English and Irish expats, as well as anglophiles, tend to grumble and agree — a good sausage roll is hard to find in San Francisco. Sure, we’ve got historic Irish-American bars where you can get a cold pint and fish and chips that aren't too shabby. But not many restaurants or butchers serve British sausages, plump, juicy, generously spiced, and bundled up in golden puff pastry. Well friends, Englishmen, and everyone else who watches British period sitcoms from the ’80s, you may untwist your knickers now. Proper sausage rolls have officially arrived in the Bay Area. Thanks to Julie Whittington and Megan Twisk, the saucy pie ladies behind Mrs Miggins British Bakery, now serving traditional sausage rolls and Cornish pasties.
Whittington grew up near Newcastle in Northern England and lived in London before moving to Sunnyvale in 2016, while Twisk comes from Marlborough in Southwest England and landed in Sunnyvale in 2014. Both followed tech husbands and met through English and Irish mums in the South Bay. They were always moaning about how you can’t get good sausages, until Twisk started making them herself and sharing batches with friends. Separately, Whittington went to culinary school at SF Cooking School and cooked for a couple of years at Google and LinkedIn, until the tech cafeterias cut cooks during the pandemic. That’s when the pie ladies went all in: Mrs Miggins launched in 2021, serving sausage rolls at the San Ramon Farmers’ Market. (Americans always ask who’s Mrs Miggins, while Brits already know — she’s a bawdy bit character from Blackadder, the television series starring Rowan Atkinson, better known as Mr. Bean.)
To appreciate the finer points of a sausage roll, there is a difference with English sausages. “The breadcrumbs are the key,” Whittington says. “That holds the water.” She explains that while American sausages might be all meat, English sausages fold in breadcrumbs to capture the juices. Cheap ones from the supermarket can be smashed so hard the filling is almost smooth, but nice ones from a good butcher are tumbled together to keep texture. They’re also spiced differently; while American breakfast links taste of sage and black pepper, British sausages have the warm spice of mace. A sausage roll simply bundles it up into golden puff pastry — but let’s not call them pigs in blankets, they have more dignity than cocktail weenies. Sausage rolls come in an array of shapes and sizes, from humble packages in the freezer aisle to small plates at gastropubs, fancified with dried fruit, black pudding, or bacon jam.
However, the Mrs Miggins ladies are sausage roll purists. “We’re a posh Greggs,” Whittington says, referring to the chain bakery with more than 2,000 shops across the UK, baking off “the nation’s favourite sausage roll” (their claim and their spelling). What Whittington means is that they’re doing the classic but with quality ingredients. “As Megan likes to put it, ‘We don’t use any lips or assholes,’” Whittington says. “It is all ground pork shoulder, with the spices and a bit of breadcrumbs … it’s jam-packed with meat from a happy local pig.” They use Berkshire or Duroc heritage pigs, raised by Mountain View Pork and butchered by Sonoma Meat. The puff pastry isn’t especially fancy but reliably flaky and golden. And while the Greggs version is skinny verging on skimpy, the Miggins update is extra plump and meaty.
The sausage rolls tend to steal the show, but the ladies round out the menu with a few more traditional treats: Cornish pasties filled with beef, root vegetables, and a rich gravy, and crimped into a short crust made with lard (the iconic hand pie of Cornwall, which was once a humble lunch for tin miners, and today feeds beachgoers and tourists). A variety of other savory pies, such as a classic steak bake, chicken tikka, and cheese and onion. There are picnicky salads for summer, including a coronation chicken salad fit for a queen’s jubilee. And yes, of course, that quality sausage was begging to be smashed around Scotch eggs, although they’re only available at the farmers’ market in limited quantities.
You can buy a hot single sausage roll at the farmers’ markets, and shoppers have been known to swing back for seconds and thirds. Or you can order freezer packs to bake off at home via Pastel. Whittington’s son likes them best with baked beans for his tea (also known as dinner in American English), and while one could dunk them in brown sauce or ketchup, he doesn’t bother. But maybe wait to change into your jammies for a Mr. Bean marathon until after you’ve quite finished and wiped those buttery fingers. “It’s never a clean snack,” Whittington insists. “Down your front, there’s always a layer of flakes and bits of pastry after you’ve finished a sausage roll.”
Mrs Miggins British Bakery is at the San Ramon Farmer’s Market and Willow Glen Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, and the sausages rolls are available for pickup and delivery across the Bay Area through Pastel.