H Mart is officially opening its first location in San Francisco and will be inaugurated tomorrow, April 21st. There will be a VIP tea time, speech, and ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:30 am before the doors open to the public at 10 am This popular Korean-American supermarket location is located at 3995 Alemany Blvd in Oceanview Village Shopping center near the SF Golf Club (read: almost Daly City). But conveniently located just off 280, it’s an exciting, huge area of 48,200 square feet that includes not only a grocery store, but also a combined market and grocery hall.
Originally founded in Queens, New York in 1982, H Mart now has more than 90 locations across the country, including 12 in California, mostly in SoCal, although there are a few in San Jose. This is the first official H Mart location in San Francisco, and it’s a big deal for fans who may have shopped it elsewhere, as well as SF residents who have long been craving a Korean-American supermarket.
Chef Chris Oh grew up in the town where Pac Heights meets Japantown and now owns restaurants in SF and LA. When his mother went shopping, “There used to be no special Korean supermarket, so we had to go to Ranch 99, you know?” says the cook. “We definitely wanted to go to Oakland.” The first H Mart he ever experienced was as a young chef in LA. “It was like Disneyland for Koreans…. Ranch 99 was a Chinese market sprinkled with a little Korean product here and there. Going to a really big Korean supermarket was mind blowing. ”
Oh recommends taking it all in, “the decor, the ambience,” the colorful packaging and the giant crabs frolicking in the fish department’s tanks. And whether you’ve shopped elsewhere or just stepping into the glow of the fluorescent lights for the first time, H Mart has some hot shopping tips. According to an LA-certified SF chef, here are some things you should know before you step into the pasta course.
Holy whole mackerel
H Mart is known for a variety of fresh seafood, from live tanks in the back to neatly cut sushi in the front. For his weekly shop, Oh likes to grab a mackerel, either whole or fillet, which he recommends for grilling or pan frying, and serves it with rice and kimchi for a midweek dinner.
Marinated meat for grilling in the garden
Okay, a chef who owns a Korean grill restaurant really doesn’t have to buy meat, but Oh says the meat section at H Mart, which has lots of nice pieces of pork belly, but also pre-marinated meat, deserves respect for all of your grilling needs . He would tell a buddy to grab the Kalbi Short Ribs for a weekend barbecue.
A full snack attack
Just the snack aisle “is stupid, it’s crazy.” Oh is part of the corn-flavored almonds, but recommends the honey-butter chips. But really, he says, with so many flavors of chips, crackers, and candy, “just go open. Try everything. ”
The course of the noodle madness
The pasta course is also an experience. Oh says if you want to try the jjapaguri noodle dish (also known as ram-don) which went viral thanks to the Parasite movie, you have to grab both black bean jjapaghetti and neoguri noodles to get them mash, then add steak.
The Banchan fridges have all the side dishes, including a wide variety of kimchi. “Don’t just get regular cabbage,” says Oh. “Most people think kimchi is just cabbage, but you can do anything kimchi,” like different types of radishes and other root vegetables.
Kimbap for auto-snacking
In the prepared food department, too, the chef always takes a box of kimbap or Korean sushi filled with bulgogi or tuna and pickled vegetables. “Grab one while you shop, and once you’re in the car, put one in your mouth while you’re driving home,” he explains. He likes to rinse it off with Pocari Sweat, the legendary Japanese sports soda.
Never forget the frozen dumplings
Finally, the freezer aisle is fully stocked with everything from Korean corn dogs to wild ice creams. Oh, I’d grab a bag of Bibigo pork dumplings for last minute lunch.
Of course, this H Mart location is a combined supermarket and food hall. So when you’ve finished with the groceries, it’s time for lunch. SF H Mart opens with six vendors, notably Daeho, the Japantown favorite known for its bubbly beef stew, as well as Left Wing for Korean fried chicken and Paris Baguette Bakery for cakes and pastries.
Do you need more shopping inspection? Take a full H Mart tour with Eater LA editor Matthew Kang or grab some special noodle recs from Eater social media strategist James Park.