I absolutely love grocery shopping and finding the freshest ingredients to make new and exciting meals. I can't be the only one, right? As a Bay Area native, there are countless high-quality grocery stores to choose from and weekly farmers markets to visit offering organic and all-natural ingredients. Though places like Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Whole Foods are great and all, there is only one place in the Bay Area that mimics the unique European Style marketplace where you can find the most creamy, high-class cheeses, home-made pasta fresh off the pasta maker, daily baked goods, and prepared foods such as rotisserie chicken. And it's called Market Hall.

Located in Rockridge, a charming residential neighborhood and commercial district within the city of Oakland, California, Market Hall is the idyllic food fairyland all foodies and non-foodies dream of. Since 1987, the one-stop shop has provided an alternative to weekly treks to the supermarket. Recognizable for its grand architectural design and the eight individual food and flower vendors open to the sidewalk, Market Hall is a truly bustling destination that is worth the visit, whether you're from the area or not.

OK, enough of the hype, let's get into details:

1. Highwire Coffee Roasters

Adjacent to Market Hall Foods is Highwire Coffee Roasters and Market Hall Bakery. Owned by expert coffee-cuppers, a World Barista Champion, and a dedicated green buyer, Highwire roasts single-origin coffees that are full of flavor. All of the coffees are roasted in small batches (20-30 pounds at a time) every Monday and Thursday.

2. Market Hall Bakery

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

A modernized version of the classic European-style bakery, Market Hall Bakery's morning pastries are unparalleled, with freshly-baked croissants, danishes, scones, muffins, and buns made every morning. The original croissant is a must-try in particular. Defined by its flaky exterior and buttery interior, these croissants rival the ones from Paris. 

The bakery also boasts a wide variety of savory items. The cheese bread is a real crowd pleaser, composed of cheesy goodness baked into a large bread twist. Focaccia and pizza are also served throughout the day.

Cookies are a big deal at Market Hall bakery, with up to a dozen types of freshly-baked cookies available at any time. The Ricciarelli, a Sienese almond cookie, is famous at the bakery. Locals also love the almond meringues, double chocolate chip cookies, coconut macaroons, and Alfajores.

Lastly, you can't go to the bakery without hitting up the dessert section, with cakes, tarts, and pies made with only the best ingredients. If these next cake descriptions don't get you wanting to visit the bakery by tomorrow, I don't know what will. First, there's the flourless chocolate mousse cake made with Guittard bittersweet chocolate, fresh cream, and rich chocolate ganache. The princess cake is also too good to be true: a dome-shaped three-layer white chiffon cake filled with pastry cream and raspberry preserves, frosted with Chantilly cream and covered in smooth marzipan.

Tarts and galettes such as pear frangipane tart (a French tart filled with almond custard and poached pears, topped with slivered almonds) and Pavlova (meringue shell filled with lemon curd and topped with fresh seasonal fruits and whipped cream) can also be found at the bakery. 

3. Market Hall Foods

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Of the eight shops that comprise the hall, Market Hall Foods is the central focal point, containing multiple departments. All kinds of packaged chocolates, crackers, nuts, and more stock the shelves with labeled brands you probably have never heard of before. There’s even an entire row dedicated to carefully selected olive oils from around the world, currently totaling more than 30 brands.

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Also here is the famous Pasta Shop that serves wholesale fresh pasta. More than a dozen kinds of fresh Pasta Shop ravioli are available, some of which change seasonally. Perennial favorites include lemon ricotta and porcini & truffle. There’s also tortellini, fusilli, rigatoni and other shapes, as well as dried specialty pasta from Italy.

From whole roast chickens to elaborately prepared vegetables and salads, and olive varieties you won’t see anywhere else, a large part of Market Hall Foods is devoted to ready-to-eat products. Once you step into the building, you can't miss the clear glass case full of delicious foods and treats.

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Cheese takes up another very important corner of the store. Name cards are attached to each platter of cheese to help identify the name and its key flavor notes. Workers also encourage you to taste as many types of cheese as you wish, with recommendations given on which one pairs best with your meal plans.

4. The Flower & The B

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

A quaint little hole in the wall, The Flower & the B ensures that your table will look and smell beautiful, with creative flower arrangements and seasonal selections for your own DIY presentations. Its open-air feel like those found in European marketplaces draws in people passing by on the street. 

5. Paul Marcus Wines

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Paul Marcus Wines, in between Market Hall Foods and Hapuku Fish, offers a European wine selection, often with great bargains from Italy and France. The majority of the wines range from $6 to $25 bottles for everyday drinking, but they also carry plenty of top wines from around the world, including Burgundy, Barolo, Tuscany, and California. Workers taste and personally select everything in the store in order to bring shoppers the highest quality, most authentic, and best value wines from these regions. 

6. Hapuku Fish Shop

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Hapuku specializes in sustainably sourced raw fish, but also offers fish and chips with homemade fries, sushi, and chowder, as well as homemade sauces. It is the only shop you would ever need to visit to meet your needs when it comes to fresh, high-quality seafood generally only accessible at posh restaurants.

7. Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Sustainability is also the main theme at Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop. A variety of 100% grass-fed, pasture raised, California local, organic, and non-GMO meats are offered here. This butchery is set apart from the rest due to their land management practices that foster healthy soil, along with their humane treatment of animals without the use of antibiotics or hormones. 

8. Market Hall Produce

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

In a large room at the other end of the hall is Market Hall Produce, packed full of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as cold cases for perishables and dry goods. Market Hall Produce provides the freshest and most distinctive local produce to the East Bay's  customers. They think of produce in terms of what's fresh nearby, always striving to bring locally grown products to customers. In fact, they buy directly from 15-20 different farms within a 150-mile radius of the store location.

Photo courtesy of Kim Westerman

Though not officially among the Rockridge Market Hall Shops, Oliveto Restaurant & Café occupies the northwest corner of the building and feels very much like part of the experience. Enjoy a tasty meal downstairs at the cafe, with menu items such as wood-fired pizza, roasted beet salad, baked pasta, and delicata squash stuffed with farro, sage, and cherries, or a fancier sit-down dinner upstairs looking over the lively streets of Rockridge.