3 amazing new Bay Area food halls, from Los Altos to Castro Valley

Helena V Berbie

Market halls, those trendy foodie shopping and dining hubs, have become an urban must-have in recent years. Think San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, Napa’s Oxbow and San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market. They’re catching on in the East Bay suburbs, too, where high-concept food halls are in development in Orinda and Walnut Creek.

Here are three new or upcoming Bay Area market halls you’ll want to explore, from Los Altos’ soon-to-open, Michelin-cred State Street Market to Castro Valley Marketplace and San Francisco’s La Cocina Municipal Marketplace.

Castro Valley Marketplace

Anchored by Castro Valley Natural Grocery, this two-story, 39,000-square-foot artisanal food hall celebrated its grand opening on July 10. The celebration came exactly one year after just three of the market’s 12 tenants — the grocery, longtime baker Julien Wagner’s Seven Hills Baking Co. and Baron’s Quality Meats & Seafood — were allowed to open as essential businesses during the pandemic.

Since then, they’ve been joined by East Bay stalwarts Oaktown Spice, Amphora Nueva Olive Oil Works, Akemi Sushi and half a dozen others in what has already become a central Alameda County culinary destination.

Inside, it’s bright, airy and bustling; a place where you can check organic produce off your grocery list, taste olive oil, buy handmade sausages and even take class in urban homesteading (upstairs at FARMcurious). Outside on the weekends you can sip craft cocktails from Night Owl, a pop up bar from the folks behind Cannery Kitchen & Tap. Come September, Night Owl will move to its permanent location upstairs.

Cannery is definitely the food hall’s primary gathering spot, offering just about every menu you might need: weekday breakfast, weekend brunch, all-day lunch and dinner, kid menu, even daily Blue Plate specials, including chicken pot pie and local-catch fish fry.

Dine in at the Cannery Kitchen & Tap or enjoy your craft beer and Piggie Plank outside on the Paseo at the new Castro Valley Marketplace. (Castro Valley Marketplace) 

Hot spot: Yup, Cannery Kitchen & Tap. We love the indoor-outdoor vibe, the 10 local beers and the fact that it stays open until 9 p.m. on weekends. Try a Plank — like a charcuterie board but with way more options. There’s a Seared Ahi Tuna Plank with wonton and seaweed chips ($20) and a Piggie Plank, with barbecue ribs, crispy pork belly, million dollar bacon, Fra’Mani ham, “horsey” sauce, pickles and Firebrand pretzel rolls ($18).

Tip: Don’t bother with street parking. The Marketplace has its own free parking on the right side of the building. Be sure to check out the covered patio seating on the left side of the building, with umbrellas, twinkly lights and, on weekends, live music.

To-go: Fresh-baked organic whole grain breads and laminated pastries at Seven Hills Baking Co., of course. You can’t go wrong with a French baguette, chocolate-almond croissant or perfectly crumbly blueberry-polenta muffin. Don’t forget a cup of fresh-brewed Proyecto Diaz Coffee.

Details: Hours vary, but most merchants are open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily at 3295 Castro Valley Blvd. in Castro Valley; https://castrovalleymarketplace.com.

State Street Market

Restaurant-heavy downtown Los Altos, already a draw for locals, is poised to become a Bay Area culinary mecca when this long-anticipated food hall — the Peninsula’s first — comes to fruition later this summer.

There are big culinary names lined up and a big tech name behind the project. State Street Market is owned by developer Los Altos Community Investments, with Silicon Valley leader Anne Wojcicki, the 23andMe founder and a longtime supporter of the downtown Los Altos renaissance. LACI is collaborating on food-hall concepts with Bon Appétit Management Co.

Architects from Gensler have transformed this corner at State and Third streets into a Spanish Colonial-style hall with impressive tilework inside and out. The 20,000-square-foot market will feature restaurants from acclaimed chefs, plus a hearth-fired kitchen, a seafood bar, a rotisserie, a teaching kitchen and retail spaces. That’s the ground-floor plan; the second floor will house offices.

The market developers are rolling out the big-name announcements in tantalizing fashion. Two have been unveiled, with the promise of more to come.

Construction is just about wrapped up at State Street Market, a food hall at State and Third streets in downtown Los Altos. A late summer opening is envisioned. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Hot spots: The first one is bound to be El Alto, a new concept from James Beard Award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins. She closed her flagship Jardinière, one of San Francisco’s most respected restaurants, in 2019, saying at the time that she wanted to explore her Mexican heritage through its cuisine. Here, she’s planning a menu that combines “the rich history of the early California-Mexican ranchos and the agrarian roots of the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The second spot to watch is Bao Bei, a casual restaurant from chefs Michael and Meichih Kim, who have moved on from their Michelin-starred Maum in Palo Alto.

Tip: You’ll be able to meet all your dairy needs — savory and sweet — at State Street. Marin’s noted Cowgirl Creamery, maker of artisanal cheese, will open a location in the hall. Also, Tin Pot Creamery will move out of its current Los Altos space and start scooping its decadent ice cream here.

To-go: To make getting takeout food a breeze, a large pickup area is planned at the back of the complex.

Details: 170 State St., Los Altos; www.statestreetmarket.com

La Cocina Municipal Marketplace

Located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, this multicultural food hall from the La Cocina incubator kitchen is the first of its kind. It features 7,000 square feet of food stalls from six immigrant and women-of-color entrepreneurs doing from-scratch-daily Salvadorian, Creole, Mexican, Senegalese and Algerian cuisines. You can have a Boug Cali po-boy one day and Teranga’s peanut stew the next. Nepalese momos from Bini’s Kitchen will join the mix come September.

Pick up a po-boy from the Boug Cali food stall at San Francisco’s new La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. (Courtesy Lorena Masso) 

Inside this former post office, the vibe is colorful bazaar-meets-coffee-house, with bright hand-woven baskets lining shelves filled with books donated by the San Francisco Public Library. There’s a six-foot, neon La Cocina bird, a floor-to-ceiling spoon art installation, posters in different languages heard throughout the neighborhood, and glistening, stainless steel pots artfully lining the walls.

When it first opened in March, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace was offering take-out only, with indoor lunch added in June. According to manager Jay Foster, a grand opening celebration and expanded hours — 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily — are coming in early fall. A cocktail bar, La Paloma, will arrive then, too, offering innovative cocktails paired with each vendor’s cuisine. And soon: a coffee roaster, a 50-foot parklet and pop-ups from neighborhood partners.

Hot spot: Estrellita’s Snacks, from chef-owner Estrella Gonzalez, does 11 kinds of made-to-order pupusas ($4.50 each), and they are divine. Even a simple bean and cheese pupusa is a revelation, the Monterey Jack cheese melting perfectly within layers of refried beans. Watching the cook scoop the perfect amount of masa for your order and slap and smoosh it into submission is equally satisfying. It comes with zero greasiness, housemade hot sauce and curtido, or pickled cabbage.

Tip: Each stall offers a daily, nutritionally-complete Five Dollar Plate and a commitment to give back to the Tenderloin community, where only 39 percent of residents have access to a stove. La Cocina is also working to support chefs in offering food for EBT transactions, the electronic version of food assistance. That may be a first in the restaurant industry.

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