International Cuisine: 5 Favorite Bay Area Specialty Food Shops

| August 30, 2013 | 1 Comment
  • 1 Comment

All Photos by Sara Bloomberg

The Bay Area is a multicultural salad bowl. People from all over the world flock here for the culture, the weather, the thriving tech job market, and of course, the food. With so many different ethnic groups calling this region “home” it’s no wonder there’s such a diversity of food choices available. In addition to a wealth of restaurants serving a variety of international cuisines and neighborhoods organized around specific cultural groups (Chinatown, Japantown, The Mission, etc.) there are also many markets that feature foods specific to particular regional cuisines.

Here are five favorite specialty shops selling food and culinary goods imported from Spain, Japan, Russia, Germany and Italy. If you are curious to explore products from these countries or are nostalgic for the food and culture from any of these regions be sure to visit these shops. And, of course, there are so many more of these specialty stores in the Bay Area so please share your favorites in the comments.

The Spanish Table 2

Address:
1814 San Pablo Ave
Berkeley, CA 94702
Phone: (510) 548-1383
Facebook: The Spanish Table
Store Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-6:00pm, Sun 11:00am-5:00pm

Why we love it? How about a paella pan made to serve 200 people?

Tagines are popular in North Africa and are primarily used for stews. There’s a lot of Moorish influence in Spanish cooking. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Tagines are popular in North Africa and are primarily used for stews. There’s a lot of Moorish influence in Spanish cooking. Photo by Sara Bloomberg


The Spanish Table sells a variety of canned and preserved specialty foods from the Iberian Peninsula. Photo by Sara BloombergSquid ink is used for coloring and flavor in Spanish cooking. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Looking for food from the Iberian Coast? Come to Berkeley’s International Marketplace, home of The Spanish Table 2 which opened in 2001. Here you will find foods from Portugal, Spain, Andorra, Gibraltar and, most recently, North Africa. The store sells wine, groceries, cookware, ceramics and cookbooks, and there is an online wine shop dedicated to selling wine from these regions. Store Manager, Caty Salas explained the main reason people shop here is the depth of product selection. “No one else has this focus. It’s a specialized niche,” she said. Salas said that while Cost Plus World Market may have some things, they certainly don’t have the range of products that Spanish Table imports. And, that’s what keeps customers coming back.

“We have people from all over the world shopping here,” Salas said. “People come in here and say, ‘Oh my god. I haven’t seen these since I lived in Spain.”

Indeed, you can find a wealth of Spanish imports here—paella pans, tapas, North African tagines to make stews, and even a pickled partridge preserved in a jar. Not their best seller, Salas said, but certainly unique. They also carry a delectable selection of Manchego, jamon iberico, lomo, almonds, olives angulas, bacalao, piquillos and padrones.

They also have an impressive selection of Sherry and Madeira wine, as well as Spanish beer and wine.

The “porron” (prounced: po’ rohn) is used to drink wine without a fuss but it might take some practice to master the technique without spilling. Photo by Sara BloombergWhole quail and partridges are preserved confit-style. Photo by Sara Bloomberg
A Spanish vintage from 1935 will cost you hundreds of dollars. The Spanish Table carries a large selection of Madeira wines, Port and Sherry. Photo by Sara BloombergVarious sizes of Paella pans line the back wall with wine goblets in the foreground. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Tokyo Fish Market

Address:
1220 San Pablo Ave
Berkeley, CA 94706
Phone: (510) 524-7243
Store Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm

Why we love it? A shelf of sushi roe that comes in all colors of the rainbow.

The Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley has two main parts: the gift shop is in the original brick storefront, and the fish market and grocery store are in the building right behind it. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

The Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley has two main parts: the gift shop is in the original brick storefront, and the fish market and grocery store are in the building right behind it. Photo by Sara Bloomberg


Gourmet mochi is just begging to be eaten. Photo by Sara BloombergColorful packages of roe and sushi will tempt you to taste the rainbow. These definitely aren't Skittles. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Tokyo Fish Market is not just a fish market. It’s an institution that’s been around since 1963. You will certainly find plenty of fresh seafood, some even imported directly from Japan. The market is frequently packed with patrons who come to purchase items such as sake, Japanese rice, mochi candies, Japanese vegetables and live crabs. They carry over 100 types of fish and seafood products ranging from local rock cod and squid to smelt, tuna, halibut, octopus and soft-shell crabs. They also have a separate gift shop with Japanese food-related specialty items.

Rock cod, squid and smelt are among the seafood options available at Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley. Photo by Sara BloombergFresh octopus and other specialty seafood selections—including eel and crab—are offered at Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley. Photo by Sara Bloomberg
Lychee fruit is native to China and popular in Southeast Asia. It contains potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and other trace minerals and vitamins. Photo by Sara BloombergJapanese rice, sake and other products line the shelves at Tokyo Fish Market. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Royal Market

Address:
5335 Geary Blvd (Between 17th Ave & 18th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
Phone: (415) 221-5550
Store Hours: Every day 9:00am-9:00pm

Why we love it? They have chocolate “babushka” dolls.

Chocolate "babushka" dolls. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Chocolate “babushka” dolls. Photo: Sara Bloomberg


Cherry and cranberry cakes are delivered from Los Angeles. Photo by Sara BloombergVodka is a popular item at Royal Market and Bakery. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Looking for a little Eastern European flavor to spice up your weekly menu? The Royal Market & Bakery is your one-stop shop. Located in the Inner Richmond district, Armenian store owner Vardges Kazaryan said vodka is definitely one of their best sellers.

“We carry vodka. Lots of vodka,” he said. “Whatever you want, we have.”

They sell a mix of traditional Russian foods, as well as some Armenian, Georgian, and Middle Eastern fare. Their selection of fresh, Russian-inspired homemade products is quite impressive: Armenian bread, sweet cakes, savory kebabs, potatoes with sauce, pork, vegetables, chicken, beef tongues and caviar.

You can also find pierogies, sausages, cheddars, fresh fish and meat and housemade pickles of all kinds. The bakery is stellar, too, and offers Russian-style cranberry and cherry cakes from Los Angeles as well as other housemade desserts.

Shish kabobs are made fresh and can be either chicken, beef or lamb. Photo by Sara BloombergBeet salad is one of the many fresh deli items available at Royal Market and Bakery. Photo by Sara Bloomberg
Blintzes are traditionally made with either shredded beef or cottage cheese. Photo by Sara BloombergSturgeon is a popular fish at Royal Market and Bakery. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Lehr’s German Specialties

Address:
1581 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Neighborhood: Noe Valley
Phone: (415) 282-6803
Hours: Everyday 10:00am-6:00pm

Why we love it? Rows and rows of German candies, lots of sauerkraut and curry ketchup.

Curry and other flavored ketchups are popular items. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Curry and other flavored ketchups are popular items. Photo by Sara Bloomberg


Bloodwurst is one of several traditional German sausages available at Lehr’s. Photo by Sara BloombergNot only is there a large selection of sauerkraut, you can also buy sauerkraut juice. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Walking into Lehr’s German Specialties is like walking into Germany. And store owner Bridgette Lehr is there to guide you. She’s a sweet German woman who will tell you everything you need to know about Germany, German food and why they can’t carry the infamous Kinder Surprise Eggs, anymore. (A chocolate egg containing a small toy. Apparently, there was a lawsuit and the company is prohibited from selling them in the U.S.).

This is one of the last German-owned businesses in San Francisco that sells regional specialties including German food and drinks, books, and decorations. It’s been in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood for about 40 years and has a loyal following.

They carry a wide range of German products: large blocks of marzipan, teas to help cure insomnia, bloodwurst sausages, head cheese, pickled herring, handkäse (a type of cheese) and even sauerkraut juice to help with digestion.

A large portion of the store is also dedicated to German magazines, CDs and cassette tapes, cookware, imported toiletry items and costumes for Oktoberfest.

Lehr’s German Specialties in San Francisco has been offering German and European specialty foods for nearly four decades. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Lehr’s German Specialties in San Francisco has been offering German and European specialty foods for nearly four decades. Photo by Sara Bloomberg


Chocolate covered marzipan and liquor-filled chocolates come in many varieties. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/Pickled herring can be used for appetizers and even sandwiches. Photo by Sara Bloomberg
Meica Pork Weiners, Weisswurst and Bock-wurst adorn the shelves at Lehr’s. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Meica Pork Weiners, Weisswurst and Bock-wurst adorn the shelves at Lehr’s. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Lucca Ravioli Company

Address:
1100 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: The Mission
Phone: (415) 647–5581
Store Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm

Why we love it? Ravioli made on site with an old-school ravioli roller. Stop by in the morning to see the men hard at work.

Lucca Ravioli gets busy right before dinner time. It’s only open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Lucca Ravioli gets busy right before dinner time. It’s only open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Photo by Sara Bloomberg


Christopher Lane tries some cheese at Lucca. He’s been a loyal customer for about 40 years. Photo by Sara BloombergAn employee slices cheese by hand for a customer at Lucca Ravioli. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Looking for fresh housemade Italian ravioli? Need gourmet Italian salami for that dinner party tonight? Go to Lucca Ravioli Company in San Francisco’s Mission district. From the moment you enter the always-crowded market you are treated like family. The experience is almost surreal. Men in white aprons greeting customers like they’re guests in their home. Store manager Martin Ricker seems to know every customer on a first-name basis.

The friendly service keeps people coming back for more, especially around the holidays when patrons line up down the block for specialty turkey and pumpkin ravioli. 54 pillows of this delightful dough will only cost you $7 a box. Don’t even think about trying to call in an order ahead of time. First come, first-served. That’s been the rule since the store opened in 1925.

They also carry other fresh pastas made on site such as fettuccine, tagliarini, linguini, lasagna and spinach-flavored; a huge array of dry meats, blocks of cheese, their ever-popular homemade pizza dough, wine and Fernet Branca—that bitter and aromatic Italian digestif— one of their best selling items and a San Francisco favorite for hangover prevention.

Pete Staniotes refreshes the ravioli and charcuterie case at Lucca Ravioli. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Pete Staniotes refreshes the ravioli and charcuterie case at Lucca Ravioli. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Fresh ravioli keeps customers coming back to Lucca Ravioli in San Francisco. Photo by Sara BloombergFresh pizza dough is one of the many house-made specialties offered at Lucca Ravioli in San Francisco. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Branca Menta and Fernet-Branca at Lucca Ravioli Company. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

Branca Menta and Fernet-Branca at Lucca Ravioli Company. Photo: Sara Bloomberg

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Category: asian food and drink, bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, local food businesses, online marketplaces and food sites, san francisco, travel

About the Author ()

Gina Scialabba is a journalist and practicing attorney based in San Francisco. She's a regular contributor to KQED Pop and now Bay Area Bites. When she's not reading a novel, newspaper or watching Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy or Anthony Bourdain, she's taking advantage of the richness and diversity of Bay Area culinary life. She also loves to travel. Next Stop: Vietnam, Thailand and Korea.
  • Chris J

    Good to know about the others from Spanish Table. I worked there for a year and learned a light about Spanish cuisine. Great selection! Must try some others mentioned as well.

    In Berkeley as well there is Spun Sugar, a baking specialty store on University.