Lori Baker and Jeff Banker's bakery doesn’t get as much of the spotlight, but deserves it.
Given the track record of the bygone Pacific Heights apothecary, we probably should have visited Baker & Banker Bakery sooner. The one-time home to The Meetinghouse and Quince now houses Lori Baker and Jeff Banker’s two-pronged establishment. On Octavia Street, they run a lauded, upscale restaurant, and around the corner on Bush Street, the pastry chef, with the apropos name of Baker, helms a bakery, which supports the restaurant with bread and desserts, and delivers some of the best pastries in San Francisco.
Enter the tiny, bustling space and find a blackboard to the door of the walk-in. They list the panini of the day, which during our first visit consisted of smoked turkey with Gruyere, whole grain and mustard; and fig jam with white cheddar and arugula. They also bake breads, which might include poppyseed challah, baguette and French country.
The counterwoman suggested the cinnamon roll, saying, “That icing is really a spiritual experience and not to be missed.” She was right about the roll ($4.50) that had supple, pull-apart coils, cascading brown butter icing, and nearly had us seeing stars.
This might be sacrilege to say in a city that also houses Tartine Bakery, but I actually prefer Baker & Banker Bakery’s Morning Bun ($3.50), which skipped citrus entirely and leaned more on flaky, sugar-lined crust.
Pizza Foccacia ($4.50) sported thin, crisp discs of pepperoni, molten mozzarella and zesty tomato sauce. The airy slab had a crisp, fairly greasy bottom that provided good contrast.
On our second visit, we were hoping to snag another cinnamon roll, but you have to be an early riser to pull off that feat. Instead, we more than made due with remaining pastries, snagged the only sidewalk table, and rested plates on marble in the sun.
Almond Brioche Toast ($2.75) was nice and buttery, with a shiny, marzipan-crusted cap lined with almond scales and browned, crisp sides.
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie incorporated more of Baker’s secret ingredient – brown butter – and had a welcome sea salt hit. The texture was near ideal, not too soft or crispy.
Peanut Butter Bar ($3.50) was the only pastry we questioned. The thick, hearty slab had a thick base with a drier, halvah-like texture that supported a generous chocolate layer.
Four Barrel is one of my favorite San Francisco coffee roasters, and they brew Four Barrel in vac pots at Baker & Banker, but we got unlucky with our pour of El Salvador Metapan la Luna ($1.50). We clearly got the dregs based on our muddy cup. To increase your odds at caffeinated success, it might be a good idea to ask when they brewed the vac pot, or to order an espresso drink instead on their two-group La Marzocco.
Even after two visits, we still craved more baked goods from the glass case, including Lori’s Killer Banana Bread Pudding with caramel, and of course those tempting sandwiches and breads. Next time, we’ll be sure to load up for the road.