Here are my top picks when you’re in town listed in order of priority. Neighborhood in parentheses and anything in italics is on my to-do list.
1. Golden Gate Bakery ($, Chinatown, Egg tarts): Home to the best, most luscious egg custard tarts you can get in the United States, these are no ordinary egg tarts. A lot of the time, they aren’t open (someone made a website called http://www.is-the-golden-gate-bakery-open-today.com/) and whenever they are open, there is a line. They sell egg tarts and other Chinese pastries but the other pastries (cakes, cookies, buns) aren’t worth your money. Just get in line for the egg tarts.
2. Dynamo Donut + Coffee ($, Mission, Donuts): When I first started going here, there was only 1 location in the Mission neighborhood but now a lot of cafes carry dynamo and they have a donut stand in the Marina district. Strawberry earl grey, maple bacon, milk chocolate passionfruit and so many more creative, delicious donuts. The maple bacon is truly their best.
3. Tartine Bakery ($, Mission, Bread and pastries): Famous for their bread and morning bun, this bakery is synonymous with SF bakery excellence. It is the standard when it comes to the highest tier of SF bread. There is probably long wait and a line when you go. Oh why not, get the cocoa nib rochers too.
4. Craftsman and Wolves ($, Mission, Pastries): This beautifully decorated cafe offers pastries, cookies, cakes, and a muffin that you’ve never seen before called The Rebel Within. It’s a savory breakfast muffin made with asiago cheese, pork sausage, and green onion, encapsulating a runny soft boiled egg. I had a cold one so it wasn’t super amazing but I’m sure fresh, it would have been wonderful. It’s gorgeous though. Or grab a Thai scone (green curry, candied ginger, and coconut).
5. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse ($, Lower Nob Hill, Cruffin): This popular bakeshop sells a “cruffin,” a croissant muffin. It typically has a line early in the morning for then (sold out by 10am at times) so if you really want one, check Yelp and know the time you have to be there. No worries if you don’t need the hype and just go for some baked goodies later in the day; they’re all beautiful and delicious. Also, you can try the California croissant that has smoked salmon, ginger, wasabi, and nori.
6a. B. Patisserie ($, Pacific Heights, Pastries): Modern shop with an open pastry kitchen showcasing French style pastries (such as Kouign Amann) with American flavors (e.g. banana almond croissant). Its selection includes individual cakes and entremets, tarts, verrines, macarons, viennoiseries, and a bunch of tartines (open-faced sandwiches).
6b. Choux ($$, Lower Haight, French Cream Puff): Beautifully laid-out like colorful yet delicate jewels, the French cream puffs come in a variety of flavors and make excellent gifts to be eaten quick.
7. Bi-Rite Creamery ($, Mission, Ice cream): Known to many as the best ice cream in San Francisco, this creamery has loads of flavors and a line out the door. There is a soft serve window next to it and an associate Bi-Rite market down the street where you can buy by the pint. If either of the no frills options don’t work, get in line and await the goodness.
8. Smitten Ice Cream ($$, Hayes Valley, Ice cream): This made-to-order with liquid nitro ice cream is expensive but very good. Ask for a sample before making your choice of flavor. After you pick your flavor, they’ll make the ice cream right in front of you. Sourced from pure and fresh ingredients, the ice cream comes in many unique flavors such as lemon gingersnap, cookie dough with pretzels and chocolate chips, and earl grey with milk chocolate chips (flavors change daily).
9. Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous ($, Dogpatch, Ice cream): This cute shop was opened by two former pastry chefs and offers classic and eye-opening flavors that change daily like chocolate malted crunch, cookies and cream, French lavender, and Jasmine green tea.
10. It’s-It Ice Cream ($, most Bay area grocery stores, Ice cream sandwich): It’s a commercial confection but that doesn’t stop me listing it as an SF classic. Created in 1928, It’s-It ice cream is vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between two oatmeal cookies that’s then covered in a thin crispy layer of chocolate.
Still hungry for something sweet? You MUST try Sixth Course ($, Mission, Chocolate) on for size. It’s a dessert shop that specializes in chocolates, caramels, truffles, and pastries. Did I mention they have some of the most beautiful gelato pops I’ve seen on Instagram? Go check them out but remember they’re closed on Sun and Mon.
And, of course, I wouldn’t be Pastryday if I didn’t name more bakeries – did you already go to all the ones above? Try Neighbor Bakehouse ($$, Dogpatch, Bakery) for their pistachio blackberry croissant and ginger pull-apart. Or, visit Vive la Tarte ($$, SoMa, Bakery) for an orange blossom croissant.
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