Insider’s Guide to the Best Bakeries in San Francisco

Tartine Manufactory + Tartine Cookies & Cream

595 Alabama St.

A visit to the Mission District wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Tartine Manufactory, the much larger sister location of Tartine, the legendary bakery that transformed the bread scene in the United States. The sprawling, 5,000-square-foot space is home to a bakery where you can find world-famous breads and a unique menu of pastries, an ice cream shop, a coffee kiosk, and a California-centric restaurant. Though large in size, the space still feels warm and calming, almost Zen-like with its beautiful wood seating, paper lanterns above, and ample light streaming in from the tall, paned-glass windows. When I’m there for a full meal, I’ll order the Porchetta sandwich or flatbread sandwich featuring the signature crusty, tangy bread. More often than not, I’ll pop by just to get the Fior di Latte (sweet cream) ice cream swirled with the monthly seasonal flavor, such as coffee, matcha, pomegranate, or Concord grape, served in a blue corn cone. I’ve eaten so many cones since the opening last fall that I’ve lost count, and I can only image how many more I will consume this summer.

Jenn’s Pick: Fior di Latte soft serve swirled with the seasonal Concord Grape Sorbet. I like sorbet that has an intense fruit flavor, as if just-picked from the vine, and the Concord Grape is the perfect example of that. The sweet-tart flavor pairs beautifully with the rich, creamy soft serve.

b. patisserie

2821 California St.

Whenever I’m missing Paris and its pastries, I go to b.patisserie. I’m immediately transported the moment I walk in and am greeted by the pleasant aroma of sugar caramelizing in the oven. A long pastry counter separates the open kitchen from the marble tables and cheerful yellow chairs along the perimeter of the shop. In the pastry case, individual tarts, mousse cakes, and macarons—generously filled like the ones at Pierre Hermé in Paris, where Chef Belinda Leong once worked—line up neatly in rows. The staff is constantly replenishing what they call the “kouign amann mountain,” a platter piled high with their signature treat. It’s like a croissant, but a bit denser with sugar incorporated throughout, resulting in a caramelized pastry. At first bite, it shatters and crumbs go everywhere. It’s sweet and crisp, yet still tender on the inside. And in the middle, there is a sticky, sugary center. In addition to the Kouign Amann Nature (plain), you’ll also find a chocolate-filled version and a rotating seasonal flavor such as raspberry-peach, pineapple, or pumpkin-filled. I typically choose plain, because the sweet, buttery flavor is so good on its own; however, the black sesame version, with its lovely nutty flavor, served during Chinese New Year, is incredible.

Jenn’s Pick: Kouign Amann, a yeasted, buttery, caramelized pastry that’s crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Though most versions are typically heavier with a compressed, disk-like appearance, the b.patisserie kouign amann is slightly puffed on top and exceptionally flaky and light.

Craftsman & Wolves

746 Valencia St.| 1643 Pacific Ave.| 1598 Yosemite Ave.

Chef William Werner of Craftsman & Wolves is part scientist and part artist. He experiments with different techniques and ingredients such as hibiscus, yuzu, and green curry, to present an ever-changing menu of creative takes on classic pastries that brings me back to the patisserie again and again. The Rebel Within is his most famous creation. This savory muffin, flecked with Asiago cheese, green onion, and sausage, looks unassuming, until you cut into it to reveal a soft-boiled egg in the middle, the golden yolk oozing onto the plate. It comes with a vial of Tabasco salt. A small pinch sprinkled on the yolk adds a nice punch of flavor. The cakes really showcase William’s artistic side. He is known for using cylindrical, cubed, or domed molds to shape the pastries, all fit for display in an art gallery. My favorite is the Vanilla Violet Cheesecake. On top of the cookie base is a glossy, domed cheesecake, encircled by a ring of whipped, white chocolate ganache kisses propping up a violet meringue halo.

Jenn’s Pick: The Rebel Within, a cheese, onion, and sausage muffin with a soft-boiled egg inside. I also cannot leave without also getting the Vanilla Violet Cheesecake, a tender cookie base with creamy cheesecake center and crisp meringue on top. The combination of textures makes it incredibly pleasant to eat.

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