BIG NEWS in the local food world today as Tartine Bakery, which already had vague plans to expand to New York, announces that it will be joining forces with Blue Bottle Coffee, and actually becoming part of the Blue Bottle brand. As Inside Scoop explains, the conversation between Tartine baker-owner Chad Robertson and Blue Bottle founder James Freeman who have known each other for many years began after a misquote in a piece about Tartine's Tokyo expansion last fall in the New York Times, saying that it was a "collaboration" with Blue Bottle. In fact, Blue Bottle had just decided to open a kiosk in what will be Tartine's new Tokyo location, after they already opened their first Blue Bottle location there earlier this year.
But the misunderstanding led to inspiration, with Freeman suggesting to Robertson that, should he ever actually want to talk about partnering, he'd be open to it.
Now Robertson is characterizing the merger as "Tartine is joining the company of Blue Bottle. We’re part of Blue Bottle." This means that Tartine will get to expand its operations to Blue Bottle's existing array of retail locations in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, L.A., and Japan, and Blue Bottle will get to up its baked goods game in turn kind of like how local bakery chain La Boulange was acquired for the same purpose by Starbucks in 2012.
And this takes some of the onus off of Tartine when it comes to building the infrastructure needed to expand outside of SF, which they had only begun doing with the announcement last fall that they were expanding to London and L.A.
The New York Times quotes Robertson as saying, "As Blue Bottle has grown, it’s improved, and that is unusual. Everyone says they’re going to get better when they get bigger, but it doesn’t usually happen." Blue Bottle now has 18 total locations, with roaster locations in Oakland, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
What this also means, and this is big news for the San Francisco dining scene, is that longtime Mission satellite restaurant Bar Tartine is getting sold to co-chefs Nicolas Balla and Cortney Burns. The chefs, who are also a couple, have evolved the kitchen into one of the best and most adventurous in the city, and since taking over in 2011 the restaurant has regularly received accolades from critics for its inventive mashups of Eastern and Central European cuisine through a modern California, artisanal lens. They plan to rename the place in the coming month or two and evolve the menu further. But, as Robertson says, "We’ll continue to collaborate," so that means Tartine bread will hopefully still be available there and the space is still home to enormous bread oven that Robertson imported and installed just over two years ago in order to expand his baking capacity.
Tartine's planned new commercial bakery, The Manufactory, at the Heath Ceramics building (18th and Alabama) is set to open this fall, but now by year's end you'll also be able to get Tartine pastries at Blue Bottle locations around town. The next U.S. location for Tartine/Blue Bottle will then be in Los Angeles' Arts District, later this year, with a New York location still to be found, as the NYT reports.