The Ferry Building is an SF icon. It’s our version of the Empire State Building: any film set in our city has to open with an establishing shot letting the audience know that this is the Port of San Francisco, and not any of the other, lesser ports of America.
Amazingly, though, the Ferry Building has achieved the rare balance between being massively touristy and also a pretty cool place for locals. We keep coming back, as you might expect, for the food, which is excellent on an average day, and excellent-plus-plus on farmer’s market days (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday). In fact, if you’re here before noon on one of those days, particularly Saturday, you should probably ignore all of the advice below, and sample the goods of whichever market stand strikes your fancy.
If you’re not here on market day, though, the Ferry Building and the neighborhood around it offer an awesome selection of food and drink to suit any need. Here are our favorite spots.
in the ferry building
This is a kiosk/pop-up outpost of the SoMa bakery by the same name, and just like the main location, it serves delicious, creative croissants and pastries. The granola with mango chutney and yogurt is outstanding, too. If you get here around 11am (and before they sell out), try the tacro, a savory croissant-taco experiment that is bizarrely delicious.
One of the great lunch spots on the planet. No exaggeration. Delicious fresh seafood, a beautiful view, an appropriate level of chilly wind coming off the bay, and sparkling rosé all add up to an essential SF experience. Don’t go on weekends, though. The line is hell.
Pros: your mom has heard of it, and possibly visited at some point in the ’90s. Cons: the food hasn’t changed much, and it’s on the more expensive side. That being said, the spring rolls are great, the crab noodles are great, and the claypot chicken is perhaps the greatest.
This is your spot for a low-key lunch. Don’t be fooled by the “fast food” decor and general feel - the cheeseburger and sweet potato fries are above and beyond, and the menu will please pretty much anyone (nice to see you again, kale salad). Besides the burger, we love the ahi poke tacos.
Bring your mom here for breakfast, and get something egg-based, because this place turns out omelettes so light they seem like they might levitate off your plate and float away. They don’t, of course, which is a good thing, since you’ll want to eat every bite.
One of the best ice cream shops in the city - or, frankly, the world. We love Humphry for the same reason everyone loves Humphry: they put alcohol and cereal in their ice cream, and it’s heavenly. The particular creation we’re talking about is called Secret Breakfast, and you should most definitely consume it. Other flavors are excellent, too, but SB is their real calling card.
near the ferry building
Avocado toast, a twice-baked almond croissant, and some fantastic pour-over coffee make for the breakfast/brunch/snack (if you’re hungry) of champions at Philz. This location is big, and a good place to stop in for pastries, toasts, and caffeine.
Reliable Thai food in an environment that’s ideal for groups. You’ll feel like you could maybe be in a hotel lobby - but there’s a good chance you’re here with work people, so it seems appropriate. Have some pad see ew, duck curry, and solid cocktails.
You’ll pay up for the quality dim sum here, but it’s a good break from the hecticness of Market and the Ferry Building. Don’t pass on the soup dumplings, pork buns and sea bass. The weekend brunch is amazing - make a reservation and come with your parents.
Usually when you want to eat near the Ferry Building, you also want to take full advantage of the fact that you’re near the ocean. We live on the coast, people, and it’s mandated that we eat 3-9 servings of seafood per day. La Mar does excellent ceviche right on the water, so it has just about everything you’re looking for. There are tons of bar seats, plus high ceilings that make the place feel open and spacious, and on a nice night, the outdoor patio on the water is basically perfect.
A temple of Greek meats that you generally need a reservation to worship at. We highly recommend this spot, provided you are ready to spend a not-insignificant amount of money and also dress up a little bit. Definitely start with some zucchini cakes - and the honey donut dessert is something you need to experience, too.
The place does incredible Mediterranean shawarma, dips, and salads at lunch and dinner - plus, they have tons of outdoor seats. If you’re trying to be healthy, the kale salad is a good move, and if you’re not, start hydrating for some meat sweats. Come here for a low-key weeknight meal.
We don’t usually hang out at the Embarcadero Center, because we don’t live in an ’80s movie set entirely in a mall. We make an exception to that for Sens, though, because the Mediterranean food really is excellent and the views are strong. The pork tenderloin, octopus, and gnocchi are our go-tos. Heads up, it’s on the third floor and not the easiest place to find.
Quinoa ordered on an iPad (and delivered by machines) turns out to have more staying power than we anticipated. Eatsa does very fast, very cheap, and very good quinoa bowls perfect for a quick lunch. All the options are vegetarian and under $10.
When we find ourselves dodging tourists jousting with selfie sticks around the Ferry Building, we tend to feel like it’s time for a drink. If you’re in the same boat, head to this German beer hall, which has tons of beer, the requisite boots to drink said beer out of, and some pretty delicious food, too. We’re partial to the pretzels, sausages, and potato pancakes.
The tallest whisky wall in town? Sure seems like it. Hard Water is a good place to hang out with a bourbon drink and perhaps a bite. The pork belly cracklins are deliciously salty - but if you don’t want fried pig, get some oysters.