San Francisco is one of the nation’s culinary capitals. A trip to the City by the Bay is not complete without a food-centric adventure — be it a multi-course meal at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Saison or a late-night cheeseburger run to the In-N-Out on Fisherman’s Wharf.
No matter where you decide to dine, be sure to make time to shop at the city’s sensational markets. Here you’ll find farmers supplying fresh seasonal produce and local artisans crafting everything from cheese and chocolate to vodka and vinegar.
These are six of the best spots for a true taste of the Bay Area’s bounty.
Some of the area’s most beloved local vendors — including Humphry Slocombe (ice cream), Blue Bottle Coffee, Cowgirl Creamery (cheese), Hog Island Oyster Company and El Porteño Empanadas — have set up shop at the city’s most iconic culinary emporium. Dating back to 1898, the renovated building not only serves as a trendy gourmet grocer, it’s also still a hub for commuters taking the ferry to and from Alameda, Vallejo and Oakland.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the plaza surrounding the landmark turns into one of the country’s largest farmers markets, where local celebrity chefs browse for ingredients to use in their Bay Area restaurants. Shop for picnic supplies to take on a wine country escape or enjoy a leisurely meal at one of the building’s celebrated eateries, like The Slanted Door, Boulettes Larder or Gott’s Roadside.
Similar to Italian-themed Eataly, this specialty food store and multi-concept restaurant features its namesake cuisine in all its tasty glory. A feast for the senses in the heart of Chinatown, this market-cum-food-hall provides every Chinese delicacy imaginable, including traditional Peking duck, delicious xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and Shanghai-style lobster. You’ll even find a tea lounge, a cocktail bar and a sizable retail boutique — and that’s just downstairs.
The second level houses a fine-dining establishment, Eight Tables, and a luxe watering hole, Cold Drinks. Though the fragrant aromas will entice you to indulge and imbibe, don’t forget to peruse the market. With vintage wooden rice scoops, hard-to-find dried tea, exotic spice blends and other fun products on offer, you’ll find it difficult to leave empty-handed.
Giovanni Italian Specialties
A world-renowned pizzaiolo and the first non-Neapolitan to win the World Champion Pizza Maker title, Tony Gemignani owns a relatively new specialty food shop in North Beach.
Giovanni Italian Specialties is an old-school-style general store stocked with standard Italian provisions. Shop for local and imported staples, like canned tomatoes and dried pasta, or pick up Gemignani’s homemade focaccia, fried calzones, piadina (and Italian flatbread) sandwiches and fresh ravioli.
Gemignani has 21 successful concepts, so if you’re interested in learning more about the craft, you came to the right place. Buy professional pizza tools and cookbooks here or chat with the staff to learn insider tips.
A family-owned and -operated market since 1964, Bi-Rite is a San Francisco institution. There are two locations — the original in the Mission District and a second on Divisadero Street — and both carry a variety of upscale products.
Second generation co-owner Sam Mogannam was a restaurateur before he took over the family business. When he came on board, he instilled a sense of hospitality among staff, brought with him a farm-to-table ethos, upped the quality of the ingredients on the shelves and started serving gourmet takeout. Today the team will happily help you find the perfect bottle of rosé or point you toward the proper cut of meat.
Order scrumptious sandwiches or procure produce from famous farmers. Bi-Rite Creamery, the market’s sister sweets shop, is known for its incredible ice cream (enhanced with housemade toppings and mix-ins) and delightful pies.
Before opening a mini grocery store in the Tenderloin, Stanlee Gatti was San Francisco’s party planner extraordinaire. Now he oversees Post Street’s Meraki Market, a haven of gourmet prepared foods and organic produce.
It’s a jewel box of a market with fresh fruits and vegetables, fine wine and artisanal chocolate bars arranged like prized possessions. An assortment of housemade sauces, such as pico de gallo and pesto, complement the elegant takeaway items made fresh daily.
Get pureed artichoke soup, kale caesar salad, rosemary and Dijon grilled chicken or fresh cuts of beautifully marbled slabs of grass-fed lamb, pasture-raised pork and Eel River Farms beef.
Search for the season’s best sips at this gorgeous little boutique that opened earlier this summer in Pacific Heights. From master sommelier Dustin Wilson — if you saw the talked-about 2012 documentary film Somm, you may recognize him — the Bay Area outpost of Verve Wine (the original is in New York) is a sexy shop furnished with marble tables, copper accents and pristine white shelves.
Browse popular French varietals, California producers and everything in between. Wilson has stocked the store with more than 500 different labels that focus on small producers. Join the wine club and enjoy the fruits of Wilson’s labor long after you leave San Francisco — the online store boats a whopping 3,000 selections.