Among the world’s top culinary destinations, San Francisco is home to Michelin-starred dining experiences that seem to last days and cost a full year’s paycheck. Today, we ignore all of that in favor of something a bit more attainable and often a lot more delicious: The Best Cookies in San Francisco!
From renowned locations like Tartine to every local’s favorite, Hot Cookie, these baked goodies are the only sure-fire way to ensure that you will not get into swimsuit shape for the impending summer ahead. On account of the deliciousness of these sugar / butter / dough bombs below, I might just sport a trash bag at the beach this year, instead.
Best Cookies of Pac Heights
Not moments ago, I promised to leave the world of Michelin stars behind us. Perhaps b. patisserie’s 2018 James Beard Award makes me a liar, but their Chocolate Chip Cookie is so unbelievable that I think you’ll forgive my indiscretions. Less a chocolate chip cookie than a river of amazing chocolate held together with sparse, but equally delicious and perfectly baked dough, this creation takes what should be the vanilla ice cream of cookies and turns it into one of the best cookies in any neighborhood of San Francisco.
2821 California Street @ Divisadero Street
Largely on the opposite end of the cookie spectrum from its b. patisserie neighbor, Jane has crafted a crunchy, but chewy creative masterpiece with toffee, marshmallow, and chocolate chips that pulls apart like Snickers bars in the commercials. Dubbed the Crazy Cookie, this thinner cookie’s crumbly feel is counter-balanced by the fortitude of melted toffee and caramelized marshmallow. Though from a technical baker’s point of view – if that is a point of view that exists, one might say that b. patisserie’s cookie is superior, sheer joy oozes from each distinct bite of this ingenious delight, making it a personal favorite, even among these greats.
2123 Fillmore Street @ California Street
925 Larkin Street @ Geary Boulevard (Tenderloin)
1881 Geary Boulevard @ Fillmore (The Fillmore)
Sure, the bakery has changed names and owners (and possibly even recipes) since my childhood, but this location has a special place in my heart. I’m well aware that you’re here for a cookie review, and I should only be talking about their amazing Crunch Cookie, which is somewhat akin to Jane’s “Crazy Cookie” in brittle texture, though it is cleverly filled with caramelized pretzels, caramelized cornflakes and chocolate chips, but I have eaten their famous princess cake throughout my entire life. A Scandinavian cake layered inside with jam and whipped or pastry cream, then covered with soft marzipan, my Norwegian mother would always break out this special dessert on birthday mornings. I strongly suggest giving this cake a try (despite the fact that it’s actually Swedish in origin), but if you’re only here for the cookies, I am also told that you should give their ‘ruffles’ chip cookie a try as well, though it was sold out when I visited for this review.
1890 Fillmore Street @ Bush Street
Best Cookies of the Richmond
I get it, you need another location with amazing accolades and a line around the block. Arsicault in the Inner Richmond is your spot, but it is worth the wait. Named the Best New Bakery in the Country by bon appétit (2016), this unassuming store front is known for its ridiculous kouign-amanns (which is essentially a rounded croissant glazed with sticky sugar-y goodness). What’s all the hubbub, you may ask? Well, just another one of the Bay’s best cookies, of course. Third-generation French baker, Armando Ariscault, not only is one of San Francisco’s foremost authorities on flakey pastries, but he makes a mean chocolate chip cookie that is, as random Yelper Joni D. says, "Devine."
397 Arguello Boulevard @ Clement Street
Marla is a lot more than just a bakery. Including a laundry list of both breakfast and lunch items – a concept which I have just decided to start calling ‘brunch,’ their cookies are not always the first thing mentioned, but that’s a compliment to Marla’s other items, rather than a slight of their cookies which include an amazing peanut butter cookie which is too tasty for its own good. Sweetening up the Outer Richmond and a must-hit for brunch, Marla is also a surefire choice with almond, peanut butter, and chocolate cookie delights.
3619 Balboa Street @ 37th Avenue
SF Ferry Building (Saturday Farmer's Market Only)
Best Cookies of the Mission
Before the backdrop of countless newcomers vying for love in San Francisco, Tartine is the gold standard among bakers. From their iconic breads to their internationally adored cookbooks, Tartine’s name should already be the first in your mind when it comes to baked goods. If it’s not, stop reading now and head over to one of their soon-to-be four locations in San Francisco (The Mission, SFO, The Sunset, and … The Mission). Try everything they make once, then train your will power by walking out, getting back in line, and ordering a second round of every item on the menu. If you’re not a glutton, I suppose just snag yourself a salted chocolate chipper, and sleep better knowing that you’re not a complete SF amateur. This cookie is another of those should-be-boring bites that turns out to be perfectly crisp and somehow complex.
600 Guerrero Street @ 18th Street
595 Alabama Street @ 18th Street
SFO International Airport
1226 9th Avenue @ Irving Street (Sunset Location Expected to Open in 2019)
Pastry chef William Werner's modern patisserie is unlike any other you'll find in the city — or even the country — with an array of unique creations like the matcha snickerdoodle cookie; an Earl Grey, ginger, and blond chocolate scone; and the locally famous Rebel Within, a savory asiago and green onion muffin with sausage and a whole, runny, soft-boiled egg inside. The operation has two locations, in the Mission and Bayview, offering similar menus. Dangerously, CAW can also be found on Caviar and Uber Eats.
746 Valencia @ 18th Street
1598 Yosemite Avenue @ Keith Street (Bayview / Hunters Point)
With cookies in their name, Anthony’s Cookies has one of the more comprehensive cookie menus anywhere in the city. You could visit this spot for days trying one cookie at a time and still have days to go before you’ve tried them all. If you’re like me, on the other hand, you would stuff yourself in one sitting until you need a friend to roll your round body home, but I suppose it’s all a preference thing. As former SFist-er Caleb Pershan, now at Eater SF, says, "The Cookies and Cream meta-cookie is, of course, a favorite, but there are more than enough options at Anthony's to fill a box."
1417 Valencia Street @ 25th Streets
See Below: Arizmendi Bakery (also located in the Sunset)
Best Cookies of the Castro
My friends and I have been making cookie-based excursions to Hot Cookie for decades, though not once (thus far) has it be for their suggestively shaped cookie. These baked treats are hands-down among the top cookies that San Francisco has to offer, without the fun gimmick iterations which are perfect for bachelorette parties, gag gifts, or that friend who simply prefers to eat cookies and cakes shaped like reproductive organs. Be sure to try cookie madness like the Fudge Packer or the Sticky Nikki.
407 Castro Street @ 17th Street
Best Cookies of the TL / Downtown
Let’s face it.. Hooker’s Sweet Treats really all about their crazy, sometimes provocatively named, salted caramels, but don’t ignore a cookie with a heart of gold! Hooker’s peanut butter, chocolate chip, melted caramel cookie is not only a mouthful to say, but a delicious mouthful to eat.
442 Hyde Street @ O'Farrell Street
Mr. Holmes may be better known for its pastry — specifically its stellar filled doughnuts and cruffins — but it deserves to get some praise for its very excellent cookie offerings. The vegan fudge cookie (above) will not make you miss butter, and the generously sized, non-vegan, rich and chocolatey chocolate chunk cookie ranks high for citywide deliciousness.
1042 Larkin Street @ Sutter
HeyDay may tout a menu full of healthy foods that its fit-looking patrons seem to enjoy, but they're on this list for their chocolate chip walnut cookie, a brown-sugar-y, nutty cookie made with Guittard chocolate chips that is quite popular with the downtown lunch set.
180 Spear Street @ Howard Street
555 Mission Street @ 2nd Street
See Above: Jane (Pacific Heights)
See Above: Tartine (with a cafe coming soon to the Hotel G at 398 Geary)
See Above: Arsicault (Coming soon by way of The Inner Richmond.)
Best Cookies of the Sunset
I know some internet troll out there is going to judge this selection without ever trying the cookie, but Arizmendi’s VEGAN (Oh no!) mint chocolate cookie is among SF’s best. If you’re reading this list, I’d bet that you also love the edges of a brownie that have crisped to perfection in the oven. This cookie exterior mimics that brownie edge, but all over. Then add in dark chocolate chunks and a hint of minty freshness to round it all out. When it really comes down to it, do you still need to brush your teeth when you can just destroy a mint chocolate cookie, instead?
Tartine (Coming soon.)
With certainty, the fact that Tartine is coming to the Inner Sunset is a point of contention among some of the area’s residents. Will they have some of the world’s top baked goods? Of course. Does it also signify a changing of the guard; a time in which the local mom-and-pops will struggle to survive as famous eateries harken a new phase of gentrification in one of San Francisco’s last bastions of “Real San Franciscans”? Well … this is a cookie list, so let’s forget about all of that for now and enjoy getting fat, instead.
Related: Best of San Francisco