San Francisco has a long history in the bread world ever since French bakers brought sourdough techniques to the area during the California Gold Rush. That French influence remains in several of the popular local bakeries and the appreciation for baked goods, especially the city’s popular sourdough bread, still remains in San Francisco culture. Everything from open face sandwiches to éclairs to tartines has earned this City by the Bay accolades. Plus, the area’s noteworthy locally sourced produce make it easy for local bakers to create menu items using farm-fresh ingredients These five bakeries are simply a few stops that visitors flock to from all over the world for a spot in line.
The French-inspired La Boulange bakery started on San Francisco’s Pine Street and has since turned into a Bay Area institution with several locations — each with a yellow and blue awning with outdoor seating reminiscent of a French café. While the bread is certainly a highlight, the soups and sandwiches are what really draw locals to this café. Take a bite of the open face creamy mushroom sandwich, made with roasted chicken, chives, caramelized onion and mushroom sauce, for a little taste of France in the City by the Bay.
Located in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood, b. patisserie is known for its éclair flavors that change daily. Peanut, caramel, chocolate and salted caramel, chocolate are just a couple examples that this modern, French-style bakery offers. While the éclairs are certainly standout menu items, the tartine sandwiches also have a French influence. The ratatouille tartine, for instance, is a sandwich version of the French dish and features stewed tomato, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion and Swiss cheese — a vegetarian’s dream.
Arizmendi Bakery, located in the Inner Sunset, is known for its rotating pizza menu. Every day features a different kind of pizza — any of which attract the same customers no matter the ingredients. The roasted Yukon gold potato, garlic and basil pesto is just one example. The bread menu has a similar schedule with rotating loaves on different days. The Irish Soda bread, for instance, is available on Tuesdays, while the parmesan-rosemary scones are available on Thursday. There’s almost no point in even looking at the schedule because the decision of what day to go on is too difficult to make.
Craftsman and Wolves is more than just a bakery. While it offers on-the-go baked goods such as a chocolate croissant stack, it also has an extensive dining menu that includes savory entrées such as red-wine braised chicken and wine by the glass to complement. Baked goods, however, play a major role in the menu items. Their haute dog, a customer favorite, is served on a mustard seed croissant, complete with salt and vinegar beet chips. For those customers wanting to bring a treat home for later, the Separation Anxiety menu features confections such as smoked butter caramels and "damn fine" granola.
Tartine Bakery & Café owners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2008, an honor that only begins to explain why tourists and locals alike make their way to the Mission to get in line for a taste of the exquisite pastries they make. The frangipane tart, for instance, has a light, almond-cream filling baked in a flaky pastry shell with seasonal fruit. The bread is equally as good and can be ordered by the full or half loaf. It is cooked in a wood-fired oven for a true rustic taste.