If Chinatown is one of San Francisco’s most historic neighborhoods, continue walking for another ten minutes and you’ll arrive at one of its newest attractions, the Ferry Building. Actually, the building itself is not new, having been completed in 1898 with a tower modeled on the Giralda in Seville. The Ferry Building, however, then suffered some hard times thanks to drops in the number of passengers arriving in the city by ferry and then the construction of the Embarcadero Freeway, which cut it off from the city. In 2003, however, it reopened in a notable example of adaptive reuse, as the city’s premier food hall. Whether you are shopping for California olive oils, cheeses from nearby farms, or even handmade soaps, the Ferry Building offers a selection of lovingly made artisanal gifts. It’s also a good place for lunch, whether you are in the mood for Vietnamese noodles or fresh oysters. San Francisco’s largest farmer’s market is also held here, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
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Spend an Hour, Spend a Day!
When my girlfriends and I want a special treat, we spend the whole day at the San Francisco Ferry Building. You can choose to hop from food stand to restaurant, or just buy enough for a picnic and sit outside on a bench to watch the boats and people go by.
Start at the Hog Island Oyster Company (get there when it opens) for a quick 6 and a Sancerre, work your way to Boulette’s Larder for a European-kitchen-inspired lunch, go by the wine store for a tasting and to browse their stacks, relax outside to people watch at MarketBar (backup for breakfast if you get there early) and have a cocktail (or dinner) at Slanted Door (rsvs recommended). While strolling, don’t miss the Beekind honey tasting stand , Happy Girl Kitchen (pickled dilly beans and zucchini will make your eyes roll in delight), the macarons at La Miette (organic and they give even Laduree a run for their money), and/or the Humphrey Slocumb ice cream stop and the Cowgirl Creamery, a local cheese maker Alice Waters style. Delicioso!
Supporting Local Food Specialists at San Francisco's Ferry Building
San Francisco's Ferry Building was built on the idea of supporting local and regional food products and producers, it is a marketplace that belongs to the people of the city as well as tourists.
Besides some of the regional big names you will find small artisanal vendors in little kiosks sharing their wares. One such person is Van Dao of the Biscuit Bender, who creates wonderfully fresh and inventive biscuits on a daily basis. He accompanies the biscuits with an offering of unique jams that pair perfectly.
The food is wonderful, but the proprietor also adds his own unique flair which completely illustrates the celebration of warmth and diversity not only in the Ferry Building—where they hold a wonderful farmer's market every week—but of the city of San Francisco itself.
The Bay Bridge recently underwent a transformation: thousands of LED lights now line the outside of the cables to create an ambient light sculpture of epic proportions. The semi-permanent installation illuminates each night to create rippling light patterns across the entire bridge.
Warm up with coffee and friends inside the Ferry Building. The bridge is best seen from the piers along the Embarcadero, San Francisco's East waterfront.
Far West Funghi: Wildly Beautiful & Organic Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not quite what I expected to remember at the Ferry Building Marketplace, but Far West Funghi altered my perceptions quite a bit.
One of the few cultivators of organic mushrooms that are both exotic and flavorful, Far West Funghi is a labor of love by the Garrone family in California who have been in the specialty mushroom business for 25 years.
Unveil your inner geek by identifying which countries these mushrooms come from (for example, organic Reishi hails from China, while the Matsutake is a pine mushroom from North America). You can pick up a box of assorted mushrooms and experiment with various recipes too.
San Francisco is a city for food-lovers. The city’s chefs and restaurants paved the way for the national fever for artisanal food and drink; now it's mainstream. There is bountiful fresh produce at the Ferry Building’s Farmers' Market every Saturday, alongside delicious food truck cuisine like Roli Roti’s rotisserie chicken and carefully crafted Blue Bottle coffee. Calorie counting is verboten at Tartine, where the line for their famous bread and morning buns stretches around the block on weekends. And don’t even think of using the words “rum and coke” when ordering a Cuba Libre, made from the local St. George California Agricole Rum at tried-and-true cocktail bars like the Orbit Room or Smuggler’s Cove.