This article was written by Jenna Scatena for VIA Magazine
Award-winning chefs, fresh pastries, and tasting rooms are raising this popular area's culinary profile
A surge of new restaurants has visitors—and locals—taking San Francisco’s Powell-Hyde cable car to the end of the line at Fisherman’s Wharf. Don’t expect bread bowls of chowder and checkered tablecloths: These new culinary destinations are ushering in an era of seasonal ingredients with unique twists and urban wine.
This heavyweight newcomer has single-handedly upped the dining game in Ghirardelli Square. Chef Jonathan Waxman, named one of the 2016 James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs for New York City, can take an ingredient as simple as asparagus and transform it into something surprising, such as wood-roasting it to a light char, then dressing it up with dandelion and mustard blossoms. Other Italian-inspired dishes at Waxman's show off his signature balance between rustic and delicate: rich, ink-black risotto brightened with green fiddlehead tendrils and earthy hazelnuts, or buttery charcoal-grilled rock cod with Cara Cara oranges. A live edge section of a walnut burl tree root on the wall is softened by paintings, and the outdoor patio is bordered by olive trees and lavender.
CAFE DE CASA
It would be easy to mistake the bright red corner building with flower boxes beneath the windows for just another charming San Francisco house. Actually, Cafe de Casa has quickly become the de facto spot for traditional Brazilian lunch and snack fare. With a sound track of soft samba music in the background, a mother-and-two-daughters team dishes out specialties just as they would in Brazil’s Goiás state, including crepes made with soft and chewy yucca flour, folded into a savory crescent, and stuffed with basil and garlic shredded beef. Try one with a dash of potent house-made hot sauce, best cooled by a glass of made-to-order pineapple-mint juice that’s been blended into a froth.
THE BAKED BEAR
Now there’s a nearby alternative to Ghirardelli’s iconic ice cream sundae: the Baked Bear, a new build-your-own ice cream sandwich walk-up window. Choose your top and base—fresh-baked cookies, brownies, doughnuts, or a combination of any two—then select one of the classic ice cream flavors and pick toppings from the row of colorful sugar-filled mason jars at the window. The staff will even hot-press it like a panini. Not an ice cream sandwich fan? Opt for the Bear Bowl—a tin filled with layers of oozy brownie or cookie, topped with your choice of ice cream.
LE MARAIS BAKERY
Inside the sleek glass storefront, the second outpost of Le Marais Bakery (the first is in the Marina District) feels like the charming Parisian neighborhood it’s named after. You may not notice the watercolors on the walls of this stark sunlit patisserie—the pastry case serves as the artistic centerpiece. It’s filled with an ever-changing array of Instagram-worthy organic delectables, some made in the bakery’s stone oven. French pastries are elevated with local ingredients, like seasonal blood orange and vanilla bean macarons, as well as chewy kouign-amanns and classic flaky croissants made with milled flours and imported French butter. Wash down the treats with Stumptown coffee, imported from Portland.
BLUXOME STREET WINERY
Tucked away on the lower plaza of Ghirardelli Square, Bluxome Street Winery’s newest tasting room occupies what may be California’s first woolen mill, once used to manufacture Civil War uniforms and, later, chocolate. Now Fisherman’s Wharf day-trippers can find refuge from the crowds on Bluxome’s intimate patio, with a clear view of Alcatraz. Inside, balanced small-production Russian River Valley chardonnays and pinot noirs flow from the bar by way of flight, glass, and bottle.