HOT BAKED CHINESE
The Chinatown bakeries have gone all Chinese-y.
Sun Wah Kue was famous for their apple pies, and their orange pies were legendary. But Ping Yuen Bakery stayed open till nine, and I was addicted to their offerings.
So just plain strong coffee it is.
[Remarkably, there was a pastry waiting when I got home.]
The other great thing about old-school Chinatown bakeries was that unlike most of the places in North Beach, there were no artistic intellectuals and bohemians infesting them. Yeah, the coffee was only okay, but the ambiance was stellar.
Eastern Bakery tore out the lunch counter years ago, Uncle's changed hands several times and finally disappeared, Sun Wah Kue closed a long time back, and Ping Yuen is now a foot rubbery.
[Eastern's lunch counter was staffed by a very sweet petite old lady, spry and lively minded. She's retired now, and has visited Europe, New Orleans, and Alaska ... Uncle's was where Rose Pak hung out. Their pie was decent. Sun Wah Kue was a great place on an inclement day, rain clattering in the alleyway, warm pie and hot coffee in front of you, and a cheerful racket from the front. Ping Yuen, ah, well. Set dinners, lovely cream pies, and bold capable waitresses. A long counter, and booths along one side. I spent hours there, often heading to the Taai Ming Sing afterwards for a Hong Kong gangster movie.]
Contrariwise, in this day and age there are some wonderful freaky baked goods, and you can get Hong Kong style milk tea.
Plus at least one shop does a very lovely cheese cake, my heavens.
There is also 意大利蛋糕 ('yi daai lei daan-gou').
So it does have an up-side.
Today's Chinatown bakeries, like their ancestors, also are not popular among infestatious artistic intellectuals and bohemians, and still don't do fancy coffee concoctions. In fact, only rarely does one even encounter a Caucasian there, and after they have asked all there is to ask about the baked charsiu buns and egg tarts they always promptly leave.
You do not need to worry about them drinking all the milk tea.
It isn't something they've heard about.
A hot cup of yuen yeung (鴛鴦) and a fresh heung chong yiuk sung min baau kuen (香蔥肉鬆麵包捲); sheer bliss.
It ain't Starbucks.
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