With locations in two San Francisco areas known for their diverse food scenes – the lively Mission District and the iconic Ferry Building – Fort Point Beer Company has always been in prime position to be more than just beer spots. This summer this independent brewery decided to re-imagine both their Valencia Beer Hall and Ferry Building Beer Garden with the launch of a distinctly Fort Point take on classic San Francisco seafood.
Created by Culinary Director Cecile Macasero, former Chef de Cuisine at Kin Khao, the new menu is inspired by quintessential San Francisco dishes and emphasizes local, sustainably sourced seafood.
“To create the new menu we looked at what defined San Francisco food, and classic dishes invented in this city: Cioppino, Louie Salad, Green Goddess dressing, to name a few,” explains Fort Point co-founder and Chief Brand Officer, Dina dobkin
Menu highlights include SF Sashimi with local king salmon dressed with yuzu, red onions, capers, and California olive oil; Dungeness Crab Roll, heaping with fresh cracked crab, creme fraiche on a perfectly buttered roll; Cup-a-Cioppino with pre-shelled crab, clams, mussels, shrimp, white fish, and squid; fresh oysters on the half shell; as well as non-seafood options like Rice-A-Roni Arancini, Louie Salad, Fort Point Burger, and more. And for dessert, a fun recreation of the classic San Francisco treat is the “ Not Exactly It,” their take on the It’s It’s ice cream sandwich.
“Something that we’re really proud of is that we’re not copy-catting the dishes you’d find at a historic San Francisco restaurant, but instead reinterpreting the classics in a way that takes them from familiar to special whether it’s through cooking technique, ingredient sourcing or presentation (definitely fun and casual in our case). Our intention is to honor the things people love about the original, while adding our own subtle spin, same as we do with our beers.”
We chatted with Fort Point co-founder and Chief Brand Officer, Dina Dobkin, on the new menu, their two San Francisco venues, the beverage program and more. Here’s what she had to say.
Can you talk about the new menu, inspired by quintessential SF dishes?
Before the re-concept, we had two very different menus at the Ferry Building and Valencia. Ferry Building was a really simple, no-nonsense concept that felt pretty on-brand: hot dogs, pretzels and beer. Valencia was inspired by our former Chef, Eric Ehler, who brought his personal story — born in Korea, growing up in the midwest — to the menu.
It was fun, with dishes like a pork chop sandwich and vegan yuba club, but didn’t really have a strong connection to the Fort Point brand. As we were reassessing our culinary program through the lens of “doing fewer things, better” and we prioritized two things: 1) develop a single concept across locations, 2) find something that represents Fort Point as a brand.
How did you decide on this menu?
The idea of SF-Style Seafood emerged pretty seamlessly. We’re really proud that people think of us as SF’s hometown brewery, and it made a lot of sense that our food would honor SF’s historic cuisine. Plus we love that seafood is not an obvious pairing for beer, but is actually pretty perfect once you try it. The cherry on top is that the concept felt really personal and exciting to us and our team because many of us love catching, cooking and eating seafood of all types, and being able to do that is one of the great things about living in San Francisco .
Talk about the venues at both Valencia Beer Hall and Ferry Building Beer Garden. How are they different and what does each bring to the table?
One of our goals with this new concept was to create cohesion across both of our SF locations, which are each pretty unique. Our Ferry Building Beer Garden is a super casual spot where you can grab a cold fizzy beer, chips and fish dip, a fancy hotdog, or our crab roll and enjoy them on our beer garden tables while catching up with a friend or doing some people watching on the Embarcadero.
Our Valencia Beer Hall is a big, bright, colorful space in the heart of the Mission District. It’s perfect for lunch, dinner, or an any-time-of-day beer and snack. Fort Point Valencia offers the most extensive version of our menu, while still keeping things fun and easy. You’ll find oysters, sashimi, Rice-a-Roni arancini, our chowder-style clam roll, and even cioppino (served for one in a big enamel mug), in addition to the items served at Ferry Building.
Both spaces are about our beer first and foremost, so there’s plenty of that too.
Is the larger format food menu something you will be keeping? Will it be changing seasonally?
Yes! The menus are designed to stay consistent, and our Valencia Beer Hall will continue to offer a nice selection of raw bar items, shareable plates, and mains throughout the year. Because each dish on the menu is inspired by an SF classic, we don’t see the offerings changing often.
That said, we’re working with local fishermen and purveyors and our selection of fish and oysters will change seasonally. For example, right now we’re using Bay Area halibut for our sashimi, but in a few months that will transition to scallops.
How is the Valencia Beer Hall different from your everyday tap room? The space is huge!
If you close your eyes and imagine a taproom you’ll likely think “warehouse,” “exposed brick,” “stainless steel,” “subway tile,” and that’s no accident. A lot of taprooms have a consistent look and feel because they are inside breweries which are essentially factories… and that’s what factories look like. We make our beer at our Presidio brewery (down the street from the historic Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge).
Fort Point Valencia was designed to be a place where we could specifically Shoo our guests, and it’s purpose-built to be the best place to get a beer in SF! It doesn’t look like your typical taproom and we hope that this makes it more accessible to an audience beyond just “beer people.” It’s really intended to be a true extension of the Fort Point brand – a space that reflects our perspective on design, beer and food.
We took inspiration from our visual brand and packaging design to create a color-saturated, open, and inviting environment. Every design choice was intentional — from the plastered walls which create a softness and depth, to the wood standing bar with sunken taps – intended to make it easier for guests and bartenders to interact. Special attention was paid to lighting and acoustics which are elements that can often be overlooked in a large space but are the key to setting a mood and creating a comfortable environment that people want to spend time in.
What are you pouring? Talk about the beer, wines and ciders. There’s quite a selection!
There is! Since Fort Point Valencia is a destination for our beer and food first and foremost, we always have our Core (think KSA, Villager, Sfizio) and Limited (think Yuzu KSA, Natural Magic) beer on draft. It’s no coincidence that our beer pair really well with food, and seafood in particular. They’re balanced and easy to drink, but have a twist that makes them unique. Our taprooms are also a place to get a taste of our innovation program – with monthly Limited Releases and r&d pilots often on draft.
We use our Guest Beer list to feature some of our favorite brewers in California – featuring collaborators, former employees turned brewers, up-and-coming beer producers and beyond. Our wines and ciders are sourced from thoughtful producers that align with our beer philosophy – always balanced, nuanced, and approachable. We also have a few N/A options like our house made cream soda and a local non-alcoholic Kolsch. Ultimately it’s important to us that we have something exciting, fun, and approachable for everyone.
For more San Francisco dining videos and recommendations, check out my Instagram, @cheycheyfromthebay!