My estranged father’s mother, Annetta, was a loving woman. Every birthday I eagerly opened the mailbox expecting a card from my father, which never happened, but there was always a card from her. Very few people in my life have heard me talk about her, so very few know that she was from Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Portadown later became known as “murder triangle” during The Troubles. Because my grandmother had told everyone she was from Dublin, I never found any information about her when I set off to Ireland in 2011. Little did I know, she had passed on the year before.
Happily, people do know my affinity for archaic bakeries hidden within overlooked neighborhoods. No matter how dingy, how many flies buzz around, I will defend that bakery until the bitter end. Unless they charge exorbitant prices and then they’re on their own. John Campbell’s Irish Bakery pretty much sums up a laundry list of things that not only make me smile, but comfort me. It’s an intimate experience. It’s dim (but clean), the prices on some of the items are in my comfort zone, the staff kind and it’s tucked in a neighborhood few hipsters have swarmed upon like the locusts they are.
There are quickly perishable products behind the cold case: sausage rolls ($4), scones with cream ($3), pasties and a snack called, ‘breakfast in bed’ (bread with sausage, black + white pudding, eggs, and cheese baked into it).
The front window display is self-serve, grab a pair of tongs and a paper bag and help yourself to delicate tea cookies with lemon curd and raspberry jam centers (thumbprints) for $0.30 each. Glazed coconut shortbread cookies, crumbly blueberry scones (under $2 each) piled high in wooden baskets just screaming for preserves or clotted cream and curd.
The problem with everything being so affordable, is that you have quickly shoved a dozen buttery tea cookies into your bag and now it’s $3.60, plus your two scones with and without cream and your sausage roll. John Campbell’s knows the name of the game. And the name is, shove this delicious Irish sausage encased in a puff pastry sleeve into my mouth, followed by several tea cookies the size of a half dollar coin…and all before the 38 has even approached the stop.
Does it help that the Muni stops right outside of its door?
John Campbell’s Irish Bakery
5625 Geary Street [@21st], San Francisco, Ca 94121