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SF - John Campbell's Irish Bakery update

I finally stopped by this wonderful little bakery. Step in the door and you are no longer in SF. Everyone has a lovely Irish accent, both customers and staff. I started to develop a bit of a brogue before leaving.

Some nice pictures of the bakery and baked goods in this 7x7 story … I mean look at that … is that the idealized Irish Bakery or what? And it is so much better that it is more than looks ... the baked goods are delicious.

The whipped cream on some tarts is so lovely and thick it is easy to fantasize a farmer carrying buckets of fresh cream to the back door of the bakery.

The coffee is good, but get the Barry's tea. That tea with one of the wonderful little tarts, especially the apple with the fantastic whipped cream is one of the best things in the Bay Area.

I throw down the challenge that no Chinese bakery in the city makes a better more elegant custard tart … it makes Golden Gate taste crude by comparison. One of the best I've ever had with a delicate buttery crust and a light custard. A caveat is these are small, have less filling and must be eaten the day they are made.

What is nice is they have about a dozen samples on top of the counter.

A few other items I tried:

Beef and vegetable pasty: Indescribably great. A light flakey crust filled with savory delicious coarsely chopped beef with some potatoes, peas and carrots, but mostly beef. It is a little salty but still delicious.

Irish crusty bread: A sample and there is no other bread in SF as wonderful as this soft white loaf with a light crust.

Scones: Similar to Sconehenge scones but lighter and more elegant. I picked up a chocolate chip scone instead of currant. It was still very good. The plain has a little more baking soda in it but not too much. It is delicious with jam. The 7x7 articles says of the scones "Fluffy, soft, smelling of cream, and studded with raisins, they are everything a scone should be."

Shortbread: Small thin round cookies that are delicate. While good, they reminded me more of a sugar cookie than a butter cookie.

Foccacia: Why they make it, who knows but it is delicious foccacia ... soft and yeasty. The sample I tried had a nice bit of jalepeno in it ... yeah, yeah ... Irish, Italian, Mexican ... back to the Bay Area.

The first reply is the current menu with prices. Anyone tried the chicken pot pie?

Previous Chowhound report:

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  1. Bakery menu as of the date of this post


    Irish crusty bread $2.95
    Irish soda bread $5.00
    Irish brown bread $5.00
    Potato bread (6pk) $5.00
    Irish batch bread $3.25
    Belfast Bap $1.25
    Raisin scones(5pk) $5.00
    Soda Farls (4pk) $5.00


    Chicken and curry $4.50
    Chicken and vegetable $4.50
    Beef and vegetable $4.50
    Vegetable and curry $4.50
    Sausage roll $5.00
    Shepherd’s pie $6.00


    Jam tarts $3.25
    Custard tarts $1.00
    Large custard $4.00
    Mini apple pie $1.50
    Large apple pie $3.75
    Swiss Roll $2.50
    Cream buns $2.00
    Raspberry almond bars $2.00
    Raspberry cream scones $2.25
    Fresh filled cream Meringue shells $1.75
    Fresh cream filled scones $2.25

    SANDWICHES $5.00

    Belfast Bap
    Irish sausage, Irish bacon, Cheddar cheese with scrambled eggs

    Foccacia sandwich
    American egg, bacon, pepper-jack cheese, creamy buttermilk sauce

    Vegetarian foccacia
    Tomato, mushrooms, onion, red/green peppers, with tomato sauce

    DAILY SPECIALS: Menu boards have other baked goods. They had snowballs … coconut covered, jam-filled.

    BOXED LUNCHES served at the bakery $7.95

    Selection of
    - 2 sausage rolls
    - pastie (four varieties available)
    - chicken or beef pot pie
    - Belfast Bap
    - Foccacia sandwich
    - Open face sandwich

    Served with a choice of jam tart, custard tart, or shortbread cookies with soda or water

    Special Irish box lunch served 11am – 2pm
    Select from all of the above and served with French fries, baked beans

    John Campbell's Irish Bakery
    5625 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Looking forward to trying this place.

      1. re: NoeMan

        Looking forward to what you think.

        On the menu, the jam tarts are $1.25 ... not $3.25 ... typo ... sorry.

    2. FWIW, Cost Plus World Market (SF) carries Barry's Tea (80 bags for $8.99).

      5 Replies
      1. re: Gary Soup

        Thanks. I really liked it. I was going to ask the bakery next time if they sold boxes of it.

        1. re: rworange

          All the Irish shops have it (9th & Kirkham, 17th & Taraval, Geary near union square and many more), as does the corner store on 15th and Divisidero, where they sell Irish foods as well as mediterranean.

          1. re: NoeMan

            I think you mean 15th & Castro. Was that store bought by Irish people or something?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Yeah, I guess it still is Castro there. The guy is Mediterranean and has been there quite awhile, but had so many Irish contractors coming in for stuff he started stocking up for them. He also does the breakfast sandwich (the "Bap" @ John Campbell's), with egg plus Irish sausage and bacon. Great hangover food.

          2. re: rworange

            I believe Trader Joe's is private labeling their Irish breakfast. Singificantly cheaper than $8.99.

        2. true, no chinese bakery can produce a good egg custard tart, but that's b/c the chinese are not big on baked desserts--so it's not likely you will ever find a good chinese bakery.

          you WILL, however, find unrivaled custard tarts in the dim sum houses--as opposed to the cheap bakeries you find in chinatown and clement street.

          i must try one of these tarts at john campbell's though. the chinese in me hasnt allowed for it, though. perhaps i will be pleasantly suprised.

          3 Replies
          1. re: stevewwoo

            If the Chinese aren't big on baked desserts, why is there a Maxim's in every MTR Station in Hong Kong?

            It doesn't make a lot of sense, however, to compare John Campbell's custard tarts with dan ta or Portuguese pasteis because they really are three different genres. The JC Tarts are simply regulation Anglo-American custard pies (of the type Bill Gates once took in the face) in miniature, nothing more.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Nothing like an American pie at all. Really are close to a Chinese dan ta. A custard tart is a custard tart ... eggs, crust ... what would distinguish a dan ta?

              From wiki

              'One theory suggests Chinese egg tarts are a Chinese adaption of English tarts with custard filling. Guangdong had long been the region in China with most frequent contact with the West, in particular Britain. As a former British colony, British food naturally assimilated to local Hong Kong tastes."

              "The Portuguese-style egg tarts known in Macau originated from Lord Stow's Café in Coloane, owned by a Briton named Andrew Stow."

              1. re: rworange

                A matter of taste buds, I suppose. The classic American egg custard pie uses whole eggs, no cornstarch, whole milk, and probably nutmeg. A dan ta, AFAIK, uses egg yolks only, and cornstarch. Probably no nutmeg, and not sure about the milk (seemingly less, or reduced fat). JC's custard tart reminded me of my Anglo-Irish grandmother's custard pie (sans meringue).

          2. Ohmygosh - has this place been over a year now? Hard to realize! It is hands-down my favorite bakery in the city and when I have to do banking and have a choice between taking Muni into downtown or out to the Avenues, I head towards the ocean only because I know there will be some Irish yummies in my future!

            1. I really like the scones there. I always get one for breakfast after getting my haircut nearby. Very inexpensive too.

              1. This bakery seems to have dropped off the chow radar with little said about it in recent years. I used to frequent the location in Cow Hollow before it closed, mostly for the sweet pastries and loved everything I'd tried. On Wednesday I dropped by intending to explore some of the savories before St. Paddy's day. But alas, the cupboards were nearly bare due to some kind of kitchen incident. No pasties, no corned beef slice, little of anything for sale.

                My purchases were limited to the scones: plain, raisin, blueberry, and chcolate chip; cream bun; and an open-face sandwich stuffed with a link of sausage, black and white pudding and cheese. Warmed up later for dinner, the sandwich (and it's not open faced) was quite a treat. The cream bun was filled with luscious custard, whipped cream, and gluey raspberry jam, but I didn't like the bread. And I discovered I'm not a fan of the scones. Too fluffy for me, not short and crumbly enough, and not so rich with cream. Kind of a letdown this time.

                What are folks favorites here?

                7 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  This is really disheartening to read... I miss having access to the bakery when I lived in the city and often craved the Mince Pie.

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    I'm not ready to don the sackcloth and ashes yet (though I was there on Ash Wednesday). The counter lady was very apologetic for the lack of selection and didn't have details herself on what had happened to the baking that day. If there had been more to choose from, I probably would have selected different items than I did and might have been more satisfied. So, that's why I'm posting to see if this was indeed unusual. Still, that doesn't explain the scones . . .

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Their Belfast Bap makes for a very good hamburger bun.

                    1. re: calumin

                      Oh, yes, I liked that roll, same used for my sandwich. I was a bit skeptical, since the pre-made sandwich came out of the cold box. The bread was hardened when dinner time came around. But a few minutes in the toaster oven revived it. The crust crisped up and the interior had a nice chewiness.


                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      I generally prefer their savories. I was kind of shocked by how much I like their chicken curry--in pastie and shepherd's pie forms.

                      1. re: sfbing

                        Samples of the chicken curry shepherd's pie (sorry, that's what it's called here) were available on the counter for tasting. Cold mashed potatoes blocked out too much of the taste for me to get a sense of the dish.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        I stopped going there after widely reported non-payment of back wages and overtime. I didn't realize the original was still open. http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...