With Salt & Butter, locals bring well-known Japanese baked goods to San Diego

Salt & Butter owners Stuart Schaffer and William Sutjiadi
Salt & Butter owners Stuart Schaffer and William Sutjiadi.
(Karen Billing)

Carmel Valley resident Stuart Schaffer and William Sutjiadi of 4S Ranch have brought the tastes of a well-known Japanese bakery to San Diego with Salt & Butter, serving up hot and fresh rolls, loaves, panini and sweet pastry treats.

Salt & Butter by Okayama Kobo is related to the original Japanese bakery founded in 1986. Okayama Kobo has grown to more than 200 bakery locations across Japan with “sister bakeries” in Orange County and Los Angeles. With Salt & Butter, Schaffer and Sutjiaidi have established the Okayama Kobo brand’s first presence in San Diego.

“People say it’s just like what they tasted in Kyoto or Tokyo,” Sutjiadi said.

Open since September 2022, Salt & Butter has a small storefront and bakes out of Rotisserie Affair facility in Miramar. People can stop by the fragrant bakery or pre-order goodies to ensure they will be there when they arrive.

They also have weekly pop-ups at locations throughout the city including Embolden Beer Company (“Salt & Butter rolls are better than soft pretzels, it’s perfect with a beer,” notes Schaffer) and at Sutjaidi’s Matcha Cafe Maiko locations in Clairemont and Escondido. Schaffer said they are always looking for new neighborhoods and partners to expand their pop-up distribution, hopefully someday soon they will pop up in Carmel Valley or Del Mar.

Salt & Butter rolls are delicate, soft and fluffy with a hint of saltiness and a crispy, buttery bottom. The rolls come in a variety of flavors and fillings both sweet and savory, like cookie butter or spicy curry.

The Kobo Kuma rolls, stuffed with vanilla bean custard.
(Salt & Butter)

Their adorable Kobo Kumas are bear-shaped soft buns filled with homemade vanilla bean custard and their emojis are sweet buns with little faces, filled with hazelnut and vanilla bean custard cream. Their seasonal “fruit sunrises” pastries sell out fast—recently they featured the strawberry sunrise, a roll stuffed with whipped cream and strawberry jam, and for St. Patrick’s Day, a green sunrise filled with matcha custard and whipped cream.

The Salt & Butter rolls are also used in sandwiches like the “Japanini” filled with bacon, cheese, pesto, tomato and a shiso leaf; and the pork katsu panini, an interesting taste combo with a panko crusted pork cutlet, cheese, tomato all baked into the bread with Okayama Kobo’s tonkatsu sauce.

The Salt & Butter idea was born out of the pandemic, when due to the closures of restaurants, Okayama Kobo was looking for a way to augment sales. They came to Sutjiadi’s Matcha Cafe Maiko cafe for a pop-up—customers ordered online and came by the cafe for pick-up.

“There were a lot of customers in San Diego and they were so excited,” Sutjiadi said, noting some told him that they used to drive all the way to Anaheim just for Okayama Kobo. “Sales were booming and going nuts.”

Schaffer and Sutjiadi had been business partners before in a number of ventures, mostly in the high tech and software industries. Traveling in Japan extensively for business, Schaffer had tried and fell in love with the rolls and realized there was clearly a demand in the San Diego market. Together they figured out a way to establish Salt & Butter to bring Okayama Kobo closer to home.

The savory curry roll from Salt & Butter.
The savory curry roll from Salt & Butter.
(Salt & Butter)

The bakery bakes with additive and preservative-free dough, using 100% Hokkaido flour imported straight from Japan. The flour is “super delicate” and requires a specific way of handling—their bakers have been trained in the exacting Japanese processes to delivery consistent quality. The rolls and breads, including full-size loafs of Japanese milk bread, are freshly made and baked daily.

As a bakery, limiting food waste is a priority. They only sell what’s hot and fresh, meaning pre-orders are your best bet unless you want to try your luck and show up and see what goodies remain. Sutjiadi said they have had customers come who ask what’s left and take them all to go.

On Fridays, you can also treat yourself to an iced matcha from Matcha Cafe Maiko.

Salt & Butter can also do custom orders for fundraisers and special events— recently they made custom emojis to celebrate Canyon Crest Academy’s robotic team.

Schaffer said if you had asked them a few years ago if they would ever own a bakery, it would not even remotely be a consideration.

“This is something where we were in the right place, right time,” Schaffer said. “And are we having fun? Yeah. We have a very unique product to offer that we don’t see anyone else quite matching.”

The bakery is open Tuesday through Fridays for pick-up from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at 7313 Carroll Road Suite L. For ordering or pop-up locations visit saltandbuttersd.com