San Francisco is famously an epicurean destination where most chefs strive to source local, seasonal and organic products. For food and food-related goods, culinary experts, locals and tourists alike head to the Marketplace on the ground floor of the Ferry Building.
An 1898 historical waterfront landmark at the foot of Market Street, the Ferry Building was the primary access point to San Francisco for travelers and commuters until the Golden Gate and Bay bridges were built in the 1930s. The expansive Beaux Arts-style structure features a sandstone façade, marble mosaic floors, a soaring 245-foot clock tower and a central nave with a lofty steel-trussed skylit glass ceiling and brick arches. Inspired by the street food markets in Europe, the gourmet shops organized along the 660-foot-long nave bring the best of the Bay Area’s specialty purveyors and local farmers under one roof.
Some of my favorite stops include Cowgirl Creamery for well-balanced artisan cheeses, Stonehouse for high-caliber extra-virgin olive oils and the bayside Hog Island Oyster Company for fresh Tomales Bay oysters.
Another specialty shop worth checking out is Far West Fungi. This small store sells an unbelievably large variety of mushrooms including seasonal, locally-sourced, fresh and dried, cultivated and wild varieties.
A must-stop is Heath Ceramics, a pottery store founded in 1948 that offers exceptional midcentury-inspired handcrafted earthenware and tiles. (The original factory in Sausalito and tile factory in San Francisco can be toured.) The highly acclaimed waterfront Vietnamese restaurant a few doors down, Slanted Door, employs Heath’s simple and elegant dinnerware sets.
Rancho Gordo is a unique company that offers over 25 indigenous varieties of dried heirloom beans. Some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area and Napa Valley including The French Laundry and Greens employ Rancho Gordo beans in many of their dishes.
Most recently, the Ferry Building has expanded to include the highly anticipated new North Arcade Shops area along The Embarcadero near the clock tower. This additional exterior space was originally where the ferry ticketing windows were located. It now provides additional space for local artisan food stores and has the added benefit of heated outdoor seating. Some of the notable vendors include Blue Bottle Coffee, Marla Bakery and Fort Point Beer Company.
I highly recommend a visit to the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.