San Francisco’s Arsicault opens spacious Civic Center bakery for croissant bliss – San Francisco Chronicle

Restaurant News

A woman walked into Arsicault’s new Civic Center bakery on Thursday morning and looked around, confused.

“Where’s the line?” she asked.

This is, after all, the second location of the Inner Richmond district spot that Bon Appetit named the best bakery in the country in 2016. After the magazine bestowed the title onto the original Arsicault, the bakery experienced astonishing crowds and started selling out of pastries by 10 a.m.

Understandably, owner Armando Lacayo wanted to make sure everything was right at his new bakery just off UN Plaza before alerting the masses. He quietly opened the doors on Tuesday.

“I’m very excited. I’m very overwhelmed,” Lacayo said. “We’re very nervous.”

The new Arsicault is nearly 3,000 square feet, with an open kitchen on the main floor as well as a spacious downstairs kitchen — roughly three times the production space compared to the Richmond location. That means Lacayo will be able to dramatically expand Arsicault’s menu to include more desserts, breads and sandwiches down the line.

For now, though, the Civic Center bakery offers a familiar lineup: plain croissants, filled croissants, kouign amanns and chocolate chip cookies. While the Richmond location once also baked chocolate and lemon tarts, that became too difficult to juggle once the Bon Appetit story dropped.

“When that article came out, I had to sacrifice the menu,” he said. “Now, we have an opportunity to leverage that notoriety.”

Arsicault Bakery owner Armando Lacayo stands outside his original bakery in the Inner Richmond District.

Once Lacayo gets settled in, he plans to bring back tarts alongside napoleons, eclairs and opera cakes. He’s excited to sell quiche and eventually bring in a lunch crowd with simple sandwiches on perfectly toasted bread — of course, he’ll make the baguettes and country loaves, too.

For now, few mind Arsicault’s limited selection when the quality is so high. The croissants are sublimely light and flaky, the product of one extra turn of the dough, according to Lacayo. The almond croissants feature a crackling crust and gooey almond cream spiked with rum. The kouign amann are like dense, buttery hockey pucks of laminated dough with a shatteringly crispy, caramelized exterior — a regional style Lacayo remembers trying when he was 13 years old in Brittany, the birthplace of the pastry.

“Dense means more concentrated flavor and more time for the butter and sugar to interact,” Lacayo said.

In addition to more kitchen space, the Civic Center location offers more opportunities to sit and linger over a croissant and a latte. There are about 16 seats, plus a standing bar, and Lacayo has plans to add outdoor seating in the future. The space feels notably open, with soaring ceilings, white walls and white tile.

“We look respectable now but we want to provide the same experience,” Lacayo said. “The only thing that matters is quality.”

Arsicault. 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. 87 McAllister St., San Francisco.

Janelle Bitker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @janellebitker

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