Monday, June 17, 2013

Thorough Bread at The Castro : Almond Croissant FTW!

If we take a step back and take time to observe the stories of many successful food place, we will start to see connecting dots and overlapping pattern. One of them is signature dish and I don't think I will ever get bored in promoting how significant it is. It's the sugar that attracts the ants. It's a woman's specific appeal that gets a man hooked.

Have you ever been to a restaurant just for a plate of dessert that you really love?
Have you ever traveled so far just for that talk-of-the-town burger?
Have you ever waited in a queue just because you can't not have your favorite meal?

If you answered yes to one of them, then you probably know how I feels to this humble bakery in the Castro area, San Francisco. This 'rainbow' area is fascinating for me because it has so much colors, vibrant, and decorated with stylish shops and bars, not to mention the old Victorian houses.

Thorough Bakery is one of them that pulls me to this area. As you might have notice, I'm such a sucker for patisserie. I searched on Yelp on what could accomodate my craving. Discovered Thorough Bakery and man I made the right choice.

I would definitely come back here just for the Almond Croissant. It was beyond any croissant that I ever tasted before. If you drop by here, you'll see that among other pastries, it is the fastest item to run out. Almost every table here will take an almond croissant with them.

Flaky crunchy exterior as it should be, it has a hidden layer inside that gives the sweet tasting caramel-like flavor. If you take a closer look, you'll notice it is also topped with some sort of sugar icing. Have that with the burnt-smelling almond. One bite, and I bet your current threshold for good croissant will be raised to a few bar higher. Have it warmed, and another bar is yet again, raised.

It is one of the things I miss the most from the whole #WanderUS trip. And I blame Leia (that's how I name my NX300) for taking such pretty shot that drools. I myself can't help it. If you know any good almond croissant in Jakarta, do let me know!

Coming back to where we started, that's how powerful a signature dish can be. If you allow me to take it to the extreme, learn from Rotiboy. One product. One price. Look at how many branches they have. And there's no sign of stopping. That's something for you, foodplace owners to ponder while thinking of your next strategy.

In the mean time, let me know which menu from which foodplace that gets you coming back for more. Tweet me at @Wanderbites.


Fellexandro Ruby 
Food / Travel Storyteller & Photographer


Thorough Bread & Pastry
248 Church Street,
San Francisco
(Between 15th Street & Market Street)


  1. As a business model, Rotiboy is perfect because the bread is par-baked, which means partially-baked. They bake their bread to about 70% done and then it is quickly frozen to stop the cooking process. The frozen bread will be transported to the outlets to finish baking. Taste wise, par-baked bread is less tasty than one that is baked normally. Also, when you freeze stuff, it tends to dry out. Because water can evaporate even when frozen solid (sublimation). But from a business viewpoint, who cares? Because par-baking allows them to manufacture their bread in a single location which makes management so much easier than making the bread from scratch at each location. Furthermore, frozen bread means that there is zero inventory loss, which in turn means lower production cost.

    These American bakeries made good croissants because: 1) They bake from scratch every day, not par-bake. 2) They use real butter, not margarine that is flavored with butter aroma (which most bakeries here used for economical reason). It might smell somewhat like butter, but the tongue cannot be fooled. Butter has a lower melting point than the human body, so they melt in your mouth, whereas margarine remains solid and coats the mouth like wax. 3) They really do proper baking. Making croissant is a time-consuming process. Fortunately for bakery business owners and unfortunately for the consumers, there are short-cut methods which improves production speed at the expense of taste.

    1. In depth knowledge. You really know your topic, Quas. I thank you for enlightening us with the details.

      To comment, I guess, there's not many consumer out there with such discerning tongue as yours. Lucky for the business owners, they can still get away with par-baked. Does the fact that we are not quite bread eater compared to people in Europe / States make us somewhat not a very good judge of bakery products?

    2. The people who came up with par-baking method for large scale mass production were originally good bakers who put their soul into their craft of making good food with integrity, until one day they realized that they had been making good bread all the while and yet they are still nowhere near joining the 1 %.

      In the States & Europe, these special artisanal bakeries are the minority. Most bread are the typical large scale production batches manufactured by ultra-mega-rich conglomerates. Here, that minority group simply does not exist.

      I don't have any special tongue, everyone can taste the difference. After you tasted that almond croissant, there is no going back to Oh La La, Breadtalk, Breadlife or Tous Les Jours. The question is, would people pay more for good food? As you know too well, our food culture here is 50% off with special credit card promotion that runs for as long as the restaurant is in business. The Mastercard commercial says there are some things money can't buy, good food at a discount price is one of those.

  2. By the way, Rotiboy closed down in Singapore after opening several outlets.

    1. Interesting. What do you think was the problem?

  3. Taste gets boring. Really nothing special about it. Toasted bread with coffee, milk, margarine and sugar. Maybe it's a novelty combination for Indonesians, but certainly not for the typical Singaporean who has that all too often at their favorite Kopitiam hangouts.

    But most importantly, Rotiboy's success here owes much more to conformity than anything else. It's just de riguer for Indonesians to go to malls and queue up for mall bakeries. Singaporeans love queueing up for things too (they probably love it more than us), but curiously not so much for bakeries.


Real Time Analytics