The Story of the Time That I Ate $4 Toast

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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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