American Eatery meat is neat at Ferry Building 

click to enlarge Perfect balance: A sandwich stuffed with onion rings, slaw and chili-marinated pork loin is one of American Eatery’s many standouts; the veggie sides also shine. - GODOFREDO VASQUEZ/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Godofredo Vasquez/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Perfect balance: A sandwich stuffed with onion rings, slaw and chili-marinated pork loin is one of American Eatery’s many standouts; the veggie sides also shine.

I talked to a chef recently who couldn’t contain his envy at American Eatery’s primo location in the Ferry Building: “It’s like, a guaranteed revenue stream!”

Maybe, maybe not. The Ferry Building doesn’t lack foot traffic, but there’s also no shortage of competition. Would you want to square off with Il Cane Rosso, Delica and Out the Door?

Good thing American Eatery brought its A-game.  

It may only be a simple takeout counter, but it’s backed by the culinary muscle of chef Erica Holland-Toll (Ducca, Lark Creek Inn). It’s also an offshoot of Prather Ranch, champion of the humanely, sustainably raised-meat movement.
Once again, I rounded up my FiDi crew for a faux-picnic, this time at an outdoor table near the ferry

It’s no Boulette’s Larder, to be sure. Lunch was served in greasy paper and compostable boxes. But who needs Heath Ceramics? I’m no fancy man, and the food triumphed on its own merits.

In one American Eatery burger, high-octane grilled beef (you’ll appreciate the 22 percent fat) was adorned with mozzarella, half-inch slices of heirloom tomato and a healthy smear of basil mayo. Whatever toppings you choose, I doubt you could muzzle this patty’s flavor.

A contrarian friend recently mouthed off that, “Nobody can tell the difference between ‘happy meats’ and stuff from Safeway.”

I hereby challenge such doubters to taste-test some dry-aged Prather ground beef; they’ll eat their words.

In another sandwich, onion rings, spicy slaw and chili-marinated pork loin were wedged into a chewy torpedo roll.

The resulting crunch, moisture and heat gave the Other White Meat its star turn.

Pickled onions, caper-tarragon spread and onion sprouts from Brooks and Daughters’ farm filled out an understated roast beef sandwich on soft semolina. The same carne was shaved into a thick, wet Chicago hot beef sandwich, before the whole thing got double-dipped in jus (I proudly steered all sloppiness off my trousers).

Instead of finely dicing the tarragon-spiced chicken salad, big shreds of organic white meat were laid out like puzzle pieces on a challah roll.

A lamb-sausage link withered its bed of mixed greens, while a side dish of basil mayo confused me (dunking sauce or salad dressing?) Weird pairing aside, the grilled sausage was beyond reproach.

And the chili, clocking in at roughly 1.5 alarms, wedded three types of pepper and Rancho Gordo beans with tender bits of chuck and pork sausage.

Are you picking up on the theme? It’s a tricky one, but I’ll spell it out for you — the meat is good.

Disclaimer: As someone who has dabbled in the vegetarian arts, I’m really not trying to be a butcher’s advocate here ... oh, why don’t I just admit it? I’ve developed a little meat crush.

But while this is obviously American Eatery’s raison d’etre, veggie side dishes were more than afterthoughts.
The flavorful wax beans and roasted heirloom tomatoes were oregano-spiced and slicked with olive oil. And my only complaint with the grilled peach and quinoa salad? More, please.

On top of her Prather Ranch treasure chest, Holland-Toll also has easy access to produce from thrice-weekly farmers markets. And the Acme bread for her sandwiches is baked right down the hall. I’m starting to understand why someone might covet her Ferry Building real estate.

Some chefs have all the luck.


American Eatery
Location: 1 Ferry Building, S.F. 
Contact: (415) 926-6091;
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays 
Price range: $4 to $11.50
Recommended dishes: Grilled peach and quinoa salad ($4), chuck wagon chili ($6.50), roast beef sandwich ($9.50), grilled pork loin sandwich ($10), heirloom tomato burger ($11.50)
Credit cards: All major 
Reservations: Not accepted



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Jesse Hirsch

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