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Beard Papa

August 16, 2006

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Okay, Short Exact has no problem admitting it: we are more than just fashionably late to the Beard Papa party. Although Beard Papa opened in San Francisco (right near the Yerba Buena Gardens and the Metreon) just this past May, it seems that everyone in the Bay Area has already sampled their famous cream puffs, which have been all the rage all across the world, including Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Korea. With a couple hundred stores open across the world, the Bay Area is late to the game, but the lines which have reliably developed outside the San Francisco store (and which continue to develop, even a few months later) show that Bay Area citizens are making up for lost time. Nota bene: Hopefully these lines will be less of a problem in the near future. A second Beard Papa location in the city is opening in the new San Francisco Centre (barely a block away from the current location), and there is an additional location planned for Redwood City, as well.

So how, with all the commotion and hullabaloo surrounding the Beard Papa opening, did it take Short Exact so long to finally try these famous cream puffs, so esteemed and revered across the world? Well, it seemed that every time we dropped by, there was a line. Generally, we don’t enjoy waiting in lines unless we know for sure that whatever product we are waiting for is well worth the time. So we waited until the perfect opportunity came. It did finally come, just this past Saturday, early in the afternoon, when miraculously, there was no line.

Short Exact ordered the vanilla bean cream puff, Beard Papa’s original, classic signature item,

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which set us back only $1.75. True, it’s just a cream puff, but it fit snugly into the palm of our hand, and we feel that the price is reasonable for a puff of this size. Beard Papa has a few other assorted sweets, coffee, and tea, but the real draw here is obviously these puffs, which can be ordered one-at-a-time, or in bundles of 6 or 12. The original flavor is vanilla, and vanilla and chocolate cream remain the main staple flavors, supplemented by others, including caramel, green tea, milk tea, and pumpkin.

An important thing to keep in mind about these puffs is that they are not French pastries. Though based on a spinoff of a Western idea, Beard Papa’s puffs are fundamentally Japanese cream puffs, so they are filled with a semi-sweet mixture of custard and whipped cream. The interior cream of the Beard Papa puff has a nice light, fluffy texture and just the right taste, which, true to a Japanese puff, is not too sweet. Therefore, if you are expecting something more in the style of a French pastry (which would generally involve a cream that is both sweeter and heavier in texture than Beard Papa’s cream), you will likely be a bit disappointed. The semi-sweet cream-custard interior is surrounded by a two-layer pastry shell. The outer layer is a harder pie crust, and the inner layer is a softer choux pastry. The creamy interior, combined with the hard and soft layers of the pastry shell, give the Beard Papa’s cream puffs a really very nice texture, with a rather mild, light flavor. The custard and whipped cream filling is prepared several times per day, and the pastry shell is filled once an order is placed, so in some sense, every Beard Papa cream puff is freshly made to order — and it’s best to eat it immediately after receiving it.

Beard Papa does indeed serve a solid, fresh, Japanese cream puff that is light and tasty. The cream puffs are not so revelatory that we would gladly wait in line for longer than a few minutes to obtain one, but if we’re in the neighborhood, and the line is of reasonable length, we’ll be glad to drop in. At any rate, the Bay Area is long overdue in getting its own Beard Papa shop, so it’s great to finally have one in town.

RATING:

COST:

99 Yerba Buena Lane (at Mission St., between 3rd St. and 4th St.)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.978.9972
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00 am – 8:00 pm; Sun, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Cuisine: Bakery
Neighborhood: South of Market

How to get there: Beard Papa is a just a couple blocks from the Powell BART/Muni subway station, and is conveniently located within a few blocks of many Muni lines: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9X, 10, 12, 14, 21, 26, 27, 30, 31, 38, 45, 76, F, J, K, L, M, N, and T.

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One comment

  1. I dunno… anyplace with that guy on the sign…
    Nothing like Ma Jong’s down in Sac. I mean common’, Ma Jong? How excellent is that? And there’s a little Chinese lady dressed to look like the See’s Candy woman on the sign.
    It’s wrong, but oh so awesome.



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