For those who want to taste all of San Francisco’s greatest bites and purest ingredients, head to the Ferry Plaza restaurants situated in the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Bay. It’s a one-stop eat fest.
When visiting San Francisco, the biggest dilemma may not be where to stay, but where to eat. How do you get in as many meals as possible in this top American food city? Our recommendation would be to spend a day or two exploring the culinary delights of San Francisco’s Ferry Building, an 1898 ferry terminal that’s been transformed into a buzzing 660-foot long food hall. In addition to around 40 permanent merchants, dozens of food kiosks are generously sprinkled across the space.
In San Francisco, it’s hallowed ground for foodies, with a 240-foot clock tower piercing the skyline like a spire and an honest-to-god nave where natural light streams through, spotlighting items to eat. Locals and visitors alike come to worship wholesome ingredients like mushrooms, peaches and California cheeses such as those on offer at cheesemonger Cowgirl Creamery.
Co-owned by a Chez Panisse alum, Cowgirl uses milk from a dairy farm north of the city. The triple-cream Mt. Tam (named after San Francisco’s Mount Tamalpais) pairs well with an epi baguette from Acme Bread (another Chez Panisser) right next door. At Cowgirl’s Sidekick Café & Milk Bar, take away grilled cheese, gougères, and other cheesy treats.
Despite Boccalone’s tagline “tasty salted pig parts,” the heritage pork here isn’t cured with a lot of added salt – offal king, star local chef, and co-owner Chris Cosentino prefers the natural flavours to shine. Sausage sandwiches are a favourite here, as are tees sporting the famous tagline.
To save yourself the trouble of eating at all three venues, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant’s small, open bar sells wines by the glass as well as a combo plate that includes Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, a selection of Boccalone charcuterie, and an Acme epi.
Part of the allure of the Ferry Building is encountering completely homegrown Cali ingredients. Around 42 varieties of mushroom can be found at Far West Fungi, which farms its produce in Monterey Bay. The kiosk also carries mustards, truffle oils and starter kits to grow your own mushrooms.
Moving right along to other oddly shaped edibles, Hog Island Oysters is the spot in Ferry Plaza. Due to the oyster bar’s popularity, particularly during happy hour (5pm-7pm, $1 oysters), they have outgrown their current location and are set to expand. The briny bivalves come from a bay about 60 miles north of the city, which is also a great place to visit.
If you’re after a proper sit-down, two Ferry Plaza restaurants (run by James Beard award-winning chefs) offer a more relaxed dining experience. At Mijita, Mexican street food items such as tacos, tortas and ceviche, are ordered at the counter and food is delivered to your table (try to get one outside with Bay views). Chef Traci Des Jardins’ carne asada taco is filled with juicy beef folded in a warm tortilla topped with a smoky red salsa.
Slanted Door, meanwhile, is one of San Francisco’s most famous Vietnamese restaurants. Ingredients are sourced from nearby farms and the spicy yuba noodles (peppered with Fresno chilli) use tofu yuba that comes from a local soy beanery. A signature is the shaking beef: filet mignon cubes flavoured with a soy vinaigrette and spicy lime dip. Slanted Door chef Charles Phan has also opened a second casual eatery just next door. Aptly named Out the Door, this venue specialises in porridges, banh mi, and noodle dishes.
Those with a sweet tooth should head to Miette for freshly baked walnut shortbreads and chocolate sablés, which pair nicely with cult coffeehouse Blue Bottle’s iced New Orleans-style coffee. Straight-on chocoholics should not miss Recchiuti Confections. French techniques meet farmers’ market ingredients (like lemon verbena, tarragon) in rich chocolate creations. They also carry truffles, pates de fruits and a stylish s’mores kit, with all the pieces needed for a nostalgic dinner party dessert.
Have you sampled the culinary delights of San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza restaurants? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Christine Ciarmello
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About the author: ChristineCChristine Ciarmello
A San Francisco-based freelancer and now fog aficionado, Christine Ciarmello was editor-in-chief of Islands, then deputy editor of one of the largest circ lifestyle magazines, Sunset, where she created the culture blog Westphoria. She left her hometown of New Orleans after a nearly lifetime stint, three hurricane evacuations, and too much seafood gumbo. She covers the hedonistic sports of traveling, eating, drinking, and design-hunting. Places that require a ferry to get there, plus modern-vintage hotels and the tropics are her weaknesses. cciarm.com