By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
By Max A. Cherney
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Anna Roth
El Huarache Loco
Alemany Farmers' Market, 100 Alemany (at Tompkins), Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Alemany Antiques and Collectibles Market, 100 Alemany (at Tompkins), Sundays 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
100 Alemany Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94110-6221
Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights
Crazy? We think not. This stand serves up the most authentic and delicious versions of Mexico City street food available outside Mexico and is the foremost reason to trek to southern Bernal Heights on weekends, whether your secondary goal is fresh fruit and vegetables or old junk. The eponymous huaraches (named for the sandals they resemble) are much larger than the ones sometimes seen as appetizers (antojitos) in fancy Mexican restaurants; they're as big as one of Charlie Chaplin's shoes, in fact. Made with organic masa, filled with refried beans, and grilled until crisp at the edges, they come piled with your choice of meats and other good things. You can have them heaped with carne asada, chicken, machaca, potatoes with chorizo,or alambre, aka "Mexico City style," with chunks of meat, onions, peppers, and cheese ($6). But don't stop with the title dish. Equally enthralling are gorditas, fried layered masa tortillas filled with pork; pambazos, French rolls stuffed with potatoes and chorizo and dipped in guajillo sauce; tlacayitos, sometimes called Mexican pizzas; sopes; enchiladas in green or mole sauce; chilaquiles verdes; and nine kinds of tacos, including an epic lamb barbacoa. There are 55 different variations on the basic menu, and the specials often include menudo and pozole.
Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie
Heart of the City Farmers' Market, UN Plaza. Wednesdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Admire the plump cooked free-range chickens from Fulton Valley Farms in Sonoma, dusted with salt, pepper, and herbs, lined up like chorus girls, and rotating their little hearts out. You can get a whole chicken for $12 or a half chicken for $6.50. Then there's the popular $6 Roli Combo: a juicy quarter chicken served with rosemary roasted potatoes that are crisp and golden outside, white and floury within. (You can also get the potatoes on their own for $5 for a regular portion, $3 small.) If Roli Roti is offering a roast pork knuckle ($7), grab it: it looks like a small, crusty leg of pork, with lots of tasty meat under its dark-brown outer skin. Roli Roti only does a few things, but as Spencer Tracy once remarked of Katharine Hepburn in Pat and Mike: "Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce."
Alive! Vegetarian Cuisine
Heart of the City Farmers' Market, UN Plaza, Wednesdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Ferry Building Farmers' Market, Embarcadero and Market, Tuesdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
All too often the food served at farmers' markets seems divorced from the beautiful heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables being sold all around. Not so at Alive! Vegetarian Cuisine, the stand operated by the popular raw-foods restaurant on Lombard, where alluring and imaginative salads, soups, flatbreads, and drinks are concocted from fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. The seasonal offerings change every week, but there might be a raw carrot-ginger soup ($4); a Mediterranean salad with sesame-seed hummus, avocados, tomatoes, and olives ($6); shredded garden vegetable salad with a sweet sesame-ginger or spicy Korean dressing ($8); and flatbread topped with shiitake or avocado ($4). Desserts include wonderful raw-chocolate haystacks made with coconut ($2 each or three for $5), and raw apple pie ($3). Alive! also has the best array of drinks, including carrot, orange, and ginger juice; blueberry, strawberry, and grapefruit spritzers; watermelon mint agua fresca (all $3 small, $4 large); and fresh Thai coconut juice served in the coconut ($3).
Ferry Building Farmers' Market, Embarcadero and Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Recipe for a perfect day: Find your way to the Saturday Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building. Stand in line at Primavera (it moves quickly, and you might be behind Alice Waters or Calvin Trillin). Order the chilaquiles (aka Guajillo Chile Chilaquiles con Chorizo), and maybe a tamale or two on the side, but definitely the chilaquiles: sauce-coated cut-up tortillas sided with scrambled eggs, crumbled chorizo, refried beans dusted with queso, sour cream, chopped onion, cilantro, and diced ripe avocado. It's a perfect plate of food for $9.50 in green, red, and white — the colors of the Mexican flag — and one bite is enough to make you want to salute it. Take your prize to a table or a bench overlooking the bay, and forget all your cares and woes — at least while you're eating.
Hayes Street Grill and Vicolo Pizza
Ferry Building Farmers' Market, Embarcadero and Market,Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
The Hayes Street Grill was the first food stand invited to join the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in 1991, and helped raise the funds necessary to start the market by selling spicy grilled corn on the cob. Today its rotating seasonal menu, sourced from the surrounding purveyors, features offerings such as eggs scrambled with wild mushrooms ($6.50), crab cake with mixed greens ($10), a fried-oyster po' boy ($8.50), a salmon BLT with tartar sauce ($10), and almost always a superb classic BLT (with Hobbs bacon and local lettuce and tomatoes from the market, bien sûr, on baguette, $6). The fresh-squeezed orange juice is a bargain at $2. A couple of weeks ago the highlight was a perfectly sautéed soft-shell crab sandwich ($11), crunchy, juicy, saline, and altogether divine. Pick up a cornmeal crust Vicolo pizza for dinner from the adjoining stand. The staff all work at the classically San Francisco and deservedly popular Hayes Street Grill.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city