Bakeries & Pastry Shops in The Mission: Mission Pie, Tartine Bakery & Craftsman & Wolves – San Francisco (Part 2/2)

Follow Me Foodie to The Sweeter Part of The Mission District in San Francisco!

The Mission: Bakeries, Pastries & Pies… in The Mission.

See – The Mission: Tacos… in The Mission.

The Mission District isn’t necessarily known for its bakeries, pastries and pies, but there are several in the area – old and new. Being that I’m a huge fan of this category, I was not going to miss out in Follow Me Foodie to San Francisco. I came primarily to explore the Mexican food and specifically the taco scene, but the bakeries were on the itinerary from the start.

I did not even have a list narrowed down and I was playing it by ear. The whole Mission District is rather walkable, and it was hard not to stop at every eatery let alone bakery. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to try all the Latin bakeries, which is another category on its own. I actually regret not doing that because who knows how long they will be around for? I already mentioned the issue of gentrification, so I hope these Latin mom and pop bakeries are not displaced or forced to close.

I had a limited time to explore the bakeries, pastries and pies in The Mission. I’m not even obsessed with pies, but there just happened to be so many places specializing in them or offering them. Pies were a “food trend” from a couple years ago, so I wasn’t surprised and they’re still going strong in San Francisco. New places have moved on from the pies though, and I had to try the “old news” bakeries and the new ones to get a better idea of what The Mission bakery and dessert scene had to offer. I wish I had more time to explore, but I tried what I could and hit some worth revisiting spots!

To see more about The Mission District see – Follow Me Foodie to The Mission District in San Francisco (exploring tacos)!

Follow Me Foodie Legend

No diamond – Not recommend (Under 29%)
♦ – Okay, not necessary to try. (30-49%)
♦♦ – Good, with some hits and misses. (50-69%)
♦♦♦ – Very good, dining itinerary worthy. (70-89%)
♦♦♦♦ – Excellent, make a trip out for it. (90-100%)
♦♦♦♦♦ – Follow Me Foodie Must Try! (Bonus marks! 100%+)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Follow Me Foodie to Bakeries, Pastries & Pies… in The Mission.

Mission Pie (1.3)Restaurant: Mission Pie
Cuisine: Bakery/Desserts/Pastries/Pies
Last visited: May 7, 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA (Mission)
Address: 2901 Mission St
Phone: +1 415-282-1500
Transit: 24th St. Mission
Twitter: @MissionPie
Price Range: $10 or less

Mission Pie (10)Mission Pie caught onto the “pie trend” early and opened in 2007. I hadn’t heard much about it, but after tacos at El Gallo Giro Taco Truck and La Taqueria, it was time for something sweet. This wasn’t on my original itinerary but it happened to be just a few stores away from La Taqueria, so why not?

It is a neighbourhood cafe serving old fashioned sweet and savoury pies as well as other casual fare. They source from local farmers and their menus are seasonal and for the health conscious. Their pies have less sugar, use whole wheat flour and they offer a couple vegan options. It is very home style and a bit hippie or granola, so it is nothing fancy, but it’s affordable and good for all ages. It’s a charming pay at cashier restaurant open all day until 10pm.

Mission Pie (6)Banana Cream Pie3/6 (Good)

  • $4/slice, $22/whole pie
  • This is their signature pie that is available all year and it came highly recommended.
  • The filling and cream part was fine, but the crust tasted stale and a bit cardboard-like.
  • I am not sure if it was stale, or if it was due to the whole wheat flour used.
  • The hand rolled all-butter crust is 1/3 white and 2/3 California grown whole wheat pastry flour.
  • I couldn’t taste the buttery flavour I enjoy in a pie crust, and if I didn’t know they used whole wheat flour I would have thought it was stale.
  • It wasn’t a super banana-y banana cream pie, but there were chunks of sliced firm banana sandwiched between vanilla pudding.
  • The vanilla had a few specs of vanilla beans so I wouldn’t have minded a bit more, but it was nice and not too sweet.
  • The crust is as important as the filling, so I was only into half of the pie and I just really wish the crust came through.
  • Another great Banana Cream Pie I tried was from Emril’s in New Orleans – see Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie.

Menu features/highlights: Popular favourites are the Banana Cream Pie and the coconut macaroons, but I didn’t try the macaroons.

Pros: Clean, comfortable, fast, healthy options, local ingredients, good variety, affordable, family friendly, open late
Cons: The signature item wasn’t too impressive and the healthy aspect sacrificed the flavour a bit.
Tips: Grab a taco at La Taqueria just a few stores away.
Overall Rating: n/a, didn’t try enough

Tartine Bakery (1.2)Restaurant: Tartine Bakery & Cafe
Cuisine: Bakery/Desserts/Pastries/Pies
Last visited: May 7, 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA (Mission)
Address: 600 Guerrero St
Phone: +1 415-487-2600
Transit: 18th St & Guerrero St
Twitter: @tartinebaker
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20

Tartine Bakery (8.2)This is perhaps one of the most beloved bakeries in San Francisco. It opened in 2002 and they have a local and international following. I knew about this multiple award winning place from their Tartine recipe book and it was one bakery I just had to try. For local “in the know” San Francisco foodies they might be over the hype of Tartine Bakery & Cafe since there are more choices now, but I would still consider it a local favourite worth checking out.

The place doesn’t even have a sign so it is very discrete and goes by unnoticed. It felt like a “second degree hipster joint” with the wooden communal tables and they specialize in breads and old fashioned desserts with modern twists. It is opened by Pastry chef  Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, baker Chad Robertson, who won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chefs in 2008.

They serve breakfast and lunch sandwiches that are apparently incredible, but I only got to try their desserts. It is a bakery more so than a patisserie, and the selection is baked goods focused. The menu is rustic with old fashioned American classics, but they are executed with high quality ingredients, French technique and professionalism. I would recommend Tartine to locals and tourists and it is a place I would come back to again.

Tartine Bakery (14)**Coconut Cream Tart 5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Flaky pastry coated in dark chocolate with pastry cream, and lightly sweetened cream. 4”-$7.00 9”-$45, serves 8
  • The only Coconut Cream Pie I’ve had that could compete is Tom’s Famous Triple Coconut Cream Pie from Dahlia Bakery in Seattle.
  • It was a light and fluffy creamy coconut tart with a super flaky tart shell.
  • The tart shell is the same for all their tarts and they use a puff pastry dough.
  • The tart shell wasn’t buttery in flavour and the layers were not as tightly packed as they would be in a mille feuille.
  • I was surprised it didn’t get soggy, soft or wet.
  • It wasn’t a crunchy crust and I would have liked it a bit more crisp, but it was good.
  • It was almost like phyllo dough and they drizzled it with a bit of dark chocolate before topping it with coconut custard.
  • There was also some buttery soft caramel sauce in between.
  • It tasted like Werther’s Originals  and it could have used a touch of salt to bring out the flavour.
  • The creamy smooth coconut custard was almost like a pudding and it wasn’t too sweet.
  • It was rich from egg yolks and coconutty in flavour, but it wasn’t too heavy.
  • There was also a little bit of vanilla bean in the custard so it was a bit floral and aromatic.
  • On top of the coconut pastry cream was a lightly sweetened cream which balanced out the richer custard.
  • The whole pie was crusted with good quality toasted coconut chips.
  • There was a good ratio of all the layers, but the chocolate got a bit lost.
  • It looks very filling and indulgent, but it actually wasn’t because the pie crust was like phyllo and the creams were light and not too sweet.
  • I would have loved a coconut crust and even more coconut flavour in this, but I would still order it again and recommend it.

Tartine Bakery (12)Frangipane Tart 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Light almond-cream filling baked in a flaky pastry shell with seasonal fruit. 4”-$6.35 9”-$38, serves 8
  • The pie crust is their “gold mine” and they feature it pretty much wherever a tart shell, or pastry crust, is needed.
  • This was tart and not too sweet and they didn’t hold back on quality and the amount of ingredients.
  • It was a very flaky pastry and it was quite dense even for a frangipane tart which is a bit denser.
  • The almond-cream filling (frangipane) is usually my favourite part and I could feel and taste the ground almonds.
  • It was decently moist, but I would have loved a thicker layer of it.
  • It would be great if it was a bit less crumbly and more cakey too.
  • I love almonds so the more the merrier and this one was also garnished with toasted sliced almonds.
  • The seasonal fruit were wild berries and currants which were tart, and I was hoping for a sweet and juicier fruit.
  • I liked that they were still in their whole form, but I think peaches would have delivered more “wow” factor.
  • It was an excellent frangipane tart, but I just wanted more from the frangipane layer.
  • It looked amazing, but it was just missing something from making it taste outstanding.

Tartine Bakery (11)Tres Leches Cake3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Sweet coconut milk moistened chiffon, layered with cajeta, and crema. Slice – $5.50, Round 6”-$38, serves 8 10”-$64, serves 14
  • I like Tres Leches, but often I find it much too sweet so I don’t order it. On this occasion it was recommended.
  • Being in the Latin neighbourhood of San Francisco it was smart of them to put this on their American style menu for something a bit different.
  • Authentic Tres Leches from Latin places are very sweet, and this one was not authentic, but I did like it better even though it is not comparable.
  • Tres Leches is a rich Mexican/Spanish “3 milks cake”.
  • The cake is soaked in 3 kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed and whole) and topped with whipped cream.
  • Some Tres Leches will use sponge cake and others a butter cake.
  • This was a light, airy, and fluffy moist chiffon cake.
  • It was mildly sweet and I couldn’t taste the coconut milk, which was a nice switch up from the traditional milks.
  • The coconut milk gave it an aromatic sweetness and flavour, but if I didn’t know I doubt I would have guessed it was coconut milk.
  • The chiffon cake itself was an excellent recipe for what it was.
  • The cake does not have a wet consistency even though it is soaked.
  • The top two cake layers were lightly drizzled with cajeta (caramelized milk syrup).
  • I could taste subtle flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg, and I think it was from the cajeta, which was actually not too sweet.
  • There were 2 thick layers of lightly sweetened well made whipped cream with 3 layers of cake and it was a good ratio.
  • The bottom of the cake was their famous flaky Tartine pie crust again.
  • This crust is not traditional to a Tres Leches, but I liked it for texture.
  • The cake was very light and mild, so it was easy to eat and not decadent.
  • Overall it was more ordinary, but fancy for a Tres Leches cake.

Tartine Bakery (27)This is a close up of the famous Tartine pie crust. For more details on the crust see “flaky tart shell” under my Coconut Cream Tart description above.

Menu features/highlights: Morning Bun (cinnamon bun meets croissant), Banana Cream Tart, Coconut Cream Tart, Brioche Bread Pudding, Frangipane Croissant, Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, Hot Pressed Sandwiches (served from 11:30am), Tartine Country Bread

Pros: High quality ingredients, mostly organic, seasonal menu, professionally made, solid menu, some vegan options, grab and go, open late
Cons: Sells out of popular favourites, limited seating at peak hours
Tips: Check out their recipe book and come early for their popular items.

♦♦♦ – Very good, dining itinerary worthy. (70-89%)

Craftsman and Wolves (1.2)Restaurant: Craftsman & Wolves
Cuisine: Bakery/Desserts/Pastries
Last visited: May 7, 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA (Mission)
Address: 746 Valencia Street (at 18th Street)
Phone: +1 415-913-7713
Transit: 18th St & Valencia St
Twitter: @craftsmanwolves
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20

viennoiseriesPhoto from missionlocal.org

This is the new kid on the block killing San Francisco’s pastry/bakery/confectionery scene. With the exposed brick walls, long wooden communal table and ultra cool vibe, it felt like a “first degree hipster joint”. It’s contemporary, edgy, and an eclectic mix of American, French and Japanese in taste in style. At the moment, this is arguably the patisserie hot spot.

Pastry chef and owner William Werner opened Craftsman & Wolves June 2012, and he has quickly turned first time visitors to loyal customers. They offer a full line of savouries, sweets, breads, cakes, and confectioneries available all day. They also feature a contemporary Afternoon Tea Monday-Friday (1-5pm) which includes savoury ginger scallion madeleines, duck confit with onion, red wine jam, and mustard butter on brioche and more.

The menu is funky with things like Thai mango, coconut, green curry and ginger scones, “Pain au Cochon” with prosciutto, asiago, parmesan, and Toasted Chocolate Bread with vanilla ricotta, honey, and almonds. They have standard things like blueberry muffins and croissants as well, but I was most interested in the playful items.

As you can see I came in just before closing and everything was pretty much sold out. His creations and original flavour combinations are right up my alley, so even though I didn’t get to try his “best items“, I am still very interested to visit again for the full experience.

Craftsman and Wolves (1.3)Matcha Vanilla Coconut Cake – 3/6 (Good)

  • Around $3.75
  • This was the only thing left and it sounded good, but the last item left is rarely a proper representation of a place.
  • I don’t think I tried “the best thing” here, but it also means not everything may be amazing.
  • It was a moist green tea cake with a strong matcha powder flavour rather than matcha tea leaf flavour.
  • In desserts, I prefer matcha powder to green tea leaves, but they each have a different flavour profile.
  • The sweetness was honey like and it was almost like a pound cake in consistency.
  • The icing was a sugary confectioner’s sugar icing and I was hoping for a white chocolate ganache squiggle.
  • The coconut was only the dried coconut shavings on top which I loved, but I wish there was coconut flavour in the cake.
  • I think the cake could have been made with coconut milk, but the coconut flavour in the cake was not obvious.
  • I also lost the vanilla flavour, so I could have used some vanilla beans and I couldn’t see or taste any.
  • It was not oily or too sweet, but I think it sounded a bit more interesting than it perhaps tasted.

Bread (Loaf) – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • The bread was excellent. They offer a variety, but this plain one was the only one left.
  • I enjoyed it as is, but it was even better toasted and it brought out the nuttiness. 
  • It had a chewy thick crust and the inside was also chewy, stretchy, moist and well made.
  • The flavour had depth and it tasted like a sourdough or levain style bread.
  • It was yeasty and the gluten was well developed and it had great spring.

Craftsman and Wolves - The Rebel Within Muffin EggThe Rebel Within is his infamous savoury breakfast muffin ($7). If you want one it is best to go before 11am, or you can call ahead and ask them to set one aside for you. They sell out quick and they make a limited amount. See my recipe for it here.

It is a muffin baked with asiago cheese, sausage from Chris Consentino‘s Easton’s Sausage Company, green onion, and a soft poached egg in the centre. Most people are obsessed with it although there are a few “over rated” comments here and there. It was my reason for visiting and unfortunately I missed out, but I will be posting a recipe for it soon (not his recipe though).

Menu features/highlights: The Rebel WithinThe Devil Inside (Chocolate almond cake with foie gras-studded ganache), Deviled Eggs

Pros: Creative menu, high quality ingredients, grab and go, lots of variety, healthy options, open late
Cons: Sells out of popular favourites, can be a bit pricey, limited seating at peak hours
Tips: Go early if you want the popular favourites.

Overall Rating: n/a, didn’t try enough

Bi Rite Ice Cream (1.2)Bi-Rite grocery store (3639 18th St) on left, Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th St) on right

I’m a major ice cream advocate and I was planning to visit Bi-Rite Creamery, but after tacos at El Gallo Giro Taco Truck and La Taqueria, pies at Mission Pie and Tartine Bakery & Cafe, I needed to save room for the Tasting Menu at benu. I tried to visit Bi-Rite Creamery again after dinner at State Bird Provisions, but unfortunately I was too late.

The creamery is an extension of Bi-Rite urban grocery store located across the street. It features organic and local produce, goods, and grab and go sweets and savouries.

Bi Rite CreameryPhoto from Eat A Good Life

Bi-Rite Creamery specializes in hand crafted artisan ice cream with flavours such as cheesecake with rhubarb swirl, and hazelnut with Dandelion Chocolate’s cocoa nibs. They also have soft served ice cream and a limited selection of cookies, cakes and cupcakes. Sam’s Sundae: chocolate ice cream with Bergamot olive oil, maldon sea salt and whipped cream ($4.95), and the Banana Split: vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramelized bananas, toasted walnuts and whipped cream ($5.95) is what I wanted to try… and I am crying in pie I missed out.