San Francisco has more than its share of gourmet chocolates and bonbons these days, but sometimes one gets a hankering for some true candy: licorice, lollipops, jellybeans, candy bars. The wonderful thing about San Francisco is that it has places to satisfy every kind of sweet tooth, from old fashioned retro shops selling the nostalgic candy of childhood to gorgeous little boutiques carrying handpicked sweeties from around the world. Below are some of the best ways to indulge your inner Willy Wonka in the city. Shaw’s Candy Store | 122 West Portal Ave Opened in 1931, Shaw’s is the oldest candy store in San Francisco. It’s not trendily retro; it’s an authentically old timey slice of Americana with its red and white color scheme and jars of jelly beans, gummy bears, and taffy. Be sure to try their famous homemade fudge, which comes in classic flavors like peanut butter chocolate, maple walnut, and rocky road. As a bonus, they also serve Mitchell’s ice cream, another local San Francisco favorite. Fiona’s Sweetshoppe | 214 Sutter St This tiny shop tucked away in the Union Square district is the closest thing San Francisco has to Honeyduke’s, the famous candy shop of the Harry Potter books. Fiona’s specializes in candies from the UK and Scotland and the interior of the store looks like a classic English sweet shop, from the silver trays full of hard candy to the walls lined with jars of toffees and licorice. For a true English candy experience, try the chewy bonbons (not the chocolate kind), rich molasses treacle toffee, and the licorice allsorts. The Candy Store | 1507 Vallejo St For those looking to learn more about the world of candy, this little gem in Russian Hill is the place to go. Owners Diane and Brian are true candy aficionados who travel the world tracking down old favorites and new discoveries. Both they and their staff enjoy sharing their extensive knowledge with customers – so tell them what you like and they will pick out a candy for you from the multitude of jars on the walls. The malted milk balls and Swedish gummies are a delight, as well as the selection of nostalgic American candy bars, like Abba-Zabas and Valomilks. Miette | 449 Octavia St Miette takes the prize for most whimsical candy store in the city. The interior is gorgeously decorated like a child’s imaginative dream of a vintage sweet shop, all fanciful lights, floral wallpaper, and candy-bright colors everywhere. The carefully curated selection of candies range from Italian chocolates to British candy bars to Dutch licorice. As a bonus, they also carry Miette’s own line of pastries, from cupcakes to princess cakes to macarons. There’s a sweet for everyone in this store. Z Ciccolato | 474 Columbus Ave This old fashioned sweets emporium captures the eclectic, colorful nature of the North Beach district. The windows and walls are covered in offbeat decorations, but most visitors’ eyes will go immediately to the barrels scattered around the room, filled with saltwater taffy. Besides taffy in virtually every color and flavor, Z Ciccolato is famous for its homemade fudge in flavors like chocolate cheesecake and cookies and cream. The store also makes fresh caramel corn and serves gelato – truly a sweets lover dream-come-true.Read More
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San Francisco loves its sweets – from croissants to cupcakes to ice cream to macarons, there’s a shop to satisfy any sweet tooth. However, there’s a whole series of cafes and bakeries out in the Richmond and Sunset districts, on the west end of the city, that serve a variety of Asian desserts unfamiliar to much of the San Francisco population. Many of these desserts are popular in their countries of origin, and have been brought over by immigrants hungry for a taste of home. For your next dessert try something a little different – you might find a new favorite! Bubble tea: This Taiwanese drink goes by several names, including pearl tea, boba tea and tapioca tea; they all refer to the chewy tapioca balls, or “pearls”, that float in a sweet milk tea. Drinking and chewing simultaneously is an interesting experience, one that can quickly become addictive. The classic version of bubble tea is black tea mixed with milk or creamer, served cold and over ice, but it also comes in enough varieties, from fruit flavors to icier “slushies”, to warrant return trips in order to try everything. The customization options are endless: different teas, different tapioca pearl sizes and flavors, even different level of sweetness and ice. It’s Starbucks taken to the next level. Similar to coffeehouses, bubble tea shops can be found all around San Francisco. Try the Boba Guys in the Mission District; they are using local sources and quality ingredients to create the next level of bubble tea. The Boba Guys 3491 19th St. San Francisco, CA 94110 Eggettes: These cute little pastries are called daan jai, or “little eggs” in Hong Kong where they come from, so eggettes is a perfectly literal translation. They are also often called egg puffs or egg waffles. Taste and texture wise, they’re a cross between waffle and pancake, a golden bubbly sheet of sweet, soft puffiness. Eggettes are a classic street food in Hong Kong, and as such they are best eaten very fresh and hot. Each individual eggette is meant to be torn from the whole sheet, making them a perfect snack for sharing. Originally they were made plain, with the sweet flavor coming from the eggs, sugar, and evaporated milk, but today eggettes come in flavors ranging from chocolate to green tea, and are often offered with toppings like ice cream and fresh fruit as well. Still, the best way to experience them is plain and simple. Many Chinese dessert cafes offer eggettes, but the best I’ve found so far are at a shop very appropriately called Eggettes. Their plain and coconut versions are especially good. Eggettes 3136 Noriega St San Francisco, CA 94122 Honey Toast: Toast is the latest food to get the artisan treatment in food-crazy San Francisco, but the Japanese have been doing gourmet toast their way for quite a while. Called “honey toast” or “honey brick toast”, this dish is gloriously over the top, visually impressive, and best enjoyed with a group. It consists of a loaf of bread (soft, thick, and fluffy white is preferred) which is hollowed out and drizzled with melted butter and honey. Often the center piece of bread that was taken out is cut into cubes, toasted, and then put back in the middle. The entire affair is then topped with ice cream, fruit, whipped cream, and almost any other topping you can imagine. Honeyberry offers several tempting versions of honey toast; give their famous sweet roti buns a try as well. Honeyberry 1915 Irving St San Francisco, CA 94122 Snow Ice: Shaved ice desserts are popular all over Asia, but snow ice is a Taiwanese iteration that’s made its way over to the US. The shaved ice that most people know is like a snow cone – ice crystals mixed with flavored syrups. Taiwanese snow ice is totally different: the water is mixed with milk or cream and sugar, frozen into a solid block, and then shaved into long ribbons, instead of little crystals, using a special machine. The piled-up ribbons of snow ice look like art, but they have an astonishingly light and fluffy texture, almost like eating snow. Snow ice comes in several flavors and numerous topping options, just like ice cream. One of the best places to try this frozen treat in the city is Dessert Papa, a sweet little café in the Outer Sunset with a wide menu of Asian desserts. Dessert Papa 2255 Judah St San Francisco, CA 94122 Sweet Dessert Soup: Most people think of hot soup as a savory appetizer or main course, but sweet hot soups, called tong sui or “sugar water”, are a Chinese dessert staple. They are typically made from nuts and sweet beans like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and red (adzuki) beans. These soups are thick and smooth in consistency, and sometimes mixed with clear pearl tapioca or whole beans. Warm, rich, not overly sugary, and a comforting end to a chilly night. For first-timers, sweet almond or sweet peanut soup are classic favorites. Golden Island Café has an extensive selection of sweet dessert soups, along with other traditional Chinese desserts. Golden Island Café 1300 Noriega St San Francisco, CA 94122Read More
Unlike other places where ice cream is a summer treat, San Francisco is an it’s-always-ice-cream-weather town. San Francisco residents aren’t eating ice cream to cool down, but because there’s some seriously delicious artisan ice cream being made locally in little shops all around the city. Here are my picks: Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (622 22nd St) The name is a bit of a tongue-twister but it’s not difficult to rave about this little gem hidden away in Potrero Hill. The titular Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, pastry chefs Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio, serve up beautifully smooth and creamy ice creams that taste amazingly fresh. The flavors are offbeat but appealing, like Pink Squirrel (almond and cocoa liqueurs) and candied violet. They also make their own cookies, brittles, and other sweets, displayed for sale in mason jars by the counter. The sleek wood tables in the clean, light-filled store make the perfect spot to enjoy a perfect scoop. Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th St) Bi-Rite Creamery began as an offshoot of Bi-Rite Market, a specialty grocery just across the street. However, as word spread of their addictive salted caramel ice cream, the creamery achieved a fame of its own. Long lines snaking down the block are not an uncommon sight outside the store, but the lush, flavorful ice cream is worth it. Although the salted caramel is a must-try, the honey lavender and malted vanilla with peanut brittle are stealth favorites. Their fruit popsicles are also delightful on the rare hot San Francisco day. Humphry Slocombe (2790A Harrison St) The ribbon for most unusual ice cream and ice cream store name goes to Humphry Slocombe. Tucked away in a little corner of the Mission district, this shop is quite unassuming except for the near-constant lines out the door and under the trim blue awnings. Humphry Slocombe’s claim to fame is its Secret Breakfast, a vanilla ice cream laced with bourbon and cornflakes that is truly the breakfast of champions. For the slightly less adventurous, the Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee is the next best thing to a wake-me-up cup of espresso. The Ice Cream Bar (815 Cole St) While many of the newest ice cream shops in San Francisco are showcasing modern, offbeat flavors, The Ice Cream Bar aims to recreate the classic soda fountain of the 1930s. Although they also make and offer their own ice cream, the star of the shop is the soda fountain bar at the rear of the retro-styled shop. Soda jerks will mix up lactarts, phosphates, malts, and milkshakes with a chemist’s library of ingredients. The New Orleans Hangover seems cult favorite-worthy: chicory coffee syrup, golden eagle tincture, sweet cream ice cream, and soda. Sit down on the classic fountain bar stools and visit the past. Smitten (432 Octavia Street) Smitten offers one of the most entertaining desserts in the city: ice cream made to order and flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen to preserve its creamy, ice crystal-free texture. Every scoop is made fresh, so you can watch your ice cream solidify in front of your eyes in a cloud of liquid nitrogen. Flavors are usually limited to three rotating choices: the TCHO chocolate shows off the locally made chocolate perfectly. The location is more of a popup than a full sit-down shop, but the adjacent park and nearby Hayes Street shopping boulevard make for a lovely venue to enjoy your custom made ice cream.Read More