Sample San Francisco’s Signature Sourdough Bread at These 7 Bakeries
From Gold Rush-inspired stalwarts to newcomers across the city.
In between strolling the Golden Gate Bridge and navigating the famously crooked Lombard Street, most tourists (and locals) in San Francisco make it a point to taste the city's much-loved sourdough bread. Sour loaves first became part of San Francisco's identity during the Gold Rush, a period that attracted thousands of miners to California. Though most arrivals carried limited possessions, many did bring sourdough starter, meant to help stave off hunger if hit with hard times. Word of the city's penchant for sourdough began to spread, which fueled the launch of many historic San Francisco bakeries during or shortly after that era—establishing what has since become a deeply rooted culinary tradition in the city. Here are of our favorite SF bakeries, both old and new, that continue to keep the city's sourdough fame alive.
Founded in 2002, Tartine Bakery is one of the most well-known bakeries in San Francisco today, and their famous sourdough loaves and other baked goods regularly attract long lines out the door. Several locations and multiple cookbooks later, founders Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson continue to research and practice new techniques to hone their baking. One bite into the dark-baked crust of Tartine's sourdough gives way to a moist, chewy, and distinctly sour crumb. For out-of-state devotees, the San Francisco-founded chain also offers nationwide shipping of their bread and pastries.
A relatively newer player in the sourdough scene, Josey Baker Bread crafts its loaves from freshly milled, locally sourced organic grains, which gives the bread a dense crumb and expressly nutty flavor. You can pick up a loaf of Sesame Wheat or Black Pepper Parmesan at The Mill, a cozy bakery/cafe with abundant natural light and rustic ambience operated jointly by Josey Baker Bread and Four Barrel Coffee. The bakery's bread is also available at these restaurants and markets.
Founded in 1983, Acme is one of the pioneers of the artisanal bread movement in America. Today, the company produces bread—including a smokey-tasting pain au levain, one of its most popular loaves—from 100% organic wheat flour, as well as California-produced olive oil and sweet cream butter. The company focuses primarily on wholesale, so the only place in San Francisco where customers can find the bakery's full sourdough selection is the Ferry Building Marketplace. Select loaves also line the shelves of many grocery stores and food markets throughout the Bay Area, and customers can also order online.
With its crunchy crust and light crumb, the white sourdough at Noe Valley is your basic sourdough loaf: clean and simple, and not as distinctly sour or dense as some of its whole-wheat counterparts on this list. The classic nature of this sourdough could make it an ideal option for sandwich-making, or slathering with flavorful spreads. The bakery also produces an impressive line-up of other breads, including apricot ginger bread and challah, as well as a large selection of cakes and pastries. Loaves are available in-store, and the shop also accepts online orders.
Specializing in sourdough, Sour Flour bakes baguettes, rolls, bagels, and pretzels with organic wheat flour and starter culture, infusing them with complex flavor and an essence of San Francisco. The community-minded bakery also offers workshops that aim to share tips with home bakers. Customers can find Sour Flour's products at many markets and restaurants throughout San Francisco.
A spin-off of the café Jane on Fillmore, this young bakery opened in 2016, and its sourdough quickly joined the ranks of the city's best. Jane The Bakery now offers an extensive array of loaves baked fresh in-house daily, including classic sourdough, chocolate sourdough, and sourdough sandwich bread. In the shop, you can grab a fresh loaf of sourdough, or sit down to try a slice or two as a made-to-order sandwich or toast. Jane also accepts online orders through platforms such as ChowNow and Caviar.
The present-day fame of San Francisco's sourdough traces back to one of the city's icons, which arguably started it all. Boudin Bakery began operating in 1849, after one of the Gold Rush miners supposedly gave Isidore Boudin what would become the establishment's mother starter. Today, just as well-known as the chain's loaves are its sourdough bread bowls, served with tomato soup, beef chili or, most famously, New England-style clam chowder. The chain now has locations all across California, with the option for delivery through DoorDash.