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Great breads you've had in restaurants

Hi - I'm trying to figure out what restaurants in the Bay Area serve great bread. Any thoughts? Bread and rolls are often just afterthoughts - something to throw on the table to keep folks happy until the main event. But where have you had really good, memorable bread? Thanks for the feedback!

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  1. Murray Circle offers wonderful breads...seaweed, potato and more. Luce has lovely warm crusty fragrant rolls at the table. The Bay Area is flush with excellent bread bakers - we expect good bread and not as an afterthought/surprise.

    Murray Circle
    601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cynsa

      I think about the brioche served at Canteen dinners.

      1. re: grayelf

        I always dream of "more" of those buttery gems... even with "the best is yet to come" with what follows in the course of an evening at Canteen.

        1. re: Cynsa

          I like them so much I don't even mind that they aren't served warm, which is something I notice happens often at least at the restos I've tried in SF Bay area. Room temp is okay for breads but I've had some downright chilly offerings on various visits...

    2. The housemade focaccia at Da Flora is very good.

      Da Flora
      701 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1 Reply
      1. re: saffrongold

        Second the focaccia at da Flora. Nothing like getting hit with the aroma when the front doors open.

      2. Manresa's bread is as good as any in the Bay Area. Just like Tartine's (where the baker formerly worked).

        Two (which is closing at the end of the year).

        22 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, CA 94105

        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Of course Bar Tartine serves bread from Tartine Bakery.

          Bar Tartine
          561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

        2. I've liked the breads at Chez Panise (the downstairs). I think you can get really good bread at lots of restaurants as if the restaurant doesn't bake their own fresh bread they will usually get bread from one of the SF Bay Area's many fine bakery's.

          3 Replies
          1. re: skwid

            Chez Panisse serves Acme bread.

            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              When I went they sure looked like they were baking their own. The wood burning oven towards the front has bread coming out of it.

              1. re: skwid

                They occasionally make bread downstairs as part of the day's menu, but the usual bread on the table is Acme.

          2. We dined at Quince a week ago and they have an assortment of wonderful bread and rolls--I chose a buttery, cheese roll and my wife had a rosemary ciabatta.

            1. Delfina serves my favorite bread, Tartine (they also put a couple slices of Acme's Italian loaf on the plate).

              I love the foccacia at Farina.

              As mentioned, the buttery rolls at Canteen are fantastic as is the Acme bread at Chez Panisse. Zuni also serves a good loaf of Acme bread.

              Incanto has a nice mix of foccacia, bread and grissini with tapenade instead of butter or oil.

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Delfina Restaurant
              3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1 Reply
              1. Sorry to state the obvious, but it's pretty hard to top the crusty round French loaves served at Tadich Grill and Sam's Grill. Those are made from their own sourdough starters kept on file at the bakery, and are noticeably different from what you get at the store.

                There may be other old-school SF places who also have their own starters -- I'm not sure. Since leaving the Bay Area, I no longer take SF sourdough for granted.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Steve Green

                  I don't believe they had a special starter, just a special dark bake. Tadich's long, long, long-time supplier Parisian went out of business in 2005. The manager told the Chronicle in 2006 that the same baker moved to Boudain and was still making the bread.


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    One of the crusty waiters at Sam's told me years ago that they had their own starter on file at the bakery, and that he believed Tadich had one on file as well. RW refers to Tadich's starter on this thread from December '08: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/397206

                    I read the sfgate story you quoted. Here's the relevant quote:
                    ".......The same baker - first at Parisian and now at Boudin -- has made our sourdough for years. They even call it the 'Tadich bake' - it's got a slightly darker crust, and it's a little less dense and more airy inside."

                    Although the starter is not specifically mentioned, to me that description implies a different starter, or at least doesn't rule it out. Unless I'm missing something.

                    1. re: Steve Green

                      Lots of variables can affect the texture.

                      The "special starter" story's been repeated a lot, but there's nothing about it in John Briscoe's book, and I can't find a mention of it in any other authoritative source.

                      Most stories about starters are hogwash. Bakeries often claim that they've had the same "mother" going since the dawn of time, but in reality every baker has to re-create it every once in a while, and nobody's the wiser.

                      1. re: Steve Green

                        I think the mythology is Boudin inherited starters from some of the defunct Sourdough bakers, which they supposedly still use special for the Tadich orders.

                        I've bought darker bakes from Boudin recently and it wasn't even close, which leads me to believe that as logistically far fetched as it sounds, they really could be using a special starter to provide Tadich with the last real sourdough in the bay area.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          What were the differences?

                          Extra sourness depends less on the starter than on letting the dough rise longer at a cooler temperature.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Wouldn't you agree, Tadich bread is night and day from what you can buy from Boudin?

                            Thicker, less flakey, bubble-y crust with a different texture.
                            Airier, softer bread

                            i'd love to think if bakers just let their dough rise properly, they could sell us a consistently sour sourdough, but I doubt that's it.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              I haven't bought a loaf of Boudin in years, that's why I asked. Tadich's bread seems the same as ever to me, like the SF sourdough that was ubiquitous before Acme et al. came along.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Oh, in that case... what Boudin sells retail is now similar to Acme, etc.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  I bought Boudin at a store recently, and I thought it was a shadow of its former self -- nothing like Acme at all, and not at all like at Tadich. That said (and I know I'm in the minority here), for bakery sourdough, I like Semifreddi the best.

                                  1. re: Steve Green

                                    Acme was one of the most influential bakers to sell that type of "not exactly right" sourdough that's become the standard. That's what I meant. Boudin is about as off as Acme now.

                                    I like Semifreddi, but none of their breads are anything close to an old sourdough. I prefer the Wedemeyer sourdough bastone for a store bought.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      I guess Acme's Italian is roughly as sour as contemporary supermarket sourdough, but it's not very similar in any other respect.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Well, the point is none of the new breed sourdoughs are close to the classic sourdoughs, and aside from that one restaurant's supply, nobody makes one.

                                        I wish Acme's sours weren't so dry.

                  2. While neither the breadsticks nor the focaccia blew me away at Perbacco, it's still fun when a restaurant (at that level) gives you multiple courses of bread

                    1. I love the Portugese rolls at La Salette in Sonoma. They're warm, tender, dense and slightly sweet.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lindarita

                        I ♥ La Salette's rolls, also - a wonderful family recipe!

                      2. I really liked the jalepeno biscuits served at Five in Berkeley. They typically serve it with a wonderful spread.

                        1. The flatbread at Coco500 is pretty much like crack. I know it's not rolls or bread, but I just had to say.

                          1. Garcon has a great, endlessly refilled bread basket of classic French bread with excellent unsalted butter.
                            The cornbread fingers at Front Porch served with warm spicy butter (butter theme here!) have a lovely texture, but you sometimes have to beg.
                            I haven't been for about a year, but remember Absinthe having a distinctly superior bread basket with many different types including a raisin bread that was yummy with cheese.

                            The Front Porch
                            65 29th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            1101 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
                            398 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                            1. I would really have to do a back to back tasting, but Etoile might just beat Tadich, which I previously considered the best sourdough in the Bay Area.

                              I'm glad someone mentionted La Salette. Those rolls are great.

                              For all its faults, Tony's Pizza makes a really swell foccacia.

                              It has been put down on the board, but IMO Town's End has always had a memorable bread basket. There is lots of variety and is very good. One of my favorite things in the Bay Area, are the yeasty rolls Town's End serves for breakfast/brunch.

                              1. Outerlands Cafe makes great bread that they slice and serve with soup and turn into sandwiches. It's housemade and very good. Check the board for more info, this place is covered pretty well on CH.

                                1. Although they don't have the best food in the bay, Cafe des Amis and Spruce have INCREDIBLE bread. So good in fact that I will stop by for lunch and order soup (their soup is actually one of the best things they offer since they spend days making it: homemade stock, fresh local ingredients, and hours and hours of simmering) mostly because I want the bread. They serve Mayfield Bakery bread (to my knowledge the only restaurants in SF to serve, aside from Fraiche frozen yogurt which doesn't really count as a restaurant) and it is perfection, super dark crusty outside and tangy, spongy, slightly dense inside. It is definitely best served warm, so on the off chance it doesn't arrive that way it is worth requesting that they heat it for you.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: cali5189

                                    Mayfield Bakery has a wholesale division that sells to restaurants though I couldn't tell you who serves it other than the other restaurants in the group, Village Pub in Woodside and Mayfield Cafe in Palo Alto. As a lover of Mayfield's bread, you should check out the cafe some time. While you can't count on it, dinner customers are invited to take home any excess loaves. A couple Christmases ago, I got the stollen as a freebie.


                                    Edited to add: A16 lists Mayfield as a purveyor.

                                  2. I really love the bread at Barlata. Soft, white, tight crumb, comes with an addictive ground black olive-anchovy tapenade. Wonderful stuff.

                                    1. manresa's bread is almost definitely the best.

                                      i also like the bread basket served at farina.

                                      cotogna's foccacia is also excellent.

                                      1. I love the bread at Pizzaiola -- chewy, dense, slightly sour.

                                        1. The Bouchan bread at Ad Hoc is excellent, mostly because it's family style and all you can eat. You get the same bread at TFL but good bread often goes best with average type everyday food, or it's easier to remember since it's not competing with the food as much. I don't remember Manresa's bread but I remember the meal.

                                          1. I really liked the parker rolls at Haven in Oakland, although looking at a recent Yelp review they may have stopped making them.

                                            1. Remember when Mecca first opened? I swear I used to go just for the little bread basket.

                                              1. Does the fried bread under the burrata at State Bird Provisions count ? Definitely my favorite dish there..

                                                1. Went to lunch at the Campton Place restaurant this week and they had the most delicious olive bread, served with very good butter. The bread server (he seemed dedicated to this task) offered that and sourdough, and three huge pieces at once! I took only 2 and regretted it.