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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Castro Tarts' Raisin Rolls Ooze with the Unexpected

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 4:44 PM

Raisin roll ($1.75). - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Raisin roll ($1.75).
Clones, leathermen, bears: The Castro's long been known as a neighborhood of self-expression, not culinary revelation. Last year, that began to change. How to navigate the ultimate gayborhood's new edible landscape? As a nod to S.F. Pride Week, we're cruising the Castro's newest hot spots and longtime favorites.

click to enlarge FRANCIS I./YELP
Saturday mornings, Castro Tarts attracts grumpy retail boys in sunglasses getting takeout clamshells of eggs to eat en route to H&M or Banana, portly guys from the neighborhood poring over the Chron with lattes, and whoever else happens to be up on Castro Street at 8:30.

Owner Raymond ― that's the only name he'd give us ― offers up a modern take on the Chinese-American diner, only Raymond, we have to assume, is from Vietnam. That means pho and banh mi (on house-baked rolls that look like the hoagie equivalent of the brioche wrapped around pigs in blankets) along with whitebread-style sandwiches and eggy breakfasts.

You can get enormous flabby croissants (Omnivore Books owner Cecilia Sack swears they're the best in the city) that, if you take them to go, fill your car with the most amazing scent of butter. You can get New Orleans-style Vietnamese coffee made from chicory-laced Café du Monde grounds, and good, strong house coffee brewed from oak-roasted Mr. Espresso.

But the best thing in Raymond's case? Deceptively plain-looking raisin rolls ($1.75), spiral-y Danish studded with chewy fruit. Cut into one and you get a surprise: gobs of thick, yellow vanilla custard concealed within the flaky dough layers. Unusual, delicious, and just stunning enough to propel you out of bed at the crack of early, even if you don't need to punch the clock at Macy's.

Castro Tarts 564 Castro (at 19th St.), 861-3268.

Also in this series:

Castro Hosts One of the City's Best Neighborhood Markets

What to Have for Lunch: Kasa's Lamb Curry Thali

Starbelly's Wine and Beer Cocktails: Relief from 'The Fuzzy Jockstrap'

Sure, You Go to Cafe Flore to Cruise Guys. The Mac and Cheese Is Almost as Tasty

Brunch at Tangerine Just Might Blunt Pride Week's Excesses

S.F. Rising: Epi from Thorough Bread and Pastry

What's the Best-Selling Beer in the Castro? The Mega-Brews Making a Play for Gay Dollars

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