When it comes to thinking about true American historical brands, it can be easy to think of such giants as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola. However, just because an American brand isn’t as readily available as a fast food choice or a carbonated beverage doesn’t make it any less impressive. Enter Boudin Bakery, the first bakery to introduce San Francisco to its favorite loaf of sourdough.
Since 1849, Boudin Bakery has not only been a San Francisco-area treasure, but a classic tale of perseverance and entrepreneurialism. When touring the San Francisco area, be sure to enjoy this slice (or bowl) of American history.
What is Boudin Bakery?
This classic bakery has been in operation since the California Gold Rush in 1849. In fact, the same starter yeast from the late 1800s is still used to produce the distinctive taste. Today the bakery has now grown to include 30 locations throughout the state, including an attraction in Disney’s California Adventure.
The primary locale of Boudin Bakery is in San Francisco’s Richmond District, although given what a hit the bread is it can be found just about anywhere. Boudin Bakery does offer other types of bread, as well as a full menu that’s reminiscent of modern competitors like Panera Bread Company. However, the sourdough is the bakery’s claim to fame – once exposed to it, you never want anything else, no matter how great the rest of the menu may be.
Bakery Museum Tour
If the idea of what very well may be the world’s best sourdough sounds like the best thing since sliced bread, you can take a tour of their dedicated museum. While at first blush the idea of a bread museum may not be the first thing that comes to mind when visiting a unique area such as San Francisco, it’s become a local landmark and institution in its own right.
This tour is one part baking history, one part corporate history, and one part factory tour. The tour is self-guided, although guided tours are available for larger groups. Either way, this is an affordable attraction, with single tickets running just three dollars. It allows you the freedom to stay as long as you want. Although, after watching their bread being made, you’ll probably have to leave before too long to go enjoy some.
Fisherman’s Wharf Demonstration Shop
If you appreciate quality craftsmanship, then prepared to be impressed. The Fisherman’s Wharf has a demonstration bakery that’s been in operation for over 30 years. A large observation window allows passersby to enjoy watching their famous bread being made before heading in and placing an order.
If you’re traveling with a group, this location does provide a group meal program, offering an affordable way to sample more choices. Whether you prefer sweet breakfast pastries or savory lunches, this is an ideal way to tour the world of Boudin.
Why Boudin is Important
Boudin Bakery is more than just a great maker of bread; it’s a tale of immigration, business ownership, and perseverance. Isidore Boudin originally founded the company, a French immigrant from a family of master bakers. Almost one hundred years later, the Giraudo family purchased the company, originally hailing from Italy and artesian bakers in their own right.
The new brand came from this sale. Its iconic logo was developed in the ‘70s as well as the demonstration area on the Fisherman’s Wharf. Tourists and residents alike immediately ate it up, leading to a mail-order service just to keep up with demand. The increased popularity leads to the chain discontinuing its grocery offerings, concentrating fully on their bread. Today, you can find Boudin Bakeries all around the San Francisco area, as well as other parts of the state.
Louise Boudin’s Mother Dough
However, none of this success would have come to pass had it not been for the bravery of Louise Boudin. 1906 was one of the darkest days in San Francisco’s history, with the Great Earthquake striking the city and plunging it into chaos. In addition to the shaking ground destroying many buildings throughout the city, a fire broke out as well.
Caught in the path of the destruction was the bakery’s matriarch, who risked life and limb to preserve the starter dough as her bakery collapsed around her. Without this single act, the company would not have been able to keep that classic taste preserved and in use. Without this, the success of the bakery may have never taken root.
Who knew something as simple as a loaf of sourdough could make for such a rich, storied history lesson? Keep the spirit of San Francisco alive by stopping by one of the many locations of Boudin Bakery.