No. 1: Barbecue Pork Bun from Cafe Bakery and Restaurant

Categories: SFoodie's 92
Cafe_Bakery_BBQ_Pork_Bun.JPG
Jonathan Kauffman
Cafe Bakery's baked BBQ pork bun, $1.
SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

SF_92.jpg
Baked barbecue pork buns show up at office parties, softball games, and dim sum restaurants all over town. Some of us pick them up as quick breakfast or a three o'clock snack. Some of us make a habit of bringing Mom a box from her favorite bakery, rushed across town so they arrive still warm. Some of us introduce them to visiting cousins from home ― they're a surefire hit with Midwesterners, not to mention a badge of our own worldliness.

Is there anyone in San Francisco ― well, anyone who eats pork ― who doesn't like baked char siu bao? They're as universally pleasing as pizza and spaghetti, as embedded into the food scene as organic baby lettuces. Cantonese baked buns can be found in almost every major city in the country, but few American cities boast quite so many Chinese bakeries in neighborhoods quite so far apart as Portola, Parkside, and Chinatown.

And of all the baked char siu bao we've eaten in Portola, Parkside, and Chinatown, the most iconic we've tried come from a dim, generically named bakery in the Sunset. Cue-ball sized, Cafe Bakery's buns are not as fragile as some of the blowsy puffballs some bakeries sell. We can fist one without crumpling it: The glossy, evenly browned shell will give, then bounce back. Bite through, though, and we find the bun is neither tough nor too thick. Chopped pork immediately spills out ― meaty, tender, none too syrupy but maximally rich. Are char siu bao breakfast or dessert, a meal or a snack? As with any universally loved food, the answer is, of course: all of the above.

Cafe Bakery and Restaurant: 1365 Noriega (at 21st Ave.), 661-6116.

Other favorites in this series:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre
52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni
51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage
50: Lumpia from Hapa SF
49: Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck
48: Filetti pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana
47: Pupusas revueltas at La Santaneca
46: Khoresht ghaymeh at Maykadeh
45: Los Muertos at Gitane
44: Sandwich cookies from Sweet Constructions
43: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company's square
42: Nopalito's quesadilla roja
41: Croissant from Sandbox Bakery
40: Cultured's burdock kasu-zuke pickles
39: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream at Swensen's
38: Maverick's warm Brussels sprouts with slow-cooked egg
37: Roast chicken from Limón Rotisserie
36: Seven Hills' raviolo uovo
35: Morning bun from Pinkie's Bakery
34: Kaw soi dok at Mandalay
33: Fatted Calf's meatloaf sandwich
32: Duck larb at Thai House Express
31: Lark Creek Steak's burger
30: Barbacco's chicken thighs with olives and almonds
29: Mow Lee's lap cheong
28: Dollar oysters at Bar Crudo
27: Fava greens from Tairwa'-Knoll Farms
26: Nopa's mussels with harissa
25: Salt-and-pepper crab at Kam Lok
24: Recchiuti Confections' caramels to the third power
23: Mandarin lamb from Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
22: Tataki and Tataki South's faux-nagi
21: Blacksmith Cellars' chenin blanc
20: Sardine and avocado toasts at Contigo
19: Chocolate babka French toast from Wise Sons
18: Pralines from Southern Sweets
17: Wayfare Tavern's steak tartare
16: Russian River Brewing's Consecration Ale
15: Kimchi burrito from John's Snack and Deli
14: Adesso's lonza
13: Bean-paste stew at To Hyang
12: Stuffed apricots at Pera
11: Chicken milanesa torta at Boos Voni
10: Oboro tofu at Eiji
9: Chocolate-pistachio landscape at Atelier Crenn
8: Pork skewers at Halu
7: Aunt Malai's Lao sausage sandwich at Pal's Takeaway
6: Gialina's Atomica pizza
5: Mushroom soufflé at Cafe Jacqueline
4: Beef stew from Il Cane Rosso
3: Sichuan pickles at Mission Chinese Food
2: Yuba from Hodo Soy Beanery

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
ina.huang
ina.huang

Have you tried Wonder Food Bakery in Oakland Chinatown at 9th and Webster? By far the best in my estimation. All the dim sum places buy from them.

1ipstick
1ipstick

Your link to no. 19 is screwed :)

Jason D
Jason D

 NOOOOOOOOOOO! I have been going here for over 10 years I can't believe you outed this place. They run out of Char siu bao and Lai wam bao early enough as it is. If this place becomes trendy and I can't get a Bao, I blame YOU SF WEEKLY! ;)

David Butler
David Butler

Don't worry after about two weeks things will return to normal. 

Now Trending

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...