It’s all on display at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, and you can choose to simply look or participate.
There’s no shame in either.
Just over the Bay Bridge in the Embarcadero area, the Ferry Building Marketplace is surrounded by public parking lots — they’re all a small fortune and none are right next to the Ferry Building, but it’s a safe place to wander.
Stroll through the plaza across the street and enjoy the trippy, modern walk-through fountain before heading into the hallowed hall. Stroll over to the bayside guardrail to the right of the building to see an inexplicably huge steel spider and a spot-on view of the Bay Bridge itself.
Inside the Ferry Building, the airy ceiling soars above quirky carved and illustrated signs hawking the wares in each shop. San Francisco Fish Company is an ornate fish, Far West Fungi has sweet little mushrooms — I think you see where this is going. Within seconds, we had dreams of future dinner parties…which turned quickly into focus on things to stuff in our faces within minutes.
Here’s what we loved:
- Enormous thumbs up for the almond-flour hazelnut macaroons at Miette.
- The are-you-kidding-me ginger chocolates at Recchiuti Confections.
- The finely-edited array of fancy little spreads and artisanal cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery. Their $20 sampler bag has three full size cuts of their most popular cheeses, and includes a knife and board.
- The gorgeous flavors at Stonehouse California Olive Oils. Adam’s step-aunt gave us some of these for Christmas two years ago, a set of blood orange olive oil and white balsamic vinegar that together make my favorite salad dressing; turns out they also have garlic, Persian lime, tangerine, and more. If you fall in love with an oil but fear it in your suitcase, ask them about website ordering and shipping.
Having wandered to the end and found ourselves yet still wanting, we unwittingly stumbled into the best restaurant in the place, The Slanted Door, to see about a table. Surprisingly, one was available…and with a Bay view, no less.
Sleek and modern, the focus here is art in the form of decor and locally-sourced Vietnamese small plates. We were happy to see that their plates are actually medium, a welcome exception to the endless trend of tiny food.
We’d recommend the fresh vegetarian spring rolls, the Niman Ranch shaking beef, and the caramelized tiger prawns; I also coveted a diner’s grapefruit and jicama salad and beautiful prosecco-and-elderflower spritzer.
As always happens to us in San Francisco, our enthusiasm for details proved infectious. Our jaded, all-business waiter clearly hadn’t had a laugh all day before we arrived; our delight with both the food and über-cool light fixtures, and um, observations about the Bennetton-ad-themed crowd earned us his highest esteem — a free dish of spectacular house-made blueberry sorbet.
Yet two more reasons to love the Marketplace — organic produce and people who appreciate good snark.