Thomas Who?

The Bay Area's outstanding toast to English muffins

The bulk of the exceptional pastries at the new Sandbox Bakery in Bernal Heights are made with Japanese-style challah dough.

There's one notable exception: Sandbox's English muffins.

Made from long-fermeneted dough fortified with whole-wheat flour, the muffins are light and chewy. Owner Mutsumi Takehara cooks them on a griddle, then finishes them in the oven. They're offered individually ($1) or in packets of four ($2.75) and served with her mother-in-law's jam.

Later this month, Takehara will begin serving English-muffin breakfast sandwiches, such as mushroom with Gruyère, and smoked salmon with soy sauce.

Takehara's not the only one smitten. Arizmendi Bakery in the Inner Sunset makes a stellar sourdough rendition (60 cents); up in Napa Valley, the two locations of The Model Bakery bake what they claim to be the world's best English muffin ($1.60), an anomalously flaky version.

On the substantive front, Mission Beach Café offers a standout morning sandwich ($8) of sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar on airy house-baked English muffins. And Spork chef Bruce Binn uses dough from the restaurant's legendary dinner rolls to create what he calls "English toast," griddle-toasted bread circles.

They're used for the brunch menu's Wagon Wheel ($12)–a brawny tower of hamburger, Tillamook cheddar, a sunny-side-up egg and redeye gravy made with Four Barrel coffee. Unexpectedly, the toast is also the anchor of Spork's renegade inside-out burger ($14).