San Francisco has no shortage of great desserts and baked goods, so it can be quite an ordeal trying to plan where to go, especially if you’re pressed for time. I’m all for curated lists, so below are 5 suggestions if you’re looking to grab a sweet bite (or drink) in San Francisco!
№ 1. Muscat oolong milk tea at Boba Guys
Muscat grapes and oolong tea are a match made in heaven as I found out when we finally managed to pay Boba Guys a visit, a couple of blocks away from Union Square.
Aside from Boba Guys’s signature logo, an anteater sipping on some tapioca balls (side note: are the founders UCI alumni?!), they make refreshing milk tea concoctions, at reasonable prices, ranging from ~$4-5.
However, their most notable drink, I found, was the quite unconventional muscat oolong milk tea, which has all the sweet, floral aroma of muscat grapes (or if you grew up like me, without access to pricey table grapes, the flavors of Meiji’s muscat Gummy Chocos) infused in a lightly sweetened brew of the deep, earthy oolong tea, and real milk.
429 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94108
№ 2. Coffee at the original Philz Coffee
Philz Coffee is one of the THE coffee institutions of the SF Bay Area. Even though Philz has opened up shop in Downtown LA, the novelty of having Philz Coffee in Socal hasn’t quite yet worn off on me. (I actually dragged my colleagues to the DTLA store’s opening last year in between all-day meetings in the Financial District, and in the process, turned them into converts.)
After grabbing brunch at Tartine (mentioned below, №. 4), we drove over to the original Philz Coffee, on the corner of Folsom and 24th in the heart of Mission District.
The flagship shop’s colorful wall-to-ceiling murals, open seating arrangements, lived in look, and eclectic crowd give off a warm and welcoming vibe. Everything I imagined the OG Philz to be.
I haven’t gone wrong with any drinks from Philz’s extensive menu, but I would definitely advise first timers to sample the specialty coffees, namely the mint mojito iced coffee (with 70% sugar and whole milk) or mocha tesora. They also have a huge selection of drip coffees, ranging from decaf to dark roast.
The Original Philz Coffee
3101 24th St. at Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
№ 3. Egg tarts at Golden Gate Bakery
San Francisco’s best egg custard tarts (daan taat 蛋撻 in Cantonese) are sold at Golden Gate Bakery, a humble hole-in-the-wall in the middle of Chinatown. So delicious are these egg tarts that there’s a huge local cult following, perhaps most notably demonstrated by a fan website dedicated to this critical question: “Is Golden Gate Bakery Open Today?” (www.is-the-golden-gate-bakery-open-today.com)
Golden Gate is so popular that the shopkeepers indulge themselves in long vacations throughout the year (and irregular hours of operation). The past few times I’ve gone up to SF, the shop has been closed. Since we went up to SF in December, I figured more of the same.
One morning, we walked by Golden Gate Bakery, just to take mournful selfies in front of the closed bakery. To our unexpected delight, a man peered behind the window to share a life-changing development with us, that the shop would indeed be open that afternoon.
Obviously, I made sure to plan around this, so we lined up like all the other plebeians that afternoon, awaiting our turn to order two dozen egg tarts, at $1.75 apiece. The charming pink boxes aside, Golden Gate’s egg tarts are on par with Hong Kong’s finest (and perhaps the only one in the United States to carry this distinction). I’m serious.
Each egg tart comprises a generously eggy center with an attractively subtle hue of yellow, surrounded by a crisp brown-golden tart shell of flaky puff pastry dough.
The egg custard filling of every Golden Gate egg tart strikes a beautiful balance between sweetness and egginess. And the custard to shell ratio is seriously perfection, neither too much custard, nor too much dough. Nothing more to be said, except it’s one of San Francisco’s culinary gems.
Golden Gate Bakery 金門餅家
1029 Grant Ave,
San Francisco, CA 94133
№ 4. Chocolate hazelnut tarts at Tartine Bakery
Tartine Bakery is one of my favorite bakeries in the City. Barring the ridiculous weekend queues and free-for-all seating, it’s an awesome place to have a brunch.
The breakfast pastries average about $5-6, but they’re virtually ALL delicious. Some notable pastries to sample are the pain au chocolat and frangipane croissant.
But I’m a particularly diehard fan of Tartine’s indulgent chocolate hazelnut tart, which has an intensely rich and chocolate filling, encrusted with whole toasted hazelnuts. Worth every penny.
600 Guerrero St,
San Francisco, CA 94110
№ 5. Ube puffs at Mr Holmes Bakehouse
At the suggestion of my work colleague, I managed to squeeze in Mr Holmes Bakehouse, a relatively new bakery, on our last day in SF.
The bakery is super trendy inside, with a huge neon pink sign emblazoned with the shop’s catchy motto: “I got baked in San Francisco and a selection of pastries with interesting savory-sweet flavor combos behind a glass wall.
Pastries range from about $4-5, and tend to sell out early. By the time we arrived, the cruffins (croissant-muffin hybrids) had sold out for the day. Pro tip: Buy 6+ pastries to get a nice bakery box (designed almost like a shoebox) for free.
The most notable of my selections was the ube puff, which is surprisingly delicate, filled inside with purple yam and glazed with prickly pear flavored icing.
Mr Holmes Bakehouse
1042 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94109