Update: October 26, 2023, 8:45 a.m. Following the publication of this piece, the opening date of Butter & Crumble has moved to Friday, October 27.
On Wednesday, October 25, Sophie Smith will open her dreamy North Beach bakery Butter & Crumble in the former Tante Marie’s Cooking School at 271 Francisco Street in North Beach. The road to moving the small business into a permanent space wasn’t smooth thanks to permitting issues, and neither was the road to becoming a pop-up due to the red tape Smith navigated while renting out a shared kitchen. But, ultimately, Smith’s is a story of triumph. She says the 1,300-square-foot shop is ideal for baking and teaching croissant-making classes — it’s also steeped in nostalgia for the former students of Tante Marie’s, who include Smith’s mother.
Customer favorites will fill the opening menu including Smith’s bacon, egg, and cheese croissant in all its yolky glory, plus sweet options such as a pistachio and cardamom sugar croissant, pain au chocolat, and a chocolate chip cookie, all of which will remain constants. Diners will also have sweet and savory danishes, including a potato-herb version, to choose from. A seasonal cruffin flavor will rotate, and to kick things off for fall Smith plans to debut a cozy pumpkin number. Smith will also offer one vegan and one gluten-free bakery item at all times, such as her popular gluten-free banana-cinnamon coffee cake.
Smith and pastry assistant Nicki Volante traveled to Europe for inspiration during the buildout, sampling treats from bakeries in Florence, Paris, and Copenhagen. The popular cardamom croissant from Hart Bageri in Copenhagen inspired an item the team calls the Dirty Chai Situation, which is formed by a “cluster” of croissant dough scraps. Smith’s take on a cinnamon roll, meanwhile, gets formed as a knot to achieve more filling distribution without drying out the dough.
Those who first fell for Smith’s cakes will soon see pre-orders open up again, and the plan is to eventually offer cakes for walk-ins. With the extra space in the shop, Smith says Butter & Crumble will expand its seasonal offerings with Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies, as well. As for drinks, Smith is offering drip coffee and cold brew to start, with an espresso machine to be added later. She partnered with Ana Valle of Abanico Coffee Roasters to create a special blend for the shop.
Building out the Butter & Crumble bakery has been a testament to Smith’s strong following. She’s posted on Instagram about the issues she encountered while getting the bakery open, and customers have stepped up to help get her across the finish line. Butter & Crumble’s many fans funded the shop through SMBX, an investment company that allows the public to buy bonds to support small businesses and receive repayment plus interest; helped with design; facilitated contractor introductions; and more. “There’s always unexpected challenges that have tested our budget and our sense of timeline,” Smith says, “and navigating that process has been tricky, but I’ve had a really great support system and team helping me do it.”
Former Tante Marie’s students will notice Smith kept a few elements from the school. For instance, a ceiling-mounted cooking demonstration mirror remains, angled so customers can follow along as the Butter & Crumble team rolls out pastries. It’s one of Smith’s favorite features, and perhaps an invaluable teaching tool once Butter & Crumble returns to offering classes. Smith kept much of the school’s character, maintaining what she calls “this nice combination of a commercial kitchen with more homey touches.” Other homages include a metal whisk at the bakery door, a remnant from Tante Marie’s. A pastry sheeter will sit prominently in the front window, and the open kitchen will show customers the not-so-behind-the-scenes baking process. “It’s always been a dream of mine to create in an open format bakery,” Smith says, “because I think it’s so cool for customers to see the process behind our products. Especially with something like laminated pastries, where a lot of love goes into those pastries — they’re quite labor intensive.”
Smith is also adding a retail shop highlighting local small businesses. Ceramics from Altar Ceramics, bouquets from Julie Enright of Urban Virgo Flower Truck & Events, plants from That SF Plant Guy, and greeting cards from Missive will grace the shelves. Smith worked with artists Jasmine Nguyen, Blair Stingley, Asra Sarfraz, and Kathy Dong on Butter & Crumble totes to be sold at the store. While the retail area is not quite the dine-in cafe Smith first envisioned, it does create an opportunity for a sweet break outdoors. “I’ve just fallen in love with this area of North Beach,” Smith says. “It’s a really cute neighborhood and Washington Square Park is super close, I’m hoping people will grab their pastries and go on a nice walk.”
Butter & Crumble (271 Francisco Street) debuts on Wednesday, October 25 and will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.