If you are in San Francisco and are struck by a case of the notorious sweet-tooth, then look no further than some of these spots to satisfy your sweet cravings. Here are some of my favorite go to, tried and tastes bakeries and patisseries, in no particular order, to get some of the best San Francisco desserts.
A) San Francisco desserts spot # 1. b. Patisserie
b. patisserie, in Lower Pacific Heights, is the brain child of San Franciscan and acclaimed pastry chef Belinda Leung and her business partner and acclaimed baker Michael Suas. Belinda started off her career as a pastry chef at Gary Danko, moved to Europe to get some hands on training in the dessert scene at Paris, Barcelona, and Copenhagen. After two years off shores, Belinda returned to the Bay Area and became pastry chef at Manresa Restaurant, a three star Michelin Restaurant, in Los Gatos, California before opening b.Patisserie. Along with Michael Suas at the helm of all things savory, b. patisserie dishes out not only sinful pastries and viennoiserie but also open faced sandwiches (tartine) with vegetarian options plus coffee.
The patisserie is designed like a French salon with marble counter tops that are temperature regulated to maintain the desired texture and taste of the products. Although it is nothing short of a temptation land out there, the most celebrated product and something which Belinda is a master of, is their famous Kouign Amman (breton pastry; French for butter cake) which is just the right union of flaky on the outside and moist on the inside. It is apparently one the trickiest pastries to make but Belinda gets it right every time and has both traditional and also ones with filling such as the one with black sesame filling in honor of Chinese new year. The place has ample seating with outdoor seats as well. Arrive early since it gets very crowded on weekends!
B) San Franscisco desserts spot # 2. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
What started as a small bake house in the tenderloin neighborhood making one of a kind cruffins (croissant meets muffin) with yummy fillings has expanded into a cult of some sort with locations in Seoul and Los Angeles. There are two lines on either sides of the store, one for cruffins only that come out at 9 AM and the other for everything else, including the delish choux bombs filled with ferro richer cream. Mr. Holmes sells savory danishes along with a number of other sweet treats such as kouign amanns, creme-filled donuts that will make you go nuts and croissants. The interior of the store is super chic with tiles that spell “Holmes sweet holmes” and the distinct neon sign that says “I was baked in San francisco” which fills all its trendy Instagram feed (they also update their flavor list for the week on Instagram).
These sweet buggers/San Francisco desserts (i.e. cruffins, shown above) come out at 9 AM and the preparation for it resembles a mini warfare strategy with the store folks handing out small stickers to each person in the cruffin line and stacking the boxes and paper bags in one corner. This is followed by the appearance of a huge tray of cruffins having a single filling (one flavor per day) amidst murmurs of sweltering anticipation that reaches a frenzy upon their sight. Flaky on the exterior like a croissant, shaped like a sourpuss muffin, and filled with the world’s most delightful filling ever (today’s flavor was matcha dark chocolate), this cruffin is seriously to die for. I repeat, TO DIE FOR. A creation by the genius Ry Stephens, the former baker of Mr. Holmes, it is a must have if you ever visit the city. So famous are these cruffins that earlier this year, the shop experienced the most unusual of all burglaries where the thieves stole only the cruffin recipes and left everything else untouched. Theft or no theft, the fact that these have not surfaced anywhere else in continental USA is testimonial to the fact that there is something special about making these sweet delights and thus Mr. Holmes still reigns supreme in the hearts and minds of all cruffin lovers. So Holmies all over the world, rejoice, recharge and do not rest till you pay “holm”age to this bakery in San Francisco and get your fill of their goods, especially the cruffin which is so worth the painful wait. Again, arrive super early on weekends to avoid standing at the tail end of very long lines.
C) San Francisco desserts spot # 3. Choux
The tiny patch of Lower Haight is a paradise of wicked murals, delicious cheap eats and the tiny bakery Choux, which as per its namesake specializes in petite choux aka French cream puffs. Light on the outside with gooey flavored creamy sinfulness on the inside, they are a perfect pick me up for the mid afternoon or anytime sugar craving. The shop also offers espresso, coffee, French hot chocolate, and tea as well as other sugary treats such as mini meringues. Everything here is as authentic French as the beret since at the helm of this tiny spot of sweetness is Laura Athuil, prime baker & owner and French to boot who moved to San Francisco, fell in love with this city and the rest is history…err, bakery. I love this place and can vouch for the goodness of the petite choux puffs so don’t give it a miss when you are in town. Viva le Choux SF, viva le sugary coma!
D) San Francisco desserts spot # 4. Le Chat Rouge
UPDATE: This store is now permanently closed, what a bummer!
Next comes my favorite French bakery for a few sweet treats every time I visit North Beach. Tucked away in one of the streets next to Columbus Ave is Le Chat Rouge (The red cat), a beautiful Parisian Bakery, that came highly recommended by the host of La Parisienne French Bakery and Cafe (a bona fide French bakery in Oakland), who told me that their stuff was the real deal. I am not the one to debate about Parisian baked good authenticity in the Bay Area but I am a sucker for their lattice mangoes (a small pastry filled with mango pate) and their hazelnut pralines. Do check them out if you are in North Beach!
D) San Francisco desserts spot # 5. Belly Good crepes
Belly good crepes in Japan town is undoubtedly one of my favorite hangouts. Weekends are busy at this sinful haven of delicious crepes where all resolutions come to their death and it is a cash only place. But hey, its open late (till 10 PM weekdays) to satisfy those late night cravings, has tons of choices plus options of customizing your order and the amazing ladies working at the station really take pride and going out of the way to make the crepes look as good as they taste. So here’s to a dash of sweetness to end Sunday and combat the stress of the week ahead. Plus, we also got the last loaf of fresh bread from Anderson Bakery, ironically the only non-Japanese (Danish actually) business in Japan-town. So win, win, win! Belly good crepes is a MUST visit to satisfy your sweet tooth, another equally great place being Cafe Hannah (review reserved for some other day).
F) San Francisco desserts spot # 6. Chantal Guillon
French macarons are legendary and like all other french sweet treats, the right macaron is as elusive as a French woman’s “je ne sais quoi” sense of style. The cookie like exterior has to be the right kind of soft yet crunchy with the inner cream again being the right amount of sweet and not too cloying or mushy. While there are quite a few stores in San Francisco selling macarons (most chocolatiers or cafes have their own versions), some of the best macarons (me tongue thinks) are sold at where else but a small French confectionary in Hayes valley, named Chantal Guillon. The store has multiple locations (SOMA, SF and Palo Alto, South Bay) to satisfy your macaron cravings and sell them either loose or in boxes of 2,6 or more. We (meaning almost exclusively I) usually get a box of 6 to go and I go bonkers over their regular flavors such as Persian Rose, Green tea and hazelnut praline. They have some special seasonal flavors in stock now including the luscious guava! CG also sells adorable mini ice creams, tuiles and tea. Best of all, their macarons are high on natural flavors and are all gluten free!
F) San Francisco desserts spot # 6. Schubert’s bakery and Arsicault bakery
Finally, I do not have photos to prove my love but Schubert’s is our go to place for all the birthday cakes that I have been wolfing down for the past two years. This small German bakery in Inner Richmond is known for its fuss free chocolate cakes that are delightfully melt in your mouth affairs. And then you have Arsicault Bakery near Presidio, which was voted the best bakery in North America recently by Bon Apetit magazine and has unbelievably long lines for its specialty-Parisian style almond croissants!
This brings me to an end of this list. If your sweet tooth has been tickled aplenty by it, do stop by and read my other food related posts right here.
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