The streets of San Francisco are slower now, and we find ourselves at that middle city time between breakfast and lunch. The coldness has been swept away and the summer sun now warms the bottom of our shoes as we cross the dry asphalt of the intersection in a single file line, carrying our bag of Belinda’s gifted purple wheat granola with pride.
“Michel made pretty much all of the furniture,” she says casually, watching our expressions as we reach out to touch the soft smoothness of the artfully crafted wooden table that sits family style in the center of it all.
“I know,” she laughs, “I don’t know how he finds the time.”
b. on the go is more modern than the cafe, open and airy with lots of exposed steel, rustic wood, and black and white tile floors. A young guy named Wolfie with a beard and a blue bandana hands us a house made shrub — fermented guava served with sparkling water.
We saunter about in the kitchen where the bakers prepare the croissant overflow for the bakery. The dough is long and flat, spread perfectly and architecturally over the countertops. The hands move in and out in rhythm and with purpose.
We snap shots of tomato bisque with big croutons, a banh mi sandwich made with Chinese barbecued pork belly, cucumber, jalapeño, pickled carrots & daikon on their soft homemade rolls. There’s a grilled cheese with mushroom duxelle — finely chopped mushrooms cooked to the consistency of a pâte — and melted Swiss between their ciabatta, which is sliced thin and formed miraculously into the shape of a simple fold-over quesadilla.
We forget how full we are from the overflowing pastries enjoyed just one hour earlier, and instead — we eat.
There’s a soothing quality to the savory sandwiches and the cool, tiny bubbles of the guava shrub, the way they mingle in our mouths, washing away the sweetness from this morning’s feast of kouign-amann and cakes.
“I was once a chef, too,” Candice says as we ask about her own story, “culinary school and all.”
The all-female b. patisserie crew, she continues on, is actually made up of Belinda’s best friends. They’d been anticipating the exact moment, waiting for Belinda to say go. And when it happened, they dropped their jobs and swarmed — like a body of honeybees leaving their hive to fly off together, accompanied by a queen to start their new colony.
To learn more about b. on the go visit their website or pay them a visit in San Francisco. Big thanks to Michel, Belinda, Candice, and the entire team for bringing us into your wondrous world of pastries and sandwiches, shrubs and coffees (and congrats on your 2018 James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker).
b. on the go
2794 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115
This article is adapted from our book in progress - Culinary Pilgrimage: 100 Day Journey Around America. When published, a percentage of the book will go towards helping end hunger nationwide.