The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Visit to San Francisco

WatertownNewbie's picture

Visit to San Francisco

My wife and I recently finished a vacation with two days in San Francisco.  We decided that visiting bakeries was a good way to navigate the city and see some new neighborhoods (at least new to us).

First stop was Acme Bread in the Ferry Building.  A wide selection, and I opted for a sour baguette.  Definitely a nice sour flavor.  Excellent crumb and crust.  This was good to munch on, and was the leader in finding a sourdough with the classic taste.  (We decided not to get anything from Boudin, so I cannot comment on their bread, but they do seem to be everywhere.)

Next was the Mill (aka Josey Baker Bread).  The photos posted on TFL showing a strong dark bake are representative.  Again a fine selection available, and I chose another baguette.  Really great flavor in the crust.  The crumb was good, but not as distinctive as the crust.  The atmosphere at the place was great too, with classic rock being played (from vinyl LPs no less).

Lastly for the first day was Arizmendi.  My wife got a slice of pizza, and I purchased a standard batard.  After two baguettes (and other food) already that day, I had no room for more bread, but I did take the loaf with me on the plane ride home.  A nice crust (great blisters) and crumb.  Certainly a solid bake, and no complaints.

The next day we began at the original Tartine.  Knowing that we would be going next to the Manufactory where the bread is now baked, I chose a Pain au Chocolat, and my wife had a croquette.  Both were superb.  Hard to think that the little hole in the wall was where Chad Robertson set up shop and achieved his following.  We then walked to the Manufactory, which is spacious and has a different vibe.  For about an hour I stood and watched the team making baguettes.  First the giant dough mixers, then the dumping of the dough, the pre-shaping, and then the final shaping.  One person in particular made shaping a baguette look like child's play.  Then we went into the main restaurant area, where I had a bowl of soup and some bread (a portion of a Basic Country loaf).  Superb bread.  Great crust and crumb.  Easy to see why Tartine bread has become so popular.  We got a loaf of the Country Bread to bring home.

If you are in San Francisco with some time to explore, it is simple to traverse the city via the excellent public transit system.  We got a day pass and used our smart phones to find what bus we needed to get from one place to the next.  (Thanks also to those of you who have posted suggestions of bakeries to visit in San Francisco.)


syros's picture

Wow that sounds like quite the trip. Eating your way thru San Fran. Did you take any photos of the bread and of course the bakeries? It all sounds delightfully delicious. 


WatertownNewbie's picture

Thanks Sharon.

Photos?  Certainly, perhaps more than you want, but here they are.


The first stop was Acme Bread.


They have a nice display of a wide variety of bread.


The baguette was ample.


Next was Josey Baker Bread, which is in a storefront with The Mill over the door.  Also a nice selection of breads to choose from.


The bakes are strong and dark.


The baguette was great.


They use a couple of flours from Central Milling, and somewhat surprisingly (at least for me) leave the dough uncovered as it proofs.


Only a couple of photos from Arizmendi.


Lastly, the visit to Tartine Manufactory, where I stood for an hour watching the production.  There is a large bench (shaped slightly concave down).


Some dough is mixed by hand.


There are also large mixers.  This looked like dough for baguettes, which are available after 1:00 pm (we were there in the late morning).  The dough from the mixer was removed, put into plastic tubs, and moved into another area (presumably for the bulk fermentation).


Other dough was brought from the other area and dumped onto the bench.


Then divided, weighed, and pre-shaped for baguettes.


This woman knows how to shape a baguette.  (I took a video in addition to photos just to capture the skills and have something to review when I want to make baguettes.) 





At Tartine they keep a notebook and take photos of the product.


They also have a few bannetons and some nice ovens.


While we were there a notable appeared.  (Chad Robertson was not there to greet him, and my wife and I wondered whether some scheduling ran into a glitch.)


They produce a lot of bread at Tartine.


Eventually we went into the restaurant portion and of course had some of the famed Country bread.

What a great way to spend some time in San Francisco.  Hope you enjoyed the photos.

DanAyo's picture

Thanks for the tour, Ted. I feel like I was on vacation. Your photography was great.

The Acme Bread iron work holding their sign is an absolute work of art.


WatertownNewbie's picture

Yes, the sign is pretty impressive.  So is the bread.  There is so much good bread in San Francisco.  That should be your first flight.


syros's picture

great photos! I feel like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing that incredible experience. So much bread!



WatertownNewbie's picture

Part of the reason for posting so many photos was to give an impression of what it was like to see all of that great bread and to watch the production at Tartine.  As for tasting the bread, you will have to take care of that yourself.

BreadBabies's picture

I have like 15 minutes of video of the folks at the Tartine Manufactory working their bread. I've been meaning to edit it down and post it for ages. Some day.....

Next time, be sure to hit Tony's Pizza Neapolitana. The thing that man does with pizza and pizza crust is other-worldly.

Glad you enjoyed your time in the Bay Area.

WatertownNewbie's picture

They did not seem to mind that I was standing there for an hour taking photos, so there must be a bunch of persons who stand there and watch intently.  It was a bit like going to school and watching experts at their specialty.

Where is Tony's Pizza?  We were intent on visiting the great bread bakeries on my list, but on another trip we would likely have more time for other dough creations.

BreadBabies's picture

Tony's Pizza Neapolitana is between the financial district and Little Italy. Right near a big Catholic Church..I wanna say it's St. Francis. I'm sure you could do a search and find it.

I think the thing I took away from watching at the Manufactory is that mastery is really all about repetition. I mean, I already knew that but my visit emphasized that principle. I struck up a conversation with one of the workers who was getting off shift and I asked her how the folks back there got their jobs. Basically, these were not bread experts, just restaurant workers who had an interest in the bread side and started doing it.  Any expertise they had was really from practice after getting the job.

While, of course, they knew what they were doing and I enjoyed watching it, I was actually struck by the fact that they did not seem to be as anal retentive (and I mean that in the best possible way) as our dear friends on this website (and of course in larger-scale production, they probably shouldn't be). While watching, I realized there truly are some amateur-masters here who probably eat-breathe-sleep bread, all its permutations, causes and effects more than those folks do. It gave me a remarkable appreciation for the skill set of some of the folks here. Have these "Manufactorists" mentally downloaded as much experimental data on the behavior of yeasts as Dan?  Is their shaping as immaculate as Alan's? Do they have the breadth of Dr. Snyder or the levain chops of dabrownman? Not to take anything away from them, but wow did it give me an even deeper respect for the so-called "home bakers" on The Fresh Loaf.

I should note, however, that the 2018 Baker of Year wasn't present when I went. Just three twenty-somethings.

Wild-Yeast's picture

Our city by the Bay has a lot of quirks but it's an unforgettable place on the planet worth seeing as many times as you can afford to.

Chad and Elizabeth Robertson are stars of hard work and persistence in establishing the groundwork necessary to set the "good bread" into the minds of visitors (+ Chronicle Publishing and the "Tartine" book series). Boudin is over the top commercial. ACME set the stage across the Bay in Berkeley for affordable good bread early on. Josey is an ambiance throwback but you caught it right (was Starship playing?).

Thanks for the images and captions of the experience - I can almost smell the mix of roasted coffee, patisserie and sourdough bread. 

Thanks for the posting...,


WatertownNewbie's picture

Thanks for your comments.  At Josey Baker there was a Bowie album followed by The Who.  Glad you could feel the places from the photos.