The Mill

cinnamon toast

Toast? That’s what a friend told me they served at The Mill. I’ve been passing by The Mill daily on the #24 line bus, and from the façade, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in there. So I wasn’t sure it was worth the bother to hop off the bus to see.

Then, yesterday morning, I got an SMS from a friend who was spending some time at The Mill while some messy home projects were being attended to (involving drywall dust, so I understand completely) and I hustled down there to meet up with her. When I walked in, I was surprised that it was such a huge, cavernous place; from the outside, it just looked like any other store front on Divis.

bread rack at The Mill

But what surprised me even more than the size, was the sound of breads cracking as they cooled, accompanied by the always-welcome aroma of freshly baked bread. It’s something I’ve gotten used to in France, although it never fails to make me pause for a moment, as I take a deep breath to inhale those yeasty fumes.

crusty bread at The Mill

There were racks of beautiful breads by Josey Baker, (I know, great last name! I wonder if he’ll adopt me so we care share?) Dark, bien cuit (well-cooked) breads, such as a seeded country loaf, a hearty “wonder” bread, and dark mountain rye. People often come to France and ask me why they can’t get breads like that we do at home, and I’m here to tell you, if your home is San Francisco – you’re in luck!

Butter with Sea Salt

And then there’s toast. I am a big fan of toast. In fact, that’s all I have for breakfast. And then there’s lunch, where I toast some bread to eat with cheese. Then I may toast some bread to crumble over pasta for dinner. I guess you could say that toast is my turn-on. So as soon as I sat down, I was looking forward to a big slice of toast.

The Mill

After I ordered, soon after, out came a hefty slab of cinnamon toast with a lavish spread of cultured butter, crunchy sugar, and a dusting of cinnamon. (They also have nut butters and cream cheese.) I had barely finished breakfast a few hours earlier, and I was enjoying catching up with my friend, but it was hard not to keep picking up the knife and fork, and lopping off generous mouthfuls of the toast as we talked.

Josey at The Mill

At The Mill, Josey, or Mr. Baker, grinds his flour in a wooden moulin (mill), standing on his tippy toes to get the wheat berries into the hopper. I took a picture of him, but his bare baker’s legs were sticking out (and perhaps only if you’re a baker, do you know what “baker’s legs” are), so I didn’t want to embarrass him – although since there is a picture of his backside on his About page, I guess that train has passed. (Don’t worry, that train isn’t anywhere near the station for me.)

flour mill

In other news, aside from me actually getting out of the house in the morning and acting like a civilized person, the brew and beans are from Fourbarrel Coffee and I had a very dark, very rich, very San Francisco-style drink.

Which kind of reminds me that I need to get a box of Rice-A-Roni, because I was trying to explain to Romain what it was, and how the commercials featured a jingle and a shot of a cable car climbing Nob Hill, and I need to show him that I’m not nuts.

Bread from The Mill in San Francisco

The Mill’s bread and toast, and the baker himself, are truly San Francisco-style. It may not have clanging cable cars, or catchy jingles, but a bakery serving just toast? That’s kind of kooky, and lots of fun.


The Mill
736 Divisadero Street
San Francisco
Tel: (415) 345-1953

55 comments

  • So interesting to have your new Parisian perspective on S.F.! Both such amazing cities in their own ways. And too funny, explaining about Rice-a-Roni. Those ads were so kitschy – one of those things that just don’t translate. You’d probably have to explain to him too about “guess you had to be there!”

    A funny thing about Singapore is that they also have a big “toast culture” there with toast stands in the hawker centers with giant pyramids of butter.

  • The American Artisan Food Revolution is out of this world. It just gets better and better. We focus on the young computer people, but we have an equal revolution in artisans and farmers. Restaurants are fine and they are everywhere, but the artisans and small farmers are taking American food out of this world. If you know how to hunt and gather foods you can eat at home by never stepping into a large market or ever eating industrial food.

    • Yes, it certainly is. Some of it gets taken to the extreme (and gets a bit ridiculed for extremism) but I think it’s great and it’s so encouraging to see people working hard, exploring, and producing foods using local ingredients. And having fun while doing so!

  • Oh, toast. The simplest and best of foods. I hope I can squeeze this in to a short trip to the Bat Area over Christmas. Portland isn’t lacking for bakeries, but this sounds like its right up my alley.

  • BTW, this is the same place whose “$4 toast” has caused immense outrage with specific groups in SF.

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/4-toast-prompts-housing-petition-4962002.php

    Can’t wait to try it myself!

    • It doesn’t seem to outrageous to me that a big slice of homemade bread with flour milled on-site and locally-made butter (or organic nut butter) costs about the same price as a gallon of gas…or a latte at one of those big coffee chains that has a mermaid for a logo. I’d rather have the toast.

      I’m reading a pretty funny book right now called The $64 Tomato about a guy who decides to starting growing his own produce.

      • I recently acquired a $400 egg from my chickens. I’m hoping for more return on that investment, but I liken it to the $64 tomato.

  • just because of that first picture – bringing back memories of my mom and i eating cinnamon sugar toast together…….. i’m going there right after work. and i work in marin! thanks david!

  • In last month’s San Francisco magazine for a gluten-free Thanksgiving, Josey Baker posted a recipe for an amazing gluten-free bread, full of seeds (sesame, flaxseed, sunflower) and oats. I made two loaves. It is amazing – the most delicious gluten-free bread I’ve ever tasted – toasted with honey it’s perfect. The Mill is one of the Bay Area’s cherished gifts!

  • Oh my god that toast looks amazing. All of the bread looks amazing really.

  • Claire, thanks for posting about Josey’s gluten-free bread recipe in San Francisco magazine. I’m going to make it this weekend….it looks wonderful.

  • Toast is really one of life’s great pleasures..so humble, yet so versatile and never fails to please. What a great idea to just do one thing and do it really well.

  • Rather than purchasing a box of rice-a-roni, just pull up one of the commercials in youtube-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fam193WrnrA

    Also, I wanted to mention that The Mill doesn’t just serve up Four Barrel coffee, it *IS* Four Barrel…. See their webpage http://themillsf.com/.

  • I bake a lot of artisan bread here at home and some friends and family think it’s burnt…now I can show them it’s supposed to be that way, I just didn’t know it was called bien cuit, I learned from Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery, “color means flavor.” The mill looks divine, toast being my favorite food in the world!

  • Rice-a-roni, the Sanfrancisco treat!

    Thanks David, now that earworm will be echoing in my brain all day.

    I LOVE toast and made a little artist book on the sujet with the pages shaped like slices of bread called Recipes for Toast.

    Madame B

  • Josey is a great guy. I took a bread making workshop (he called it a bread party!) from him several years ago, before he hit it big – so much fun!

    • I only met him briefly but he does seem like a great guy – and it working pretty hard. He has a book coming out with his recipes but I was happy that I finally took the time to stop in and visit the bakery and coffee shop!

  • I love toast! Lucky for my waistline and my pocket book that this place is too far to become a regular stop for me. But I look forward to a visit soon all the same. Thanks for sharing, yet again!

  • Did you know that not only is Josie’s last name Baker, he lives on Baker Street! And he’s cute. And engaged. :(

    http://www.fiveoclockmagazine.com/post/24/josey-baker

  • He has a cookbook coming out next April — Josey Baker Bread — wish I had a copy now!

  • Welllll… so they say that The Mill nicked the whole cinnamon toast thing from Trouble Coffee out on Judah… where you can get a nice thick slice along with a coffee and a fresh split coconut (or Build Your Own Damn House, as they call that trio) and take it to the beach.

    Can’t remember if you’ve been to Outerlands yet. The bread at Trouble is (or used to be) from there, and their bread starter is — you guessed it — aligned with Tartine’s. If you haven’t been there for weekday lunch, it’s the best time. Great open-faced sandwiches, not so much of a wait (unless it’s a holiday).

  • My late Armenian friend, a world-class firehouse cook, made his own Rice-A-Roni – except the Armenians call it “pilaf”…

    I just found this at the Golden Grain Company’s website:

    A neighbor’s Armenian style rice pilaf recipe inspired the original idea for Rice-A-Roni, a mixture of rice and macaroni. Tom’s wife Lois served the dish at a family dinner, and it became a favorite of the DeDomenico families. In 1958, Vince mixed a dry chicken soup mix, made at the plant, with rice and vermicelli to create the San Francisco treat which he named Rice-A-Roni. The unique preparation of the dish, and its wonderful flavor and convenience, made the dish one of America’s favorite products. The Rice-A-Roni jingle, The San Francisco Treat® slogan, “Saute and Simmer” and scenic San Francisco became familiar to every household in America in the 60’s as the product was introduced through television advertising.

    So this San Francisco/Italian treat was actually Armenian in origin… In those days San Francisco Italian would have sold better.,,

  • Once you’ve explained Rice-a-Roni, you can move next on to Chef Boy-ar-Dee! I’ll be in SF for Christmas and look forward to walking over to The Mill for a slice!

  • We are very fortunate to live just the hill a bit from millers bake house, friday late afternoon we can drive up and buy before the bread finds its way down to chico. http://www.millersbakehouse.com

  • Ah, now you are in my neighborhood. We eat alot of Josey’s bread. Yes, the crust is bien cuit, lovely and crunchy. and what’s inside is good as well.
    dws

  • I’d pay $8.00 for that piece of toast. Looks amazing!

  • Right up my alley, and if I lived near a great bakery I’d be a carb addict. Would to take a tour of The Mill!

  • Hey David,

    I have been wanting to comment on so may of your posts. I live in SF and met you at Sur La Table when you did cooking classes at the Maiden Lane store. I was the store manager, working with Doralece. Have been following your blog as I have also lived in Paris and love hearing about all the details of your life there. On January 2nd I am fulfilling a lifelong dream and moving to a small medieval town in south central France with my husband. We have French friends in Paris and plan to visit often, once we get our house in order. Would it be inappropriate to contact you? I’m sure you get hounded by lots of strangers who read your blog so I will totally understand if you never reply to this comment. I am still in touch with Doralece so if you are too, she can vouch for me!

    Glad you are enjoying your visit to SF. HAPPY HOLIDAYS

    Kit

  • You are having way too much fun!! You inspired me to make cinnamon toast this am on some Cheeseboard bread… Yum! It was like being 10 years old again. Thanks! Have you tried Dragon Eats on Gough St@ Grove? And a resounding Yay! to Dandelion’s sipping chocolate. Love your blog. Alicia

  • Growing up, we used to eat “mama toast” – white bread (all that was available in the pre-Julia years), liberally spread with butter, topped with a lot of white sugar and cinnamon. Run under the broiler until the sugar caramelized into a solid sheet, like creme brulee…

  • I’m so homesick right now I could cry…

  • Hi David–

    While you’re in town, you might want to drop by Linea Caffe–www.lineacaffe.com. It’s a hole in the wall on 18th near Mission, started a few months ago by veteran coffee roaster and World Barista Competition judge Andrew Barnett. The coffee is fantstic and never met bitter. Also, they serve lucious sweet and savory Belgian waffles by Anthony Myint.

  • I love San Francisco and I love Paris I’m a very happy girl this month. Thanks for the Christmas present, David.

  • I have to admit, I had never even heard of Rice-a-Roni! Not something we have over here, although I must look in the American section of the World Foods section of our newest hypermarket.

    Meanwhile, if and when you next visit London, you must come down to my part, known as Brixton (once notorioius, now a foodie heaven!), where there is a cafe/bakery called Burnt Toast and you toast your own bread (sourdough, made on the premises) at your table.

  • You’ll find a whole slew of Rice-a-Roni commercials on YouTube and other websites for the disbelieving Romain:

    https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=rice+a+roni+commercial+youtube&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

    The one from 1962 is a hoot.

  • I love reading you blog, which it find informative and entertaining. I’ll have to try The Mill one of these days. But, I must admit, my heart belongs to Acme Bread and Cheeseboard.

    Happy Holidays and safe travels!

  • That first photo brought back so many childhood memories. Toast, spreadable ghee and sprinkled sugar was one of the treasured breakfast. Beautiful bread photos.

  • I dream about this toast after having it one morning with my friends and family. The bread was amazing and the coffee perfectly brewed. I am excited by young people who follow their passions, especially in the food industry. I gladly support local businesses like these.

  • I used to love those Rice-A-Roni ads but we never had it. It was “expensive” and my mom never used instant anything…and my dad hated rice. So one of the first things I bought for myself when I got my first apartment on my own was Rice-A-Roni. I was so excited to finally get to taste this sophisticated city dish. Bleh. Oh, well. Some things are better imagined.

    That bread and toast, however, look like they’d be just fine, imagined or in my mouth!

  • I’ve read The $64 Tomato, and some years my gardening experience is almost like his. Too true to be funny.

  • “if your home is San Francisco – you’re in luck!” For a lot more reasons than just the Mill!

  • Linda and Kristen: Ha! Anyone who had tried to grow their own food can certainly attest to how much it costs. (That’s why I don’t grow my own, although I do still fantasize about it.) I remember when I was a pastry chef, buying raspberries, strawberries and other things from the growers. It’s pretty hard work.

    Sylvia and Bebe: That’s funny that they thought Rice-A-Roni was too expensive. But yes, it seems to be a derivation of Armenian (or Persian?) rice pilaf dishes. Am pretty sure you can whip up your own version, which I might do. Just toast up some spaghetti, crumbled and mix it with rice, and add stock and seasonings. I can make it the “Paris treat” when I get home! : )

  • goodness gracious, so flattered that you shared so much about your visit!!! very glad you had a good time and really appreciate the support David, thank you. and thank you for not showing off my baker’s legs. ;) i’ll be hollering when i head to your neck of the woods, can’t wait to try some of the breads we talked about.

  • Yep. The San Francisco Treat. I have not had any for 40 years? However, I ran across a recipe in “Jerusalem” for Basmati Rice with Orzo. Which was very good.

  • What you describe is the true essence of bread: it’s the land and rain producing the grain and then a lot of sweat and hard work and lots of pride in what people do. Thank you for your inspiring articles.

  • Your post brought back many happy memories of my English grandmother who would make cinnamon toast and tea each morning for me. This same lovely lady would prepare Armenian rice pilaf(my grandfather was Armenian) for every holiday and her special ingredient was cinnamon. Two of my favorite comfort foods.

  • I’m so happy you found Josey Baker. I used to buy his bread when he sold out of Mission Pie before the Mill. It is amazing and he is lovely. Now I’m back in rural Wales and waiting for his book so I can try this at home. Oh but some days I ache for San Francisco (not just the bread obviously).

  • I am rarely homesick for NorCal, but a post like this makes me a bit melancholy. Love toast, SF and the Div. And Blue Bottle. Great post.

  • If you would please open a big grainy bread place in Paris David, I for one, would be happy to support, promote and do whatever it takes to assist.
    You have to go to Brussels to find this kind of bread at the moment…

  • I’m a baker but I don’t know what bakers’ legs are. Help!!

  • This post couldn’t have come at a better time. We had family in town this weekend, and when they said their favorite breakfast was “coffee and toast,” I knew precisely where to take them. We went yesterday (and may go back today) and it was as delicious as you reported. Thank you!

  • Claire (Dcember 13): I checked SF magazine’s website looking for the article on a gluten-free Thanksgiving, trying to find the article and the recipe(s)…. Without success. Could you please let me know how I can access this article or, at least the bread recipe? Thanks!

  • Followed the link to that backside picture… he looks like he’s going to land on that rock. Ouch!!!!!!

  • Margo, here is the link for Josey’s gluten-free bread recipe…

    http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/thanksgiving-the-hard-please?page=2