The first thing you need to know about San Francisco is to never call it San Fran. Or Frisco. You will be slaughtered with evil side eyes. "Tourist," they'll snigger under their breath. "Pass him the croissant that fell to the floor," they'll conspire. And forget about getting a seat by the window. For that natural light. For those awesome 'grams.
Luckily for me, I was pre-warned. My mate, Ry Stephen — one of the founders of Mr Holmes Bakehouse, and the local insider who helped me collate this hit list for the best bakeries in San Francisco — emphatically told me: "It's either San Francisco, or SF. Anything else is not cool." And, given my aversion to all things ostracisation, I heeded that advice like gospel; constantly correcting myself with a stuttering: "San Fran. I mean, San Fran-cisco." Which, let's be honest, just made it worse. Especially when chowing down on a flaky croissant covered in icing sugar.
So, after a messy pastry adventure through SF (listen to me, I'm such a local), here's my tried-and-tested list of the best hipster (read: Instagrammable and tasty) bakeries in the home of the Golden Gate Bridge. Isn't it time you got baked in San Francisco?
1. TARTINE MANUFACTORY
Instagram:@tartinemanufactory Location: 595 Alabama Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 Claim to fame: Spawning ridiculous lines around the block — especially for its first outpost, Tartine Bakery, located at 600 Guerrero Street in The Mission district — due to its deft craft of turning organic ingredients into oh-so-tasty pastry. This recently opened second store boasts a larger and brighter warehouse interior, an ice cream counter, some serious mouth-watering grub (those salads!), and a bar serving wine and cocktails. Pro tip: After your meal, head next door to Heath Ceramics for handmade... ceramics. Obv. Also, a perfect SF souvenir.
2. MR HOLMES BAKEHOUSE
Instagram:@mrholmesbakehouse Location: 1042 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 Claim to fame: Those rarer than gold cruffins. The creation of pastry chef Ry Stephen, it's the genius fusion of a croissant with a muffin. Super Instagrammable. Super delish. But be prepared to wake up early to get your hands on one or six. On weekdays, you have to get there before 8.30am; and on the weekends, definitely before 8am. Even on cold wintry mornings, you'll see some crazy cats lining up for this crafty culinary creation at 7am. Pro tip: Missed out on a cruffin? No stress. Try the blueberry bostock, which tastes like a cheesecake with the crunch of French toast.
3. THE MILL
Instagram:@themillsf Location: 736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Claim to fame: "The bakery responsible for igniting the 'hipster bread' trend in SF," advises a local tech friend. And after trying it's cinnamon and raisin toast — freshly baked each day, and get this, home-milled from the grain itself — it's easy to understand why. Hearty thick slices of bread that ooze with a molten buttery centre when cut, it's the pinnacle for carb lovers. Pro tip: Sit by the large bay windows to soak in the sun. After your feed, pop across the road to Tanner Goods to take home a piece of Portland, Oregon. Treat yourself to a made-to-measure leather belt — crafted from bridle leather, you get to choose length, thickness, colour, and hardware — which comes with complimentary custom stamping.
4. NEIGHBOR BAKEHOUSE
Instagram:@neighborbakehouse Location: 2343 3rd Street, Suite 100, San Francisco, CA 94107
Claim to fame: Located in Dogpatch — a stone's throw from the bay — it's probably the most remote of all the bakeries on this list, but it's worth the visit for its pistachio croissants. I know what you're thinking: Pistachios? Ewww. My thoughts exactly. That is, until I tucked into the light pastry filled with sweet pistachio paste, sprinkled with a generous serving of toasted pistachio nuts and icing sugar. Best croissant I've had in SF. Hand to heart.
Pro tip: All seating is outside, so make sure you visit on a rain-free day. But, then again, when does it really rain in California? On windy days, be weary of icing sugar being blown onto your Prada coat that you just had dry cleaned. Ughhh. The worst.
5. CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES
Instagram:@craftsmanwolves Location: 746 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 Claim to fame: Has to be pastry chef William Werner's egg-filled muffins — aptly called, 'The Rebel Within'. The cross of a Scotch egg with a savoury muffin, this delectable morsel is made even more spectacular with a dash of smoky sriracha salt; served on the side in a little plastic tube for your own judicious sprinkling.
Pro tip: Walk a few blocks down Valencia and you'll hit Ritual Coffee Roasters. An institution in its own right, this Bay area fave has been getting locals caffeinated for over 11 years.
6. B. PATISSERIE
Instagram:@bpatisserie Location: 2821 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Claim to fame: For having the most legit kouigh amann on this side of the Pacific. What is kouigh amann? A freaking revelation, that's what. Native to the French province of Breton, it's soft and light pastry folded with equal parts butter and sugar. But at b. patisserie, the centre is also filled with liquid honey. Oh my gaaaawwd. And for chocolate lovers, the chocolate kouigh amann comes with dollop of dark chocolate on top. I'll take a hot dozen, thanks. This is my new crack.
Pro tip: Feeling peckish? The seasonal berry croissants are also worth the calories. Coffees here only come in large and larger, so order yourself a cuppa and settle in for a generous hit.
BONUS: BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE
Instagram:@bluebottle Location: 315 Linden Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Claim to fame: Okay, so this isn't a bakery, but you'll need a good strong coffee to sustain your pastry adventures. Originally from Oakland, but now with multiple branches all around SF (not to mention in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo) Blue Bottle Coffee is a Californian success story. Committed to delivering a quality brew with a focus on single-origin beans, it was named after the The Blue Bottle coffee store in Vienna — Central Europe's first coffee house.
Pro tip: Go to where it first started in San Francisco — the garage kiosk on Linden Street in the swanky Hayes Valley neighbourhood. With a Blue Bottle coffee in hand, tackle the trendy boutiques located on Hayes Street (just parallel to Linden Street). In my opinion, the best shopping in SF. Trust me. I have the receipts to prove it.
Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.
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