I seem to be ending up in Pacific Beach a lot these days. Not necessarily by design (my prefered beach is OB), but today was a planned trip since I needed new springform and tart pans for the upcoming holidays. Destination? Pacific Plaza, which is a lot like downtown San Francisco - 25 parking spaces, 25,000 people (okay, Pacific Plaza might have 2,500 parking spaces, but I swear everyone in the great beach area frequents this center at the same time).
You'd hardly know there was a grocery strike by the business Von's was doing, BTW. A quick (and expensive) trip into Great News! for culinary ware and the really terrific Chocolate Truffle candy bars (I bought 5 of them in assorted flavors) from Seattle Chocolate Company and I was on my way over to Charlie's Best Breads. Charlie's is on the other side of Pacific Plaza from Great News!, tucked in next to the Indian restaurant (Taste of India?). It's a long walk, or if you're willing to give up your parking space and gamble you can find another, a very short drive.
My objective was a loaf of their Real Sour Dough (it's not, but it's pretty good anyway) to make into bread cubes for stuffing for Thanksgiving. Almost as an after thought I also picked up a round, and very large loaf of their Black & Green Olive Bread. Oh-My-God, if you like olives and olive breads, this stuff will make you think you've died and gone to bread heaven, especially when toasted. This is a sturdy bread with a medium dense crumb and large, identifiable pieces of olive. What really impressed me was that the olive flavor was clean and assertive, there could be no mistake about what kind of bread it was that one was eating.
Charlie's makes a whole raft of other breads each day - the bread bakery is right there on the premises - in addition to muffins, scones and some cookies. Loaves come round, standard rectangular loaf or baguette, sliced or unsliced. They offer samples of each of the breads they've baked that day, along with butter, honey and jam as accompaniments. What a nice touch. I do wish, however, that the breads had a bit darker crust on the outside, some of the loaves are on the pale side. They are pricey - $4.50 for the loaf of sour dough and $7.00 for the olive bread. But the loaves are large, 2 pounds and up.
I have no idea what their hours of operation are, only that the more of their breads I try, the more varieties I find that I like. On my way out the door this afternoon, I left with a sample (more like a HUGE hunk) of their Orange, Walnut, Cranberry Bread. A light wheat loaf studded with cranberries and walnuts and pleasant orange undertones.
Would I make a special trip to go to Charlie's Best Breads? For special occasions, yes. For everyday use, probably not, but whenever I'm in PB I will for sure make a pit stop for some really fine bread. I can not claim that I found this little gem all by myself. Thanks to Chilepm for introducing me to the shop.
Now, if only someone would import Judy's Bread Sticks from the Bay Area, I'd be a truly happy bread camper.