Trust me, I get it: San Francisco is overwhelming to a newbie. Especially if you are visiting for a short time and want to make the most out of your San Francisco dining experience. I had a full year to conquer the eating extravaganza that is SF and still left feeling unaccomplished. So let me do you a solid and guide you through one of the most important categories: baked goods. San Francisco’s baked good game is STRONG, and I don’t want you to waste one single moment in the lands of mediocrity. So do your homework and read up on the best spots to visit when you want to eat dessert for breakfast. You’re welcome.
Tartine is without a doubt one of the best bakeries in the nation. Period. Anybody who says otherwise, I will fight you. Located next to Dolores Park in the Mission, the daily line that is out the door and wraps around the corner speaks for itself. Expect to wait 20-40 minutes on any given day. Let the sweet smell of the morning bun remind you that some things in life are worth the wait.
What you’re ordering: The morning bun. The soft, warm, cinnamon sugar bun with a hint of candied orange is sort of like a piece of heaven descended down on the hills of San Francisco. You’re also ordering a Croque Monsieur. This fresh-baked country bread topped with your choice of savory turkey, shiitake mushroom, ham or forage blanc and melted gruyere cheese is a major crowd pleaser. Lastly, if you’re in the mood for a decadent dessert, I recommend the chocolate soufflé cake. It’s super rich, and super amazing and super likely to make you strongly consider taking up residency in San Francisco permanently.
Dangerously close to my work, I was almost a regular at b. patisserie when I lived in the bay. The first time I had this wondrous baked good was beyond memorable – I’d put it in the category of life changing. I had gotten a flat tire on my way to work driving down 19th Avenue, which, for those of you who are familiar with San Francisco, know that it is quite possible the worst place ever to get a flat tire. I sent out the alarm to my coworkers letting them know I’d be in late, and by the time I finally arrived (several hours late), I was greeted with a full BOX of pastries in my office. Typically, I’m not a crier, but if anything could bring me to tears it would be parking/driving in San Francisco, followed closely by surprise baked goods.
What you’re ordering: Kouign amann. This twisted little pastry is unique and delicious with it’s fruity or sweet filling and flaky yet soft baked crust. B. Patisserie is famously known for their kouign amann, so don’t miss out on tasting some of the magic.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
You have undoubtedly seen the famous marketing ploy from Mr. Holmes on instagram: the neon sign in the extremely tiny bake shop that reads “I Got Baked in San Francisco”. And you can sit at work and call it ‘basic’ as much as you’d like, but I will bet you $20 right now that when you walk into Mr. Holmes you will crack under pressure and hold your baked good up to the light, snap a pic, and quietly judge yourself the whole way home as you post on your social channels. And yes, I’ll admit it, I did volunteer to work at our sister hospital more than once due to it’s convenient location in the Mr. Holmes vicinity. So sue me.
What you’re ordering: Cruffins. This is what Mr. Holmes is known for, so just commit. Much like the cronut, this hybrid crousaint-muffin is a flaky popover with a custard, jelly, or some other bizarre filling and topped with sugar. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of custard-filled things (I know, I stand alone on this topic). So the filling was a bit much for me, but overall, the combo of croissant and muffins was spot on. Follow @mrholmesbakehouse on instagram for the weekly flavor update, because these bad boys rotate and much like wise Mr. Gump taught us “You never know what you’re gunna get”. Pro tip: You can only order two cruffins max per person, so bring friends or pay a stranger to stand in line with you (which will also likely wrap around the corner). Sorry, San Franciscans like their baked goods.
Craftsman and Wolves
Honestly, tell me with a straight face that you can look at the photo above and feel nothing. YOU CAN’T! Breakfast and baked goods are an emotional experience, and for those of you who think otherwise, I’d argue that you haven’t tried Craftsman and Wolves yet. This one is about to ROCK. YOUR. WORLD. A mission district classic, this is the perfect spot to wander in on your morning commute or when galavanting around the Mission after brunch on a weekend.
What you’re ordering: The Rebel Within. Because a soft boiled egg inside a savory muffin is literally everything you’ve ever wanted in your life in one bite. I recommend one for now, one to go. Maybe one for tomorrow too, if you’re planning ahead.
Located in the depths of the Outer Sunset sits an unassuming whole in the wall breakfast spot that serving up the best breakfast sandwiches this side of Golden Gate Park. This is totally a drag-your-butt-out-of-bed-on-a-Saturday-morning-early type of spot. So that’s saying a lot.
What you’re ordering: The Special Breakfast Sandwich. Scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, and a lemon garlic aioli on a buttermilk biscuit. I recommend walking a few blocks and eating it at the beach. Watch the waves crash and contemplate how amazing San Francisco life is while you’re at it.
This spot is so trendy and hipster, it doesn’t even have a website. Yet it has made its mark in an iconic urban landmark like San Francisco, so you know it’s the real deal. I visited this cafe on my very last day living in San Francisco. As if I wasn’t feeling all the feels about leaving the bay already, I swear to you this cafe almost made me call off the entire move. It’s that good.
What you’re ordering: Lavender latte and toast. It doesn’t matter which toast, just make sure you order toast. From condensed milk toast, to chicken meatball pesto toast to a classic cinnamon sugar toast, there is not a bad option on the menu. The iced lavender latte was named one of the best cold coffee drinks in SF by Thrillist, and San Francisco is pretty much the hub of niche coffee shops, so that’s a pretty big feat.