Sandbox Bakery, a much anticipated and long delayed storefront on Cortland Ave in Bernal Heights, is open for business. And right from the start, this place is special. The storefront lives up to its name -- small, no seating, just one display case and some counters along the walls. And the pastries are the stars of the show. The space has a nice feel to it, with large glass sliding doors to the sidewalk, large windows, and the glass display cases countering the mass of a masonry wall made of some sort of layered field stone. Inside and out the colors are a subtle palate that give the space a beautiful, modern feel with a Japanese inflection that is mirrored in the pastries too. There is nothing run of the mill about this bakery. It is clearly the realization of a creative and original artist.
I started with a Valrhona pain au chocolate that was divine. The chocolate was still soft and warm, and the buttery croissant was flaky and indulgent. Might have been even better if it had cooled a bit more, but no matter -- I was in love. The morning bun that followed was a blur. I think I was drugged by the chocolate and would have loved anything. But the morning bun was great -- visually a dead ringer for the Tartine cousin. Next day I had some sort of chocolate cream in a spiral bread cone that would be every kid's dream pastry. They also offer pigs in a blanket, presumably for kids, but whoa -- looked pretty tempting. As good as that chocolate cone was, it was upstaged by the orange ginger scone that followed. I like to bake scones but I have no idea how she gets the crisp sugar and crystallized ginger crust with moist but the perfect scone crumb goodness inside. My 3rd visit started with a delicious, flaky almond croissant. Great flavor, but maybe a tad overdone and dense. The yuzu cheese danish that came next was flawless. I think the overly dense croissant may have been a fluke, since the plain croissant I had next time was sublime. I'm reminded of PEI's description of his Tartine croissant, except this one is not so huge. Or maybe they're still getting used to the new kitchen. I guess I'll just have to keep sampling.
Coffee is drip brewed to order using La Paz or Ritual beans and a very interesting drip system that brews each cup surprisingly quickly. Not sure if they grind the beans extra fine, or how they manage to fully brew the coffee with such a fast drip, maybe some aficionados can give us the scoop. Personally, I like my coffee dark, strong, and brutish and this cup did not hit those notes. Not bad at all, just not my crass style. Mighty Leaf teas also available.
I asked if they had a bread schedule and that seems to be unknown. I did try their challah which was delicious but tiny. It evoked images of the Stonehenge set in Spinal Tap - not 12x too small, but maybe 2x?. I need to dig a little deeper into their bread offerings. I did spy some Bernal sweet rolls that look amazing. But every time I've gone I get seduced by the pastries. And there are still so many kinds I have yet to try. What a problem.
I'm told that the storefront was to be bigger, but they've devoted more of the space to the bakery so they can handle more wholesale business. She's been supplying Nervous Dog Cafe and I imagine there will be other outlets as the business grows. But really, if you like pastries you should come to this new Cortland destination and check out the whole Sandbox package.
833 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110