CHOW Tour
Two CHOW editors on a caloric extravaganza exploring innovation, novelty, and deliciousness. rss
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Grocery Store as Tourist Destination

Cutesy, perfect, so crowded that shopping there is like a contact sport, Bi-Rite would be easy to loathe if it weren't so great. A retro-50s looking grocery store in San Francisco's Mission District, Bi-Rite is the brain child of Sam Mogannam: a former downtown chef, who had the idea of putting a serious kitchen inside his father's old grocery store to create restaurant-quality prepared foods for the deli counter. The results were ambitious and good: on any given day, you'll find delicious versions of things like chicken meatballs, fava-parmesan dip, bbq ribs, and lamb stew, as well as homemade charcuterie, house-smoked salmon sliced to order, and their own bacon.

But prepared foods are only part of the story. For those who love to cook, Bi-Rite offers beautiful organic produce, some of it grown on the market's own 5 acres of farmland in Sonoma County, its own honey from rooftop hives, and an impressive selection of wines, beers, and cheese. Five years ago, Mogannam's pastry chef wife, Anne, opened up Bi-Rite Creamery across the street, selling fabulous ice cream and other desserts. It's so popular that a red velvet rope has been erected to coral the lines.

Bi-Rite's slogan is "Creating Community Through Food"; Mogannam's vision is that people drawn on foot to the market and ice cream store will meet in the street to interact and connect. To further this cause, he has opened a nonprofit in the neighborhood called 18 Reasons that offers classes and tastings. As far as attracting foot traffic, he has been successful. Food photographer Eric Wolfinger, has dubbed this packed stretch of 18th Street, home to the two Bi-Rite operations, the ultra-popular Tartine Bakery, and sibling hot spots Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina, as "The Gastro."

Although it’s a food snob destination, Bi-Rite still aims to cater to the daily needs of its neighbors. Beyond the wedges of Morbier and tins of Vadouvan, you'll find the Coke and Cheerios.