Most tourists know all about San Francisco's most famous bread, sourdough—or so the lines at stalwart Boudin indicate. But the Bay Area is home to many other extraordinary breads, from the still-warm levain a lucky few pick up at the famous Tartine Bakery at 5 p.m. to the loaves produced by an emerging generation of bakers with little formal training but tons of enthusiasm. Here, in alphabetical order, are the most-talked-about breads on Chowhound, loaves from San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland that are fine examples of Bay Area ovencraft.
1. THE ACME BREAD COMPANY
1601 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
1 Ferry Building, San Francisco
Acme produces fine breads and rolls readily available in supermarkets and restaurants all over the Bay Area, but it's a certain special-edition bread—the dense, flavorful whole-wheat loaf created to raise funds for the Edible Schoolyard—that gets Chowhounds fired up.
2. FIREBRAND ARTISAN BREADS
This East Bay–based brick oven bakery's distribution is limited enough that discovering their breads can feel like a revelation. Find them at Bi-Rite Market and Rainbow Grocery, among others.
Available at area stores and farmers' markets
1801 The Alameda, San Jose
"Heaven in bread" is how happenstance describes Greenlee's cinnamon bread, fantastic simply toasted or as the basis for ultra-rich French toast or bread pudding.
4. JOSEY BAKER BREAD
Available at The Mill
736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco
Started by a Vermonter with a dream and a bike, Josey Baker's bread (pictured) has morphed from something you could get via an occasional home-delivery service to the product of a kitted-out bakery at The Mill, an outpost of the Four Barrel coffee empire. Baker's fennel-raisin and apricot-sage toast made at least one list as a best bite of 2012.
5. LA FARINE
6323 College Avenue, Oakland
3411 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland
1820 Solano Avenue, Berkeley
4094 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland
Excellent baguettes and challah are the story at this decades-old bakery with four locations in the East Bay.
6. THE PHOENIX PASTIFICIO
1250 Addison Street, Suite 109, Berkeley
Though primarily a pasta-maker, Phoenix Pastaficio's famous olive bread is not to be missed. Find it at mutiple Bay Area stores and farmers' markets.
7. TADICH GRILL
240 California Street, San Francisco
Yes, it's an old-school seafood restaurant and not a bread shop, but aficionados know that the dark-crusted Boudin sourdough baked specially for Tadich is something special. It has a definite tang that distinguishes this sourdough from the many pretenders spiked with souring agents.
8. TARTINE BAKERY & CAFE
600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco
The reigning champion of Bay Area bread. Baker and co-owner Chad Robertson can be spotted kneading dough in the back of his Mission District headquarters, which takes preorders to ensure you can lock down a loaf of levain by the time the 5 p.m. bread line forms. Good thing that's the case, since after you experience a Tartine loaf's crackling crust giving way to a warm, yeasty interior, you may not want to waste time on other breads.
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