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Friday, May 28, 2010

S.F. Rising: Pan Frances from King's Bakery

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 9:55 AM

Fresh from San Francisco's best Chinese-Mexican bakery. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Fresh from San Francisco's best Chinese-Mexican bakery.

S.F. Rising is a weekly

survey of bread in San Francisco ― the baked and the fried, the artisan and the novelty.

Pan Frances

Source: King's Bakery,

2846 Mission (at 24th St.), 282-4550.
Price: $0.30

Toast-appropriateness: Not a toasting bread.

Back when we lived in Bernal Heights, we used to stop in at King's Bakery on our way home from work several times a week. Emerging from the 24th Street BART station, we'd catch a wave of that fresh-baked bread smell and surf it through the door of the narrow, gray panaderia, whose dingy windows have always been blocked out by some kind of tarp. It was the perfect time to catch the pan frances coming out of the oven, and we'd pull a quarter out of our pockets to buy a warm, crusty roll ― the price has now gone up to 30 cents ― to savor on the six-block walk home.

The coconut (cocktail) buns at this Cantonese-Mexican bakery have gotten a lot of press lately, and for good reason, but we're still in love with King's French rolls (sometimes called bolillos). This week, we did a comparative tasting of the pan frances around the Mission and Excelsior, and found our memories of how good King's rolls are weren't pure nostalgia.

They come out of the ovens at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (11 a.m. only on Saturday), when they're piled on giant sheet pans at the back of the store, stuck together end to end in long bread chains that resemble giant bean pods; you have to work neat twists of the tongs to break off the rolls you want. While the crust of pan frances softens after a few hours, five minutes in a warm oven brings it back to full crackle. The rolls have a clean, floury taste, with a touch of sweetness, and they're the right size for small ham sandwiches, Mexican-Vietnamese banh mi, or a thick smear of butter.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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