Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

San Francisco Bakeries

by Cyndy Ainsworth

Even in health-conscious San Francisco, people love yummy breakfast pastry and decadent desserts; they just jog an extra mile or two to make up the difference. The city's bakeries cater to a diverse and well-traveled audience, and you can take a culinary tour as you sample the best of their wares.

French

Baker's of Paris
3989 24th Street at Noe
(415) 863-8725
1102 Taraval at 21st Avenue
(415) 863-8726

Baker's of Paris is my favorite source for classic French baguettes. They also make good croissants, brioche, raisin rolls, and scones. The baguettes are available in some Bay Area supermarkets in addition to the two Baker's of Paris retail stores.

Patisserie Delanghe
1890 Fillmore Street at Bush
(415) 923-0711
At 'Patisserie Delanghe the croissants, brioche, and fruit pastries are among the best in the city, flaky, buttery and not too sweet. Patisserie Delanghe also make delicious fresh fruit tarts, eclairs, and napoleons. The kitchen is a big open space right behind the sales counter so you can watch the bakers at work.

American

Creighton's American Bakery
598 Chenery Street at Castro
(415) 239-5525
Creighton's is a small bakery in Glen Park that bakes excellent coffeecakes, Danish, muffins, scones, cookies, cakes, and pies. They also bake delicious savory turnovers called "hand pies" with vegetable and cheese fillings.

Downtown Bakery
Ferry Plaza Market
On the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building

For a number of years the Downtown Bakery on the town square in Healdsburg has been a favorite stop for Sonoma County residents and visitors. Fortunately a selection of their delicious baked goods are available closer to home at the Saturday morning Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. Their table is always crowded but it's worth the wait to try their olive-studded focaccia, rustic breads, classic sticky buns, and buttery cookies. A Downtown Bakery muffin and a caffe latte from the nearby coffee vendor is a perfect start or finish to a Ferry Plaza Market shopping trip.

Just Desserts/Tassajara
248 Church Street at Market
(415) 626-5774
With a string of bakeries throughout the Bay Area and a thriving wholesale business, Just Desserts is into volume baking. Remarkably they still produce quality products baked from scratch with fresh ingredients, delivered daily to each store. The fare is classic American: carrot cake, chocolate layer cake, sour cream coffee cake, blueberry muffins, apple pie, and so on. Each shop has tables where you can enjoy a cup of coffee with your slice of cake.

A few years ago Just Desserts bought the Tassajara Baking Company from the Zen Center, so in addition to their sweets they bake hearty American-style loaf breads following the Tassajara recipes. The potato bread shows how delicious well-made white bread can be; and their whole wheat, cottage cheese dill and sourdough rye are good, too. The breads are available in many local markets in addition to Just Desserts stores. The original Tassajara bakery and cafe at Cole and Parnassus is still open, selling Tassajara bread, Just Desserts pastries, vegetarian sandwiches, and salads.
Other locations:
1000 Cole Street at Parnassus
(415) 664-8947
3 Embarcadero Center, Lobby Level
(415) 421-1609
836 Irving Street at 10th Avenue
(415) 681-1277
1750 Fulton at Masonic (in Plaza Foods)
(415) 441-2207
3735 Buchanan Street at Marina Boulevard
(415) 922-8675
1823 Solano Avenue at Colusa, Berkeley
(510) 527-7344
2925 College Avenue at Ashby
(510) 841-1600
4001B Piedmont at 40th, Oakland
(510) 601-7780
535 Bryant Street, Palo Alto
(415) 326-9992

Noe Valley Bakery and Bread Company
4073 24th Street
(415) 550-1405
This bakery is a fairly recent addition to the SF baking scene, but it's quickly developed a following for its unusual specialty breads, such as ginger apricot, cherry chocolate, and double raisin. They also bake more traditional breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, and tarts. The bakery has a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, but the best selection is at the Noe Valley shop.

Schubert's
521 Clement Street between 6th and 7th Avenues
(415) 752-1580

Schubert's has been providing high quality pastries to satisfied San Franciscans for over 80 years. The cases at the front of the shop have fancy mousse cakes, while the cases at the rear are filled with simpler but delicious breads, Danish pastries, coffee rings, butter cookies, and an excellent sour cream coffee cake.

Star Bakery
1701 Church Street at 29th
(415) 648-0785
1946 Van Ness at Jackson
(415) 885-5060
The specialty here is Irish soda bread, with raisins or with raisins and caraway seeds. I favor the seeded version, but either one makes good toast for breakfast.

Star Bakery on Van Ness is an old-fashioned place with a retail counter in the front and a nondescript sit-down counter along the side. You can get all the old standards --bread, cookies, muffins, Danish, fruit pies, muffins, doughnuts, and so on -- plus some less common items, such as small containers of bread pudding and baked custard. The quality is good, and the prices are modest.

Sweet Inspiration
2239 Market Street between Sanchez and Noe
(415) 621-8664
2123 Fillmore Street between California and Sacramento
(415) 931-2815
This bakery has two shops, one on upper Market Street and one on Fillmore. Both offer the usual range of muffins, cookies, and scones (the ginger scones are especially good) plus fancy cakes and tarts; and both have tables where you can relax and enjoy your treat. They also sell Joseph Schmidt chocolates and Latest Scoop gelato.

Sweet Things
3585 California Street at Spruce
(415) 221-8583
Sweet Things is based in Tiburon, but they've also got an outlet in the CalMart supermarket in Laurel Village. They offer the usual array of cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, and quickbreads, generally well prepared but a little on the sweet side.

Chinese

Maria's Bakery
1049 Stockton Street between Washington and Jackson
(415) 989-8838
Maria's appealing baked buns makes perfect street food as you walk around Chinatown . They're made from slightly sweet yeast dough and come both savory (such as roast pork, corn and ham,or bacon and scallion) and sweet (such as coconut custard and raisin).

Mee Mee Bakery
1328 Stockton between Broadway and Vallejo
(415) 362-3204
For really fresh fortune cookies, stop by this small shop just off Broadway. You can get traditional fortune cookies, chocolate fortune cookies, or an assortment with traditional, chocolate, green, and pink cookies. You can even bring in your own fortunes and have Mee Mee put them into cookies for you. Mee Mee also bakes good sesame cookies, almond cookies, and moon cakes. Their animal cookies -- dogs, mice, horses, chickens, and so on -- are cute to look at but boring to eat.

Italian

Danilo
516 Green Street near Grant
(415) 989-1806
As soon as you walk into Danilo, you can smell the freshly baked breads. The basement kitchen turns out wonderfully crusty white, corn, and whole wheat loaves plus rolls, breadsticks, focaccia, biscotti, panettone, and buccellati (an anise-flavored version of panettone). Danilo is not as well known as some of the other North Beach bakeries, but their breads and pastries are excellent.

Il Fornaio
Levi's Plaza,
1265 Battery at Greenwich
(415) 986-0646
There are several Il Fornaio bakeries in the Bay Area, all part of the same company that owns the Il Fornaio restaurants; in fact, many of the bakeries are adjacent to the restaurants. They offer a variety of Italian breads, biscotti, and pastries. Among my favorites are the olive bread, the cornmeal cookies called meini, and the focaccia rounds. Seasonal specialties include dove bread and hot cross buns at Easter and panettone at Christmas. Il Fornaio breads are also available at many Bay Area markets, including some Safeway stores.
Other Locations:
327 Lorton Avenue, Burlingame
(415) 375-8400
Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera
(415) 927-2300
2059 Mountain Boulevard, Oakland
(510) 339-3108
388 University Avenue, Palo Alto
325-9353
1 Main Street, Tiburon
(415) 435-0777

Italian French Baking Company
1501 Grant Avenue at Union
(415) 421-3796
The long crusty baguettes here are perfect for garlic bread, while the Dutch crunch bread and crusty rolls are good for sandwiches. The crisp breadsticks are good with soup, and the biscotti are perfect with coffee or tea.

Liguria
1700 Stockton Street at Filbert
(415) 421-3786
Liguria bakes focaccia, nothing but focaccia. It comes in four flavors: plain, tomato, green onion, and raisin -- and they're all delicious. Liguria focaccia is great for hamburgers and sandwiches, as many San Francisco cafes have discovered, or all by itself. I love watching the sales people carefully wrap up the squares of bread in paper and tie it into a neat little bundle with string. They've probably been doing it that way since the bakery opened in 1911. Go early, they often sell out.

Stella Pastry
446 Columbus Avenue between Stockton and Vallejo
(415) 986-2914
Stella is famous for its scripantina, a rich assemblage of sponge cake soaked with liqueur and layered with zabaglione cream, but their other cream cakes, such as a chocolate fedora piled with chocolate curls, are also good. You can also get tiramisu, cannoli, panettone, and a variety of excellent biscotti.

Victoria Pastry Company
1362 Stockton Street at Vallejo
(415) 781-2015
The specialty at Victoria Pastry is Street Honor» cake: a combination of cream puffs, custard, and cake. Other yummy offerings include zucotto (a mold of cherry liqueur-soaked spongecake filled with chocolate mousse), and Fantasia (cake, mocha cream, and grated chocolate). The panettone and biscotti are also very good.

Mexican

My favorite bakeries in the Mission are all within a few block of each other on 24th Street, which makes it easy to stroll from one to the other to see what looks the best. All offer an assortment of pan dulce, the Mexican sweet bread, shaped into shells or crocodiles or whatever shape the baker fancies. They're great for breakfast with a cup of caf» con leche. You can also get bolillos (soft slightly sweet rolls that are great for sandwiches) and cookies, such as fat brown ginger pigs.

Dominguez Mexican Bakery
2951 24th Street at Alabama
(415) 821-1717
Good pumpkin turnovers.

La Reyna Bakery and Coffee Shop
3114 24th Street
(415) 647-6502
In addition to the typical Mexican pastry, this bakery sometimes has fresh flour tortillas. Call to find out when they're likely to be available.

La Victoria Mexican Bakery
2937 24th Street between Florida and Alabama
(415) 550-9292

La Mexicana
2804 24th Street at York
(415) 648-2633
Good custard-filledpan dulce.

Other

Anna's Danish Cookies
3560 18th Street between Valencia and Guerrero
(415) 863-3882
Cookies that put the mass market tins of Danish cookies to shame. You can choose from plain, chocolate dipped, chocolate chop, lemon, pecan, and oatmeal raisin. The helpful staff will put a few of these little gems into a bag for you or pack them into gift boxes or tins. Don't miss the collection of cookie jars in the window and behind the serving counter.

Bob's Donuts
1621 Polk Street
(415) 776-3141
Donuts have gotten a bad reputation in the last few years, partly because there are so many bad mass production donuts around. Fortunately you can still get good honest made-from-scratch donuts at Bob's. All the classics are here: plain, cinnamon, glazed, jelly, buttermilk bars, and more -- along with fresh, strong coffee.

Shaharazad Bakery
1586 Noriega near 23rd Avenue
(415) 661-1155
For freshly made phyllo dough for your strudel and baklava, stop by this shop in the Sunset. The bakery also sells pastries made from phyllo, including spanakopita, fruit turnovers, and -- of course -- baklava.

Yamada Seika Confectionery
1955 Sutter Street between Fillmore and Webster
(415) 922-3848
Even if you've eaten in lots of Japanese restaurants, you may never have had Japanese sweet bean pastries; they're not on restaurant menus. You have to go to a shop like Yamada Seika to find these unusual confections. They're typically small spheres or cylinders, with an outside layer of rice flour pastry and a filling of pureed sweetened beans. Sweet beans may sound odd, but the pastries look like little jewels, and they're quite tasty. Try them with a nice cup of green tea. You can buy tea right at Yamada Seika, along with a wide array of rice crackers and snacks.



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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