Being a gourmand in San Francisco on a budget: head to the Ferry Building Marketplace

Boccalone specializes in just what its sign advertises: it's tasty, it's salted, it's pig parts.The San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace is sort of like heaven defined for someone who is a semi-locovore (locovore: one who eats only locally produced food, often defined as food grown, produced, and processed within 100 miles of one’s home), absolutely adores good food, and likes to have something left in her wallet at the end of the day. On top of that, you get a laugh right off the bat: the first thing I saw walking in was the sign for the Boccalone Salumeria: “tasty salted pig parts.” You can’t get more direct than that, and the pig parts were both salted and very tasty.

Gorgeously carved, smooth wooden spoons and funky, artsy bowls at the San Francisco Ferry Building.And these aren’t just any pig parts. Because San Francisco is one of the world hubs of the locovore movement (the other being in Italy, where Slow Food started), the marketplace at the Ferry Terminal is a dedicated showcase for regional producers using traditional farming methods, artisan producers of things like cheese and olive oil (and tasty salted pig parts), and high-quality producers of California wine and other specialties. So those pig parts? They’re handcrafted in small batches in Oakland, using sustainably raised, heritage-breed pork. And the marketplace isn’t just about food, although it’s hard to pull yourself away from coffee at Blue Bottle followed by gelato from the Ciao Bella stand. You can also find beautiful kitchenware, and it was only luggage restrictions that kept me from flying back to New York with some of these gorgeous carved wooden bowls.

A variety of mushrooms for those who are hobbits at heart, at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.From artisanal bread to handcrafted cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery, and bits of those tasty salted pig parts from Boccalone to a few quickly shucked and slurped oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Company, you can assemble an amazing gourmet meal for a lot less than you’d spend at some of San Francisco’s better cafes. Being a hobbit at heart, I was repeatedly drawn to the mushroom displays at Far West Fungi, trying to figure out how I could get some fried in butter for a midday snack.

Instead, as we were lucky enough to have dropped in on a farmer’s market day (Tuesdays and Saturdays), we wandered through a maze of fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables outside to procure an open-faced sandwich of cured salmon and fresh cream cheese on local bread. The stand was located near the back of the farmer’s market, so I stood and munched while taking in this view of San Francisco. The food: excellent. The view: free. The Ferry Building foodie tour: priceless.

A classic view of foggy San Francisco through the Bay Bridge, from the farmer's market at the Ferry Building.

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