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Question: Must try bakeries in San Fran - staying at SF Marriot on 4th St

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Besides Tartine that's on my list, what are the 'must try' bakeries in San Fran.

I am from up the coast and will be visiting in the fall, but only a short stay so I want to maximize my time there in search of the best bakeries.

Not familiar with San Fran so to save time, please let me know what are the best bakeries that I should see.

Thanks.

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  1. Here's a thread to get you going: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532453

    I think Thorough Bread and Pastry would be at the top of my list. Although you can get Acme bread around town, it's worth going to their bakery in the Ferry Building where they have a wide variety, including pastries (the ham and cheese turnover is decadently delicious).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Oh, Ruth, you are so right about the ham and cheese thingy at Acme. But a word of warning to the OP: if you eat a whole one you may well be ruined for the better part of the day, so try to share. If you can... I usually can't.

    2. Are you looking to sample breads, pastries, or cookies?

      11 Replies
      1. re: ssfire

        More interested in pastries, especially French pastries or the like.
        Interested in exploring the bakeries and looking at what they have to offer and picking up some samples to try.
        Thinking of opening up shop one day so have a keen interest in successfull bakeries.
        Have limited time in San Francisco, so want to maximize my time there.
        thanks.

        1. re: pastriesinparis

          For pastries, also check out Delessio. Miette is a good example of how *not* to have a bakery: everything looks much better than it tastes, and you're paying a premium for the "look."

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            There's clearly a big market for pastries that look better than they taste.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Well, Miette is clearly successful, so it is one way to have a bakery...just not one that I would choose.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Thanks for the good advice about Miette's pastries looking better than they taste. Checked out their website...such a shame. I am so used to seeing pastries in Paris that not only are breathtaking but even better when eaten. C'est Formidable =)

              2. re: pastriesinparis

                What days of the week will you be here? Many bakeries are closed on Monday. On other days of the week there are appearances from other top bakeries in the Bay Area at farmers markets.

                The big one would be Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning where you have Downtown Bakery, Della Fatoria

                In SF I agree that Mission Beach Cafe, Thourough and Delessio and Acme would be top choices. Also Patiserrie Phillippe which no one has mentioned yet.

                If you go to Ferry Plaza, Frog Hollow and Boulette's Larder are worth exploring.

                Briochie Bakery on Columbus is often overlooked, but when people try the pastries and breads they supply to local restaurants they get high praise.

                A few other interesting options - Emporio Rulli and Citizen Cake.

                Another different bakery take ... the excellent John Campbll's Irish Bakery.

                If you have time to get to the East Bay, then I think Crixa is a must stop. It is unique in the slant toward elegant Eastern European Bakery. In that category I would put it as one of the top in the country. In any category it is still one of the top Bay Area Bakeries.

                Also worth looking at in Berkeley/Oakland - Masse's, La Farine, Katrina Rozelle's I'd even through Hopkins St in there as a bakery with new owners that does classic American very well. Try the morning buns.

                Bakesale Betty's is a really interesting model to look at. They started in a really nothing farmers market and are about to open their next shop. Really nice people and you could probably arrange some time to talk to them.

                1. re: rworange

                  Good suggestions. At Frog Hollow, one unique thing they have is a risotto tart (photo #1). It's good, not great: it's worth trying once. Boulette's Larder usually has an excellent clafoutis (photo #2 shows the cherry clafoutis); it's extra rich and buttery.

                  -----
                  Frog Hollow Farm
                  1 Ferry Bldg # 46, San Francisco, CA

                   
                   
                  1. re: rworange

                    I will be there in the middle of the week and heading out of town on Sunday.
                    So many choices with limited time.
                    Will go through everyone's suggestions and plan my journey to visit what seems to be the 'cream of the crop' only.

                    I am interested in successful bakeries selling some of the finest French pastries in your part of the world. Interesting in seeing their store concept, sampling some of their offerings and maybe having a quick chat with the owners.
                    Thanks.

                    1. re: pastriesinparis

                      One of the best French-style bakeries is just outside of San Francisco in Colma. Nora's Patisserie is owned by Nora Tong, one of the best Bay Area bakers and dessert caterers. Her miniatures are beautiful and her cakes taste really good -- I particularly like the black forest cake (I know, it's German, but Nora trained in Belgium, part French, part German or Flemish) the variety of butter cookies, and the gallettes.

                      www.noraspatisserie.com

                      1. re: Nancy Berry

                        Nora's Patisserie link

                        -----
                        Nora's Patisserie
                        29 San Pedro Rd, Colma, CA

                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                          I was at a party last weekend, and a man brought in a bunch of cakes, cookies, and pasties with labels that said Nora's Patisserie. I'd never heard of them before, and we quickly started tasting.

                          My favorites were the moist gingerbread and a divine mixed berry turnover. Friends raved about the German chocolate cookie. Coffee cake looked great too. There were some kind of cookie squares that I found too buttery, and a wafer thin chocolate chip cookie, a bit of a refined style compared to Anthony's.

                          I was then delighted to meet Nora herself, having already enjoyed her baking. She described the location of the retail store as top of the hill Daly City, near Mission Street and the San Francisco border..

                          Based on what we sampled and Nancy's recommendation, I'm looking forward to checking out the cakes.

                2. I think you should do a bakery tour. Here are four eclectic, but very good possibilities...

                  -----
                  Tartine Bakery
                  600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Victoria Pastry Co
                  1362 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  Liguria Bakery
                  1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  Acme Bread
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Paul H

                    Thanks everyone for your quick feedback.

                  2. For French pastries two musts are Tartine and Boulange (aka Bay Bread, a small local chain with a branch near your hotel).

                    Miette at the Ferry Plaza seems to be successful but, well, judge for yourself about the quality.

                    Check out Downtown Bakery & Creamery's stand at the Saturday morning famers market at Ferry Plaza. That's former Chez Panisse pastry chef Lindsey Shere's shop in Healdsburg.

                    -----
                    Tartine Bakery
                    600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Miette Cakes
                    1 Ferry Bldg # 10, San Francisco, CA

                    La Boulange
                    685 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    1. Definitely not in San Francisco but only 4 or so blocks away from the Ashby BART station is the tiny Crixa cakes. Very nice set up for a bakery/coffee house. Probably worth a trip as a possible business model.

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

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wolfe

                        The most amazing poppyseed rugelach at Crixa. Also the intriguingly named Fatima's Thighs.

                      2. Here is what I recommend:

                        Mission Beach Cafe on Guerrero St: get there at 7 AM when they open, because everything is hot out of the oven. Try out a canelé, and their chocolate/almond croissant.

                        Arizmendi Bakery, on 9th Ave: Once again, if you arrive at 7 AM, everything is hot out of the oven. There are two things here that are unique: a corn-cherry scone (photo #1), and what they call a "chocolate thing" (photo #2). The chocolate thing, and also half of their pastries and focaccia, are made with an interesting chewy dough.

                        Delessio Market & Bakery, on Market St: Their Brazilian French toast is great (it's a pre-made pastry thing).

                        At Tartine Bakery on Guerrero St: check out the gougère. The chocolate croissant here is interesting, because the chocolate filling is inconceivably great. In the afternoon, they have good pre-made croque monsieurs.

                        You can also do a canelé taste test trifecta (TM). You can get a canelé at Mission Beach Cafe, and then compare to one from Boulette's Larder at the Ferry building (take BART), then try one from La Boulange bakery (there is a location on Market not too far from the Marriott, but they sometimes don't have canelés until later in the morning).

                        If you are starting a bakery, and are interested in the "continuous baking" business model, check out Specialty's Cafe & Bakery (there are two locations near the Marriott). They bake cookies continuously during the day, and advertise "warm cookies." Their web site hosts a "warm cookie radar" which tells you when cookies have just come out of the oven.

                        Also near the Marriott is Samovar Tea Lounge (the Yerba Buena location on Howard St). If you arrive when they open at 10 AM, their oat-cherry scones are hot out of the oven: they are superb, because they cheat: I'm pretty sure they use 50% scone mix, and 50% biscuit mix (photo #3).

                        -----
                        Tartine Bakery
                        600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        Delessio Market & Bakery
                        1695 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                        Boulettes Larder
                        Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        Mission Beach Cafe
                        198 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                        Samovar Tea Lounge
                        730 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                        Arizmendi Bakery
                        1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

                        La Boulange
                        685 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                        Specialty's Cafe & Bakery
                        101 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA

                         
                         
                         
                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ssfire

                          Do Mission Beach Cafe and Boulette's Larder make their own caneles?

                          The pastries at Arizmendi / Cheese Board are sort of crude and hippieish.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Boulette's Larder makes their own caneles. Most of the caneles I have had there have been excellent. They have also still been warm.

                        2. I, too, love Crixa in Berkeley. I think they are closed Monday (or Sunday? do check first).

                          Right next to your hotel, on Mission St. is one of 2 Beard Papa's in SF. I think the vanilla bean custard cream puffs are delicious.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: walker

                            I agree about Bear Papa, and I prefer their "cookie crunch" style of cream puff. I usually ask for half the usual amount of custard (I think of it more as a condiment than a filling).

                            And right next door to Beard Papa is Schoggi chocolates. I highly recommend the dark hot chocolate (see photo).

                            -----
                            Schoggi Imported Swiss Chocolates
                            87 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, CA

                            Beard Papa Sweets Cafe
                            99 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, CA

                             
                            1. re: walker

                              Beard Papa's Japanese-factory-made frozen-pie-crust thingies literally stink, but that's a subject for the Chains board:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/311914

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                The only time I had one it was tasteless. As in, without any discernable taste. Like water-flavored pastry.

                            2. Omgosh, thanks so much.
                              Can't wait to check out the bakeries in San Fran.
                              You guys/gals are awesome!!!!

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: pastriesinparis

                                just an aside: no one here calls it 'San Fran', and some cringe when people do. 'SF', 'San Francisco', or 'the city'.

                                The only other thing i'd add is that you can try a Mexican bakery (panaderia) or a chinese bakery as well.

                                1. re: xanadude

                                  Mexican bakeries, well, speaking of pastries that look better than they taste, I have occasionally come across exceptions but at most you can get half a dozen different items that look totally different and then when you bite into them they're all the same exact heavy, dry cake, just with different decorations.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I agree, no matter how beautiful or enticing the smells (I'm thinking of several Mexican bakeries along 24th St. in the Mission - the taste is usually very disappointing, and indicative to me of cheap shortening being used rather than butter.

                                    Wouldn't it be wonderful if some enterprising baker would open an "artisanal" Mexican bakery............

                                    1. re: lmarie

                                      Maybe fits the bill:

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/42086

                                      -----
                                      Casa Latina
                                      1805 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I've been to Casa Latina. The pastries did not appeal, but I tried the tres leches cake, which was very ordinary (my favorite version of tres leches is at Delessio's on Market St. in SF.

                                        I did have a delicious carnitas torta at Casa Latina.

                                      2. re: lmarie

                                        But in mexico, it seems the same - good smell, same heavy disappointing taste. Isn't authentic always better? Wouldn't "artisanal Mexican" be cultural appropriation? Shouldn't it be called "cali-mex", if it's mexican infused with californian sensabilities?

                                        (My tongue is 85% in cheek - but really - my experience on Mission is exactly like that in mexico)

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          I think you could say the same about bakeries in America. Certainly there's a huge gap between a cake you buy at Safeway and a cake you buy at Delessio, and the vast majority of cakes that are sold and consumed in the US are of the Safeway variety. If you weren't bakery savvy you could spend your whole life thinking that Costco was the be-all and end-all of cake.

                                          So my question would be, are there bakeries in Mexico that are making better quality versions of Mexican baked goods? Could you find them if you knew where to look? Or are all high-end bakeries in Mexico doing European-style pastries?

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            The average bakery in Guadalajara is just like the average Mexican bakery here. My friend who lives there goes halfway across town to buy from one of the few exceptions, and even at that place only a few of the items are good.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Interesting questions - I found just by walking around mexico with my nose in the air I found all kinds of goodies. Fresh chocolate, fresh coffee, fresh carnitas, fresh grilled meats, fresh tortillas, great tacos. I stopped at good smelling bakeries, too, and got a taste for the breakfast bread. Was there more I didn't find, trends I didn't locate? Possibly! I hope so!

                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                Walk around Fruitvale and you'll find pretty much all the same stuff you would in Mexico.

                                                It's a lot easier to find good bolillos than to find a decent pastry. I think that's as true here as in Mexico.

                                      3. re: xanadude

                                        I agree 100 percent about Mexican bakeries.

                                        For Chinese bakeries, try Golden Gate bakery in Chinatown. There's some debate about whether it's as good as it was before their head pasty chef passed away a couple of years back, but I think their egg custard tarts are still better than 99 percent of other places. The coconut macaroons are fabulous, too, and the other offerings are interesting if you're not familiar with Chinese pastries. From the Marriott it's a straight walk up Grant Ave. from Market -- maybe 10-15 minutes.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Thanks everyone for you comments on Mexican, Chinese bakeries.
                                          My time in San Fran is limited and I am only concentrating on your best French pastry shops. Will keep those in mind for the next time I visit your lovely city =)

                                          1. re: pastriesinparis

                                            Are you driving? If you can make it over to the East Bay, then you can hit La Farine, Masse's and Crixa in Berkeley and Feel Good Bakery in Alameda. Feel Good makes some of the best French-style pastries around, especially the croissants and the macarons, and the owner is usually around (it's a tiny space).

                                    2. Cafe Madeleine is probably the closest place to you. It's a cafe with pretty cakes (pastries too I think) as well as sandwiches and savory items like pot pie. I had one of their cakes once - it was pretty good.

                                      -----
                                      Cafe Madeleine
                                      43 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                      1. Real French pastry? Patisserie Philippe, hands down (except the macarons, which can be inconsistent.) I've tried almost everything there, and the Napoleon, fresh fruit tarts, Verdon pastry, and Diamante cookies are excellent. The patissier trained with Lenotre, and although Patisserie Philippe isn't quite a match for the top patisseries in Paris, I doubt anything on this side of the Atlantic is. C'est la vie. . . The Bay Bread chain is pretty good for French breads and some pastries, too.

                                        Tartine, despite its name, is a very good American bakery, with a wonderful banana cream pie.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: pilinut

                                          Oh, yes - LeNotre ... that's French for you.
                                          There are some great patisseries this side of the Altantic, so I have to disagree with your one comment =). I definitely will try to check this one out. Thanks.

                                        2. Another vote for Patiserrie Phillippe. It's far from convenient location wise, but it blows away the Bay Bread/Boulangerie chain (though they do make better macaroons, and their canelles are great).

                                          Liguria Bakery does one think, focaccia, and does it well. The fruit and nut breads across the street at Momma's are excellent as well.

                                          The pretzel croissant found at the Bavarian Bakery stand inside the Metreon's food court are real standouts. A few other bakeries are set up there as well.

                                          he custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery are great, and if you end up at Arizmendi, you can go up the block to Sunset Bakery, another Chinese Bakery. At the corner nearby is a donut chain with some good apple fritters. Bob's on Polk, and Dynamo are considered the higher end donut if you're interested.

                                          The Mexican bakeries do make a few good thinks, and Mexican wedding cookies are one of them.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            October Feast (the source of delicious pretzel croissants) has withdrawn from the Metreon farmer's market. They are at the Berkeley Sat. morning FM, and have a shop on University Ave. in Berkeley.