Photo of the mystery sewage situation at Tartine sent in by our reader.

Last night, we received an email and photo from a reader who lives across the street from Tartine Bakery on 18th and Guerrero, reporting that the beloved bakery was funneling sewage out into the street.

“Tartine sometimes (at least twice/and right now) has a hose coming from their restaurant and openly draining into the sewer grate on the corner,” wrote our reader. “It’s happened several times, and the whole block smells like sewage.”

Turns out old pipes make not such great neighbors. Tartine’s building was built in 1925 and last night one of the manager’s said the old building’s pipes started to leak.

“We share a whole network of pipes with this whole old building…this is definitely one of those old buildings with very old pipes,” said bakery manager Vinny Eng. “We called in a plumber and he wanted to abate the situation (with the hose out to street), so it was safe for everyone.”

By mid-morning the unpleasant aroma described by our reader was gone. In its place, the more pleasing smells of morning bun, pan au chocolate, and country loaf wafted past the typical line of pastry aficionados streaming out the door.

Eng says that this type of plumbing mishap occurs very rarely, but there will be a bigger fix in the next few weeks to prevent it from happening again.

If there’s any silver-lining in the sludge, it’s the reminder that big changes are in the works for Tartine. In April, the bakery signed a lease at the Heath Ceramics factory facility on 18th and Bryant. The 5,000-square-foot space will be primarily for baking Tartine’s signature loaves.

Eng explains that once this new manufacturing space is up and running, most likely early next year, it will allow Tartine to spend some time renovating its Guerrero Street bakery. The renovations will mean more seating for guests and more room for the cookie and pastry chefs to whip up their confections.

“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity,” Eng said. “We’ll do the nitty, gritty stuff like the walls and pipes… It will really give us a chance to give this space the love and care it needs.”

Mystery solved. Now, to the next conundrum: which pastry should we have for a pre-lunch snack?

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Same thing happened this morning. Literally, woken up by the smell at 6am. Nice warm day, windows shut.

  2. The (probably illegal) discharge is FOG, Fat,Oil, and Grease. This is a major problem for restaurant and food businesses discharging into the city’s sewerage system.

  3. I normally don’t do this, but if you guys want to be “journalists” please get your grammar straight. “Manager’s” = Managers. I know it sounds nitpicky, but yes, it matters.

  4. Unfortunately, the sludge that drains into the “sewer grate on the corner” doesn’t end up in the sewer—it feeds to the bay.