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Mediocre Food with a View

If a Ferry Building wanderer seeks a pleasant respite, they would be hard pressed to do better then MarketBar for opulence or people watching. A classic beige palate soothes the eyes, as do the simple lines of the soaring ceilings, simple, clean furniture design, and attentive, though at times too-familiar, service. When weather permits, the ample outdoor seating that stretches out into the center of it all is unparalleled. For a sit and a beverage, this spot will always be an excellent choice.

But when it comes to meals, the competition is heavy in and around the Ferry Building's culinary armory, and sadly, MarketBar is getting crushed. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I had assumed that with such close proximity to some of the most incredible ingredients available, the meal would have blown me away. Yet instead it came off as a bit of a tourist trap, and it barely caught wind.

The menu is adequate American bistro fare -- no surprises, and no punches pulled. The list includes simple salads, a smattering of pizzas and pastas, and a standard assortment of meats and fishes prepared simply. We started with the tuna ceviche ($9), which was good, but not dressed to impress with tomato, green olive, not enough dressing and overpowering onion. Our server recommended, and rightly so, the veal meatballs ($7), which were indeed delicious, flavorful orbs of garlic, Parmesan, thick tomato sauce and succulent well-cooked meat.

The solid meat theme continued when our entrees arrived. The 14 oz. Montana Range Featherbone steak was cooked well and made more pronounced with butter, but at 28 dollars, it was, well, a lot for just a steak. The fries that kept it company were flavorful and plentiful, but just for the sake of balance, I sought greenery to take off the edge. The day boat scallops ($19), too, were served solo, eight small circles puddled in a heavy wash of sauce gribiche. Their origin was unknown to our server, but they tasted as if they'd been off the boat a day too long. And their sauce was too reliant on mere fat for flavor.

Dessert sort of languished on the same theme of mediocrity. We tasted a berry tart with buttermilk sorbet that left no impression. But I did heartily devour the chocolate croissant bread pudding, and appreciated its tiny, delicate warm portion.

I'm sure tourists will continue to fill the MarketBar's tables, and that business will continue to be brisk, based on its proximity and all that it has to offer visually. Foodies will wonder why this popular place is not as good as it should be. But visitors might think that they've got it pretty good.