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San Francisco’s most delicious Ferry Plaza restaurants
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 has 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.
The Ferry Building is 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 Company right next door. At Cowgirl’s Sidekick Café, take away grilled cheese, cheese coup, and other tasty 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 often 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), there is often a line for a table here. 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.
The 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.
Written by Christine Ciarmello