I was a freelancer and frequent reader at the time, and I remember lingering on every word of the SE Chocolate Chip Cookie Gospel. A perfect chocolate chip cookie, wrote Carey Jones, should have "a precise balance of buttery, sweet, and salty." It should have high quality chocolate "that plays a big part but doesn't overwhelm." She got into detail too: the kind of chocolate chip cookie you dream about should be crisp around the edges but soft and melty in the middle.
I wouldn't say that San Francisco is necessarily a chocolate chip cookie focused town (if I had to pick, I'd say that SF's sweet mascot would be ice cream) but nevertheless, it's a town full of talented bakers, so I decided to investigate my neighborhood's cookies. I lured a few food-industry friends to join me on a series of cookie crawls to determine if the Mission had any truly terrific cookies to offer. Would the best cookie be at a popular spot with a super-long line, or hidden somewhere I might not expect?
We only included chocolate chip cookies that were baked on site and available for takeout. We rated each cookie on texture, dough flavor, chocolate flavor, and overall balance. We considered whether there was adequate salt, and whether there were any off flavors. But of course all cookie lovers don't love the same cookie: some are seeking the gooey, oozy chocolate bomb, while others crave a crisp crackle. Because of those differences in preference, we've tried to recommend the best cookie for you in our ratings below.
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in The Mission
Best Nostalgic Cookie: Anthony's Cookies
We liked the smaller size of Anthony's classic chocolate chip cookie, and tasters were quick to declare their love. "It's the quintessential cookie," noted one. Anthony's cookie scored high for texture: soft in the center without being raw, and lots of brown-butter-toffee flavor toward the edges. This is one of the few cookies we tried that really showcased that range of texture. The chocolate flavor is simple, sweet, and milky, just like the cookies you'd bring in your lunchbox way back when.
Best Gooey Cookie: Goody Goodie Cream & Sugar
The classic Goody Goodie cookie is made with four different types of chocolate from E. Guittard: 61%, 72%, milk, and semi-sweet. The result is a messy cookie that require finger-licking, with a tender crumb and nice caramelizing on the edge. "The extent to which this cookie is pure chocolate diminishes its structural integrity," noted one taster, but chocolate-lovers appreciated how the melty chocolate created creamy strata throughout the cookie. The only downside to this one was a bit too much vanilla and a touch too much sweetness; luckily, they nailed the salt, which helped balance the whole thing. If this place was a bit more convenient, we might find ourselves eating these crave-worthy cookies way too often.
Almost Perfect: Salumeria
We found ourselves eating the entire cookie from Salumeria despite some serious cookie fatigue. The buttery dough bends easily and offers a nice chew, while the edge shatters crisply. The almost-creamy texture of the center of the cookie was ideal. The dough is simple, sugary and buttery—it mostly serves as a foil for the chocolate, though. In half-melty shards, the chocolate is distributed generously throughout this flat cookie, though it doesn't have a ton of complex or bold flavor. The balance is good and all the flavors of this cookie meld together nicely, but some tasters wished for slightly bolder flavors from both the dough and the chocolate.
For Chocolate Lovers: Arizmendi
A mix of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate appears in this chocolate-heavy cookie, which has a nice chew that sometimes veers toward a slightly grainy, crumbly texture. Salt and sweet are in balance, but the cookie itself isn't what you'll crave here. If you're seeking a heavy dose of chocolate, this one will do.
If You Like Your Cookie Crisp: Tartine Bakery
Tartine doesn't make a chewy cookie, so if that's what you're looking for, you'll be disappointed. (Order a dreamy chocolate croissant instead.) The dough is mixed with walnuts and oats and sliced off a dough block to yield crisp, flat disks. The cookie is almost lacy in texture and decidedly nutty and toasty. The chocolate, Valrhona 70% Guanaja, offers a dark, smoky flavor, but we wished for slightly more of it as we ate our way through.
For Adult Palates: Craftsman & Wolves
We spotted big flakes of Maldon salt on the top of this cookie, so we weren't surprised when this turned out to be a pretty contemporary, grown-up take on the classic. The texture is firm, with some nice toasty caramelized bits on the edges (though some wished for a softer center), and the chocolate (80% cacao Valrhona) has a rich bitterness. This isn't a nostalgic cookie or one for kids, but if the texture were a little softer in the center we could easily call it a favorite.
Recommended with Reservations
If You Feel Like A Nut: Mission Beach Cafe
Mission Beach Cafe tends to sell out of cookies early, so there must be lots of folks who enjoy walnuts in their giant chocolate chip cookies. As long as you're ok with nuts, you'll like this one, which veers toward the nostalgic, with crisp edges and a softer, thicker center. There's a good proportion of chocolate, the kind that evokes childhood memories. The big chunks of walnuts aren't at all bitter—a flaw which appears surprisingly often—but some tasters complained that the vanilla-laced dough is a little cakey in texture and could offer slightly more flavor. Though there's adequate salt, any bites without nuts or chocolate end up a little bland.
Dough Troubles: Knead Patisserie
The chocolate flavor in this cookie (they use Guittard 72% cacao) was great, boasting deep, full chocolate bitterness. Although the dough had nice salt balance and nicely developed caramel flavors, the texture was a little dry and we noticed a slight metallic bitterness, perhaps from baking powder.
Not Quite Worth the Wait: Mission Cheese
'Baked to order' is a kind of brilliant idea when it comes to cookies, but we had to wait quite a while for our warm cookie to arrive. The aroma is tantalizing, and the caramelized edges of just-crisped sugar were perfect, but the center was actually raw and liquidy. If you crave a molten cookie, this is where to get it, but ours had a slightly off flavor, as if it had been cooked on a surface that held something savory.
Too Crumbly: Charles Chocolate
The thick chocolate walnut cookie at Charles is made with 45% cacao chocolate that's definitely tasty, but the balance and texture is off. The dough, which is crumbly and shortbread-like with almost no chew, dominates, and there's no depth of caramelized flavor.
Too Bready: Bi-Rite Market
Bi-Rite sells these thick patty-shaped cookies in the deli, but you're really better off going for their excellent ice cream. The dose of chocolate is small, and the cookie itself is bready, not buttery, without any sort of caramel development. Our tasters wondered if there might be some whole wheat lurking in the dough; it just didn't have the tender richness we were craving.
Too Cakey: Mission Picnic
The cookies at Mission Picnic are baked in house, but they get the dough from an outside supplier. Served warm, the cookie is a little cakey, without enough chocolate to balance the dough.
Too Grainy and Tough: Pig & Pie
These cookies are produced by Butter Love Bakeshop, which shares a space with Pig & Pie. They're made with 50% cacao bittersweet chocolate from Ghirardelli, and while the chocolate layers nicely, the cookie was difficult to snap and the texture was grainy. "This bums me out," said one taster of this cookie.
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Where's your favorite chocolate chip cookie in the Mission? What about in San Francisco as a whole?