Mission burritos. Seafood-laden cioppino. Juicy dumplings. No matter what you’re craving, San Francisco is rife with top-notch culinary options. And if you’re in the mood for an enviable selection of cheese (and other speciality foods or drinks to go with it), the city by the bay will also deliver.
The best places to get cheese in San Francisco are family-owned neighborhood spots, multi-location dynamos, co-op grocery stores, and farmers market stands. You’ll have your pick of everything, from European imports to local California favorites.
So grab your picnic basket, pray that Karl the Fog takes a day off, and stop by one (or all) of San Francisco’s top cheese shops.
Traditional cheese shops in San Francisco
French Alps native Ruben Donze opened the first La Fromagerie—on 3rd Street in the Dogpatch—in 2012. And he has one rule: cheese must be sampled. All three shops in the city offer an impressive selection of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk varietals, as well as cured meats, patés, and all the crackers, jams, nuts, and pickles you need for a well-rounded feast.
La Fromagerie also offers freshly-made sandwiches on house-baked ciabatta and salads crafted a la Donze’s grandmother. The celebratory Raclette party board is also worthy adversary, complete with two kinds of melty Raclette, Coppa, Prosciutto di Parma, local ham, cornichons, and an optional (but recommended) bottle of crisp, white Vin De Savoie Apremont.
Say Cheese is the definition of a neighborhood staple and has been serving Cole Valley and beyond for over 40 years. It’s a one-stop shop for some popular California specialties, like Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam and Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog. They also import international options from Italy, Spain, and France.
Insider’s Tip: Say Cheese is walking distance to Golden Gate Park, which makes our list of top places to visit in San Francisco! This San Fran cheese shop is a great option for picking up cheese, charcuterie, wine, or sandwiches beforehand – just don’t forget your layers.
Mission Bay Wine and Cheese
Mission Bay Wine and Cheese is an excellent choice for before or after an event at Oracle Park or the Chase Center. This isn’t the first rodeo for co-owners Debbie Zachareas and Master Sommelier Peter Groff. Their other spots are Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and Oxbow Cheese and Wine in Napa.
A hop away from the Muni lightrail and Caltrain, this well-positioned behemoth offers an assortment of wines and cheeses, as well as beer, craft spirits, sake, cured meats, tinned fish, and caviar. Grab your loot and head to nearby Mission Creek Park, or enjoy table service in the shop itself. Mission Bay Wine and Cheese also offers daily tastings, hosts regular events with area makers, and takes reservations.
Cheese Boutique is one of many edible reasons to visit the less-touristy Glen Park neighborhood. Owners Rick and Nada Malouf opened the shop in the 90’s, and they curate a list of over 100 domestic and international cheeses.
Cheese Boutique is also known for its homemade Middle Eastern specialities (the Maloufs hail from Lebanon), like tabouli, baba ghanoush, and Rick’s famed hummus, which gets its characteristic smoothness from the removal of the chickpea skins pre-blending.
Open since 2011, Little Vine showcases small Californian producers, like Petaluma’s Straus Family Creamery and Pomona’s Di Stefano burrata. In addition to cheese, they stock wine and groceries, like local chocolate and eggs. The shop also offers a small sandwich menu: one meat option per day plus the everyday winner of Mt. Tam, fig-black tea preserves, and arugula.
An unassuming corner store on Polk Street, Cheese Plus has been a prime place for San Francisco cheese since 2005. Owner Ray Bair, a former Whole Foods cheese and wine director, stocks a massive variety of cheeses, charcuterie, wine, beer, and other speciality foods from the states and abroad.
Stop in for a taste from one of their knowledgeable cheesemongers or peruse their offerings online. Cheese Plus is also open seven days a week, including their sidewalk cafe which boasts a hefty menu of sandwiches, Marin-roasted Equator Coffees, and pastries that you can take to go or enjoy at the shop’s parklet.
Other top spots for cheese in San Francisco
The last three stops on our San Francisco cheese list are not cheese shops per se, but with unique and varied offerings, we’d be remiss to not mention them.
Bi-Rite Market is a San Francisco institution. The 18th Street location in the Mission has been open for 80+ years, where it has remained a gathering place for food and community. Whenever they can, Bi-Rite works directly with producers to guarantee quality, fairly-priced goods.
The store’s cheese buyer, Jon Fancey, is a Cheese Plus alum, a worldly student of cheesemaking, and an instructor at The Cheese School of San Francisco. He curates an ever-changing assortment of both local and international options. We suggest seeking out the Essex Street feta, an ancient Greek cheese made from the milk of sheep who graze on Lesbos Island.
Ferry Building Farmers Market
Held every Saturday, the large and well-known Ferry Building Farmers Market has amazing produce and speciality food vendors. But it’s worth seeking out some of the regular cheese purveyors, too. Here are some of our rotating favorites:
- Achadina Cheese Co. produces cow and goat cheese made only from the farm’s milk, which is hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide-free. They also make curds, kefir, butter, and goat milk soap.
- Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. can be found in a lot of shops, but sampling their renowned blues and aged goudas with a bay view just hits different. A plus is that all of their cheeses are also all-natural and gluten-free.
- Tomales Farmstead Creamery uses their own goats and sheep, as well as local Jersey cows for their dairy. Don’t sleep on their Chèvre-style Liwa or their Atika, a Manchego-style goat and sheep variety aged for 5 months.
An indie, worker-owned grocery store, Rainbow is the place to go when you want to be paralyzed by choice…in a good way. The store stocks a whopping 350 varieties of cheese, which you can preview on their website. We’re particularly drawn to the “washed-rind stinkers” category, but you can also find organic, non-GMO, raw, or rennet-less cheeses.
Cleo Tarca is Bay Area-based writer, home cook, and crossword puzzle enthusiast. When she’s not creating marketing content for a large tech company, you’ll find her reading cookbooks, devouring laminated pastry, admiring local latte art, and trying to score hard-to-get dinner reservations.