If Hayes Valley is San Francisco’s most logical home for macarons, then the grittier end of SoMa ought to have its own signature confection as well. South of Market has so many disparate identities that it’s impossible to choose, but whatever it is, it’s probably at the new Chantal Guillon on Howard Street.
[jump] The third after the Hayes Valley and Palo Alto locations, it’s a surprisingly vast bakery-café filled with tiered cookie towers and ample seating. It’s almost uncomfortably big, actually, although softened by the colored glass light fixtures. Everything here is gorgeous and delicate, from the navettes (mini sandwiches) to the taquito-sized eclairs to the dozens of pastel macarons.
“Have you tasted all my flavors?” is Guillon’s slightly ingenuous tagline, and they’re all there: red velvet, Persian rose, salted caramel, lavender & black currant, ispahan (raspberry, lychee, and rose), and almond amaretto. There’s not only gelato but gelato bites ($1.50 each, but if you buy a dozen or more, the dry ice is complimentary), but coffee by Graffeo. This means you can have a gelato affogato, which would probably be the treat that most closely matches SoMa’s current temperament.
Although worse blocks of SoMa have seen bigger changes, this is quite a leap for a stretch of sidewalk that was usually home to a castaway mattress towards the end of any given month. In 2010, I lived around the block and had my van broken into right in front of what is now Chantal Guillon. The salty, fatty, duck pâté navette was much, much better.
Chantal Guillon, 1309 Howard, 512-1020.