13 of the best places to get San Francisco Sourdough
It’s crispy and crunchy. It’s tangy and sour. It holds up your favorite sandwich and sops up your most-loved soup. Sourdough bread is in a league of its own, and no city is more famous for this loaf than San Francisco.
In 1849 Isidore Boudin (of the eponymous Boudin bakery) came to San Francisco and is credited by many as creating the first loaf of sourdough. Isidore’s wife, Marie Louise Boudin, ran the bakery side by side until Isidore’s death in 1887. Marie saved the Boudin mother dough from the Great Earthquake and Fire in 1906, according to Boudin’s historical records.
It’s the mother dough that makes sourdough so special (yes, special enough to be saved from natural disasters!). Most dough is made using commercial yeast, but sourdough is made using wild yeast, which means it will taste slightly different depending on where it’s made.
This brings us to our next point – where to find the best sourdough bread in San Francisco. Any way you slice it (we had to) you’ll find a great sourdough treat at these spots.
Read on, bread lovers!
At the Wharf, you can watch Boudin’s famous bread being made, get a museum tour to learn the history of their San Francisco sourdough, and indulge in many variations of sourdough. You can get soup or chili in a bread bowl, sandwiches and grilled cheese, sourdough pizza and more.
In addition to classic loaves to take home, you can also get a specialty loaf in a variety of shapes. They’re most well known for their sourdough crab bread (shaped like a crab, not filled with it). They also offer bread in shapes of an alligator, bear, heart, cable car and more. Fisherman’s Wharf is quite the tourist destination, so do expect a sizeable crowd and go before you’re starving for some sourdough.
Photo Courtesy of Boudin
Photo Courtesy of Semifreddi’s
The 100+ full-time employees at this family-owned bakery make over 200,000 loaves of bread and over 40,000 pastries and cookies each week! At their retail location in Kensington (near Berkeley, okay, we know it’s outside of San Francisco, but trust us) you can get hot sourdough paninis, custom sandwiches, cookies, and loaves to go.
Their massive bakery in Alameda is also Green Business certified, offering natural light, a robust recycling program, and smart delivery routes. They’re dedicated to giving back to the community and provide extra baked goods to charities each week.
- Address: See them at 1 Ferry Building, Stall #15 San Francisco, CA 94111
- Hours: Mon – Fri 7am – 7:30pm, Sat and Sun 8am – 7pm
- Claim to fame: The Pain au Levain variation of traditional sourdough
Acme’s Pain au Levain sourdough contains about 20% whole wheat flour and uses a whole wheat sourdough starter. They explain more about their bread, “What distinguishes this loaf from other sourdoughs is its particularly strong smokey’ crust and its chewy lighter interior crumb speckled with whole wheat.” While they mainly stock restaurants (like Chez Panisse) and groceries (like Bi-rite) you can visit them at the Ferry Building.
Stock up on a loaf of this delicious San Francisco Sourdough on your way to Angel Island for a picnic. While you’re there, you can get cheese from Cowgirl Creamery or some jam to go with your bread from Village Market.
Photo Courtesy of Acme
Photo Courtesy of John K on Yelp
- Address: Have a full dining experience at Tartine Manufactory 595 Alabama St. San Francisco, CA 94110 or visit the bakery near Dolores Park at 600 Guerrero St. San Francisco, CA 94110
- Hours: See here for the Bakery and see here for Tartine Manufactory
- Claim to fame: Co-founder and pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt bakes technically perfect pastries – with and without gluten
Chad Robertson, Co-founder and baker, has instilled in Tartine a profound love of the grain. Their relationship with local farmers allows them to get a much better grain with which to make their bread. They take a thoughtful and poetic approach to baking. As quoted on their website (where you can watch behind the scenes videos about their practice), “A baker reads the weather, the flour, the levain, yesterday’s baked bread before starting to mix.”
Their San Francisco sourdough recipe is known as the “country bread” and it was featured in the New York Times cooking section. You can try your hand at making this loaf at home, or visit any of their locations (in addition to San Francisco you can get Tartine in Los Angeles and Seoul!). Try it on its own, or get a hot pressed sandwich…and a pastry, why not.
If you want a place to choose from over six types of toast, many variations of San Francisco sourdough, and artisanal coffee from Four Barrel, The Mill is the spot for you. If you’re all tapped out on breakfast, stop by from 6-9 for The Mill’s pizza service. Located near Alamo Square (you know, where the Full House house is) The Mill is loved by locals and vacationers alike.
As of 2015, all of The Mill’s whole grain wheat used for their breads is grown in California. They make a variety of styles, some of which you can learn how to make at the bakery’s classes.
Photo Courtesy of Sherry L on Yelp
While they did have plans for a full Outerlands bakery spinoff, owners Lana Porcello and Dave Muller decided to stick to their Outer Sunset location. You can still get delicious bakes from head baker Matt Jones, like levain toast, peach galette, eggplant & miso rye and more.
In 2011, according to The Bold Italic, “When [co-owner] Dave’s starter was accidentally tossed, his friends at Tartine gave him a piece of theirs, knowing it would soon pick up Outer Sunset bacteria and become a thing of its own.”
Noe Valley Bakery is the product of 20+ years of dedication from husband and wife founding team Mary and Michael Gassen. Since 1995, Michael has been the bakery’s master baker while Mary leads strategy. In their own words, “To us, a bakery is everything that’s right with a neighborhood. We love working dough in the early hours of the morning, the satisfyingly straight rows of baguette, and too-adorable-to-eat cupcakes. We love putting smiles on the faces of little ones, prepping for the big meeting with a great breakfast, and giving an excuse to lingering with an old friend. We love every single minute of being your San Francisco neighborhood bakery.” Check out their sour batard loaf and pick up a cake, pastry, or flourless dessert to keep you satisfied.
Photo Courtesy of Paul M
Photo Courtesy of Laurie E on Yelp
Using principles that brought Berkeley-based cooperative Cheeseboard to success, Arizmendi bakery began with a location in Oakland, eventually expanding into San Francisco and San Rafael. Their varieties of sourdough are far-ranging from classic or rustic loaves, sandwich loaves, sourdough croissants (in plain, chocolate, OR almond!), multi-seeded sourdough, cinnamon raisin sourdough, walnut sourdough, fig fennel sourdough, and chocolate cherry sourdough. Yeah, get us a sampler please.
While their sourdough loaf and pastry lineup is impressive, they’re also well known for their sourdough crust pizza. They serve it up daily with one variety – don’t let that stop you, they know what they’re doing when it comes to flavor. Previous pizzas have including toppings like roasted yukon gold potatoes, mixed greens, Dubliner Cheese, garlic oil, chives & parmesan. Get it by the pie or by the slice.
Restaurants serving San Francisco sourdough (in a fun way)
So far we’ve shown you great bakeries where you can pick up a fresh loaf of bread, and a few where you can get a slice for a sandwich or soup. If you’re looking for a restaurant with sourdough bread on hand, here are some spots to try.
Many dishes at this popular hole-in-the-wall come with a side of sourdough bread, like the crab cocktail or the crab back. Try the clam chowder with a side of sourdough for a classic seafood combination.
Photo Courtesy of Wing L on Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Micheal J on Yelp
Like the Mill, Goat Hill Pizza is serving up delicious pies with a classic sourdough base. Named for the goats who roamed the lot behind the original location, Goat Hill Pizza has been serving up smiles since 1975. Their dough is mixed daily and rests for three days to develop its distinctive sourdough flavor.
What can we say, we like our pizza dough in San Francisco to be sour. That’s how owners and Bay Area natives Neal DeNardi and Andrew Markoulis like their pizza too. “Our goal is to create a laid back vibe for everyone to enjoy some serious pizza in the neighborhood,” they say. Get a classic cheese or try one of their creations like the Jerry Pie, topped with Mozzarella, Ricotta, Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Garlic, Olive Oil, Parmesan (no sauce).
Photo Courtesy of Long Bridge Pizza
Photo Courtesy of Eric R on Yelp
While you can get sourdough with your chowder or soup at Woodhouse Fish Co., what makes their San Francisco sourdough offering unique is on the dessert menu. Their sourdough bread pudding is served with ice cream and caramel, making it a unique treat for any bread lover.
Definitely a spot you’ll want to make reservations at, State Bird Provisions offers a super-local menu that rotates based on the seasons. What you might see on the menu if you’re lucky are their sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino & ricotta pancakes. They also sometimes serve fried sourdough pull apart bread topped with a generous chunk of burrata.
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