A friend and I went to MarketBar for lunch last week and were pretty shocked by the amateurish service there. We showed up about five minutes before our noon reservation and walked in to the patio area (quite large, right on Embarcadero), where we were greeted with...nothing. No one was really around (oh, maybe there were some servers rushing by), despite a pretty full patio area. Finally a guy noticed us there and rushed over, nearly tripping over himself. A woman was also moseying over and she seemed like she might be the hostess, but nobody had much presence or authority there. One of them told us that if we had a reservation we should check in inside (as opposed to outside on the patio), but we said we'd rather sit outside since it was a nice, sunny day.
So we got seated (again, with more minor tripping of the host/waiter guy), menus were brought, and we waited...and waited... Drink orders were taken, but when we said we needed one more minute to decide on lunch maybe 8 minutes went by before our waiter (looking very distracted) came back to take our order.
The salads arrived relatively promptly (Elyse had a Caesar salad that she deemed good, and I had a mixed salad with some kind of goat cheese - can't remember the name, but it was in shavings, not clumps - firm goat cheese, not soft). Tasty and competent, but nothing too special.
Then we waited a while for our next "course" - we both had ordered the lobster and corn chowder (and both had kind of wanted it to come with the salads, but hey...we never said anything). This chowder sounds like the description of Hog Island's chowder (except that it was only $9 not $14) - very thin broth with chunks of things in it. I usually assume chowder is pureed, but I guess that's an erroneous assumption. This was heavy on the corn (very sweet bright yellow corn - looked like niblets, though I doubt it was), light on the lobster (about a teaspoonfull for me, but maybe less for Elyse). Not bad for 9 bucks, but, like the salad, just didn't feel that special.
We waited a while for someone to take our plates away, waited a while for a dessert menu, waited for the dessert order to be taken (abruptly - I didn't have a chance to order a cup of coffee, and when I did order one later from the server who brought the dessert it never came, but at least we didn't get charged for it). We got peach tarte tatin with honey vanilla ice cream and blueberry compote (or was it just blueberries? can't remember) to share. It was very tasty, especially the ice cream.
The food wasn't bad in the least at MarketBar, just not memorable or interesting. It might be because it's a big place, packs in the customers. But the service is really low-level. Not rude, just uncaring. Our lunch (soup & salad!) took about an hour-and-a-half just because of bad timing on taking orders and taking away dishes we were clearly finished with.
Another funny thing is that the chair I sat in at first felt really unstable, so I switched it with another and felt instantly better. Then another customer comes in, sits in that chair, thinks better of it, and switches it with another. And so on and so on... This chair went the rounds! I think I noticed servers noticing this happening, yet no one took the darn thing away to put it out of its misery!
Oh, and the bathroom is the public one inside the Ferry Building. There is no bathroom that's actually attached to MarketBar inside! That struck me as very weird.