A few tried and true food combinations have withstood the test of time: peanut butter and jelly, pizza and pepperoni, and the good-old-fashioned sourdough bread bowl and soup. Although San Francisco cannot claim to be the brains behind the bread bowl, it is the official home of it. There is nothing better than a flaky bread bowl full of piping hot soup on a cold San Francisco night. With countless competitors claiming to have “San Francisco’s best” or “the original,” a compiled a list of the best bread bowls in San Francisco is sorely needed.
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Boudin Bakery & Café is the king of San Francisco bread bowls. As the city’s oldest continuously running business, this café has clearly cornered the market. For over 160 years, Boudin has baked San Francisco’s most popular bread bowls and churned some of its best soups, especially its world famous clam chowder. With seven locations to choose from, the original location is still the best. Once you polish off your delicious bread bowl, pick up a tip or two from the free bakery demonstration, take a guided tour of the bakery, or stop by the Boudin museum for a little bread bowl history.
Chowders’ sourdough bread bowls are not only popular with tourists, but also with the many locals who call themselves regulars at this Pier 39 establishment. Located in the middle of tourist central, Chowders is by far the best bread bowl on Pier 39. Chowders’ bread bowls come steaming hot packed with loads of clams, fresh celery and onion, diced potatoes and crispy delicious bacon. The best part of Chowders is that they offer both white and red clam chowder, so there’s no East Coast/West Coast drama here.
For the past 10 years, the San Francisco Soup Company has been dishing up an assortment of tasty soups in delicious bread bowls. With 12 locations in San Francisco (and even one at SFO), the San Francisco Soup Company has cornered the market on creative soups. With over 12 gourmet soups available per day, the bread bowl has never tasted better. Whether you fill your sourdough bowl with Mexican chicken tortilla soup or tomato bisque, you cannot go wrong and your bread bowl will surely thank you.
Related: Feel warm on the inside in a different way—here’s 10 great soup kitchens to volunteer your time.
The food cart movement has taken San Francisco by storm, but San Francisco’s original street food has not budged from the sidewalks of Fisherman’s Wharf. With about 10 different counters to choose from selling similar crustaceans, soups and bread bowls, the best by far is the original Crab Station. The Crab Station serves up cheap bread bowls for people looking to save a few dollars but not skimp on taste. Look past the messy seafood market and saddle up to the counter to enjoy a cheap, steaming hot bread bowl overflowing with delicious clam chowder.
If you find yourself in the Financial District looking for a delicious bread bowl, look no further than Andersen Bakery. Smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle, this authentic European bakery uses the finest all-natural ingredients to bake its bread bowls from scratch every morning. Andersen’s bread bowls are not made of your average sourdough, but instead consist of French bread with 5 percent rye—a delightfully European take on the San Francisco tradition. The bread bowl’s thin crust makes for easy tearing and dipping with your favorite soup. Andersen’s offers two soups to fill your delicious bread bowl: classic Boston clam chowder and hearty Mediterranean vegetable.
Need more of the bowl and less of the soup? Check out some of San Francisco’s best bakeries.
Alice Stader is a freelance travel writer living in San Francisco. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.