The Story of the Time That I Ate $4 Toast

May 5, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

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Welcome to San Francisco. Actually, we’re not in San Francisco anymore but we were there last week because Craig had the chance to screen his movie (The Skeleton Twins) at Pixar and the San Francisco Film Festival and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig came along with us and it was a pretty incredible five days and I’ll tell you all about them in my next post. Let’s focus on the important stuff. On my first free day there, I beelined for a place called The Mill to experience the cultural phenomenon du jour: $4 toast. Everyone’s talking about it. Some people are angry about it. Me? I wanted to eat it.

I took a cab from our hotel to The Mill because it seemed a bit of a hike from the BART (that’s the public transportation system in San Francisco, in case you’ve never been there). The Mill was pretty bustling for a Thursday morning.

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As I approached the counter, I saw a promising thing on the right: Josey Baker bread.

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I first heard of Josey Baker when the man himself showed up at my book event at Tartine last year. He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread (it’s pretty wonderful that his last name’s Baker and he’s a baker, but you figured that out already). Now he has a book out that seems pretty rad; and here it was, finally, his bread for me to try.

Try in the form of toast. Here was the toast menu:

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As you can see, the $4 toast is more in the $3.50 price range (though it gets closer to $4 with tax). I wasn’t at all scandalized by these prices, for several reasons: (1) I used to live near Blue Ribbon Bakery in New York where they would charge you $7 or $8 for big slices of toasted bread topped with things like chickpeas or cow tongue; (2) this sourdough bread has its own book so must be pretty damn good; (3) I trusted for $3.50, or whatever, this serving of toast would be pretty filling.

Check out my toast artist (OK, they don’t really call them toast artists but I wish they did) making my toast:

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And behold my toast topped with butter, strawberry jam and sea salt:

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Holy cow, was that good. Better than $3.50 good; I would’ve paid more for it, with the tangy, intensity of that sourdough bread (it was the most intensely flavorful sourdough bread I’ve ever experienced), the generosity of the toppings, and the sheer size of the whole serving which totally functioned as a meal (in this case: breakfast).

Not only did I not feel in any way cheated when it was over, I couldn’t stop talking about it and thinking about it for the rest of the week we were in SF. It haunted me in the best possible way. So take my word for it: $4 toast isn’t the sign of an economy run amok; it’s the sign of a super talented bread baker who’s last name is Baker selling the best heated bread with stuff on it you’ve ever had. If you’re in San Francsico, don’t miss it.

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Categories: Food Bits

  • Nicole

    Honestly, if someone brought me a piece of toast that looked that good right now, I’d give them $20!

  • Anonymous

    I live right around the corner from the Mill, their toast is amazing.

  • seriously?

    Are you serious? There are so many serious issues in the world and this guy is nattering on about expensive toast! It is hard to take anyone seriously when he writes such silliness.

  • seriously?

    Are you serious? There are so many serious issues in the world and this guy is nattering on about expensive toast! It is hard to take anyone seriously when he writes such silliness.

  • seriously?

    Are you serious? There are so many serious issues in the world and this guy is nattering on about expensive toast! It is hard to take anyone seriously when he writes such silliness.

  • http://www.burgerbird.wordpress.com/ birgerbird

    I am on board with you here . . . . my favorite LA haunt is Red Bread in Culver City . . . . just opened last July and apparently slightly ahead of the curve. My hubby and I routinely pay upwards of $3.50 to $4.00 and more for their wild yeasted, hand crafted, ridiculously delicious bread with raw butter, smashed avo, and a ton of other stuff. If you are ever in LA you must go!!!

  • mycoffeebreak

    Hey ‘Seriously’, you’re right, there are many serious issues in the world today. There are sources for you to read and hear about them if that is what you would prefer. This is a food blog where you will read about the enjoyment and creative process of the food we eat. Please understand the difference.

  • Trissi_V

    you took the words out of my mouth coffeebreak.

  • Trissi_V

    $3.50 for that toast…seems a bargain to me. It looks like they put over $3.50 worth of jam and butter on it, not to mention the artisan bread that is holding it all. I want $3.50 toast now. Please tell me you also bought a full loaf of bread while you were there?

  • mbs

    I second Red Bread, but Adam is in L.A. so maybe he has already traveled west to try it. Make sure you check the shop hours – they’re only open Thurs – Sun until 2 I think. Squrl’s toast and jam is tasty as well. First world issues for sure, but it’s great to have such good food available.

  • kinglet749

    Feel free to stop reading it.

  • http://www.burgerbird.wordpress.com/ birgerbird

    oops why did I think he was in Chicago . . . hours are th & fri 8 – 2 and sat and sun 9-3

  • Stacey Snacks

    My favorite restaurant in Jersey City charges $5. for a half loaf of amazing hot just out of the wood oven bread, and I happily pay it. My dad always complains about an $9. bagel for breakfast at the Ritz Carlton……so I tell him to be a schlepper and go out and buy a bagel for $1.25 down the street if he doesn’t like it (and get your crappy coffee in a styrofoam cup while you’re at it!)…….you’re at the Ritz Carlton!
    He’s old school……..sounds like it’s worth more than $4. to me!
    Glad you tried it!

  • Becca

    THANK YOU for this post! I live in SF, love the Mill, and feel sad about the way it’s been talked about. For the quality and quantity of what you get there, $3.50 is a steal. :)

  • Willow Bird Baking

    Love :)

  • AG

    Why is $4 toast so scandalous when that’s what people pay for pastries, coffee and yogurt. (I mean, a fage yogurt off the shelf often runs $2.50).

  • cybercita

    How much is a mediocre coffee at Starbucks? More than four dollars, plus the annoying long wait to order and pay for it. Why shouldn’t artisan bread and jam cost at least that much? {And just for the record I NEVER go to Starbucks unless someone gives me a gift certificate.}

  • Ttrockwood

    Here in nyc avocado toast is having a moment on breakfast menus, $6 a slice and up…. Plus the various much more expensive versions at “small plates” restaurants at dinner.
    Your bread looks better.
    I’m ok with paying good money for artisinal products when they live up to the hype :)

  • Babacatnip

    I don’t know how much of this was due to the fact that he went to your book signing at Tartine. There’s nothing special about their toast. Never saw a line outside the Mill. Waiting for a new and better establishment to take over that space.

  • chelsey

    Ummm…what? This is a food blog. He’s a food writer. He’s checking out a huge food trend right now and giving his thoughts. What are you expecting from this?

    Also, not everything has to be about serious issues!

  • chezsasha.com

    That appears to be a pretty generous shmear of butter – I like it.
    I’d have no problem paying $3.50 for it. I don’t even see the big deal about the price. I systematically (albeit regretfully) drink $4-5 dollar lattes, but of course everything in NY is ridiculously priced.

  • Anonymous

    People who complain about $4 toast also probably think that Chinese or Vietnamese food should only be cheap takeout.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Babacatnip

    “He had this great, enthusiastic energy and talked passionately about baking bread”. An alien must have taken over his body that day. The Josey Baker that I’ve met is arrogant, cocky, and dismissive, with very average baked goods.

  • Anonymous

    Are you crazy? I live around the corner from the Mill. Sunday morning the line was out the door. You can go by on Wednesday night at 7pm and the place is packed. And don’t even try to go for Monday pizza night, the line goes on forever!

  • Anonymous

    What is the place in JC? I live there! :)

  • Anonymous

    What is the place in JC? I live there! :)

  • Anonymous

    What is the place in JC? I live there! :)

  • steve

    It’s a food blog. If you want to read about international conflict or famine, please go elsewhere.

  • Deborah Lorraine

    The jam alone looks like it would be worth it – a bread this wonderful should not be topped with inferior gummy gel that is standard fare in most restaurants.

  • Susan

    I have to comment after years of reading and silently appreciating: I just realized that I sort-of met Craig at IFF Boston last week when they screened Skeleton Twins (my brother- and sister-in-law are directors at the festival) — I asked him a question during the Q&A about directing two comedic geniuses in a rather serious dramatic movie. I did not put it all together that he was *your* Craig until just now! If I had, I might have tracked him down after and asked what it’s like to have a permanent seat at one of the most deliciously-supplied tables in LA. :-)

    As a long-time San Francisco resident who is both a foodie and a techie, I’ve been watching the great debate about $4 toast with amusement. Sadly, I recently became gluten free (cliche alert!) and cannot partake in the amazing toast, but I completely support the “toast-as-a-meal” genre. And Josey Baker’s bread is among the very best!

  • Reily

    Toast is my favorite food group. I’d happily have paid whatever they asked for that picture of deliciousness.

  • Awesome

    Really? You’re reading a foodblog and then complaining. Why the heck are you here? Idiot.

  • http://Healthyroadadventures.blogspot.com Angel

    It looks amazing. I honestly thought it was French toast, for which I’d pay the $3.50. Still, I guess I’d have to try it to see if I’d pay 3:50, lol

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/ H.C.

    I’m not one for fancified toasts, but it actually had a riveting origin story http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/ (also, repurposed for a recent This American Life if you prefer it in audio format http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play )

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/ H.C.

    I’m not one for fancified toasts, but it actually had a riveting origin story http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/ (also, repurposed for a recent This American Life if you prefer it in audio format http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play )

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/ H.C.

    I’m not one for fancified toasts, but it actually had a riveting origin story http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/ (also, repurposed for a recent This American Life if you prefer it in audio format http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play )

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/ H.C.

    I’m not one for fancified toasts, but it actually had a riveting origin story http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/ (also, repurposed for a recent This American Life if you prefer it in audio format http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play )

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com/ H.C.

    I’m not one for fancified toasts, but it actually had a riveting origin story http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/ (also, repurposed for a recent This American Life if you prefer it in audio format http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play )

  • Debra Williams

    Lord have mercy! I never thought i’d live to see the day when someone would actually be stupid enough to actually pay 4 dollars for a piece of toast!!! It must have been made with some kind artisan bread because personally, I just don’t get it at all!

  • Sy_ra

    very well said !!!!