5 Best Croissants in the Bay Area (an Obsessive's Guide)

In France, a croissant may be breakfast, but in the Bay Area, it is a demonstration of craft. We have seen the spiral pastry evolve from a pale, poofy thing, barely better than Pillsbury, to a marvel of crisp flakes and butter-scented air. These are our favorites. Read an even more obsessive review: http://sfchron.cl/1O2veig (via Jonathan Kauffman)
  1. 1.
    Neighbor Bakehouse
    Delicately flaky exterior ringed with a glossy egg-washed ribbon; interior a logarithmic spiral of increasingly big airholes. After the first bite of the croissants made by Greg Mindel, a former teacher at the SFBI, you wonder why they don’t float out of your hands. (Length: 5½ inches // Weight: 2 ounces // Price: $3)
  2. 2.
    Tartine
    Chunky and golden brown, with a nautilus swirl of slim airholes inside. The densest and heaviest of the croissants surveyed, this is a bread baker’s pastry, with a compellingly wheaty flavor aided by natural leavening and long fermentation. (Length: 5¾ inches // Weight: 4.4 ounces // Price: $4.20)
  3. 3.
    Fournée Bakery
    Deeply colored, flaky exterior and a swirl of air bubbles that grow biggest at the center. Frank Sally, who trained under Michel Suas, says that proper fermentation, aided by a mix of three kinds of starters, gives his croissants their loft and complex flavor. (Length: 6 inches // Weight: 2.3 ounces // Price: $2.75)
  4. 4.
    b. patisserie
    Golden exterior with stripes of matte and gloss; interior is a spiral network of small, even bubbles. Michel Suas and Belinda Leong add milk to their croissant, giving it a tender crumb and a milky, delicate sweetness at the finish. (Length: 6 inches // Weight: 2.4 ounces // Price: $2.75)
  5. 5.
    Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
    Finely detailed layers of sugar-glazed pastry on the exterior and an improbably airy interior. Ry Stephen says the secret to his croissants is French cultured butter; its olfactory aura extends several feet around the pastry.