A Guide to the Best Breads in the Bay Area

| June 20, 2014 | 16 Comments
  • 16 Comments
Bread at Fisherman's Wharf. Photo: Morgan Johnston/Flickr

Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf. Photo: Morgan Johnston/Flickr

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
(415) 487-2600
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
(510) 524-1327
Mon-Sat, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun, 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ferry Building, San Francisco
(415) 288-2978
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.

Courtesy of Firebrand Artisan Breads

Courtesy of Firebrand Artisan Breads

Firebrand Artisan
(510) 594-9213
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
(415) 469-0730
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.

Artisan Bakers
750 West Napa St., Sonoma
(707) 939-1765
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.

Photo: Yez Alayan

Photo: Yez Alayan

M.H. Bread and Butter
101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo
(415) 755-4575
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.

Della Fattoria
141 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma
(707) 763-0161
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
(510) 864-2733
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.

Courtesy of Metropolis Baking Company

Courtesy of Metropolis Baking Company

Metropolis Baking Company
707A Heinz Ave., Berkeley
(510) 848-7263
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.

Courtesy of Anna's Daughters' Rye

Courtesy of Anna’s Daughters’ Rye

Anna’s Daughters’ Rye
(415) 332-3386
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
(415) 558-0690
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.

La Farine
6323 College Ave., Oakland
(510) 654-0338
3411 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland
(510) 531-7750
1820 Solano Ave., Berkeley
(510) 528-2208
4094 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
(510) 420-1777
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.

Courtesy of Phoenix Pacificio

Courtesy of Phoenix Pacificio

Phoenix Pastificio
1250 Addison St, Suite 109, Berkeley
(510) 883-0783
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.

Courtesy of Semifreddi's

Courtesy of Semifreddi’s

Semifreddi’s
372 Colusa Ave., Kensington
(510) 596-9935
3084 Claremont Ave., Berkeley
(510) 596-9942
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.

Courtesy of Bread Srsly

Courtesy of Bread Srsly

Bread Srsly
(866) 338-3948
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.

Photo: Erin Kunkel

Photo: Erin Kunkel

Josey Baker Bread
Available at: The Mill, 736 Divisadero, San Francisco
(415) 345-1953
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.

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Category: baking and bakeries, bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, Guides, local food businesses

About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others.
  • http://www.plattyjo.com/ Jenny Oh Hatfield

    I’m a big fan of Morell’s Bread in Berkeley!

  • john kwock

    worth the drive, really.

    http://www.wildflourbread.com/

  • Lynn Jones

    what? the Cheese Board in Berkeley didn’t make your list?

  • http://sleek.ly/ NiaNia of Sleek.ly

    The Artisan Bakers is my favorite! Good to see they made it to the list!

  • roytennant

    Also in Sonoma, the Basque Boulangerie makes the best straight-ahead sourdough loaf you can imagine. Srsly. http://basqueboulangerie.com/

  • Moaya Scheiman

    Artisan has not existed for years – Crisp Bakeshop has been in that location for years ! http://Www.crispbakeshop.com …Craig ponsford – the baker of artisan is now in San Rafael at ponsford’s place- well researched article !

  • Pat Shelton

    La Boulange in Noe Valley and on Pine has baked goods that taste good and look good, too. Big square hearty two color loafs; small slider buns baked connected in a circle – great look. Excellent fruity desserts; good to take to a potluck. Nice little restaurant attached to the Noe Valley branch. Better variety of breads on Pine. Very reasonable.

    Tartine is great. Limited variety and long lines.

  • Janis Gay

    Model Bakery in St. Helena and Napa. Their English muffins are incredible as are all their breakfast pastries, cookies, cakes (Oh! The carrot cake is the best I have ever had.). They make delicious sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch. The breads are also carried in the Napa Whole Foods. The place is a delicious institution.

  • Amy

    Arizmendi? Cheese Board too? Can’t forget these necessities!

  • Naomi Walenta

    Why oh why is there no good bakery in the South Bay? HELP! Please send bread.

  • Eric DeLora

    I own the Tartine Book and am making their Brioche Bread Pudding tomorrow, and we often buy Acme and Artisan…good choices all…but Semifreddi is probably my hands down favorite at Whole Foods or Mollie Stone and always at their Claremont store when I’m in the Berkeley area!

  • Sherry R. Kane

    NIghtingale Breads in Forestville!

  • Eme O. Akpabio

    Um… yeah, I’m not driving to San Francisco/Berkeley/Alameda for my daily bread. More Peninsula/South Bay options, please.

  • sstanley

    Does anyone ever venture to the South Bay??!! Geez!

  • Cammy

    I know! Maybe it’s a good thing…don’t want everyone to know about our Berkeley gem!

  • Cammy

    I know this was written in June, but La Farine in Berkeley on Solano Ave is closed!!!