Skinny Girls Roadshow from San Francisco — The Ferry Building

When I was a kid, I remember the Ferry Building in San Francisco being a beautiful relic, sad and unused, its iconic clock tower hidden behind the elevated 480 freeway.

Flynn & the Ferry Building, San Francisco

Flynn & the Ferry Building, San Francisco

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 destroyed the freeway, which resulted in one of the most extraordinary and successful urban redevelopment projects in history. Today, vintage street cars from around the world run along the Embarcardero that fronts the Ferry Building. Craftspeople sell their wares across the street, while a daily farmer’s market brings the city’s residents the freshest produce from the farms of nearby Sonoma and Marin.

And all this before you even walk through the doors into the building. In a city boasting tourist attractions around every corner, this has become one of the most popular.

Inside the Ferry Building in the early 20th century

Inside the Ferry Building in the early 20th century

Inside is a foodie Mecca. The two-storey atrium is reminiscent of the old train stations of Europe, light pouring in through latticed windows above. The long, narrow space has shops on either side, all catering to every kind of food fetish imaginable. There are venerable names here — Sur la Table, Ciao Bella Gelato, Hog Island Oyster Co., Scharffen Berger Chocolate — as well as one of the city’s best restaurants, the glorious nouvelle Vietnamese temple, The Slanted Door. But mostly, it is local purveyors — Acme Bread Company, Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses, Far West Funghi, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil… all of whom are eager for you to sample their goods.

Many of the shops have tables out in front where you can pick up something to eat as you stroll. I grab a char sui bao for my kids at the Imperial Tea Court, then while they’re distracted stop at San Francisco Fish Company to down a few raw oysters.

At Boccalone Salumeria, where the t-shirts read “Tasty salted pig parts,” people queue up for clever little paper cones filled with salumi — mortadella, coppa, soppresetta and other cured delights. I pick up a block of lardo to take home and serve to my loved ones on toasted ciabatta. If Boccalone doesn’t do it for you, you’re in luck — there are three or four other similar shops, including Prather Ranch Meat Co. with their own competing “Praise the Lard” t-shirts.

Happy author eating an oyster

Happy author eating an oyster

Far West Fungi

Far West Fungi

There’s also a big line at Blue Bottle Coffee, and I figure the java must be good. But I’ve already had a large cup and it’s getting closer to beer time. If it wasn’t for the antsy kids and a toddler heading toward nap time, I would tuck into the bar at the Hog Island Oyster Co. for a couple hours, eat oysters, drink freshly tapped ale and watch the ferries come in and out against a backdrop of Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.

Instead, we settle on a bench outside facing the bay, the bustle of the building now behind us. The rain has stopped, the sun is poking out in golden bars here and there. I try to relax and enjoy watching the kids chase the pigeons and gulls, but I feel the draw of the cheeses, charcuterie, dried pastas and raw shellfish inside.

“Do you mind if I run back inside and do a little shopping?” I ask my wife.

A new friend outside the Ferry Building

A new friend outside the Ferry Building

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 01:59:23

    Also a really good sushi place in there!

    Reply

  2. Andy
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 03:16:58

    Cool black robot sort of jacket thingy, dude.

    Reply

  3. Michelle
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 04:14:49

    Isn’t the Ferry Building grand? We haven’t been to S.F. in a while. I think it’s time for a visit!

    Reply

  4. Mom
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 04:45:24

    I think Lis is thinking of the Slanted Door.
    I think you all look like a Darth Vader version on of the Michelin man in those puffy things.
    You’re a fine father going there with children when the oysters, champagne, charcuterie etc. so call for uninterrupted attention.

    Reply

  5. Greggie
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 08:14:51

    Interestingly architecture firm BCV, which worked on the Ferry Building Marketplace, will handle design work for the recently announced refurbishing of Grand Central Market in downtown LA that will retain current food stalls while adding about a dozen more plus an exhibition kitchen in the basement.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Dec 28, 2012 @ 15:26:33

      Wow, that should be interesting. I hope it proves more successful than Santa Monica’s attempt to create a Ferry Building-style food “marketplace” on top of Santa Monica Place.

      Reply

  6. Trackback: Thankful for Stuff (not Stuffing) | skinny girls & mayonnaise
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