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Food & Drink

San Francisco $18 bread: We tried the purple ‘playful sourdough’ everyone’s talking about

A loaf of bread sliced half has purple insides.
The purple ube sourdough loaf from Rize Up Bakery goes for $18 at Luke’s Local grocery store in San Francisco. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

It seems like everyone is talking about San Francisco’s $18 loaf of bread—dubbed a “playful sourdough” by one vendor. Its purple innards are a sight to behold, but is the hefty price tag worth it? The Standard went on a mission to find out.

San Francisco is a city known for its high cost of living, with soaring rents and seemingly every service asking customers for a tip.

Now a viral Thursday Reddit post of an expensive ube sourdough loaf, baked by SoMa-based breadmaker Rize Up, has got people talking about the city’s crazy costs—with 878 comments and nearly 5,000 upvotes on the social media platform. Opinions are, unsurprisingly, mixed.

We did it, San Francisco! We invented the $18 loaf of bread.
by u/rathousemoan in sanfrancisco

The post shows the bread on sale at Luke’s Local grocery store in North Beach, one of many Rize Up vendors, praising the bakery for taking ube––a purple yam originally from the Philippines––“to a place of refinement rather than gimmick.”

Despite the steep cost, the ube sourdough loaf is one of the most popular selections at the grocery store. The Standard obtained the last loaf of the day at Luke’s Local at 960 Cole St. at 9:30 a.m. Friday, 90 minutes after the store opened.

Rize Up's $18 ube sourdough loaf is shown before slicing. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

The Standard wants to hear from readers: What are other pricey everyday items you’ve seen or bought around San Francisco? Email with ‘Expensive Items’ in the subject line and tell us what you’ve splurged on.

Luke’s staffer Michael Banks said the loaf sells out quickly almost every day, despite being the store’s most expensive bakery item.

But is it worth its price tag? At first glance, the ube sourdough loaf has a rustic, brown crust that cracks open like an amethyst geode. It smells and tastes like traditional sourdough, but the ube adds a slight sweetness and earthiness. Most importantly, the bread is airy and chewy, which is what you’d expect for the price.

Nevertheless, reviews of the loaf were divided in The Standard newsroom. One writer said it was good sourdough, but “I just hate looking at it … It’s purple.” An editor showered the loaf with praise: “I thought it was delicious and beautiful. I would probably pay the $18 for it.”

a brown paper bag is seen next to a loaf of bread that has been sliced open revealing purple dough inside
The ube sourdough loaf is one of many items the SoMa-based Rize Up Bakery sells. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Rize Up founder Azikiwee Anderson said the idea for the loaf came to him after eating a bowl of ube-flavored ice cream. He started experimenting with recipes three years ago, and now the item is one of the bakery’s most popular requests, delivering about 200 loaves a week.

The bakery handmakes the ube halaya, a sweet paste made with ube chunks, sugar and sweetened condensed milk, Anderson said.

As for the cost: It’s not the most expensive Rize Up loaf. The bakery also sells a masala-flavored pan loaf for $20. The ube loaf sells wholesale for $16.

Anderson said the cost of the bakery’s products is necessary to “make people appreciate the people who make it.” Some of the profit goes to training Rize Up’s staff, many of whom don’t come from a culinary background, he said.

Rize Up’s products can be found at Luke’s, Rainbow Groceries, Gus’s Market and other local grocery stores throughout the city. The bakery also delivers direct-to-consumer on the company’s website.