My first day in San Francisco—and much of my whole trip—was rainy. But despite the unusually rainy weather, the best part of my first day was having breakfast at Tartine Bakery. Located in the Mission District, Tartine has been a neighborhood standby since it was opened by the husband and wife team of Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt in 2002.
Both trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and traveled throughout France before settling in Northern California. Prueitt is the pastry chef and Robertson is the baker. You can find Robertson baking daily at the bakery and Prueitt running the sister restaurant Bar Tartine, which is just a street away.
Every morning at the bakery is a busy one. There is always a steady line wrapping outside the doors rain or shine, literally. Two weeks ago I stood in line with my friends under umbrellas to taste Tartine's sweet confections. The smell wafting from within was enough to convince any one of us to patiently wait for a morning bite and a cup of Joe.
Just from scanning the tables, I could tell what was most popular. The croissants and morning buns are the top sellers as well as the café au lait served in bowls made by a cheerful barrista in the coffee bar opposite the entrance. Even in the early morning the bakery has sweets on display, such as chocolate chip cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, rocher, and many cakes. We just happened to be there at the right time to see staff frosting and browning meringue cakes, readied for the display cases.
The bakery has a pseudo-Parisian feel from the baked goods to the styled atmosphere of the space. The sound of a crackling Edith Piaf record in the background would not be out of place. The baked goods are terribly good and eye-appealing. I couldn't help but order a warm croissant and a café au lait to wash it all down with. For me a truly good croissant must shatter when you tear or bite into it. This croissant (served with marmalade and butter) had the sharpest shards and the softest, fluffiest interior. It probably was the best croissant I've ever had and the size was not at all a disappointment. French-styled pastries in American sizes is what this bakery is all about. Just take a look at the size of the gougère.
After purchasing our pastries, we, of course, waited for a table to become available and finally managed to fold ourselves around a two-top after a lingerer with his laptop finally left. Mind you, this is not a place to linger—you'll just piss people off who have been waiting forever to get a seat. Among us we had croissants, morning buns, coffees, and extremely good hot chocolates. The morning buns are very popular and sell out quickly. They have a bready bite to them and feature a surprise dollop of marmalade in the center. Also noteworthy is the frangipane croissant, covered in flaked almonds with an almond cream interior.
If you are ever in the Mission on a morning, be sure to stop by Tartine. It's more than well worth a visit. Or try them for lunch, when they offer a great selection of pressed sandwiches. If you're interested in baking some of their specialties at home, check out the cookbook Tartine. I love this video (below), where baker Chad Robertson talks about his passion for bread, the making of the daily loaves, and the testing that went into creating the recipes for his latest cookbook, Tartine Bread. I didn't get a chance to try Robertson's famous bread, but the next time I'm in town, I'm sure to stop by again.
Tartine Bakery and Café
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Open Monday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, butabove all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for foodon his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.