Arizmendi Rocks San Rafael’s Bakery Scene

| April 12, 2010 | 3 Comments
  • 3 Comments

Arizmendi San Rafael
Arizmendi San Rafael finally opened April 6th!

I’ve been looking forward to this bakery opening for months. Seasons, actually. You see, it’s not that we don’t have Arizmendi in the city. We do. And it’s fantastic–although on the opposite end of town from where I live. But my mom is a quick hop from the new location in San Rafael and I find myself at her house often because a) she’s cool, b) she cooks for me and c) she has much better cable and cute dogs. So when I heard that Arizmendi had finally opened this week, I made a point to cruise on over and check it out. All in the name of research.

If you’re not familiar with Arizmendi, they’re not only an incredible bakery but they use a very cool worker cooperative business model. Over thirty years ago now, Berkeley’s worker-owned, Cheeseboard cooperative opened. The model was so succesful that they helped open another bakery in Oakland that year–Arizmendi on Lakeshore Avenue was born. The rest is history. So without going into too much detail on the ins and outs of cooperatives (although it’s quite fascinating), in short everyone weighs in on decisions ranging from opening hours to new pizza flavors.

Part of their mission statement reads:

Acting on the belief that beneficial change can come through collective action, we are a worker-owned and democratically-operated bakery cooperative. We make decisions by consensus and we share all of the business tasks, responsibilities, benefits, and risks, while being accountable to each other.

Call me crazy but this sense of care and ownership shines through in the product. Without a doubt. In the San Rafael store, this passion is immediately detectable. While I was expecting a more watered-down Arizmendi experience that would possibly cater to a different, more suburban clientele, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s a peek at what I found:

Arizmendi bread bakers
Arizemndi bakers preparing loaves of multi-grain bread


Arizmendi Customers
Customers. Many, many happy customers

When I was chatting with the bakers, they mentioned that the San Rafael store’s opening day was Arizmendi’s biggest ever (they have East Bay and San Francisco locations as well). It was apparent on my first visit that the excitment had yet to wane.

Morning Pastries
You’ll see all of your Arizmendi favorites, including the english muffin and corn cherry scone!


And a new discovery for me–intrigued by the name, I had to try one:

The Chocolate Thing
“The Chocolate Thing,” a simple, yeasted breakfast bun generously studded with chocolate

So while I visited the San Rafael shop for a few breakfast treats, there’s a lot more going on at Arizmendi. They do incredible pizzas–you can check online for their pizza of the day and pop in to buy a slice or a light-baked pie to finish baking at home. They also do artisan breads, simple cookies, and coffee drinks using Equator beans. The San Rafael location has a spacious eating area to lounge and catch up with a good book or just people watch from of their huge street-side location. And if, much like me, you can never have too many morning pastries, here are a few additional suggestions. I can attest to their greatness:

  • Corn Cherry scone: a simple, delightful combination. Crumbly. A little bit savory, a little bit sweet.
  • Homemade english muffin. Enough said.
  • Pecan Roll: This is a nice one to share with your breakfast buddy. Light yeasty dough, nuts, caramel flavor.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies: This is not a fluffy, airy cookie. It’s rather flat, dense, and generously strewn with chunks of chocolate. One of my favorite chocolate chip cookies around. And yes, I realize for most people this wouldn’t be considered a morning pastry…

Generally speaking, each Arizmendi location will have a few specialties that they only do at that location. I chatted with the bakers to see what would be uniquely San Rafael and they said it was just too early to tell at this point. They wanted to start with the standard, successful line of Arizmendi products and give themselves some time to get to know the customers, the location, and what’s really popular. As of now, the pizza has been a huge hit (after all, where can you grab a quick lunch right downtown?) and the morning pastry crowd is growing each day. They hinted that there’s a good chance you may see them rockin’ the Marin Farmer’s Market in the coming months, too. So there’s a lot to look forward to. But it’s safe to say I’m satisfied with the here and now: they’re open, they’ve got the best scone in town, and I’ve got a pizza in my fridge waiting to be baked off.

Arizmendi San Rafael
(See their website for other Bay Area locations)
1002 Fourth St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 456-4093
Hours: Closed Mon.; Tues.-Fri: 7am-7pm; Sat. 8am-7pm; Sun. 8am-4pm
Twitter: @Arizmendi_SR

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Category: baking and bakeries, bay area, local food businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes

About the Author ()

Megan Gordon is originally from Eureka, CA although she's lived in numerous college towns around the country (another story altogether). A freelance food and travel writer, Megan has written for publications like Ready Made Magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, Edible SF and Edible Marin & Wine Country, Olive Oil Times and The San Francisco Bay Guardian. She writes regularly for Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn and maintains her own local food blog, A Sweet Spoonful. Yes, Megan even tweets @meganjanesf. In addition to writing and photographing food, Megan is the founder (and head baker) of Marge, a Bay Area baking company specializing in classic American pies and nostalgic desserts.
  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Megan — I’m lucky enough to live within a ten-minute walk of the Oakland Arizmendi. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of this Bay Area bakery. Everything, from their morning selection to their pizzas, breads and soups, are made with care and great ingredients. One of my favorite breakfast items is the almond snail — sweet egg dough baked with almond paste and then topped with powdered sugar. That plus a coffee is the perfect breakfast for my morning walk.

  • http://arizmendi.coop Joe M

    Thanks for the great article! As a baker there I have to put my pitch in for the undersung oat scone. Also, for you cooperative geeks out there – there’s an article on the Arizmendi development process here: http://geo.coop/node/365

  • Patrick

    So when will you be baking Gateau Basque?