San Francisco hosted this year’s International Pow Wow (a hugely important travel trade show). There were a variety of great events before, after, and during that highlighted the many aspects of San Francisco that make it such a terrific California vacation destination city. One pleasant surprise, for me, was learning about the history and modern functions of San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace.
The gentrification of urban neighborhoods can help revitalize their entire region. Witness downtown Los Angeles‘ transformation from dead zone to hip, happening ‘hood. Also see the Lower East Side of Manhattan; when I first moved to NYC, only those with malfeasance of their minds would venture past Ludlow, and now it’s a culinary hot spot. My new favorite example of the positive aspects of gentrification is the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is in San Francisco’s Embarcadero neighborhood, a waterfront gateway to the San Francisco Bay. The large clock tower atop the building can be seen from quite a distance, making the Ferry Building an unofficial landmark of San Francisco (not to take the wind out of the Golden Gate Bridge’s sails, of course). It opened in 1898 and for some time was one of the busiest transit terminals in the world. As with many urban ports, though, the Ferry Building passed into, well, if not a period of ignominy exactly, at least a time of indistinction. Like downtown Los Angeles, it housed mainly offices, and people left at 5:00PM. It was not a vacation pitstop or travel attraction for any but the most interested in San Francisco’s shipping history.
But look at it today! The gentrification and modernization of the Ferry Building brings it squarely into the realm of San Francisco recommended travel stops.
My favorite thing about the Ferry Building Marketplace is the abundance of local, independently run niche shops on the ground floor. Sure, there are a couple of larger chains represented, but all in all, it’s a pleasure to stroll the Marketplace and examine (and purchase) locally grown artisanal produce. In fact, marketplace niche shops were sought out by the land lord specifically to highlight and give credence to sustainable, special products. There’s also a fantastic little bookstore!
Here are some of the shops in the Ferry Building Marketplace that are worth stopping in during a San Francisco vacation:
Acme Bread Company: Go ahead, try to walk by Acme without being tempted by the amazing, yeasty smells emanating from the shop. This is one of only two Acme outlets that carry the full selection of breads (and there are only four shops total). Fresh bread, baked throughout the the every day at the Ferry Building Marketplace, sells as quickly as it’s made.
Beekind Honey Shop: Pure, natural and pesticide-free honey, as well as beeswax candles, honey-based candies, and more. The honey comes from Bay Area beekeeper, plus some varietals from elsewhere in the US.
Mariposa Baking Company: Gluten-free, but even those with no wheat issues should check out Mariposa. There are a few Mariposas scattered around San Francisco and Oakland, but all the baked goods are small batch. Pizza rolls, cinnamon rolls (this is the smell that will draw you in), breads and ever-popular cupcakes all sell very well here.
El Porteno Empanadas: Family-recipe Argentinean style empanadas that are of some local renown. El Porteno Empanadas have been sold at area farmers markets for a few years now, and ingredients include Ferry Plaza Market growers produce, cured meat from Marketplace shop Boccalone, and more.
The Slanted Door: Okay, this is a restaurant rather than a shop, but really — grab a bite here. You won’t be disappointed. The Slanted Door offered appetizers to the International Pow Wow event here, and people crowded around their table like they’d never had Asian food before. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, so you know The Slanted Door has pho. It also has plenty of other savory, delicious organic-when-possible entrees, and its own Pasty Chef and sommelier.
There are also ice cream and sweets shops at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Scharffen Berger has an outlet here, as does Frog Hollow Farm and Ciao Bella Gelato. Those, along with a Book Passage store (holds sporadic literary events as well as piles of books) are among my favorite chain stores in the building. Anyone taking a vacation in San Francisco, or just passing through en route to Napa Valley, should consider making a stop at the Ferry Building Marketplace.