I don’t write second posts about a restaurant or sight very often (I usually just add an updated section at the bottom of the original post), but this felt like a worthy exception. I was in the San Francisco Bay Area for a college friend’s wedding. The wedding was in the Oakland hills and my friends and I stayed at the a hotel in Berkeley. The next morning I was heading into the city to stay with a friend from Miami, but before that I was going to grab breakfast with my college friends.
I had a few gluten-free options on my list for Berkeley from some research, including a cafe close to Cal’s campus (and our hotel) with some intriguing options. My friend had spent some time at Cal for work a few years ago and suggested driving away from campus to find a place that was more relaxed and probably wouldn’t have as long of a wait.That was mostly fine with me, but I was slightly ambivalent given my earlier excitement about the cafe with gluten-free options (Tivoli was the name for any other gluten-frees around Berkeley).
We headed down College Ave towards Rockridge. My friend had been to the area many times, but didn’t have any specific ideas. The type-A side of me that reveals itself when it comes to food and travel began looking on Yelp for places to go. The top contender on the first main strip we hit had a long wait and we were all very hungry (plus I had a bit of a time crunch with plans with friends in the city). The second cluster of restaurants we came across didn’t have any options that really called out and my friend didn’t recommend a place he had been to before.
Just for kicks I put in “gluten-free” around my “Current Location” in Yelp and Mariposa Baking Company popped up 2-3 minutes away. I had been to Mariposa Baking Company on a previous San Francisco trip (to their location in the Ferry Building). My gluten friend I had gone with that time had really enjoyed the food she ate, so I thought maybe this could be an option for all of us for breakfast (but thought it was a long shot). I wasn’t totally sure of what my friends would think of an all gluten-free cafe, but they had open minds and were totally down for it a little surprisingly. I had planned to make a return visit to Mariposa at the Ferry Building during my trip anyways, but this meant I visited earlier in my trip and visited their main location!
I do have an original post on Mariposa Baking Company from my first visit, but that was written months after I actually visited… The location at the Ferry Building has a good number of options, but this Oakland location is the main location and the options are much more extensive. The Ferry Building location might have updated their menu since my visit, but the Oakland location has a lot more sandwiches and made to order options (the Ferry Building appears limited by space). Thus a second post seemed like the right thing to do.
In my last post I had described Mariposa as the “Willy Wonka Factory” of gluten-free baking. At the time it was pretty ahead of the times in terms of the variety and quality of what it was offering. It still has tons of variety (like tons!) and so I deliberated carefully about what to get. I had a lot of gluten-free sweets two days before in Columbus (Wedding #1 of the weekend), plus it was breakfast, so I went for more savory stuff (my favorite anyways). I “started” with a ham and cheese pocket off the menu, which was an easy decision. I then definitely wanted to get a sandwich and settled on an egg-in-nest sandwich. I then turned my attention back to the displayed baked goods and got a cheese danish, chocolate croissant, and chocolate chip cookie. My friend got a breakfast sandwich with salmon and another also got an egg-in-nest sandwich.
It’s unheard of for me to visit a gluten-free bakery and not get something ham and cheese related (if they have it). I’m not even that huge a fan of ham, but I do like those types of baked goods (ham and cheese croissants, ham and cheese sandwiches, ham and cheese breakfast pies, etc.). They usually are very savory, crispy, and the ham adds a little more heartiness to the cheese filling. There certainly was some crisp/crunch to the pocket, plus it was flaky in parts. It was almost like a flattened out croissant without the ridged texture on the outside and an air “pocket” towards the top. I liked that the ham inside was very crispy and well-done and the cheese was melted all the way (not always the case in savory pastries). Texture wise it was more gluten-like than gluten-free like, which was great, but there still were some bites where it felt more chewy and slightly dry. This is not dry in an overcooked sense, but more just the standard dry in a gluten-free baking way.
I was very excited to try the egg-in-a-nest, which is a sandwich with a hole in the middle of the top filled with egg. This is the type of thing I encounter the least in my gluten-free experiences (sweet baked goods like cupcakes being most common and then more pre-made savory baked goods like the ham and cheese stuff). I loved seeing the crisp of the egg fried into the top of the bread and was excited for the added texture and flavor of that. That meant I didn’t have as much of a direct taste of the bread itself, but it seemed to be very good. I certainly did like the texture and flavor of the egg and it all complemented the cheese and turkey inside. My friend (a gluten eater) certainly enjoyed his.
Next I moved onto the cheese danish. I had this at their San Francisco Ferry Building location and really enjoyed it. The doughyness inside, crisp outside, and the creamy cheese center was excellent. This was the thing that made me decide Mariposa was the real deal on my first visit a few years ago. I again really enjoyed it. The cheese filling especially added a creamy texture and a rich flavor. I also liked the mix of savory and sweet with the rich cheese and a little bit of frosting on top of the savory danish.
I was going to save the pretzel, cookie, and croissant for later, but my friend really wanted to try the pretzel and I was about to leave them to go into the city. We ate the pretzel, which my friend really loved. I thought it was a little yeasty inside (I prefer more of a crispy pretzel), but this was part of what my friend loved. It did have the pretzel taste (probably helped by the yeasty-ness) and the huge salt crystals on top were a simple, but great, addition (I never was able to have these kind of pretzels as a kid as they didn’t exist).
My other friend got the breakfast sandwich and she thought it was delicious and didn’t seem to think the bread was that off in terms of flavor or consistency (compared to regular gluten bread). She never had done salmon on a breakfast sandwich before, but liked that addition.
Later that afternoon after burning a hole (figuratively speaking) in my new shoes walking all around the city, I had the chocolate croissant and chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate croissant is definitely one I’d recommend heating up. It felt pretty crunchy to me and a little dense. I think some heat would have helped with this and accentuated the flavor more. The chocolate chip cookie was also quite crunchy. If you like very crispy cookies (in taste and texture) you’ll like this one.
The next day (Monday) I went back to Berkeley to meet up with some friends who go to law school at Cal. We did lunch at Pieology and then I had a few hours to kill before meeting up with a friend for an early dinner. I ended up walking down Telegraph Avenue to Oakland and along the way made a stop again at Mariposa. I went for a ham and cheese grilled cheese (off of the kid’s menu!). It was good, but think I might have enjoyed the regular grilled cheese more. You either have the heartiness and flavor of the meat (ham or turkey in these cases) or you forgo that to get the extra gooeyness and extra crispiness of a straight grilled cheese. No reflection at all on Mariposa, but I felt I should have gone for just the grilled cheese. The ham and cheese was great (bread was good, it had crisp), but an extra gooey grilled cheese would have really hit the spot.
I slightly feel like in an attempt to be extra descriptive that this is coming off as more of a mixed review, which is certainly not the case. Mariposa has tons of excellent gluten-free treats. I love that they have an extensive lunch menu with lots of sandwiches, plus tons of baked goods. They also have a lot of frozen take home options like pizza crusts, ravioli, and loaves of breads. I really also didn’t touch the sweets this trip (cupcakes, cookies, etc.). There really is so much (muffins, biscottis, brownies, bagels). Looking back at their website I missed the ice cream sandwich (or they might have already run out), which I really regret. There’s already so many things I want to try on future visits to the Bay (the Reuben sandwich, fruit danish, tarts, cinnamon roll). The options really are insane (have I made that clear enough?). The Ferry Building is a great option for tourists in San Francisco and then anyone in the East Bay should figure out how to stop by the main Oakland location. For really deprived gluten-frees I would probably say it’s worth the trek over from the city to Oakland for the main location (though the Ferry Building menu might have expanded since my last visit). Some great looking pictures below (claiming that from the looks of the food and not my photography skills)!
Marioposa Baking Company- 5427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609