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Toast Bars: Trendspotting in San Francisco

by Aislyn August - last edited August

Mildly controversial and wildly delicious, San Francisco’s toast boom is quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread. Here are some of the best toast bars to try next time you’re in town.

Cafe St. Jorge

Toast Bars in San Francisco | Cafe St Jorge

Cafe St Jorge: A patriotic twist on Cafe St. Jorge's banana-honey-almond butter toast © Cafe St. Jorge
 

This cheerful cafe just north of San Francisco’s Mission District works slices of fresh bread into a very tasty reason to tackle the nearby hike to Bernal Heights Park. The toasts are truly enormous with schmears ranging from organic almond butter to homemade hummus. There’s a gluten-free option, too. And don’t miss the smoothies (especially the banana-almond-cacao and the pastéis de nata (egg tarts) and other Portuguese pastries for which owner Andrea de Francisco is known.

3428 Mission Street, San Francisco, cafestjorge.com

Penrose

Toast Bars in San Francisco | Penrose

Penrose: Kick off a meal at Charlie Hallowell's new Penrose with this sophisticated ricotta toast © Penrose
 

Craving a slice of toast after 3 p.m.? Try Penrose, the latest outpost from Chef Charlie Hallowell of Pizzaiolo and Boot and Shoe Service, which dishes up some of the Bay Area’s most in-demand pies. In the warm, wood-filled space, Hallowell experiments with (pizza-free) open-fire cooking centred on Middle Eastern and North African flavours. The menu changes daily but there’s always a toast (say, ricotta with broccoli di ciccio, anchovy, and garlic) and dishes always adhere to Hallowell’s locally sourced ethos.

3311 Grand Avenue, Oakland, penroseoakland.com

Trouble Coffee

Toast Bars in San Francisco | Trouble Coffee

Trouble Coffee: Trouble Coffee's cinnamon toast is a magnet for surfers and families in San Francisco's Outer Sunset © Kathcorey/Flickr
 

Some locals say you can trace San Francisco’s toast bars trend back here, to the slices of buttery cinnamon-sugar toast served by owner Giulietta Carrelli since 2007. It’s a sweet, closet-like space in the Outer Sunset, just a few blocks from the stretch of sand where the city and the Pacific meet. Want to eat like the surfers who gather here? Try the Trouble Coffee Happy Meal, a fat slice of toast served with coffee and a whole young coconut.

4033 Judah Street, San Francisco. Second location: 1730 Yosemite Avenue, San Francisco, troublecoffee.com

Boba Guys

Toast Bars in San Francisco | Boba Guys

Boba Guys: Boba Guys' buttercream-topped toast (made with organic condensed milk) is a very San Francisco spin on a Hong Kong classic © Boba Guys
 

A round-up of SF toast bars wouldn’t be complete without the international flair of Boba Guys. A hole in the wall in the Mission District, Boba Guys is best known for its killer bubble tea. But toast is the café’s secret, along with an incredible homemade nutella. The Hong Kong toast, a slice of brioche topped with buttercream made from organic condensed milk and honey, is a riff on the traditional Hong Kong toast (white bread slathered with condensed milk and butter). “It’s a comfort food in Asia, so we didn’t want to over-artisanise it,” said co-owner Bin Chen. Chen and co-owner Andrew Chau also use the brioche to make their Kaya toast, a Singapore-style slice topped with coconut jam made from coconut cream infused with pandan leaf, a Thai plant with a grassy, floral flavour.

3491 19th Street, San Francisco, bobaguys.com

The Mill

toast Bars in San Francisco | The Mill

The Mill: Josey Baker uses flour sourced from a mill just north of San Francisco to make his fresh, chewy breads © Neil Conway/Flickr
 

Lines can sometimes stretch to the door, but the nearly two-inch-thick slices of toast at The Mill are worth the queue. A joint venture between San Francisco’s famous Four Barrel Coffee and baker Josey Baker—yes, that’s his real name—The Mill has become a go-to spot for NoPa/Western Addition dwellers and visitors lucky enough to stumble upon it. The secret, of course, is the bread, which is baked daily on-site using local flour. The toast menu changes every day—pop by and you might find his chewy Dark Mountain Rye or whole wheat topped with pumpkin butter.

736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, themillsf.com

Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to San Francisco from London Heathrow. Book your flight today.

Have you tried San Francisco’s toast bars? Which are your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Aislyn Greene


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About the author: Aislyn

Aislyn Greene

After a few years spent tracking the dizzying rise of technology for a Seattle tech and business journal, Aislyn headed south (as in California) to return to her first loves: travel and food. She now writes about international travel during the day and spends her free time cycling Oakland's hills, scouring thrift shops, and planning her next meal.