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Dining in The Waterfront
Locals and visitors alike flock here for gorgeous bay views, a world-class waterfront esplanade, and a Ferry Building that is much better known for its food than its boat rides.
Not surprisingly, both restaurateurs and diners appreciate proximity to the water, and a slew of restaurants, including the award-winning Boulevard (1 Mission St. 415/543-6084 1:G4), Hotel Vitale's sleek Americano (8 Mission St. 415/278-3777 1:G4), the splashy Waterbar (399 Embarcadero 415/284-9922 1:H5), the meat-driven Epic Roasthouse (369 Embarcadero 415/369-9955 1:H5), and the Tokyo-chic Ozumo (161 Steuart St. 415/882-1333 1:G4).
To the north of the Ferry Building lies Fisherman's Wharf, a jumbled mix of seafood dining rooms, sidewalk vendors, and trinket shops that visitors religiously trudge through and San Franciscans invariably dismiss as a tourist trap. But even disdainful locals are sometimes seen making their way home from the Wharf with a cracked crab tucked under one arm and a loaf of sourdough bread under the other.
The local Dungeness season runs from November through June, which is when San Franciscans descend on the more than half-dozen crab stands at the Wharf. Buy an expertly cracked and cooked-to-order Dungeness at the stand in front of Fisherman's Grotto #9 (2847 Jefferson St., at Taylor 415/673-7025), pick up a loaf of sourdough bread, and feast on a true San Francisco tradition. If you happen to be in town in February, you're in for a treat: events honoring the celebrated crustacean occur throughout the month at restaurants citywide, as part of the annual San Francisco Crab Festival.
A Movable Feast
The Ferry Building Marketplace (1 Ferry Bldg., Embarcadero) is located at the foot of Market Street on the Embarcadero, with a magnetic pull that makes even the most jaded gourmands go weak in the knees. It has just about everything: you can slurp stellar oysters at the bar at Hog Island Oyster Bar (415/391–7117), snack on Baja fish tacos at Mijita (415/399–0814) or the sublime egg salad sandwich at Il Cane Rosso (415/391–7599). Hungry for Asian fare? The Japan-based Delica rf-1 (415/834–0344) offers an irresistible daily bento, and sushi at their new counter. Looking for a panino packed with salumi? Or how about a meat cone (you read that correctly!)? Boccalone Salumeria (415/433–6500) will build it for you. Happy with just a cheese sandwich? Stop in at Sidekick (415/392–4000), the snack counter with gougères, cheese sandwiches, and more from the ladies behind Cowgirl Creamery (415/362–9354)—or just stop at the original Cowgirl shop for a wedge of artisanal blue, and then grab a crusty baguette at the Acme Bread Company (415/288–2978) a few steps away. Or order a burger at Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet (415/328–3663), chuck wagon chili from American Eatery (415/391–0420), a Vietnamese spring roll at Out the Door (415/321–3740), or a glass of Pinot Noir at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (415/391–9400). Have a sweet tooth? There are chocolates at Recchiuti Confections (415/834–9494), cookies and cupcakes at Miette (415/837–0300), and creamy gelato at Ciao Bella (415/834–9330).
Local favorite: Boulette's Larder
Long before you get to Boulette's Larder (Ferry Bldg. 415/399-1155), you know something is cooking. The aromas that rise from this retail food shop and daytime dining spot waft through the Ferry Building Marketplace, drawing people to the southern end of the complex. Breakfast might be poached eggs and Dungeness crab, while lunch is whatever is on the stove that day. Sundays bring beignets.
And for Dessert
For a real San Francisco treat, DeLise Dessert Café (327 Bay St., North Beach 415/ 399–9694) features fantastic (and organic) homemade ice creams (like salted caramel brownie), mini pastries, cupcakes, and excellent coffee. If you're a fan of cupcakes, then beeline to Kara's Cupcakes (900 N. Point St., Ghirardelli Sq. 415/351–2253), where a long glass case holds about a dozen flavors, including the excellent java version. Or go traditional and stop at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop (900 N. Point St., Ghirardelli Sq. 415/474–3938), where you can first see the equipment that was used to make chocolate in 19th-century San Francisco and then sit down to a luscious hot-fudge sundae, banana split, or cup of hot cocoa topped with whipped cream.
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