As a resident of Bernal Heights—a neighborhood that's known more for its liberal politics and crunchy good vibes than its haute cuisine—I was excited to finally get a taste of the much-anticipated Sandbox Bakery, which just opened. No slouch, owner and pastry chef Mutsimi Takehara started learning her craft at La Farine in Oakland and at Chez Panisse. She was then the pastry chef at Rubicon and spent 10 years as the Slanted Door pastry chef. So she's spent some quality time with butter.
Takehara is a mom (two sons) which makes her a perfect fit for Bernal, where the kids wear Crocs and dogs are tied up outside every shop. (Fittingly, when I arrived, the ratio of kids and dogs to adults was about 1:1.) Inside the glass case, Takehara has an assortment of soft, brioche-driven goodies (which clearly have a Japanese influence), such as a corn and bechamel–filled kashi-pan (a Japanese sweet bread), a sort of horn-of-plenty–shaped pastry filled with chocolate pastry cream; a negi-miso filled bun (a mix of Japanese green onions and miso, which reminded me a bit of a gentler biali and that I liked a lot); and warm-from-the-oven hot cross buns filled with a mildly sweet custard. She's also serving up pigs-in-a-blanket with Niman Ranch hot dogs. Personally, I don't think I could stomach a hot dog that early in the morning, but I'm apparently in the minority. There was only one left of the 16 she'd made that morning.
There's also an assortment of sugary scones (ginger, almond, blackberry, strawberry, etc) that lean towards being too sweet for my taste (but Jessica proclaimed delicious) and muffins—of a very civilized size (I'm anti massive muffins)—such as banana-pecan.
The modern bakery is light-filled, with a huge winter bouquet and a painted-grey stacked slate wall. Takehara will also be serving up granola, sandwiches and salad for those that are looking for something more substantial. For coffee heads, there's a choice of De La Paz or Ritual coffee, brewed a cup at a time. I expect the weekend lines to be long so get there now.