A new location of homegrown cafe chain La Boulangerie opened today, August 22, in the Financial District at 655 Montgomery. At just 300 square-feet, it’s a petite, utilitarian spot in the shadow of the Transamerica Building that’s tailored to downtown workers seeking coffee, pastry, hot items like quiche, and sandwiches to go. It is also the proving ground for a new menu of cafe au lait drinks: Coffee and warm milk or cream, in contrast to lattes made from espresso and steamed milk.
Some pre-designated cafe au lait drink options include a “mint grasshopper” made with single origin Brazilian coffee, chocolate, and fresh mint, and a “vanilla malt bomb” with vanilla syrup and malt. Another, “chicory and brown sugar bump,” nods to New Orleans, where cafe au lait is particularly popular. That’s made with chicory and brown sugar simple syrup, grated nutmeg, and candied walnuts.
Tea au lait — jasmine silver tip green tea, whole milk, simple syrup, lemon zest and matcha sugar dust — is also for sale, and customers can customize their own drinks, from their choice of milk, tea or coffee, simple syrup, and garnish.
Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., 655 Montgomery is the seventh La Boulangerie overall and the second one downtown as the chain, née La Boulange, regains its foothold in San Francisco. All its original locations were shuttered by Starbucks, which acquired the bakery in 2012 for $100 million. Founder Pascal Rigo returned with the nearly identical La Boulangerie de San Francisco in 2015, opening in former La Boulange spaces and new locations.
Rigo has also bounced back with retail partnerships at Costco and Trader Joe’s (where Boulangerie breads and pastries aren’t labelled by brand, per TJ’s customs). Rigo is also taking his chain approach back to his native France, where local bakeries are struggling. There, he opened one called La P’tite Boulangerie in Cap Ferret, which he hopes will be the first of many “microboulangeries.”
Back in the Bay Area, La Boulangerie plans to open two more locations this year, nearing the threshold for the city’s formula retail laws that limit chains of more than 11 stores. Rigo has said he wants to open 30 to 40 stores in the Bay Area alone.