When representatives first approached Chris Jordan, chief operating officer of Tartine, about opening a branch of his influential artisan bakery-cafe at San Francisco International Airport, he turned them down unequivocally, knowing full well the logistical headaches it could entail. But before ending the conversation, he posed one last question on a lark.
“I jokingly asked what else they were looking for,” Jordan recalls. “They said Latin, Mexican or Mediterranean, and Asian. We immediately thought of our two favorite chefs in San Francisco — Gabriela Cámara of Cala and Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao. We said if they would do it, we would do it. To our great surprise, everyone was excited about working on it.”
Together, they created a bona fide culinary trifecta: the new Manufactory Food Hall in the International Terminal past security near boarding area A. Spread out over 3,241 square feet, it is a mix of three different fast-casual eateries; grab-and-go options; a full bar with specialty cocktails; a premium coffee station by Jordan’s Coffee Manufactory; and a retail pantry stocked with cookbooks, cookware and mugs.
Travelers can experience the breads and pastries that have defined Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory, founded by husband and wife Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, by indulging in cinnamon-sugar-dusted morning buns, frangipane croissants, brisket-topped flatbreads and smoked trout smorrebrod. Techamuanvivit’s Kamin, named for the Thai word for turmeric, serves up Thai-inspired rice bowls, noodles, salads and grilled meats, all with an emphasis on easy portability.
“IT CAME FROM OUR DESIRE TO PROVIDE QUALITY INGREDIENTS”— Gabriela Camára
At Tacos Cala, an expanded version of her similarly named taqueria next to Cala, Cámara offers tortas, tostadas, quesadillas, sopes and, of course, tacos — all built on a foundation of house-made masa. “This was a unique opportunity to partner with Liz and Pim, whom I greatly respect as restaurateurs and chefs,” Cámara says. “It also came from our desire to provide quality ingredients for guests traveling through SFO and to nourish them with thoughtful meals.”
Although airport food can conjure up visions of limp pizza and lackluster sandwiches, SFO has taken pains in recent years to up the caliber of its dining establishments, especially by teaming with local icons such as Napa’s Mustards Bar & Grill (International Terminal) and Daly City’s Koi Palace (Terminal 3). The Manufactory Food Hall operates in partnership with SSP America, which specializes in bringing to airports the taste of authentic local restaurants, including Shake Shack at JFK International Airport in New York and Deschutes Brewery at Portland International Airport.
Jordan says he couldn’t have picked a better spot in the airport for the food hall. After all, SFO gets more than 13 million international travelers a year, who — because of today’s travel requirements — tend to have more time to eat, shop and linger before boarding than domestic flyers. He admits there’s also a built-in selfish reason why they all wanted to do this project. With Cámara jetting regularly to Mexico City to her other acclaimed restaurant, Contramar; Techamuanvivit flying to Bangkok to Michelin-starred Nahm, which she oversees; Tartine members keeping tabs on its outposts in Seoul; and Jordan crisscrossing the world to source the best coffee beans, they all craved more quality airport offerings, too.
The project was contingent on the three restaurateurs having full control over menus, food prep, and hiring and training of staff to ensure their standards are met. With menus centered on fresh, seasonal ingredients, all the food is assembled at Tartine’s commissary across from its Manufactory (in the Mission District), then ferried daily to the airport. Even before the Manufactory Food Hall opened, there was so much buzz that Jordan was already fielding inquiries to replicate it at other airports. Time will tell if that happens. “Let’s wait and see,” he says. “San Francisco made sense. The others would have to make sense, too. We’d love it to work out.”