In 1936, the landscape of the San Francisco Bay changed drastically when an artificial island was built. The manmade stretch was erected with land from Gold Country in honor of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and World’s Fair. Some people believed that the land may have gold in it, so it was named Treasure Island.
After the fair, the area became a naval station that operated until 1997. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, unused aircraft hangers became sound stages for filmmaking. In 2007, it became a place for a wildly popular annual gathering, the Treasure Island Music Festival.
Despite these varied uses, though, Treasure Island was basically a no man’s land rarely frequented by locals until recent times.
Now, the city is gearing up to make it a new, fully functioning neighborhood, one that will rival North Beach and other long-established tourist hot spots like Union Square.
Here’s everything you need to know about the soon-to-blossom section of the city.
What to expect
San Francisco is investing $5 billion into the development of the island with 8,000 housing units planned to occupy the space. A project of this sort is virtually unheard of — where else in the U.S. is a major city starting an area over from scratch to create an entirely new neighborhood? Along with housing and commissioned artwork, there will be public parks, shopping, hotels and restaurants.
Treasure Island is but a 10-minute Uber ride from the mainland, but there will soon be a seven-minute ferry leaving from the Ferry Building.
The island’s dining debut
Treasure Island’s first restaurant, Mersea, is set to open by early 2018 and hopes to rejuvenate the area. With unparalleled views of San Francisco and a variety of food served all day, the fresh eatery will attempt to lure locals to the historic island.
“San Francisco is a big melting pot of ethnic diversity so [the restaurant is] going to have a fried egg sandwich with some kimchi on it,” says chef Parke Ulrich. “It will have pastas and things like that. We have ramen on the menu. It will be a little of everything for everybody.”
“The plan is to really create a whole new neighborhood, which was something that really interested us as well,” Ulrich says. “To be part of something from ground up. In creating a new neighborhood. You can’t do that anywhere — New York, Chicago — in any other city really. This was something that was kind of interesting and special to us. To become a part of the community in that way.”
The wind is strong on Treasure Island, so Ulrich’s team had to get creative when it came to the restaurant’s design, which explains why the entire thing is created out of shipping containers.
Another challenge is that there is no gas on the island, so the restaurant will run with electric stoves and ovens. “To be 100 percent electric is going to be an interesting thing,” Ulrich says.
Sips on the sand
Although Mersea will be the island’s first restaurant, there are plenty of other reasons to pay the area a visit. It’s already home to nine wineries, a gin distillery, a whiskey distillery and a brewery. These drinking destinations are worth the trip for their unique, and sometimes quirky, features.
Woods Island Club is a beer beach (the team brought in loads of sand) that offers stunning views of the Bay Bridge. The craft brewery serves pours and special releases along with El Porteño empanadas.
Sottomarino’s tasting room is built from a damage control wet trainer known as the USS Buttercup. Its naval details were kept intact, and you can walk the vessel while sipping smooth sangiovese.
Sol Rouge is a charmingly picturesque winery offering a bocce court and private event space with a Lake County cabernet sauvignon that’s worth seeking out.