Arsicault Bakery’s journey seems like the Cinderella story of bakeries.
The tiny bakery in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood opened earlier this year, serving up flakey croissants and tarts to neighborhood fans. Owner Armando Lacayo, a graduate of the San Francisco Baking Institute, wanted to make croissants like his grandparents did in their tiny bakery in Paris.
Then Bon Appetit came to town. Editors of the national magazine fell in love with Arsicault’s charm and Lacayo’s croissants, and in August named the tiny bakery the best new bakery in the country.
The next day, news crews arrived to interview Lacayo, along with a line of customers winding down the block on Arguello Boulevard. More than two months later, the lines have never left as I found out early this morning when I dropped in to check out Arsicault for the first time.
I thought a quiet Sunday morning would be my best chance to avoid the frenzy, and I woke up early (thanks for the extra hour of sleep) and drove into San Francisco in time for the bakery’s 8 a.m. opening. When I arrived, there was already a line down the block.
The wait was 40 minutes before I got to the counter, and the menu is pretty limited (Lacayo has scaled back to focus on a few items after he had to double his production to meet demand). The menu includes a plain croissant, chocolate croissant, almond croissant, ham-and-cheese croissant, kouign amann, and a morning bun.
I got an almond croissant and kouign amann, which is shaped differently than the crown made popular by Belinda Leong at b. patisserie. At Arsicault, it’s like a swirl and flat, like a disc (or hockey puck); it reminds me like how they’re made them in Montreal.
The croissant was indeed flakey with a golden brown crust that was crispy on the edges. I admit, I’m not a regular croissant eater, so I can’t say if this was the best I’ve ever had. But it was so enjoyable that Arsicault’s flakey croissant will be the standard I will compare all future croissant-eating to. The center of the croissant had an almond custard that was good, but I wished it had a stronger almond flavor.
The kouign amann was just as flakey, and held together because of the caramelized sugar. It’s not super sweet as one would imagine, and tasted very similar to the one at b. patisserie. They’re both almost alike in experience, other than the shape.
The two items I had along with a cup of coffee came out to $13.25. Was it all worth the 40 minute wait? I hate to say it because I know it’ll just drive more people here, but yes, it was. I would easily wait in line again for those croissants, and can’t wait to try the chocolate version. But really it’s because I want to support this tiny bakery and its owner, Lacayo, who can be seen rushing trays of baked goods from the kitchen behind the mezzanine down the few steps of stairs to the hungry patrons below.
When I left Arsicault, I wandered around the Clement Street Sunday farmers market. When I finally returned to my car around 10:30 a.m., I saw that the line outside Arsicault was half the length compared to when I arrived at 8 a.m., so going later might mean a shorter wait. But that also means you risk the possibility of running out of popular items.
And like anything in San Francisco, you never want to be the one who misses out on something good.
The deets: Arsicault Bakery, 397 Arguello Blvd. (near Clement Street), San Francisco. PH: 415.750.9460. Open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and weekends from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Monday.
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