I felt more at ease during our trip to San Francisco than I have on any other trip. Here’s the reason why:
We winged most of it. Our travel plans always revolve around meals. Usually I do a lot of research about restaurants and make a list of must-eats. This is not to say I didn’t compile a list this time; However; I didn’t insist we stick to it this time.
One morning we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s like the Navy Pier of San Francisco. I expected to waltz through quickly, but we ended up having so much fun we shrugged and stayed for a while. Instead of rushing to the next place on my list, we let a couple of them go. It felt good not to race and enjoy being in the moment.
When you tell someone you’re going to San Francisco, they’re probably going to say something like, “Hey, you should go to Fisherman’s Wharf!”
Fisherman’s wharf is really touristy. It’s kind of like Navy Pier. Street musicians wail, people painted like robots perform. There are two Hawaiian -themed pearl kioks on Pier 39 along with a Bubba Gump, Hard Rock Cafe, and Mrs. Field’s Cookies store, all busy of course.
Still, it’s not without its charms.
At Fisherman’s Wharf you can see the ocean. You can also see Alcatraz and docks of sea lions sunbathing on docks, barking in the wind in all of their stinky glory. The Ferry Building Marketplace food wonderland is nearby as is San Fransisco’s only In-N-Out. There’s a row of seafood stands where you can watch the vendors steam and prepare fresh crab and shrimp. There are innumerable places to order clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl and grab a refreshing drink.
Here’s what we had fun exploring:
Next to the register you’ll find a bakery case of pastries and salgados, savory snacks like kibbe, cheese rolls, and meat pies.
For breakfast we shared a fried egg and mozzarella cheese sandwich and tapioca flour crepe filled with dried beef, onions and mozzarella. The little spoon contained some type of oil. We really should have asked what we were supposed to do with it but didn’t. We ended up dipping bites of the crepe into the oil which made for a savory flavor between the salty dried beef and mild crepe.
Extra refreshing is the fresh pineapple and mint juice blended until frothy.
There’s a section of the wharf with a line-up of about nine seafood stands all selling clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls and seafood cocktails. At breakfast time we watched the vendors steam and prep the fresh seafood.
Choosing a stand is the hardest thing. We paced back and forth until we settled on Alioto’s, mostly because our Lyft driver recommended it. Alioto’s offers a full sit-down restaurant overlooking the wharf along with a sidewalk patio and this food stand. And, like the other vendors it also serves the $9-10 crab and shrimp cocktails.
Jake ordered the $10 clam chowder in a bread bowl special that included his choice of a cheap beer. I was here for the crab. My half crab cost $14. We perched on stools set up in front of the food stand window and shared our meals. All of these stands are equipped with a small counter you can hunch over (some have stools) that are decked out with some hot sauces and seasonings.
The National Park Service operates the Maritime National Historic Park and Alcatraz. One thing I learned after our visit is that one should book tickets to Alcatraz ahead of time, as they are often sold out days in advance.
The Maritime National Historic Park is a fun place to wander through and learn about nautical things. There’s a small museum and a beach. On the pier you can learn about things like knots and pulley systems, getting a close up view of the historic ships. Rangers offer demos of the ships and tours. You’ll see school groups touring around here, following people dressed up in period costumes. There’s also a historic sail boat that visitors can book trips on.
The bathrooms on this historical ship pier are free and very clean.
Jack’s Cannery Bar
This bar is known for having something like 100+ beers on tap. Jack’s has been here since 1932. There is a food menu, but feels more like a bar bar. It’s not frilly or overly shiny like a lot the other restaurants are. Jack’s doesn’t scream tourist trap.
Part of the charm is that you won’t feel like you’re in Fisherman’s Wharf. Jack’s is cash only. The smell is something only old bar bars have. We found the service welcoming and Jake made a friend with a solo business traveler. The bartenders are more than happy to put together a local beer sampler (on a labeled place mat) based upon whatever preferences you may have.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Museum Visitors’ Center
499 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Jack’s Cannery Bar
2801 Leavenworth St
San Francisco, CA 94133