Getting baked (goods) in San Francisco: My day of pastry tasting

Sunny Sichi/Staff

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As someone who’s been to San Francisco many times in her life, I’ve pretty much seen everything I’ve wanted to see. I’ve visited the different neighborhoods; I’ve walked from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square, making stops along the way at the various piers; I’ve eaten dan tat at Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown and I’ve been to Mission Dolores Park. While it never gets old, it doesn’t hurt to change things up a little bit, which is exactly what my best friend and I did.

As two self-proclaimed foodies and huge fans of all things baked and sugared, we decided to take a bakery tour of the city after reading an article in Bon Appétit Magazine. After deliberating on the bakeries we were most interested in visiting, we compiled a list of seven places with a goal to hit them all up in one day.

Before we left, we created a list of criteria with which we would rank each pastry on a scale from one to five. This ranking system consisted of the following qualities for each pastry: Creativity, flavor, texture, price, mouthfeel, presentation and the elusive “sparks joy” factor. As you can see, we take our food very seriously. While seven bakeries and pastries is a steep number to do in a single day, we knew to never underestimate the power of our stomachs (and our willingness to spend money on overpriced pastries), so we set out early one Saturday morning for San Francisco.

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Vive La Tarte 

1160 Howard St.

Pastry: Mixed fruit tart

Creativity: 3

Flavor: 5

Texture: 5

Price: 3

Mouthfeel: 4

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 5

Our first stop was Vive La Tarte, and there we felt a revolution in our taste buds thanks to an incredible mixed fruit tart. The tart featured mango, pear, a vanilla bean custard and a hard cookie pastry. As someone who doesn’t love fruit tarts, I was impressed with the unique flavors and lovely presentation, but most of all, the fact that I actually loved it. The bakery also has a large open space with a view of the massive kitchen behind the counter, and there’s plenty of seating for you and your friends to enjoy your baked goods.

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Craftsman and Wolves

746 Valencia St.

Pastry: Kouign-amann with rose tea jam and a black tea ganache macaron

Creativity: 5

Flavor: 5

Texture: 5

Price: 2

Mouthfeel: 5

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 4

Next, we walked to Craftsman and Wolves, and we were met with an adorable café with outdoor seating and colorful art inside. We were welcomed further with a glass case of some of the most beautiful pastries we’d ever seen. It was nearly impossible to pick just one, but we ended up choosing a kouign-amann with rose tea jam in the middle and a macaron on top. The presentation was lovely, but what really got us was the caramelized and crusted sugar on the bottom and the loveliness of the rose tea jam in the center.

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Tartine Bakery

600 Guerrero St.

Pastry: Canelé de Bordeaux 

Creativity: 3

Flavor: 4

Texture: 5

Price: 4

Mouthfeel: 5

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 4

Ah, Tartine. Located near Craftsman and Wolves, we decided to check it out, despite there being a location in Berkeley. But no two Tartines are made alike, and we were met with pastry options that the Berkeley location doesn’t offer. Because we were full after the two previous bakeries (and an extremely unnecessary brunch of Eggs Benedict we had in between), we opted for the small yet effective Canelé de Bordeaux. Since it has a hard outside, we were surprised by the almost mochi-like and gummy inside. While a gummy texture is normally a negative thing, this pastry pulled it off. There were also hints of vanilla and orange, which really brought the whole bite-sized package together!

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Kantine 

1906 Market St.

Pastry: Grovbirkes

Creativity: 3

Flavor: 4

Texture: 5

Price: 4

Mouthfeel: 4

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 4

At this point, our stomachs were ready for something savory, so we headed to Kantine, a Danish bakery, which really pulled through with its savory Grovbirkes pastry. It’s a beautifully flaky croissant topped with various seeds, giving it an extra layer of flavor and texture. The decor inside the bakery is also extremely Scandinavian, simple and well-made, which resulted in an extremely pleasant and calm experience.

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20th Century Cafe 

198 Gough St.

Pastry: Potato knish

Creativity: 3

Flavor: 5

Texture: 5

Price: 3

Mouthfeel: 5

Presentation: 4

Did it spark joy?: 5

Following our savory-craving stomachs, we made it to 20th Century Cafe, an adorable corner bakery that reminded us of a café we could find in Vienna or Prague. With a fancy seating area and plates of tasty treats on the counter, we ended up picking a small potato knish, a pastry filled with a flavorful potato mixed with onions and spices. This ball of joy was our favorite savory pastry of the day!

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Jane The Bakery

1881 Geary Blvd.

Pastry: Pistachio savory twist

Creativity: 5

Flavor: 3

Texture: 2

Price: 3

Mouthfeel: 3

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 2

Full disclaimer: We were pretty “pastried” out, so we were probably harsher on the pistachio savory twist than we would have been if we had eaten it earlier and if it had been fresh out of the oven. Nevertheless, this twist was beautifully made and had an extremely strong olive taste between the bites of pastry. Jane The Bakery itself had the most pastry options of all the bakeries we tried, so if you don’t like our rating of the pistachio savory twist, there are many more options here for you to try!

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b. patisserie

2821 California St.

Pastry: Black sesame cheesecake

Creativity: 5

Flavor: 5

Texture: 5

Price: 2

Mouthfeel: 5

Presentation: 5

Did it spark joy?: 5

We ran over to our last stop of the day at b. patisserie only 20 minutes before it closed, managing to snag one of the last black sesame cheesecakes the bakery had. This dessert was completely different from the other pastries we ate, so it’s a little unfair to compare it to the rest, but our ranking system still applies! As you can see from all the fives we gave it, this cheesecake was fantastic. With its unique flavor, it was the perfect sweet treat to end with and managed to be light while making us full in the most content way. Our one qualm was the price since the serving was so small, but the quality of the cheesecake made it all worth it. 

While we wouldn’t recommend buying and eating this many pastries in one day, we highly recommend that you hit up at least one of these places on your next trip to San Francisco! Committing to a full day of pastries can be a lot, but we walked from place to place to burn off all the butter we were consuming. The longest walk between bakeries was 30 to 40 minutes, so if you’re able, walk off the calories and see the city while you’re at it! There are certainly many more bakeries you can try, so we encourage you to do your own pastry tours of San Francisco! Whether you try one of the pastries we rated here or create your own ranking system, you really can’t go wrong.

Sunny Sichi is the blog editor. Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].