EASTERN BAKERY is the oldest Chinese bakery in Chinatown. It was founded in 1924 by the Lee Family and has been continually operating for 93 years. Orlando Kuan and his family bought it from the Lee’s in 1985. “We have to carry on the tradition of the place — all the old recipes like the Coffee Crunch cake and mooncakes,” he said.
Most of the menu and decor remains the same — the bright yellow walls with mooncake packaging scattered about, still baring the original design featuring the Moon Goddess from the Lunar New Year folk tale. Kuan boasts that their mooncakes uses lotus paste made in-house. “It takes eight hours to make,” he said. “Most bakeries don’t do that.”
Aside from their mooncakes, another famous item is the Coffee Crunch cake, a yellow sponge cake with mocha whipped cream and toffee crumbles glittering on the outside. It’s a revered San Francisco classic, with its origin tied to the Blum’s — a now defunct bakery in Union Square, though Eastern Bakery developed their own version. “I’ve been here 31 years and I still can’t resist having a slice,” said Kuan.
Their last iconic dish are their Smackles, a slightly savory cookie in cool retro packaging. They had purchased the brand from another bakery and continue the tradition of manufacturing these cookies nicknamed “cow ear cookies” (or ngo yi in Chinese.)
Orlando Kuan comes from bakery royalty — he opened Golden Gate Bakery with his brother down the street in 1976, which was created out of a need to find work. “When you come to the United States, you have to look for something.” Their something was dan tat, Chinese egg tart with sweet yolk in a flaky pastry shell -- so popular that there’s often a line in front of Golden Gate Bakery (when they’re open at least.) Kuan carries on that same tradition at Eastern Bakery with one of their variations of the egg tart -- the Custard Tart. It has a creamier taste, which he attributes to that “special ingredient.” Special indeed.
Signature dishes: Lotus Mooncake, Coffee Crunch Cake, Smackles
Proprietor: Orlando Kuan
Address: 720 Grant Ave
Hours: open daily; 9:30am-8:30pm
Phone: (415) 433-7973