Chocolate Croissant Tour of San Francisco

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

This is pretty simple: my favorite pastries are chocolate croissants, and I’ve noticed a plethora of renowned bakeries near my neighborhood in San Francisco. I decided to try the chocolate croissants at each of these bakeries and write a bit about them.

This is a woman-owned, woman-founded bakery between the Fillmore and Western Addition neighborhoods. It has the same founder as the “Jane” cafes (Jane on Fillmore, Jane on Larkin). This bakery is huge and sells a large collection of artisan bread loaves, pastries, and deserts. Their chocolate chip toffee cookie may be the best cookie I’ve ever had! They also have a nice selection of sandwiches and savory croissants. If you’ve been to one of the Jane cafes and enjoyed the baked goods, this place is offers an all-encompassing collection of all the cafes’ selections.

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Jane the Bakery’s Chocolate Croissant

The croissant was a bit smooshed, but this actually showed off the flakiness of its outer layer quite well. The outer layers of the croissant were slightly crispy but not crunchy or very firm, and the inner layers of the croissant were soft and slightly melty due to the intense butter content. It was a very rich and buttery croissant, seen even on the outside from its buttery shine. It wasn’t a very airy croissant, as it had a very doughy bite feel throughout all its layers. The chocolate was not sweet at all, actually rather bitter and intense, which I enjoyed. Overall this was a very satisfying croissant. I’d highly recommend this one if you like a generally soft croissant that’s doughy and not very sweet.

This café and bakery on Pine Street in the Fillmore neighborhood was originally La Boulange café, started in 1996. Gradually it became a chain as various cafes sprung up in different areas of San Francisco, but the chain was purchased by Starbucks in 2012. However, in 2015 the original owner brought back the cafes, though they were renamed to La Boulangerie de San Francisco. The seating and ambience here were the best out of all the bakeries on this list, though it has a bit of a Starbucks/corporate vibe. I got a brie and turkey croissant, which was very tasty and had a rather strong Brie, along with the chocolate croissant.

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This chocolate croissant tasted and looked very bready, mainly due to its long, loaf-like shape. It wasn’t very moist so the brioche wasn’t doughy, but it wasn’t overly dry or crispy. Inside were 2 long, thin bars of chocolate that weren’t super sweet. The shape and taste made the eating experience feel like I was eating a small, sweet loaf of bread. This was by far the least buttery croissant I tried, so despite it’s size it wasn’t too heavy to eat. I’d say this croissant is recommended if you don’t like buttery, doughy croissants and prefer ones that have taste and texture close to bread.

This is a modern French bakery in Pacific Heights that’s quite renowned. They have a James Beard award and notably long lines, especially on weekends. They specialize in French pastries and breads, with their most well-known pastry being the kouign-amann. During COVID their menu and hours are limited, but there’s still very unique selections such as the peach almond croissant and passionfruit bostock. They also have a cute outdoor seating area, and were the only bakery on this list that offered outdoor seating.

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b. patisserie’s chocolate croissant

Their chocolate croissant was very unique, mainly due to the “crust” on top of the croissant. This crust was lightly crunchy and slightly sweet. The croissant itself was very fluffy and airy, without being too dry. There wasn’t any detectable taste or texture of butter. The chocolate was not sweet at all but not very bitter, and was placed at the bottom of the croissant between the dough rather than fully inside the croissant. I thought that this chocolate placement worked pretty well and allowed for the chocolate to be evenly distributed. To me this croissant was very subtly sweet, since the only sweetness I could taste was from the top crust. This croissant is a must-try if you like crispy and airy croissants.

Here’s some bonus pictures of b. patisserie’s gorgeous kouign-amann, which was amazingly crispy and just the right level of sweetness:

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b. patisserie’s kouign aman

A friend raved to me about this Richmond area bakery, and tons of Google and Yelp reviews echo her recommendation. It apparently achieved national notoriety when Bon Appetit Magazine named it the best new bakery in the country in 2016. After some more digging, I found that the bakery’s founder and founding story are very unique. This bakery specializes in croissants and has a pretty small menu. Even on a Tuesday before 9am, they had a line of about 10 people, and I could smell the aroma of butter and fresh bread from down the block.

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This chocolate croissant was incredible! The outside was very flaky and crispy, and the croissant was overall very fluffy. Immediately after biting into the outer layer, the brioche layers melt into a chewy, rich, and buttery dough. This is by far the most buttery croissant on this list. It even smelled strongly of butter, especially right after getting it from the bakery when it was freshly warm. The dough of this croissant was super flavorful, it tasted like heavily buttered bread throughout the croissant. There’s 2 bars of pretty bitter chocolate that are somewhat melted along the bottom of the croissant, giving each bite of the croissant a heavy dose of chocolate. The buttery richness of this croissant made it quite filling to eat, it felt like eating half a meal.

Here are some bonus pictures of Arsicault’s ham and cheese croissant, which had the most beautiful swirls and was just as rich and buttery as the chocolate croissant. Also Arsicault’s kouign-amann, which was also incredible.

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Ham & Cheese Croissant and Kouign-amann from Arsicault Bakery

This is a cute, smaller bakery on Fillmore St. They have the biggest selection of cakes and sweets out of all the other bakeries, including a very pretty princess cake. Their cookie selection was also quite impressive, with lots of seasonally decorated cookies with vivid frosting colors. Overall this bakery is definitely a departure from many of the traditional, French-style bakeries seen around the Fillmore.

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Their croissant was pretty neutral texture-wise: not overly melty but still had some butter taste and not very crispy but had a firm outer layer. This chocolate croissant was the smallest out of all the bakeries I tried, but it was also the cheapest. I enjoyed the size of this croissant, as it felt like a good snack or dessert whereas some of the other, larger croissants felt like a meal. There were 2 bars of slightly sweet chocolate in the croissant, one on each side. The double chocolate wasn’t overpowering and actually worked well to offset the especially doughy middle of this croissant. This is an awesome croissant if you like a sweeter pastry that’s not too extreme in texture.

Here are brief summaries of each bakery and its chocolate croissant:

Jane The Bakery: slightly crispy outside, doughy and buttery inside, a very large croissant.

La Boulangerie de San Francisco: bread-like texture and taste, not very buttery.

b. patisserie: crunchy top crust but airy croissant, the most unique out of this list.

Arsicault: super buttery and fluffy, the most flavorful and rich croissant out of this list.

Fillmore Bakeshop: snack-sized, texture and taste is a neutral in-between of bready and buttery.

I’m an AI research software engineer at Facebook, based in San Francisco, CA. This is my personal blog, more about me here: https://jiahuikchen.github.io/

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