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Jaymes

Golden Gate Bakery

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I'm on an extended stay in the San Francisco Bay area (where I used to live) and today we returned to a favorite, R&G Lounge. After a delicious lunch of Hot & Sour Soup, Hot Chicken & Broccoli, R&G Special Beef, and Honey-Walnut Prawns, all of which were absolutely wonderful, we walked a block or two to Golden Gate Bakery, on Grant.

Golden Gate is one of the best-known and most popular Chinese bakeries in the Bay Area, and with reason. Famous for its custard tarts and dense sweet-lotus-seed moonpies, the noisy, boisterous line often stretches several yards down the sidewalk outside of the small store. There is much arguing and jostling for position if some pushy newcomer tries to cut the line. Which is what happened to us today. One woman, clearly a regular, knew exactly where to go to work herself into the power position. She said nothing, just threaded her way through the throng, sprinting where possible, until she reached nirvana -- that exact spot at the end of the counter where the workers arrive from the back of the store bearing their trays of steaming hot custard tarts fresh from the ovens.

At first, the woman seemed so purposeful and unapologetic that everyone assumed she was there about something else. Maybe to drop off something. Maybe to pick up a friend.

But no.

As she spoke in Chinese it immediately became clear that she was after just what the rest of us were. Golden, creamy, flaky egg custard tarts. Six dozen.

I've sat on beaches where the seagulls flapped, squawking and screaming over this bit of leftover sandwich, that portion of forgotten french fries, wings beating furiously, screeching threats and warnings.

Those seagulls had nothing on this line of Chinese housewives suddenly frantic with worry that the interloper may had taken most, gotten all, gotten theirs. Even though the cacophony was entirely in Chinese, there was no mistaking the problem.

Suddenly someone in authority appeared. "Not to worry," I'm sure she said, "there's plenty for everyone." Still uncertain, still ruffled, the birds cackled and pecked. But the interloper gathered up her precious pink boxes and made her getaway.

And there was plenty for everyone. Even plenty for me.

I got two dozen of the egg custard tarts, one dozen of the coconut custard tarts, a half-dozen each of the BBQ pork buns and the sweet-lotus-seed moonpies with melon filling.

And boy were they good. The egg and the coconut custard tarts were still hot from the ovens. I ate one of each as soon as I got back to the car. As tasty as I've ever had. Rich custard full of ripe eggy flavor. Flakes of tender pastry rained down upon my shirt and onto the steering wheel of the car. The moonpies, too, were best ever. I honestly couldn't choose a favorite among the egg custard, the coconut custard, the moonpies. And the pork buns also were good.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Oh, you're making me homesick for my favorite vacation spot - an egg custard is always on my list of sights to see....I've never been to Golden Gate - I always stop at Wonder Bakery on Waverly - lines are shorter and I think the egg custards are pretty damn good


Edited by memesuze (log)

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Thank you for the wonderful report -- but you're killing me! I sure miss Chinatown, from my three-month stay in San Francisco three years ago.

My favorite bakery was Eastern Bakery, just because I favor their deliciously eggy crackle-topped custard buns (bo lo mien bao) and incomparable mooncakes.

My husband's spending next week in S.F. for business, and you've got me thinking I will, after all, take him up on his offer to bring me back anything I want!

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Do you remember the days before they implemented the line? When everyone just jostled for attention in a big pack like most other Chinatown bakeries? It's a good thing they recognized that their popularity could no longer sustain chaos.

Still, I had a roommate who was quite proud of how I taught her to squeeze to the front of the pack, and always sneered at those poor tourists who held back diffidently and probably weren't able to get their pastries for hours!

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Those egg tarts are simply amazing! At my last job, in Oakland, there was a Chinese guy working as a tech who would occasionally take his entire lunch hour to BART into the city for GG Bakery egg tarts and bring them back to share with the office. Man, I loved that guy!

My new job is back in the city on the edge of Chinatown. I'll have to remember to hike up to GG one of these early days and get me some tarts. Thanks for reminding me!

Squeat

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Hey I've had that happen to me! But I think others are wary of line hijackers as well, because the last time I was at Golden Gate Bakery, there was an old woman that did exactly the same thing, but she didn't get through that time. I and the woman ahead of me saw her and though I am not comfortable telling an elder to get her ass to the back of the line (maybe just in my head), the woman ahead of me had no problems telling her to get her little ass back there, or something like that. Poor little old lady. No respect.

I don't like the line. I would prefer to have to shove my way to the front, because I believe in survival of the fittest. Or is it survival of the fattest? :wink: It would burn off a couple of calories before the dantatfest. Anyways sometimes, there still isn't a line, unless there's such a thing as a rectangular line.


I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Do you remember the days before they implemented the line? When everyone just jostled for attention in a big pack like most other Chinatown bakeries? It's a good thing they recognized that their popularity could no longer sustain chaos.

Ah yes, the Chinese rugby scrum method.

I suspect a great deal of yesterday's shouting match consisted of several versions of: "Do we have a line or not? If WE play by the rules, she should have to, too!"

:biggrin:


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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But why fight thru the crowds wile you can get the same quality at Ruby Bakery in Oakland or the slightly more expensive Napoleon a few doors down. The same thousand layer flakey crust and good custard too. And you get three for a dollar ! And this tip came from a person obsessed with Golden Gate egg custard but now happily switched stores.

I also like the portugese egg tart with caramelized tops and crust from the hand torch. And the good one from SOGO bakery in Newark is my personal favorite. Great crust, not the flakey type but the harder pie crust type. It has nice goey custard but also has some delicious crunch from the excellent crusts. Some people might prefer the other type above with the flakey crust - it depends.

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And boy were they good. The egg and the coconut custard tarts were still hot from the ovens. I ate one of each as soon as I got back to the car. As tasty as I've ever had. Rich custard full of ripe eggy flavor. Flakes of tender pastry rained down upon my shirt and onto the steering wheel of the car.

awghwawghwawgh (homer simpson drool).

man, and i was just in chinatown the other day too. and there's no way in hell i'm going on a saturday.


dexygus

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Okay Han, I remember the talk about Ruby and Napolean on Chowhound (where I post sporadically under a different username). Could you pls tell me what restaurants or markets these are next to? I never remember what streets are what in Oakland Chinatown and only go by landmarks. Would very much appreciate it!

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Here is the link for Ruby King

http://yp.com/yppc.php?pi=CAF6457056&cid=sb

Also, another tip that might be useful is the excellent chow fun at the famous Vien Huong just a few doors away. Their cha jiew noodle soup is also nice. Any food enthusiast in the area should know this place.

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I am quite sure it's on Franklin and the nearest cross street is Webster. Enjoy and do report back your findings !

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Perfect, thank you! I do know Vien Huong so I should be able to find the bakeries very easily.

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