The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A July Bread Pilgrimage - Acme and Tartine

ph_kosel's picture

A July Bread Pilgrimage - Acme and Tartine

On July 2, 2011, I drove from Sacramento down to the San Francisco Bay area and (among other things) visited two rather famous bakeries, Acme Bread Company and Tartine Bakery.

Acme's store in Berkeley was first stop.  It was a very small place and there was a line of customers out the door.  I snapped a couple photos of their sign and the profusion of breads visible through the window.  When I got inside I was a bit flummoxed and felt I had to decide what to buy quickly so as not to hold up the line.  I hastily chose loaves of whole wheat walnut sourdough, olive bread, and braided challah covered with sesame seeds.

^Acme's sign

^Acme's Window

^Loaves from Acme ( top to bottom: Olive, Challah, and Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough)

^Acme Olive loaf crumb

^Acme Challah crumb

^Acme Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough crumb


After leaving Berkeley my wife and I drove across  the Bay to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  Acme was busy, but Tartine was a total zoo, line out the door no place to park for blocks around, and us arriving too early to buy the bread that only goes on sale at 5PM.  We found a place a couple miles away where we could actually park and get some coffee and wait until Tartine was ready to sell bread, but it wasn't easy.  We went back to Tartine at the appointed hour and my wife circled the block while I braved the line and finally scored three loaves of their country bread and a cookbook.  By the time we left my wife was having panic-like shivering fits from the crowded city, narrow streets, and outrageous traffic.  Tartine was not a convenient place to shop and San Francisco is not a nice place to visit in a car, especially on a holiday weekend.  The bread from Tartine was nice but I never ever want to go there again - way too stressful for me!  Once I worked in San Francisco years ago, but these days I'm too old and gimpy to ride the bus and hike up and down hills in a town not designed for people in cars.

I was too dazed by the mob scene at Tartine to snap photos of the place.  The Tartine loaves I bought looked exactly like the photos on the website and the cover of  the "Tartine Bread" cookbook.

Here's a crumb shot:

^Tartine Crumb shot.

It was all great bread.  I gave some to friends and ate at least half a loaf of everything I bought over the next few days (my wife, being on a perpetual low-carb diet, was not competing with me).  The olive bread was great for snacking on while on the road.  The Challah was soft and nice.  The Tartine bread was great although I never want to face that mob scene again.  The Whole Wheat Walnut Sourdough from Acme was really great, so good I had a whack at trying to duplicate it, but that's a story for another day.





teketeke's picture

 Hello, ph_kosel

Thank you for showing us your lovely trip ( Even though you had a tiring day to wait).  Your expression of  the Tartine was like "ZOO" made me laugh, which I could understand when I read all of the reviewers who went to the Tartine bakery shop, and complain about the long line to wait for their bread although I have never been there.

All of the breads are wonderful, especially the crumb of the Tartine bakery is admiring.

I'd like to read your another story of  the whole wheat walnut sourdough from Ame. 

Best wishes,


SylviaH's picture

Wonderful looking breads.  I'm sorry it was not an enjoyable experience for you and your wife and that's a real shame...because that's what eating and trying something delicious should be all about, 'a very enjoyable experience'.  I appreciate your honesty about the stores and's been a while since I've visited SF and even back then it was a zoo.  I can imagine what it's like now.  I will not wait in long lines or stress myself when it's not's just not worth it.


wassisname's picture

Thanks for the honest write-up.  The fact that people are willing to go to so much trouble is encouraging.  Sounds like SF is ready for the next great bakery...

Janetcook's picture

I had to chuckle reading your review.  I was born and raised in S.F. and had to leave when I graduated from college because it made me VERY nervous to think of having to work downtown amidst immensely tall buildings that all but block out any available sunlight on most SF days and the hordes of crazed shoppers and workers that frequent and inhabit that area.  

That was over 35 years ago....

I moved to Denver where there is sunshine 360 days of the year.  Lots of trees and grass lining all of the  LOTS of breathing space.  It is more crowded now but we live out west in the shadow of the Rockies and the pace here is nice and s..l..o..w.

Thanks for the write up and the bread photos from Acme.  I just baked my first loaf of olive bread yesterday - a request from a friend of my son's....olives seem to be a popular ingredient in bread :-)

Glad you and your wife made it safely home!

Take Care,



BurntMyFingers's picture

I lived about 1 mile from Tartine for many years and I can sympathize with your experience while also saying you had a very bad day. There's almost always parking within a block or three if you do some patient cruising. The bread is ready when it's ready and so many folks go early in the day and are disappointed but now you know you can go back at 5 and be rewarded. Give it another try!

varda's picture

you stood in line and took the picture of the Tartine because it's really fabulous to look at.    But of course, I'm sorry you had to endure the mob scene.    Recently I was in the North End (Boston) totally by accident.   And walking by Mike's Pastry totally by accident.   And no line and cannolis for the asking.   But anytime I've tried to go there on purpose it's always a fiasco and generally I just say the heck with it.    -Varda

ph_kosel's picture

Back in the 70's I lived in Berkeley and would take BART or the bus to San Francisco and hike several blocks to a job in the financial district.  Now I live in Sacramento, about 90 miles from "Babylon by the Bay".  I'm too old and gimpy to navigate the hills of San Francisco at more than a snail's pace, and my wife's knees aren't up to climbing on and off a bus with any plausible grace.  Beyond that, I've lost the knack of using mass transit - I got good at that back in the 70's.

San Francisco is simply a much more crowed place than Sacramento, and I had forgotten how hard it is to try to find parking there.


Part of the problem might be that I got used to the S.F. financial district emptying out evenings and weekends.  Tartine's neighborhood was a frenzied beehive the holiday weekend I was there.

breadsong's picture

Thanks for sharing the photos of your bakery visits.
I made it to Tartine once, but wasn't able to taste the is so nice to see the crumb of the loaf you were able to buy.
The Acme breads look really good too...I tasted one of their Rosemary buns over at the Ferry Building...amazing flavor! Hope you enjoyed the breads you purchased.
:^) from breadsong