San Francisco may be known for its sourdough, but let the tourists have the artfully contrived bread made into the shapes of animals. The Bay Area is home to some of the finest bakers and pastry chefs out there. So, instead of buying a well-preserved loaf from the store, get some fresh bread — either flavored or just plain and hot out of the oven — to go with your next meal.
Here are some of the best breads in the Bay Area. As always, this list is incomplete. Add your own favorites in the comments.
Tartine Bakery and Cafe
600 Guerrero St., San Francisco
Mon, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Tues, Wed, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Thurs, Fri, 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? Chad Robertson may be the most famous baker in the city and Tartine is his masterpiece. There’s a reason the bakery is a San Francisco classic. Fresh bread is available daily after 4:30 p.m. You can order ahead — and you probably want to — with three days advance notice.
The Acme Bread Company
1601 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
Mon-Sat, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun, 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ferry Building, San Francisco
Mon-Fri, 6:20 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? Yes, Acme bread is readily available in stores around the Bay Area. But, the specialty and fresh loaves are what make it one of the premier bread destinations. Try the sourdough or the walnut levain.
Available at: Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods in Oakland, or online through GoodEggs.com
Why? Firebrand breads are made in small batches and with limited distributions through Bay Area restaurants and certain retailers. But, if you can find a loaf, you’ll swear that all the time that goes into the hand-made, wood-fire-cooked loaves is worth it. Try the German rye, the whole wheat, or the sourdough. Or, catch them at the Kensington Farmers Market on Sunday for specialty items.
Destination Baking Company
598 Chenery St., San Francisco
Mon-Fri, 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Why? A small local bakery, Destination fills its storefront with pastries and baguettes that are snatched up by the local neighborhood. On Fridays, though, Joe Schuver pulls fresh challah out of the oven in the late morning. There aren’t many loaves, so don’t miss out.
750 West Napa St., Sonoma
Mon-Sat, 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Sun, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Why? This isn’t the place for fancy or flavored pastries masquerading as breads. This is simply excellent bread. Along with the retail bakery, Artisan Bakers’ bread is also available at about 200 groceries and restaurants. Get the full list on Artisan’s website.
M.H. Bread and Butter
101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo
Mon, Wed-Sat, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Why? So powerful is the lure of Tartine that when one of Robertson’s disciples breaks out on his own that bread too becomes a local favorite. M.H.B.B. also serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch, but people come for the bread. (Also available at some restaurants and stores.) Not sure which to get? Try the bread sampler plate.
141 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma
Everyday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why? Della Fattoria uses all organic flours, local sea salts and olive oils, a natural starter, and a brick oven that burns for 12 hours before the loaves cook. It makes for a rich, smoky flavor. If you don’t want to head up to Petaluma, then check out the weekend Ferry Building Farmers Market. Try the Meyer Lemon/Rosemary bread.
Feel Good Bakery
1650 Park St., Alameda
Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? Feel Good Bakery uses old-world methods, including a long fermentation period. Its signature breads contain a yeast combination of fermented rye, wheat, and wholewheat flour. But, you don’t care about that. You just care that it tastes really good. Try their Wholly Moley, crankin (cranberry and pumpkin seeds), and currant walnut.
Metropolis Baking Company
707A Heinz Ave., Berkeley
Available at: Retail locations listed on their website
Why? This small bakery specializes in traditional Italian breads. Although the whole operation is wholesale, it’s worth tracking down a loaf. Taste the Pane de Altamura, if you can.
Anna’s Daughters’ Rye
Available at: Farmers’ Markets, or order online
Why? Anna’s Daughters’ Rye really just does one thing: rye. But they do it well. Marianne Wiener makes traditional dense Danish-style Rye loaves. She actually uses the same starter today that she created twenty years ago. The small batches are made once a week and sold at local stores, like Berkeley Bowl and Rainbow Market, and farmers’ markets, like the weekend one at the Ferry Building. Or, you can order a loaf on their website and have it delivered.
Thorough Bread and Pastry
248 Church St., San Francisco
Tue-Sat, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Why? Started by the founders of the San Francisco Baking Institute, the bakery offers a chance for select graduates to sharpen their artisan baking skills. Along with morning pastries, Thorough has fresh bread after 9 a.m. Extra bonus: it’s relatively cheap.
6323 College Ave., Oakland
3411 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland
1820 Solano Ave., Berkeley
4094 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Everyday, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? With four locations in the East Bay, La Farine is nearly a chain. It became that by being one of the most popular bakeries and patisseries around. Along with tarts, pastries, and cakes, La Farine best known for its delicious baguettes and brioche.
1250 Addison St, Suite 109, Berkeley
Mon-Sat, 4 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Available at: local stores and farmers markets
Why? It may be called Phoenix Pasta, but Phoenix is more than a pasta place. Try their famous olive bread from the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market. Watch out, though, there may still be an olive pit in there.
372 Colusa Ave., Kensington
3084 Claremont Ave., Berkeley
Everyday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Why? In a typical week, Semifreddi’s makes 190,000 loaves of bread and 40,000 pastries and cookies. Of course it’s available at a number of local stores. But, if you go to one of the retail shops, order a fresh ciabatta roll.
Available at: Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, Mollie Stone’s and a number of other stores (all listed on their website), or order online
Why? Gluten-free bread can be hard to do well, especially classic San Francisco sourdough. Bread Srsly was the first gluten-free sourdough bakery in the city. Now, it delivers its bread around the region.
Josey Baker Bread
Available at: The Mill, 736 Divisadero, San Francisco
Mon, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Tues-Sun, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? Josey Baker makes manly bread. But, it can (and should) be eaten by everyone. Originally a sole baker out of his home, Josey bakes out of the Mill now, a joint venture with Four Barrel Coffee, and has delicious fresh loaves every day. And, his fennel-raisin and apricot-sage toast became famous as the $4 toast. Try it.