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Oct 28, 2008 05:53 PM

7 hour layover at SFO - what to do?

Ok so here's the thing - for reasons that now escape me, I scheduled my flights to include a 7 hour layover at SFO. I arrive on a Saturday at 8am and depart at 3pm. Besides poking fun at my suboptimal planning skills, what can folks recommend as a "get out of the airport for a few hours" solo side trip? All reasonable ideas considered, must include food.

Type of cuisine = wide open, can and will eat anything. Cost/budget = more commensurate with my presentation/attire which will be 'casual traveler' just off a trans pacific flight and about to go back to the east coast

Apologies to yelpers who have already chimed in :)

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  1. When in your situation I always worry about getting back to the airport on time, but 7 hours is a long time.

    You could take BART from the airport and get off at the Embarcadero Station You will be within easy walking distance of the Ferry Plaza Shops and Farmers' Market where can find Vietnamese, Mexican, Seafood, American food. You can buy fruit for the next leg of your trip. You can buy food-to-go for dinner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolatetartguy

      Not only is that perfect but the view is not bad. You could also take a street car to Fishermans Wharf just to say you were there.

    2. The obvious response is going to be "go to the Ferry Building Farmers Market" but if you are coming from Asia the prospect of another jostling tourist-destination crowd may not be the most attractive option. (I'm in Shanghai as I write this.) Your generous time window basically makes your question a very open-ended one, as in "where to go for lunch/brunch in the [BART-accessible] Bay Area on a Saturday" and you might want to focus your query a little more.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Your point is excellent but I am really interested in a variety of responses (the more off the wall the better) hence the wide net that I have thrown

      2. Your timing is superb. Saturday is the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (as chocolatetartguy said, a short walk from the Embarcadero Station). Start off with chilaquiles from the Primavera stand (go straight through the Ferry Building to where the bulk of the market is, and keep going all the way to the waterfront. Look for a long line.) Many people swear by Blue Bottle coffee - I've tried it at two farmer's market and always find it too acidic when made there, but have always enjoyed coffee made at home from their beans. Then pick up a croissant from Della Fattoria (plus a loaf of their excellent bread to take home), some cheese from Andante, jam from June Taylor, some fruit from wherever it looks good. From inside the Ferry Building, pick up some salumi from Boccalone (I like the pepato salami, sliced paper thin). You can picnic outside, facing the Bay, or inside, at the Wine Merchants, where they will provide plates and silverware, and you can get wine flights to go with your farmer's market haul.

        More ideas on where to eat at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on a Saturday

        3 Replies
        1. re: daveena

          Just saw Xiao Yang's post... if you're looking to avoid crowds and are just looking for a nice brunch, I'd get out at the 16th Street BART stop and go to Bar Tartine for brunch (you might get there a little early, though... I think it opens at 11), followed a half-mile stroll to Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream. Stop by Tartine Bakery and the main Bi-Rite store to pick up snacks for the plane. Another brunch option in the neighborhood is Ti Couz, for excellent crepes - it opens at 10.

          1. re: daveena

            You mean, of course, a two-block stroll to Bi-Rite, not a half-mile! 16th and Mission is grubby but fun--lots of taquerias and Latino food options. And then if you walk 4 blocks to 18th and Guerrero, you get yuppie food heaven--Bi Rite Grocery, Delfinia Pizzeria, Tartine Bakery, Bi Rite Creamery, plus the gorgeous views from the top of Dolores Park.

            1. re: dixieday2

              Oh yeah... that half-mile number stuck in my head because of a huge argument a bunch of us had a few years ago about whether or not it was reasonable to have someone walk from the 16th and Mission BART to 18th and Guerrero during a layover, so I Google mapped it out - from the BART station to 18th and Guerrero, it's 0.6 miles, but from Bar Tartine, it's only 0.3 (I was pro-walking,)

        2. I would go straight to the Metreon, watch a movie and than have a meal at Sanrakou, theire Sushi is just realy great ( you could do vise versa)

          14 Replies
          1. re: Leilasfo

            i hear they have movies on planes now.

            since it is a weekend and you can BART to the airport, you can
            plan when to leave the city pretty carefully and wont have to build
            in that big of a cushion for traffic etc.

            i'd also recommend walking the mission corridor between 24th and 16th st bart stations. you can get mexican/central american sitdown meals [poc chuc], fast food [burritos and tacos], asian food, go to a bar, indian ice cream, other asian ice cream, slices of pizza, decent hamburgers, fancier meals, good coffee at a wireless care, decent bakery, sit in a dolores park, sit in a cafe, walk around and people watch, go to a book store, out door beer garden [zeitgeist], high end beer bar [the monk's kettle] ... the mission is one of the main "walk around neighborhoods" of SF.

            imho, that's too much time for the ferry bldg. although really you could probably do both ... in which case, go to teh ferry bldg first and then come back towards the mission.

            the other option is DEEM SUM ... but i'd only ask about that if it is something you are particularly excited about because it will slightly derail the "easier" options and DEEM SUM for one is not optimal.

            the weather here has been pretty good still, but if you show up at a rainy time, i suppose that may involve a slight change of plan.

            [note: this is pretty much what i do when i have ~8hr lay over in s'pore ...
            i got off in search of cheap food, cheap asian fruit drinks and occasioanlly
            air conditioning and a little shopping. it does make the lay over more fun,
            if you arent totally beat after the flight.]

            1. re: psb

              Rain is forecast for Saturday.

              That makes the Ferry Building a good option, because part of it is enclosed and you can always dash in and out.

              You don't say if this is your first time in SF, so I'm assuming that is so.

              The Embacadero Bart stop which is the stop near the Ferry Building, is also a cable car stop. So after Ferry Plaza you could take a cable car to the top of Nob Hill,Get off and take another cable car down to North Beach / Fisherman's Wharf. Get an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe and grab a street car on the Embarcardero and go back to the Ferry Building. Catch a street car at the Ferry Buidling up to the Mission. and walk from 16th to 24th. It is Dia de los Muertos, so there might be some special items like tamales and pan de muertos available at local restaurants and panaderiias.

              If it is too rainy to do much. Go to the Ferry Building. There is Tadich, they oldest restaurant in SF that has hardly cnaged. Have some sand dabs. Drop by the Old Post Office building for to check out the lovely old building with its fountain raining water from the ceiling. Have a cup of tea and a snack at Yank Sing.

              Hope you report back about where you went. Tried to check your profile here and yelp to see what you might enjoy, but you haven't posted much either place. However, based on some yoga thing on yelp, I was guessing you might enjoy the old post office.

              1. re: rworange

                The OP said "a Saturday" not "this Saturday."

              2. re: psb

                Last weekend, as part of friends' wedding celebration, I led a chowing tour of the Latin side of the Mission. Other guides took groups that focused on architecture and murals, so i didn't go to Mission Dolores and the main alley ways (Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley). Yet, I'm pretty proud that I came up with an efficient route that hit up some of the Mission's most striking murals, historic blocks, and good snacks (antojitos). Starting at 16th and Valencia and ending at 25th and Mission, both near BART stations, it took two hours. The initial group was 15 and ended with 4 die-hards from NY plus me. We didn't make all the stops on the tour, but someone walking alone could probably do the whole thing in less than 2.5 hours. For those walking back, I suggested that they take Valencia St northward to see another angle on the neighborhood.

                Here's the route -

                Mission Murals and Antojitos Walk - Saturday October 24, 2008, 2pm-4pm

                Local - Four Barrel Coffee, doughnuts/caf 375 Valencia St (14th and 15th)

                via 15th to Guerrero passing Tartine Bakery, point out Bi-Rite Creamery

                Mural - Women's Building, 3543 18th St # 8 San Francisco CA

                via Valencia south, then 19th toward Mission

                Mural – Vamos Gigantes, PG&E Building, 19th St (Valencia and Mission)

                Guatemala – Acaxutla, 2282 Mission Street (18th and 19th)

                Nicaragua - Las Tinajas, 2338 Mission St, sit-down (19th and 20th)

                via Mission (west side of street) to 21st Street mural on bank

                Guatemala - San Miguel mango, minutas and elotes cart, 21st St (Mission)

                Mural - 21st Street to Bethany mural @ Capp
                via Capp to 22nd

                Italy - La Copa Loca, gelato, 3150 22nd St, San Francisco (Capp)
                via 22nd to Mission

                El Salvador - Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta, sit down, 2578 Mission St (22nd)

                point out Peruvian grocer, El Perol, al pastor spit @ Altena
                via 22nd to Bartlett St (historic) to 24th then Osage Alley (murals) to 25th

                Colombia and Ecuador - Mr. Pollo 2823 Mission St (24th and 25th)

                point out
                China and Mexico - Kings Bakery Café for bbq pork bun, 2846 Mission
                Italy and Mexico - Dianda’s, 2883 Mission St, San Francisco

                Local - Mission Pie 2901 Mission St, San Francisco (24th and 25th)

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  This is a great idea, especially for a wedding weekend with visiting guests! I have always wondered about Las Tinajas - what did you have there? There's also another Nicaraguan place farther down Mission I think....has anyone tried it?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    thanks mw,
                    your post is now in the passport case.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I love this and will print it out too :) especially digging the mural photo op, as documenting the adventure, from food to other scenery, is quite important to me

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Completely plundered your post, Melanie -- I have a Mission crawl on my itinerary for next week and will be using your tour to supplement. Many thanks!

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          update: the trip went very well - see pics here:


                          thanks to Melanie Wong!!!

                          1. re: maria23

                            The produce and flowers have beautiful autumnal colors. Thanks for posting these.

                            1. re: maria23

                              Great pics -- looks like you crammed a lot into your layover! BTW, the "random boat" is one of the Golden Gate Transit district ferries (ferries at the Ferry Building!).

                              1. re: maria23

                                Thanks for reporting back, but I have a slow internet conection so won't be able to go through the album. Could you just post a few words about where you finally ate and how you liked it. Just curious.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Ok, here goes - I started inside the Ferry Building while waiting for my friend, checked out Cowgirl Creamery (there's one in DC too) and tasted some delightful cheeses, and got a coffee (inside or outside the building can't remember) to stave off the desire to sleep, as my brain thought it was about 5am the next day. My friend arrived and we split a bratwurst at the farmer's market, with grilled onions, sauerkraut and mustard, also drank orange sodas like we were on a school field trip or something. Also at the farmer's market I bought a bag of chocolate cherries from Bella Viva - they were so good that I bought a case of 24 when I got home to give as office gifts, stocking stuffers, etc. That was it for food at the Farmer's Market - then we BARTed down to the Mission, got more coffee at Four Barrel Coffee, took pics and had pupusas revueltas at Acaxutla (so good - would have eaten more if weren't pacing ourselves). Somewhere along the way looked for Bi-Rite Creamery, but couldn't find it; don't ask me why, we had the itinerary with us. We must have looked like we were completing a scavenger hunt, and in a way I guess we were. The last place we ate was La Copa Loca for gelato and had run out of time to see/eat more before I had to be back to the airport. I made it onto the plane with 10 minutes to spare. A little too close for my taste but it was a very fun stop over and I slept the whole way back to DC - no one else was in my row so I could stretch out. Well, that's it - hope you can get on a high speed connection and check out the pics!

                                  1. re: maria23

                                    Sounds like you had a great time! Bi-Rite Creamery was near the corner of 18th and Dolores, right near the base of Dolores Park.

                        2. A lot depends on how hungry and tired you are, and how the weather is.

                          Unless it is rainy, you should first go to the Ferry Building. It's crowded, but I don't think it will remind you of Asia in any way. There are plenty of areas where it's easy to sit down and escape the crowds. The food is excellent, there are a lot of choices, and you'd be able to get there on the early side, which will be nice. You probably won't spend 5 hours there, but it's easy to spend at least 2 or 3.

                          After you are done at the Ferry Building, you'll probably still have time, in which case I'd also suggest going to the Mission - walking around Valencia St (great shops and bookstores, as well as food), or 24th St (great taquerias, interesting shops) or going towards Dolores Park. Again, if the weather is nice, this will be great....if it's rainy, not as great, but still doable.

                          I think SF is a great place to be stuck for 7 hours, especially on a you planned very well :)

                          Dave MP

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Dave MP

                            "It's crowded, but I don't think it will remind you of Asia in any way."

                            It is definitely a whitebread crowd, if that's what you you are referring to. But the fact remains that it is a jostling crowd, and a crowd is a crowd is a crowd.

                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                              I believe that Dave MP is referring to your own statement: "if you are coming from Asia the prospect of another jostling tourist-destination crowd may not be the most attractive option."

                              If she wants an Asian and an Italian experience she can get off at Montgomery and hop on the 30 Stockton and go to North Beach (ABC in Berkeley as I write this).

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                I was at the Ferry Building with my grandparents this Saturday, and there are sections where the crowd is big and jostling, but it's also very easy to escape the crowds and go have a seat on the sidelines. I was slightly concerned that it would be crowded for my grandparents, but they really enjoyed it. When you sit down on one of the benches, the Ferry Building experience can be quite relaxing, and I think it would feel great to be outside, overlooking the Bay, after a long flight.

                                That said, if it's raining, everyone will be inside, where it is indeed crowded. But it's still worth a visit - if the OP doesn't like it, she'll get back on BART and head elsewhere.