This story was originally published on Jun 20, 2014. It was updated April 24, 2017.
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, 8 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. Or visit the more recently opened Tartine Manufactory in the Mission.
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 and at a few farmers markets. But, the specialty and fresh loaves are what make it one of the premier bread destinations. Try the sourdough or the walnut levain.
2343 Broadway, Oakland
daily, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Why? Formerly a strictly wholesale business, Firebrand opened its own retail location and eatery in 2016. The breads are made in small batches and with limited distributions through Bay Area restaurants and certain retailers. Once you get your hands on 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.
Destination Baking Company
598 Chenery St., San Francisco
Mon-Fri, 6:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 7 a.m. - 3 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.
M.H. Bread and Butter
101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo
Mon-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.
3215 Encinal Ave., Alameda
Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 8 a.m. - 8 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 at one of these locations. Taste the Pane de Altamura, if you can.
Thorough Bread and Pastry
248 Church St., San Francisco
Tue-Fri, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.; 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 aims to bring authentic French-style pastries and breads to San Francisco. 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
4094 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Everyday, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Why? With three locations now 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
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 the one retail shop still open, 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, Wed-Sun, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Tues, 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 supplies a number of Bay Area restaurants and shops. The Mill, though, has delicious fresh loaves every day. And, his fennel-raisin and apricot-sage toast has become famous as the $4 toast. Try it.