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Ferry Building's best on a weekday? Food sampling tour suggestions please!

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We are a family of Easterners coming to SF for a few days in early August.

We enjoyed the tasting tour in Philly but thought it was reasonable to map such a walk on one's own if directed by those more savvy.

I would like to walk, see, sample, and buy the don't-miss at the Ferry Building, but I can't go on Farmer's Market day. We can splurge a little here and there but love the bargains.

What do you suggest with kids, 7 through 13?

What can I tell you about our tastes? We like cheese, bread, ethnic, garlicky, sweets, and quirky local. My husband loves great beer, especially darker, and dry red wine. A logical path to follow, stops to make, single or multiple suggestions would be much appreciated.

Afterwards, I think we will take the ferry to Sausalito to walk around!

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  1. hi sky.

    pack a picnic basket (canvas bag, actually) from goodies at the ferry building (cured meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, terrines, etc.. don't forget the wine) and take the ferry to angel island. hike to the top of mt. livermore and enjoy stunning views of the bay.

    angel island is a fantastic destination with great history. lots more fun to walk than sausalito.


    1. There aren't many don't-miss items on a weekday, but you could put together a great picnic with bread from Acme, cheese from Cowgirl, cold cuts from Boccalone, salad from Out the Door, rotisserie stuff from Cane Rosso, pastries from Frog Hollow, chocolates from Recchiuti.

      The wine shop is a fine place to pick up a bottle. There's no notable beer selection or ethnic food compared with what's available elsewhere in SF.

      1. Unfortunately, on non-market days the Ferry Building doesn't provide much in the way of samples, nor is there much in the way of cheap and/or ethnic goodies. It's pretty much high-end artisan products, although there's a lot of deliciousness in a 85 cent Acme roll.

        If you can't make it on Saturday, can you make it on Tuesday?

        1. What days of the week?

          Here's a list to get you started

          Visitng SF. Eat like a local not a tourist.

          In that list is a nice walking tour of the Mission that combines food with viewing the murals.

          As you find places you like, you can put together your own list. You can make it a private list so it doesn't appear on the board.

          I'd personally vote for the ferry to Tiburon rather than Sausalito. The ferry is nicer. You can catch it next to the Ferry Building. Tiburon isn't as touristy. Here's a list of restaurants there. Clicking on the name will bring up the restaurant record with websites, if any, and linked reports. Cottage Eatery has had some good reports. Casa Manana has had thumbs up for the pupusas.

          1. I would definitely try to go on a Tuesday or Thursday between 11-2. Both days have farmer stands, and the peaches right now are really good.

            Tuesday: farmer's market, stands outside selling tamales, hamburgers from Prather Ranch
            Thursday: smaller farmer's market, more stands selling prepared foods like wood-fired oven pizzas, tacos, hot dogs, and Korean tacos. Great for grazing with a family, tables set up outside.

            Inside, Scharffenberger usually has a lot of samples out. Rechiutti sometimes has one or two. You can taste olive oils and gelato.

            If you would like to picnic, the suggestions that people have already made are right on the money, with the addition of Blue Bottle for coffee and hot chocolate for the kids. For beer, maybe Hog Island would have a decent selection?

            1. Thank you, kind CWers! Amazing, amazing tips.

              I am persuaded against Sausalito.

              So, enlightened somewhat, I will ask you this:

              I had heard that the SFcityguides offered great free tours and I am racing from Alcatraz to make a 1:30 tour of Chinatown for an insider's take.
              However, someone on Chowhound said when he went, they showed live animals meant for slaughter and kids on the tour were upset. I'm not too keen on that myself. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/639577.

              Is it worth giving up the tour and hitting up the Ferry Bldg on a Tuesday around 12:30?

              17 Replies
              1. re: sky19

                This may be slightly off topic and I will be punished, but hit the Ferry Bldg on Tues and try this Chinatown tour:
                Done by local kids and proceeds go back to the community. Highly recommended by someone who spent huge portions of childhood in Chinatown and still learned some stuff on the tour.

                1. re: sfbing

                  Yes, but the OP is trying to budget and tho I'm not sure how many kids, at least two is implied and the tour would cost a minimum of $53 ... more if there are more than two kids. On the other hand, with a group of four they can arrange a private tour.

                  The free tour is just the luck of the draw on who is giving it. They don't slaughter the animals in front of you and can't even slaughter them on site. People buy the ckickens and they are put live in a paper bag and taken home when they are done in by the customer.

                  If looking a a live chicken bothers you, just tell the tour operator at the beginning you'd rather wait outside on the tour. Just walking down the streets of Chinatown you are going to see lots of cooked ducks in deli windows with head and feet attached.

                  Looking at the post referenced, it sounds more like the mother was an idiot trying to make a point that they were going to eat these animals. Talk about turning kids into vegitarians instantly ... or who knows ... maybe then went to KFC afterward.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Sorry to have taken this off on a tangent but to clarify: I was just warning that this might occur on that particular tour, depending on the guide, since the OP has young children. It was pretty obvious what the live animals were there for (there were already slaughtered offerings of fish etc also) and FWIW we actually found this the most interesting part of what was otherwise not the greatest tour.

                2. re: sky19

                  Wow, your schedule seems very tight. I assume that you have already planned how to get to Pier 33 for your Alcatraz tour on Monday morning. For your trip to Chinatown from Pier 33 after the tour, you can take the MUNI bus lines #10, 20, or 30 (board on North Point st) and get off at Washington street, and just walk a few blocks to Portsmouth Square. The #10 & #20 lines approach by the left side of the Square, while the #30 line goes by a few blocks from the right side, so make sure you don't walk on the wrong direction. Here's a link with the bus lines & map routes: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mmaps/indvma... I recommend buying a map, or at least pickup one of those free maps at your hotel, so you don't get lost.

                  The volunteer walking tour guides are very friendly and can accommodate any requests, like asking them that you'll like to wait outside if he/she plans to show any live animals inside a poultry store, which I doubt you'd encounter because that's not part of the regular tour.

                  The Tuesday's Ferry Building/Plaza market is a fraction in size compared to the Saturday market, but you do get lots of free samples; the Thursday market has less produce vendors because it focuses on the recent street food craze, with items like Korean BBQ tacos, peanut butter bacon brownies, freshly baked strawberry cupcakes, etc., the porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti is really good. When I say market I'm referring to the vendors in tents outside the building.

                  Inside the Ferry building you'll find lots of cheese, artisan bread, sausages, salumi, flavored olive oil, burgers & fries, Chinese tea & dumplings, sweets & pastries, gelato, chocolates, caviar, seafood, fresh oysters, and a wine shop that sells wine by the glass and let's you bring food from other stores to have a picnic at one of their tables.

                  Some of the favorite restaurants/shops include: the very popular Slanted Door (Vietnamese cuisine) one of my favorites is the shaking beef, Hog Island Oyster Co. - for fresh oysters; Cane Rosso (Italian rotisserie) very good but sandwiches are somewhat small for what you pay; Marketbar (American cuisine) also very good, but lunch portions are modest; Boulette's Larder (French) fancy shmancy and very expensive; Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Cafe is a decadent treat if you like caviar and smoked fish; Mastrelli’s Deli is probably the more affordable shop, sandwiches are large enough to share; at Recchiuti Confections (one of the 2 chocolate stores) one of my favorites is the "rose caramel" chocolate; and Blue Bottle Coffee, one of the best coffee shop chains in the city, etc.

                  Both Tiburon and Sausalito are nice quaint little towns. Tiburon doesn't have as many tourists, but also doesn't have that many stores to browse thru. If you want to get away from the city crowds and enjoy a laid back and quiet lunch with a nice view of the bay, Tiburon is better. In my opinion, if you don't mind the tourists, want to browse thru more shops, and have double the number of restaurants to choose from, then Sausalito is better.

                  Hope this helps!

                  1. re: L C

                    The only thing I'd add is though Sausalito may have quantity, that doesn't equate to quality. It is sort of a rung up the ladder from Fisherman's Wharf. A little better with a few good things, but there's a lot stuff that is just shclock.

                    1. re: rworange

                      We drove into Sausalito on Sunday afternoon, just to check out the tourist scene, sat outside for a bit and watched the tourists enjoy themselves, munching on snacks, browsing, and shopping. Might be just the ticket for the kids, especially on a not so crowded weekday. There are some fun shops and restaurants w/outdoor patios, not 4 star, but certainly adequate and family-friendly.

                      1. re: steve h.

                        "there is nothing in sausalito that would appeal to kids "7 through 13." nothing. " Not true. There's the Bay Model http://www.spn.usace.army.mil/bmvc/ ... and to keep this food related it is near "Fish."

                        350 Harbor Dr, Sausalito, CA 94965

                        1. re: Paul H

                          hi paul,

                          i'll try this again. the bay model is a worthy destination but it appeals mainly to sailor geeks like me. it's proximity to FISH is good but hardly worthwhile for a family with young kids walking the two miles up bridgeway from the ferry pier.

                          don't get me wrong, FISH is one of my favorite restaurants. deb and i have trekked up (and back) many times just to sample the fish and chips, fish tacos, chowders and burgers (yes!).

                          we used to stop at paterson's on the way back for a pint. sometimes we would grab a burger from hamburgers on bridgeway. paterson's is no more. pity.

                        2. re: steve h.

                          "...there is nothing in sausalito that would appeal to kids "7 through 13." nothing. tiburon? even less..."
                          I can't tell who you're responding to, but I certainly said no such thing. In fact, re-read my post if you're confused.I said quite the opposite, that kids would probably enjoy Sausalito (parents too!).

                          1. re: Sarah

                            i was responding to paul but having read your 11:51 post, i must respectfully disagree with you. where are the kids going to go? the forever christmas shop? i don't think so.
                            seriously, if you were 7-13, wouldn't you prefer angel island? i know i would.

                            1. re: steve h.

                              Steve - I recall you being a lost soul after Patterson and Cat 'n Fiddle closed!
                              Kids gotta get their T-shirts somewhere, so... and the Ferry Company (altho some items are quite adult), Games People Play, some other shops I'm not familiar with simply because I live a town away. But the tourists, adults and kids were there, seemingly enjoying themselves last Sunday.
                              Angel Island may be freezing and fog-infested. After all, this is summer in San Francisco, and out in the bay, no guarantees...I remember alot of field trips where our west coast fleece wasn't nearly enough!

                              1. re: Sarah


                                angel island is cool. hiking to the top of mt. livermore is cool. packing a picnic bag from the ferry building, complete with wine, is way cool.

                                chowing down on the bag o' goodies, including the wine, at the top of mt. livermore is priceless. fog? sure. the view from the top is 360 degrees and the fog seldom is (i've done this more than a dozen times). freezing? not to us east-coast types. the higher you climb, the warmer it gets.

                                i like san fransisco a lot. i'm there too much to be considered a tourist but not enough to be considered a local.

                      2. re: L C

                        I believe the wine bar at Ferry Plaza is over-21 only.

                        Sausalito has at least few good restaurants such as Fish, Poggio, Murray Circle, Sushi Ran. Does Tiburon?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I believe I mentioned a few of the better choices in Tiburon which are easily walkable from the Ferry unlike the two mile trek to Fish or Murray Circle where you would have to have a car, take a pricy cab ride, or take a bus and then walk ...since that is not exactly a route that runs frequently, not the best use of a visitor's time. Ditto a bit of a trek to Le Garage and in the end, Le Garage is just French food with a view.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Poggio's just a few blocks from the ferry terminal. So is Horizons, which has a deck on the water and much better food than I know of in Tiburon. From the ferry to Fish is a mile and a half, and on a nice day it's a lovely walk, enjoyed by many tourists daily.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Well, that would fit the requirement to walk around. I don't know. I just think Sausalito is schlocky and none of those places would really qualify as bargains. I mean, if the OP decides on Sausalito, there are some lower profile places with nice food.

                                Sausalito Bakery and Cafe has gotten some good posts and it has a view. No view at Sartaj Indian Cafe, but a nice funky neighborhood place where mom and pop are cooking and you can get an American or Indian breakfast. I like the house made pie. It was a bakery once and they kept the pies on the menu.

                                Restaurant records with addresses are in this search for Sausalito

                                Have you eaten anywhere in Tiburon recently? I haven't been since last summer and want to see if anyone took over The Swedish Place. That pupusa place has been high on my list to try and there is a pizza place I want to get to.