San Francisco Ferry Building

A Foodie Haven

Story by Lauren David

San Francisco, California is a world-renowned culinary destination. One of the challenges when visiting this city is figuring out just how many meals you can fit in before your visit is over. The San Francisco Ferry Building can help.

The San Francisco Ferry Building, located along the Embarcadero at the end of Market Street, is a historic landmark and foodie haven. It’s home to top-name restaurants such as The Slanted Door and Hog Island Oyster Co., casual food options, two Bay Area-based coffee spots, and ample dessert options. There are several shops to browse, too, including a specialty grocer where you can buy fresh produce as well as artisanal beer, a store focused on all things funghi, a California olive oil shop, and the North Bay-based Heath ceramics shop, among others.

San Francisco Ferry Building - Foodie Travel USA

Photo Credit: Nat and Cody

The building was constructed in 1898 as a terminal for ferry passengers crossing the Bay. In 2003, after extensive restoration, the Ferry Building reopened with 75,000 square feet of space designated as a gourmet food hall. The building continues to serve as a ferry transportation hub.

Whether you arrive with an empty stomach planning to dine, sample from various vendors, or grab a quick snack, there’s something for everyone. Just allow plenty of time to enjoy the impressive building, scope out what you want to try, and have time for waiting in line. On weekends, this place is usually jam-packed with tourists and residents alike looking to satisfy food cravings. Among the mouth-watering options:

Blue Bottle Coffee has two locations within the building: an espresso bar and a tasting room. Fans typically form long lines to get their favorite espresso drinks, made-to-order drip coffee, and iced-coffee drinks. The straightforward menu offers beverages plus a variety of pastries and desserts.

Peet’s coffee is known for its strong roasts, long menu of espresso drinks, frappuccinos, and collection of teas and non-coffee drink options. The pastry case is usually overflowing in the morning with cookies, scones, bagels, and loaf cakes. The full café offers plenty of tables and chairs with views looking out into the marketplace and out at the Bay. Iconic photos of San Francisco and Peet’s line the walls. If you prefer to sit down and enjoy your cup of joe, this is the spot—if you can find a vacant table. If not, there’s also a large communal table outside Peet’s and near the entrance of the fabulous Bay Area based bookshop, Book Passage.

San Francisco Ferry Building - Foodie Travel USA

Photo Credit: Nat and Cody

Gotts is a hamburger-focused casual dining restaurant offering an extensive menu. In addition to a delicious selection of Niman Ranch burger combinations are alternatives for vegetarian and vegan diners as well as options for gluten-free diners. The menu also features sandwiches, seafood plates, soups, and salads. Seasonal offerings add even more considerations. Ample seating is available both inside and out, making it a good choice if you want a sit-down meal while looking out onto the Embarcadero. On a sunny day, opt for a table outside (if you can find one), and enjoy people watching.

Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar is owned by the folks behind Cowgirl Creamery and offers a simple breakfast and lunch menu of all things cheese with ample dessert options. Decide on grilled cheese with yummy combinations, sandwiches, or a cheese plate. The menu is driven by local ingredients and what’s in season from the Ferry Building farmers’ market. When you’re craving cheese for breakfast, get in line for one of the enticing made-to-order dishes. Don’t miss the grilled cheese of the day. This eatery doesn’t offer seating, so on a warm day head outside to sit on a bench to watch seagulls squawk and ferries come and go with views of the Bay, Bay Bridge and Treasure Island.

For delicious cheese to consume later, step next door to purchase artisanal cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, a European-style cheese shop with an array of delicious, artisan cheese from across the USA and Europe.

Cowgirl Creamery - Foodie Travel USA

Photo Credit: Nat and Cody

If you are in the mood for something different and healthy, head to Delica, where the focus is on fresh, local, and organic. Japanese comfort food with a California fusion touch, this place offers plenty of options, including bento boxes, salads, sandwiches, soups, sushi, side dishes, and main courses. Can’t pick? Try a bento box or Tempura Udon Noodles.

Humphry Slocombe satisfies curiosity and sweet-tooth cravings that hit the mark with unusual flavor combinations. Ice cream flavors are made with the best ingredients available, too. The flavor line-up changes often, but you can expect about a dozen. The best part is, customers can sample; so, while waiting in line, peek at the flavors to decide which ones you’d like to taste. Options include “Secret Breakfast” (bourbon and corn flakes), beets, and peppercorns. Other dessert options like bacon peanut brittle are just as tasty as the ice cream.

Plan A Trip

San Francisco boasts many hotels, including several near the Ferry Building. Consider the Hyatt Regency San Francisco and Hotel Vitale

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is located outside the Ferry Building.

Hop on the Muni down the Embarcadero to see the seals at Pier 39.

Walk or take the bus to the North Beach neighborhood, known as “Little Italy,” for a wide selection of Italian restaurants and cafés.

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Lauren David


Lauren David is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her beats are travel, food, and lifestyle. When she’s not writing, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, road trips, and spending time near the ocean. See more of her work here