cold ham-and-cheese turnover at Acme. At least at the Berkeley store, they sell out too fast.

                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                If you're at Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning, the best croissants are at Della Fattoria (until they run out).

                                                Does Acme make croissants? I don't think I've ever seen them. Their apple and ham-and-cheese turnovers are great.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  The Ferry Building Acme usually has plain and chocolate croissants. I don't remember if they have almond.

                                                  1. re: Pei

                                                    The Berkeley store has almond croissants.

                                                    1. re: wally

                                                      Oh yeah, I've had those. They're excellent. Usually sold out by the time I get there.

                                                      Do they make plain croissants?

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        I don't know. I'll have to look. Thanks to you, I had a croissant from Della Fattoria this morning. Excellent. I never had noticed them before.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          They were definitely proofing croissant dough in croissant shapes. They were also sprinkling almond slivers on some of them, but I didn't stay around long enough to see if they put almonds on all of them. Note that the almonds were being sprinkled on unbaked croissants, so their almond croissants are made fresh for that purpose rather than using day-old croissants with a fresh coat of egg wash and almond slivers.

                                                          I don't remember seeing croissants for sale, however, so it could be that these croissants were being made for early morning deliveries to hotels along with bread for hotel restaurants.

                                                          1. re: SteveG

                                                            Acme definitely makes and sells croissants -- very good ones -- at the Ferry Building. They do tend to sell out early, especially on market days.

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              They also have them in Berkeley. I bought mine this morning at 8:40 and there were a few left. Several other items seem to have been almost sold out at that early hour.

                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    I had and excellent macroon at Thorough Bread today.The finely ground coconut was moist with a nice browned exterior. Very nice cocolate bottom.

                                                2. You have some great bakeries in LA. I think I prefer Labrea bakery to Acme for example.
                                                  You'll have no problem on the sweets side of things though.

                                                  Diandas - the almond torte, and the napoleone type things with the pink layer, can't vouch for the st. honore cake or croquembuche but some swear by them. they also make fresh pannetone.
                                                  Stella - the Sacripantina which is a whip cream cake, Taralli, pignolli cookies
                                                  Liguria - the raisin focaccio!
                                                  Arizmendi - the sourdough rolls, the shortbread or health cookies, the cheese bread
                                                  Boulangerie/Bay Bread (Hayes or Cole locations are safe) - Canalles, almond croissant, macaroons.
                                                  Victoria Bakery - Princess Cake, St. Honore, the frozen pink sponge cakes
                                                  Happy Donuts - the apple fritter (also Bob's donuts)
                                                  La Biscotteria - biscotti (Molinari sells it packaged too)
                                                  Boudin Bakery - our last old sourdough. worth picking up a roll or something from the macy's outpost near union sqr. also, the clam chowder bread bowls can hit the spot, even if they are canned soups. they also have a full service place by the wharf that might be fun for a baker. the actual bakery is in the richmond district and not much of it is visible to the public.

                                                  Schuberts - a favorite for cakey kind of stuff. i'm not a huge fan, but i am kind of shocked nobody mentioned it.
                                                  Citizen Cake - if you do go based on the hype, then try the deconstructed sweets instead of the stuff in the case which is rarely ever mind blowing.

                                                  24 Replies
                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                    Try the sourdough at Thorough Bread. I almost wept. Much better than Boudin ... though not as good as Tadich's (yeah, I know Boudin makes it for them, but it is a different recipe)

                                                    The crust is both crisp and chewy and the soft interior has a nice tang.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Yeah my last Boudin trip was really not pleasing. It still fits a certain craving but they've stopped selling anything close to the real deal sold at Tadich's.

                                                      Curious to try Thorough Bread.

                                                    2. re: sugartoof

                                                      I think no one mentioned Schubert's because while it is a great resource for locals in terms of price and quality, it always feels more like a slightly out of the way neighborhood place than a destination stop for tourists.

                                                      I have to object to the Victoria Bakery princess cake. Every time I've been, the marzipan has been thick and grainy. There are a lot better choices if princess cake is your thing.

                                                      In SF: Delanghe, Schubert's, and several in South Bay
                                                      In LA: B&L, Viktor Benes, or a Swedish bakery in Glendale whose name escapes me.

                                                      1. re: Pei

                                                        Glad I caught you. I couldn't remember who the princess cake super fan was. If you are ever in Martinez, Le Gateau Elegant makes the best princess cake I have ever had ... and it is also sold by the slice.
                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/505504

                                                        Seriously ... from what I've tasted in the Bay Area ... if I ever need a whole princess cake, I would make the drive to Martinez for it.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          Maybe our criteria are different, but someone brought a piece of Le Gateau Elegant princess cake to lunch with a bunch of us and none of us liked it -- tooth-qachingly sweet, and the textures were off. Half a dozen of us didn't even finish one piece. So maybe if people are in the area they could check it out for themselves, but no way would I drive any distance for it, especially at the price of gas these days.

                                                        2. re: Pei

                                                          I don't mind the thicker grainy marzipan thing, I confess....but I've only noticed that when it was right out of the case, or didn't taste fresh. It's better as a whole cake then the slice, not to mention a lot more reasonable.

                                                          I'll have to try Delanghe's version. Their pastries have never really impressed me, and I stopped going in when the cases were so empty it looked like they were only baking special orders...but I like the cream puffs well enough.

                                                          Schubert's is really nothing special anymore. The ingredients taste too prefab to me. Also, the last few times I've been in they were out of Princess Cake.

                                                          1. re: Pei

                                                            As I said in a previous post here, try the princess cake at Lotta's on Polk. It's really good.

                                                            1. re: Pei

                                                              I have to strenuously object to recommendations for Dianda's. We just got a chocolate-strawberry birthday cake there (w/whipped cream frosting). I really appreciated that the cake was not overly sweet, but it also had ZERO discernible chocolate flavor and the strawberries (in season now!!) were of poor quality. Add to that the stale cookies, under-trained and ill-informed staff, and lack of any labels for their displays (nothing more than laziness, in my opinion). I do admit a weakness for the almond horns that have been dipped in chocolate. I think Derek has a funny and slightly pornographic name for them.

                                                              The cakes I've had from Schubert's were laughably kitsch bordering on ugly, but unexpectedly tasty.

                                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                                "DILDEAUX" are glazed rum chocolate filled horns with a mushroom shaped chocolate cream filled top...the older ladies who serve you remember this name for them!

                                                                1. re: Atomica

                                                                  Which Dianda did you go to?

                                                                  Dianda is absoutely not a place to buy American cakes. Stick to the things with rum and/or almond paste.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    I go to the one in the Mission. Whether or not it's the place to buy American cakes, they offer them and have huge amounts of orders for pick up on any given weekend. But you're right--not the place because they don't do a good job with them.

                                                                2. re: Pei

                                                                  ..actually Schubert's does a superior Princess cake...!

                                                                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                    Yeah I disagree. A lot of people mention Ambrosia as having a superior Princess Cake too. To each their own. It tastes Safeway quality to me.

                                                                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                      I completely agree that the Schubert's Princess Cake should be the standard (just shared a great slice with Derek last week):

                                                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/533053

                                                                      and while it is true that the Schubert's neighborhood is a bit off the tourist track, it is well worth a drive or bus ride as one of the more interesting chow neighborhoods in the city (particularly for Asian food, but Cafe Troya in the next block is also a great stop), not to mention the truly great selection of used cookbooks at the City's best (IMO) bookstore, Green Apple....(I am not a baker, but there are many books that would be of interest to one in that great selection).

                                                                      and Schubert's is good for more than just princess cake. The rum cake I had at Schubert's last week was far superior to similar offerings I've had at Dianda (in the Mission). Note for Atomica: after disappointing birthday/shower cakes from both Dianda and from Noe Valley Bakery (another extremely skippable spot, in my opinion), I promised myself that for my next birthday or similar occaison I'd suck it up and shlep across town to Schubert's.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Schubert's Bakery
                                                                      521 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                                                      Dianda's
                                                                      2883 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                      Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Co
                                                                      4073 24th St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                        I frequently take visitors to Clement St. and we often hang out there as a family on a Saturday or Sunday-- probably every 6 weeks or so. It's one of our very favorite areas of the city.

                                                                        I'm totally with you on Noe Valley Bakery. I seem to remember something about a misspelled message on a cake and them refusing to fix it. Is that correct? The fact that Liberty Bakery hasn't been mentioned at all should put them on glaring notice.

                                                                        1. re: Atomica

                                                                          yes, you remember my Noe experience quite well! but I actually gave them another chance recently: because I had a lot going on and didn't want to make the trip to the Richmond...however, the story had an unhappy reason for a totally different reason: they got the spelling right on the cake (amazing, since the guest of honor has an unusual name :-)) but while arranging the dining room table I put it on a low counter for JUST ONE MINUTE, and well, the dog liked it! (and fortunately showed no ill effects, she had only gotten the whipped cream icing on top, not the chocolate cake, thank goodness!) Sigh. It was one hour or so before the party, so we sent SIL over to Safeway on an emergency mission. To be honest, the Safeway cake was probably just about as good as Noe Valley Bakery's....but I learned my lesson: plan ahead, sometimes one has to shlep to get the good stuff, and never leave cakes on anything lower than six feet off the ground! :-)

                                                                          Re Liberty (Cafe) Bakery: yes, completely with you. Not even worth the quarter mile walk from my house, much less a visit by a Los Angeleno...

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Liberty Cafe and Bakery
                                                                          410 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                            Liberty is a beautiful, charming bakery with mediocre baked goods. I did have a pumpkin muffin there I didn't regret.

                                                                    2. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                      Tartine is pretty central to lots of other fun destinations these days, and a quick ride from their hotel.

                                                                      I don't know why nobody thought to mention Schubert's though, being that people are obviously passionate about it. For the hipness factor, Park Life joins Green Apple books. Cinderella, and House of Bagel (of little interest to LA folks) aren't that far away, and the previously mentioned Boudin plant is out there. Don't know if any warrant their own trip but Tartine sure does.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          There's a period between sentences for a reason.

                                                                          (though I would argue it's hipper then the Contemporary Jewish Museum)

                                                                        2. re: sugartoof

                                                                          People go to Schubert's and Tartine for different specialties. My point was only that 6th and Clement is no less an "out of the way neighborhood" than 18th and Guerrero.

                                                                          Tartine certainly wouldn't warrant a trip to that neighborhood for me; I've always seen it as a Bay Bread ripoff, and when I've got a Mission St. heat on, it's certainly not for whatever it is that those Gen X-ers line up for. Me, I'm over there gettin' down with the Gen XXL-ers.

                                                                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                            Tartine and Bay Bread are both French-influenced, but within that niche they're not very similar. Tartine has actually been in business longer, they originally started in 1996 as Bay Village Breads in Point Reyes. They opened Bay Village Bakery in Mill Valley around the same time Pascal Rigo opened the original Boulangerie.

                                                                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                              The Mission is a far far easier neighborhood to get to I would never describe it as out of the way, while 6th and Clement I would definitely describe that way.

                                                                          2. re: Pei

                                                                            The Swedish bakery in Glendale is actually in Montrose and it's Berolina on Verdugo. They also make Swedish semlor after mid-January.

                                                                        3. Tartine will be fantastic -- terrific execution, a little pricey, but worth it.
                                                                          The Boulange de ___ series will have reasonably good products. The advantage is that they're all over the place, so they're easy to get to. The bread is fine, but simply not in the league of Acme or Tartine...despite the French name and owner (although the canelé de Bordeaux is divine).

                                                                          Thorough Bread doesn't have the vibe of Tartine, the multiple locations of Boulange, or the appropriately distinguished history of Acme, but it's worth a visit. The quality is superb, and the price can't be beat. The place is staffed with instructors and apprentices from the San Francisco Baking Institute, and it's worth going there just to chat them up about the products. The word is that they're the retail venue for the Institute, so they're really keen on bringing artisan baked breads and pastries to the public.

                                                                          1. I guess this thread can be summarized by "Bakery beauty is in the eye (or gut) of the behlder."

                                                                            1. I noticed that no one told you how to get to these destinations from Union Sq.

                                                                              Tartine: take BART from Market St (Powell Station) to 16th St. Station, walk 2 blocks west to Guerrero, and 2 blocks south to 18th St. Delfina is close by for an amazing dinner -- make reservations way in advance. Skip dessert after a meal at Delfina, walk a bit further toward Dolores for Bi-Rite ice cream.

                                                                              Thorough Bread & Pastry: take any of the MUNI underground lines to Church St, and walk a couple of blocks to 248 Church St. Talk to the apprentices and instructors about the offerings. Enjoy the treats back in the private garden. Check out the Castro afterwards.

                                                                              Acme: Take anything to the Bay-end of Market: BART to Embarcadero, MUNI to Embarcadero, the F street car to the end of Market. Walk to the Ferry Plaza. (Grab cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery while you're there, and a Parisian macaron from Miette.)

                                                                              La Boulange at Columbus: Walk north on Stockton about 3 quarters of a mile to Green and Columbus. The bakery is right there at 543 Columbus. Hang out at North Beach afterwards.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: PaneEVino

                                                                                Not to mention the fact that you could hit Tartine and Thorough on the same public transit trip since they're only about 4-5 blocks apart -- with the bonus that you can hit Bi-Rite Creamery between the two bakeries for a complete caloric overload :-)

                                                                                It's also worth noting that if you can hit Tartine on a weekday, you won't have to wait in those horrendously long lines that form up on the weekends (which literally snake out the door and halfway down the block at times).

                                                                                1. re: PaneEVino

                                                                                  Yes, but everyone posted links to addresses, which is all that can be expected. 511.org, city map, and the hotel concierge is all that's needed otherwise to plan some of these outings.