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Toast: Inside San Francisco's Controversial Bread Obsession

By James Mulcahy
April 23, 2014

Is the artisanal, New Wave toast that's being served in San Francisco the best thing since sliced bread, or is it a symbol of San Francisco's overheated gentrification? For some reason, something as simple as toast has sparked a major debate in the Bay Area, and this childhood staple has turned into a hot-button (and hot-buttered) issue.

We spent some time in SF chatting with those at the front of this food trend. We can confirm: the toast being served here is unlike anything else we've come across in the U.S. For a deep dive into this tasty, somewhat silly and fascinating food moment, check out our mini-documentary above. To see where you can try the slices featured in the piece, check out the slide show and map below.

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    The Mill

    Josey Baker and his namesake Josey Baker Bread has partnered with Four Barrel Coffee to open this sunny stunner on Divisadero, and it's where you'll find the toast that sparked the current debate, along with the lines of carb addicts keen to get a slice. There is a mill on-site, and super-fresh slices of rye are slathered with cream cheese and pepper, while those with a sweet tooth will freak out over cinnamon toast.

    Say what you will about the price (which, for the record, is $3.50-$3.75), but there's no doubt that this baker named Baker has taken a home-kitchen classic to new levels.

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    Boba Guys

    Better known for its boba milk teas, this Mission shop has two varieties of toast on offer. The venue takes inspiration from Hong Kong street markets - where simple, upscale toast is common - and sells Hong Kong toast covered in condensed milk and caramel. There's also an offering dubbed Kaya Toast, an adaptation of a recipe popular in Singapore and Malaysia that's prepared with butter, sugar, coconut milk and pandan - a sweet herb from Southeast Asia.

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    Red Door

    If you want to experience Josey Baker Bread without the lines, this charming coffee shop on Minna Street will cut you a slice and toast it right up. Like The Mill, the operation serves Four Barrel coffee, and the toast here is covered with butter and tasty fruit spreads (try the pear). The cafe is housed in a mixed-use gallery space, so you'll be able to scope some artwork while you eat, though it might not be as pretty as that slice on your plate.

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    St. Vincent

    For a higher-end take on toast, hit up this Mission eatery that has an ambitious (though slightly off-the-radar) bread program. The restaurant is helmed by chef Bill Niles, who cut his chops (and slices of rye) at Bar Tartine, one of the baking powerhouses of the Bay Area. Their Saturday daytime menu features country bread with marrow butter or cultured butter and persimmon jam. If you drop by, the must-try items skew sweet - their noisella, aka housemade Nutella, is epically good.

  • Here's a rundown of where to try this talk-of-the-town toast. We also included Trouble Coffee, which many say was doing toast long before it became trendy. For a great read on that place, check out this article in Pacific Standard Magazine.

    View Toast: Where to Try High-End Bread in San Francisco in a larger map

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