The neighborhood bakeries of San Francisco are a delicious expression of this city’s cultural and culinary diversity. Food has a unique ability to bring people together and bakeries create welcoming warmth for their customers in this city. Many of the neighborhood bakeries are long standing traditions and important elements of the community. Newcomers to the local bakery scene have been welcomed as well and rewarded with a steady stream of customers.
Patrons are encouraged to linger in many of these bakeries that offer a small but rich café culture. Even those without café tables and chairs will often serve coffee and friendly conversation from the staff. Without exception, we were impressed by the service staff in the bakeries we visited – whether we met proprietors or not, we felt like our business was important at every stop on our tour.
LINES OUT THE DOOR
Tartine was the first stop on the tour hoping to avoid the lines, but that simply is not possible at this bakery hot spot. Customers line up every day and everyone has an item here that they say is worth the wait. There is no way to see a sign, if indeed there is one, it is buried behind the crowd, but Tartine is no secret in this city. It’s the see-and-be-seen bakery. Located in the Mission district it’s trendy and popular with tourists looking for a treat just a little off the beaten path.
FAVORED BY THE LOCALS
We asked pedi cab drivers and restaurant servers about their favorite bakeries in the city and learned that old time neighborhood haunts were typically among the favorites of the locals. Most can tell you about their favorite sweet roll and why it’s the best. Dianda’s is an Italian Bakery in the Mission district that serves up huge, fresh and satisfying sweet rolls along with a large selection of the Italian Bakery specialties. Just down the street from Dianda’s is Mission Pies, another favorite of the locals specializing in fresh baked pies.
Victoria’s Bakery in North Beach has the perfect location to curl up in a window seat and enjoy an espresso along with tiramisu or cannoli and enjoy the day. It’s a center point of this Italian neighborhood but recommended by locals miles away who say it’s worth a nice long walk to get there.
Other neighborhood bakeries specialize in unique items. The city is known for Sourdough Bread and it is impossible to miss the Boudin Bakery in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf that’s become a well known national brand. But lesser-known spots like the Liguria Bakery in North Beach are gaining a following for their focaccia bread, and are among the city’s local treasures.
Similar to other major cities where cult doughnut shops are popular, San Francisco is full of boutiques dedicated to the craft. Several store front restaurants also showcase their primary cuisine along with “and doughnuts” on their signs. One fashionable shop is Dynamo Donuts in the Mission where inventive flavor combinations like a Monte Cristo donut and a lemon curd Sichuan donut have made an impact with locals and tourists.
NEW IN NOE VALLEY
The Noe Valley Bakery offers beautiful breads and the classic desserts reinvented for the modern customer. Their Most-ess cupcakes come in regular and micro mini sizes. Even more popular now that the famous Hostess factory shuttered its doors, these are the real deal perfected by a pastry chef and worth every bite. We visited on a school holiday, and saw moms and dads with their sons and daughters visiting to get a treat to make the day even more special.
Mariposa is a full bakery dedicated to gluten free baked goods. The bakery items offered are the classic fare including loaves of bread, savory and sweet items. The décor gives this the appearance of a bakery where girlfriends, moms and their young daughters might be comfortable – the vibe is distinctly feminine and desserts are right size portions. The appearance of the pastries tells you they are different, but they deliver on flavor.
ON TREND NOW
The food stalls at the Ferry Building are a good barometer of what’s on trend now with the food scene. Miette Patisserie serves up classic French style pastries with provenance. The bakery’s sign proudly proclaims that they use local Strauss Family Creamery dairy products. The Acme Bread Company entices all with aroma and a wide range of offerings. The production bakery is on view all day long reminding customers that fresh baked treats are what is served.
INDULGENCE ON DEMAND
San Francisco is a city built for tourists from all over the world and accustomed to feeding the demand for indulgence. Tiny footprints bakery outposts like the Waterfront Bakery near Fisherman’s Wharf are ready to serve up the city’s famous sourdough bread and a wide range of sweet treats from classic French style pastries to cookies.
The Golden Gate Bakery was closed for vacation on this visit, so it’s on our list for the next trip to try the custard filled pastries that we heard are second to none.