Your Guide to the San Francisco Ferry Building

Whether you’re headed to the office, visiting the city, planning a date night, or unwinding after a stressful work week, San Francisco’s Ferry Building truly has something for everyone. While it remains a bustling commuter port, the San Francisco Ferry Building is also home to acclaimed restaurants, coffeeshops, bakeries, and gourmet markets—offering unique culinary experiences at any time of the day.

The Ferry Building opened to the public in 1898 (despite now being plastered with the year 1915, which is to commemorate the centennial of the 1915 Panama Pacific Expo), and at its peak serviced approximately 50,000 commuters… per day! When the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges opened in the late 1930s, commuting by ferryboat was rendered nearly useless, and the Ferry Building opened itself up for retail and office space. Miraculously, the Ferry Building survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes nearly unscathed.

A line forms due to the heavy volume of people arriving by ferry. Photo: Kyle Legg
A line forms due to the heavy volume of people arriving by ferry. Photo: Kyle Legg

If you’re just starting your day, stop by Blue Bottle Coffee for freshly roasted coffee and espresso drinks and a pastry. If it’s hot, get a New Orleans iced coffee. No. Regrets. While Blue Bottle’s lines tend to wind, it’s worth the wait. If there’s a reason behind the proverb “patience is a virtue”, this is it. Understandably, if you’re running late to a meeting or craving a pumpkin spice latte, head around the corner to the Ferry Building’s other in-house caffeination station: Peet’s!

During lunch and dinner hours, you’ll find some of San Francisco’s best restaurants inside the Ferry Building. The Slanted Door is a nationally acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant, serving dishes created with locally sourced ingredients. With glass windows all around, this cafeteria-style restaurant enjoys incredible views of the bay, making The Slanted Door one of San Francisco’s ultimate dinner spots. If you’re in a rush, grab a to-go order from their take out window, Out The Door.

One of Shannon’s favorite spots is Hog Island Oyster Company, a popular waterside seafood restaurant known for delicious local oysters and clams. Hog Island is great for both lunch and dinner, just be careful with the craft beer and cocktails if you have to head back to the office!

Maybe you’re in the mood for something quick and sweet, or something to save for later. Don’t fret—the Ferry Building is teeming with options! For something quick and sweet, stop by Humphry Slocombe’s Ferry Building outpost. Humphry Slocombe is a San Francisco-based ice cream shop known for their quirky (read: bizarre), but delicious flavors… like cheese, foie, peanut butter curry, and salt & pepper. Don’t be scared—you can still find some traditional flavors here. However, we recommend the Secret Breakfast! In case those flavors are a little too adventurous for you, swing by Miette Patisserie for an extensive offering of candies, cupcakes, macarons, and other baked goods to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you want to grab something for later, definitely go to Cowgirl Creamery for a slice of cheese and Acme Bread for a loaf to pair with.


As you walk through the Ferry Building’s corridors, you’ll come across treasures like the San Francisco Fish Company, where you’ll find a bar full of $2.00 oysters and seafood lunch fare. There are a few tables where you can savor the taste of the seas (and not have to worry about spilling oyster juice on someone). Shannon swears by their Baja California Oysters, which she had for breakfast once, and claimed they “changed the game.” These are hearty oysters are soft and spiced by a touch of fresh, explosive horseradish. Needless to say, if you love oysters, the Ferry Building is the place to go!

Variety of Oysters for only $2.00!
Behold… $2.00 oysters! Photo: Shannon McInerney

As if all this wasn’t enough, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is held just outside the Ferry Building every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday! Some 25,000 people shop and visit this nationally recognized farmers market each week. Tuesday and Thursday markets are reserved for smaller vendors, offering locally sourced fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, meats and eggs. On Thursdays you’ll find street food from popular local restaurants like Tacolicious, 4505 Meats, Pizza Politana, and Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. The Saturday farmers market is the largest, with a variety of produce, craft products, baked goods, and seemingly endless breakfast and lunch options from some of Bay Area’s favorite restaurants, including Namu, Three Babes Bakeshop, and The Farmer’s WifeClick here to learn more about the Ferry Plaza Farmers Markets and the week’s current offerings.

With so many options to choose from (and even more that we didn’t cover!), it’s nearly impossible to go wrong at the San Francisco Ferry Building. And while the Bay Lights aren’t scheduled to come back on until January 30, 2016, the view from the Ferry Building is still magical… and may make you appreciate the Bay Lights even more once they’re switched back on. So, head on out to the Ferry Building this weekend, and stay tuned for an upcoming guide to the San Francisco waterfront.

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