Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Let’s All Squeeze Into Bi-Rite Market

This is the second part of a two-part post about the “Bi-Rite Experience” in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. Yesterday I featured the Bi-Rite Creamery, and today I shop at the grocery store across the street.Walking into this neighborhood grocery store on 18th Street, you’d think the neighbors are North Beach yuppies or Marina professionals. Everything is so quaintly displayed with a mix of high sticker prices. But this is the Mission, where you can probably get a burrito for less than $5 around the corner.

The Bi-Rite Market, which opened in 1998, has the charm and tight quarters of a corner grocer in New York but the gourmet look and feel of an Andronico’s or Whole Foods. It drops all the right catch words like “organic,” “sustainable,” and “locally produced.” It’s also an expert in creating a brand, with its definite retro “old school” grocery décor. Here’s a look at my visit this past weekend:
When you walk in, you get a burst of color from the small produce section, which is overflowing with richly colored summer tomatoes and fresh fruits across the way. Bi-Rite creates a nice organic charm with its hand-written signage.

Here are more colorful fruits in the produce section. Hey look, they sure have a lot of figs! Yum.

The deli section seems to be the heart of the market. People were clamoring for cuts of meats or an order of soup or sandwiches, probably to munch over at nearby Dolores Park. The store has its own charcuterie section and a whole bunch of prepared foods.

The line to the checkout stands crawled along the tiny store and at times butted up against the people in line at the deli. Despite the line being long, it did seem to move pretty fast.

Bi-Rite is all about branding, which was obvious when I visited the creamery for some ice cream. Throughout the market, there were a lot of Bi-Rite branded products, including pasta sauces and even its own Napa Valley wine. Here are some strawberry shortcakes in the refrigerated section.

Of course, there were tons of Bi-Rite ice cream. The popular flavor is salted caramel. Too bad I live in the East Bay. I don’t think the pint of ice cream would last the BART ride home.

Here’s the wine section of the store, which took up a small wall past the cheese section. They had a variety of wines, and the clerk nearby was very helpful describing to me what wines were good after I told him what I was interested in. I wasn’t planning on buying any wines, but after having such an informative conversation with him, I ended up getting a red wine from Spain and a Pinot Gris from Oregon.
More Bi-Rite branded products. Here’s some dream bars in the “impulse shopping” section right before the checkout.

I loved the fresh flowers on display outside. It was a heavy emphasis on wildflowers as opposed to expensive, chi chi flowers. They looked beautiful in the San Francisco sun.

Bi-Rite seems to be a very popular spot to shop, judging from the line and the shoppers inside. I can’t vouch for the quality of the products but they all looked first-rate, and the clerks are very friendly and helpful. I wouldn’t mind one opening in Oakland. ;-)

Bi-Rite Market, 3639 18th St., San Francisco. Open Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

really cool post + pics! I have been meaning to get over there. Thanks.