Hey, San Francisco visitors, tell the locals about Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
- rworange Jul 9, 2006 07:08 AM
Here are past posts about the Wharf ... things change so fresh feedback is always needed.
PLEASE tell us what you ate on your visit ... the good, the bad, the ugly ... help others visiting this area neglected by locals.
We warn visitors away, but like riding a cable car, ya gotta do the Wharf once, eh?
I play tourist from time to time with guests who want to go to the Wharf. Yep... too many cheesy (not the food kind) souvenir and trinket shops ... BUT ... bay, boats, sea lions, mimes ... what's not to like?
My opinion ... the food is fair ... but less expensive and SO much better eats are elsewhere in SF.
So ... what'd you eat? Do you agree with our opinions below? What did we miss?
Help visiting Hounds.
It doesn’t have to be a sit-down place ... pizza, beer, burger, ice cream, candy ... happy and want to give Chowhounds a heads-up ... or ... unhappy and want to warn Chowhounds not to waste the bucks or calories.
THE WHARF AREA IN GENERAL
Complete posts at end in alphabetical order.
Buena Vista (but ONLY for the Irish coffee)
Fishermen's Grotto #9
Saigon Grill and Sandwich
Joe's crab shack
Sabella and LaTorre
BEST BET - Eagle Café
BEST BET - Ana Mandara
Blue Mermaid (corn and crab chowder)
Norman's Ice Cream & Freezes (Mitchell's Ice Cream)
MISC TIPS AND ROGUE POSTS
Pompeii's Grotto, Nick's Lighthouse or Tarantino's (SF Fisherman's Wharf)
Boudin’s tuna salad, Hard Rock’s Chicken tenders & Caesar salad
Are there any decent restaurants on Fisherman's wharf or vicinity?
any good seafood place in pier 39 ?
An oldie but a goodie ... and sadly, still true ... “I can't think of any seafood there worth eating either.”
Clam Chowder to go Fisherman's Wharf (with Hog Island Chowder digression)
“Does it have to be from the Wharf?”
sourdough bread bowl w/ chowder at Fisherman's Wharf????
“Methinks your quest may be futile. Excellent and Fisherman's wharf tend to be mutually exclusive terms”
clam chowder at fishermans wharf
“part of the taste is in the Wharf. Without the Wharf surroundings (seagulls, tourists, the smelly Wharf breeze, whizzing sounds from the silver painted dudes, vaguely nautical looking restaurants) the canned soup becomes more obviously canned (where are the clams dammit!), the bread seems a little tougher and not remotely sour...etc.”
PAST CHOWHOUND POSTS
Fisherman;s Wharf Crabby Crawl - Dinner at A. Sabella’s
Fisherman’s Wharf Crabby Crawl – Lunch at Alioto’s
Note: this is about Alioto’s nice seafood sausage and their wines. This post got put in the wrong place when posts were imported to the new software
Not a Chowhound report, but the SF Chronicle recently gave Bistro Boudin a thumbs down.
Fisherman’s Wharf Crabby Crawl - Bistro Boudin has good food & a nice view!
Pier 39 Food Hell - Crab House
I’ll bet Gary would love to see himself in with this bunch. Tons of GD posts. Some love it, some don't.
The Eagle Cafe - Pier 39
Eagle Café at night and other Pier 39 eats
Forbes Island DAT
Forbes Island ?
JOE'S CRAB SHACK
Family of 6 report – Sultan (actually Nick’s)
NORMAN'S ICE CREAM & FREEZES
SF - Norman's Ice Cream & Freezes - Mitchell's Ice Cream & halo halo
SABELLA AND LATORRE
the fried clam hunt - six degrees of desperation
SAIGON GRILL AND SANDWICH.
Scoma's – Lunch
Scoma’s Prix-Fixe Lunch ($21.95
Scoma's vs. Yankee Pier - a seafood comparison
Scoma’s - Cioppino & clam chowder (Note: has links to older reports that were not so positive
Don’t eat there unless you gotta ... the Ferry Building and North Beach are so near by ... but if you had to or need to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf, please report back.
Nope. Just that it is under-reported as is most of Fisherman's Wharf.
Hope that Chowhounds - visitors and locals - start posting about where they eat so everyone has a better idea of what is passable or what is bad.
... and folks should think for themselves ... we get so few reports that some of the BEST BETS might be dogs and an AVOID may have amazing dish(es) no one knows about yet.
Also, even if there are reports above and you have the SAME thing to say, it is always nice to have a fresher report on the board.
Report back hounds ... please.
The wharf has a new Afgan restaurant that has had some favorable reports, Kabul City. Here's more info: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411895
Another update - Kara's Cupcakes opened in Ghiradelli Square. No reports about hat location yet, but here's some reports on the Marina location:
A positve report about the drinks at Bistro Boudin .. skip the bread pudding though
1. Orginally to see if San Franciscans were elitist food snobs and perhaps missing out on some great eats. Yeah ... they are not.
2. No matter what you tell visitors they insist on eating at FW. So it is nice to direct them to the best of an average, pricy lot.
3. Come on ... it's Fisherman's Wharf. Even I like to be a tourist occasionally and enjoy the view and the sea lions. Sometimes you get hungry and don't want to treck to another part of town. Yeah, there are prettier views in less tacky areas but where else you gonna buy a cheap t-shirt that says "My xxx went to SF and all I got was this crummy t shirt" ... or something like that.
Wow - I like this post. Now I feel wanting because I can't remember the name of the place. Big place on the wharf near Alioto's. Always treated snidely by food afficianados as a tourist joint. BUT, the simple shrimp cocktail - shrimp were fresh and plump and the red sauce on the side had a nice kick of horseradish. Sand dabs were spectacular in their simple preparation. The Japanese lady who always served us remembered our names even if we hadn't been in for a year, and she had just the right sense of engaging her customers in terms of chattiness and familiarity. They serve generous cocktails. We always had a window seat near the fishing boats. I recall one boat had the name "Butchy B." I took a picture of it because my late pet Shi-Tzu was named Butch and his "mom" was a Blake. As we get fancier in our tastes, there is something to be said for places like this.
Well, we did eat once at Tarantino's just to say we ate at Fisherman's Wharf. View was nice and food was OK. These days the only thing we go for when we visit the Wharf area is the ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli's.
I'll add that during Memorial Weekend, I had a guest insist on going to the wharf which found us hungry around lunchtime... We dined at McCormick & Kuleto's. My guest was craving a lobster (which she enjoyed, but she was the tourist). My boyfriend had their etouffe which he enjoyed but I thought it way too salty. I ordered whatever was fresh that day in a ginger/Oriental sauce which was also way too salty. The service was okay, the drinks good, but the overall cost a bit on the high side. On the up-side, the view was great and the ambience relatively decent for a 3-day weekend. Would I go again? Not alone -- but if a tourist wanted a trendy seafood place slightly better than a Red Lobster? Probably, under duress....
re: Carrie 218
Yeah, actually there are a few posts about McCormick & Kuleto's out there which I ignored because I felt the same way as you, but I haven't been there in ages. I wasn't familiar with the people who posted and didn't want to rely on the recs. However, I didn't want to trash the place because it has been so long. Thanks.
Houston's also gets a postive mention here and there despite being a chain. However, I was searching on the word 'wharf' and didn't have the energy to look up Houston posts.
Also, why eat at a chain that might be in your hometown, with so many unique toSF restaurants listed above that are just as adequate as McCormick & Kuleto's or Houston's. When I travel I try to eat at places I can't find at home.
I'll throw in my vote for Nick's Lighthouse, as I always do whenever Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 questions pop up (keep up the good work, rworange!). I was pleasantly surprised by how well they treat a live crab. Gently cooked, served plain with nothing but a dish of melted butter, and quite meaty for a restaurant crab. Clam chowder comes out of a can, but it tastes like a perfectly fine can (Campbell's?).
$45 filled up me, my mom, and my two grandparents (2 crabs and 2 chowders), and our waiter was sweet enough to throw in 2 extra chowders so we'd each have one even though we weren't very hungry. Net result being every one left stuffed, and I heaved a sigh of relief that my guests weren't disappointed by SF's food.
Would avoid McCormick & Kuleto's at all costs, however. Even the breathtaking view from the back windows couldn't disguise the fact that the food was sub par: gummy, stingily filled ravioli, barely okay frutti di mare (not quite bad yet, but lacking in that delicously salty oceany freshness), one good dish that I can't remember...altogether a forgettable meal at astronomical prices. That WAS a time when I had to bow my head and make excuses like "I swear, SF has good food."
Actually, I've stayed at Fisherman's Wharf twice in the past year and wound up at the In'nOut on two occasions. No particular reason other than it was near the hotel and I like the ol' In n' Out. My only complaint about FW is that Boudin's doesn't actually sell any boudin, red or white. All they have is bread of one kind or another.
Funny or sad, depending how you look at it. Maybe it was the alligator bread sculpture in the window that got my hopes up, but when I tried to order some white boudin sausage and a beer, I got that look that says, "Wait here, the cops are on the way". I felt like a dork. I had zuppa du pesce at the Grotto that was pretty good and two very good meals at an Italian place on North Street across from the Holiday Inn. Also had dim sum at that place on Stevenson near the Palace hotel downtown, a must whenever possible.
So, I'm thinking ... what does a bread alligator have to do with it all ... oh yeah, Louisianna ... alligators ... now that would be impressive if Boudin sold boudin sausage on alligator shaped rolls ... a whole lost opportunity ... so much better than that lame clam chowder in a sourdough roll.
When I moved here a few decades ago, I was a Connecticut yankee who never heard of boudin sausage, so I never connected the two. By time I knew about the sausage, my brain was programmed to think ... Boudin ... capital B ... bread.
Now that you bring it up, I'm outraged. How DARE they make bread alligators ... it is a come on and false advertising. I demand they add boudin sausage to the menu ... served in alligator rolls.
While it is getting better, SF is not big on Cajun/Creole cuisine.
The place on Stevenson is Yank Sing. Thanks for the info about Fisherman's Grotto.
I don't know, I've eaten at far too many of these over the years, and with maybe one or two exceptions, tourists would be better off walking up Columbus, taking the cable car up Hyde, walking along the waterfront to the Ferry Building, or heading West along Chestnut to the Marina.
Maybe during crab season (late November to April), a visit to the Wharf is redeemable as long as you sit outside.
It reminds me of my first trip to San Francisco. In a week of meals eaten exclusively out and entirely at touristy and often expensive places, the only dinner I remember was Mifune at Japantown. We left thinking this was a terrible restaurant town.
Oakville Grocery now has a branch in Fisherman's Wharf, near or in the Cannery. Visitors might want to make a picnic from the well-above-average pickings there, and sit out on the park or near the beach in front of Ghirardelli Square. And of course it's much, much better to bring home some delicious local jams or other food items than sweatshirts as souvenirs.
Here's a link to a recent unfavorable report about Eagle Cafe which was recommended.
I personally can't speak about the quality of the food currently, but looking at the menu, it is certainly no longer a bargain and has gone through some major menu changes since I visited a few years ago.
Two restaurants by LaserGecko during a recent SF trip.
The find might be Cafe Pescatore. Hopefully there will be more comments here
As far as the other joint Nonna Rose (part of Alioto's) the verdict ...
"We split the whole crab dinner. It reminded me of the bit on Family Guy where they flashed back to their vacation in Purgatory. "Well, this isn't bad. It's not good, but it's not bad."
I'm a visitor only insofar as this is not my usual stomping grounds, but my company has an office near Ghirardelli, and I find myself here at lunchtime occasionally.
I ate at two places in the area in the last few months:
McCormick and Kuleto's, next to Ghirardelli Square - didn't see this in the long list above - went with coworkers, on the company dime - went at the height of crab season. Thought I could not go wrong with the Crab Louis. Well, the crab was indeed very good - I imagine it was fresh and local given the season and the claims of the kitchen - and the serving size was adequate - the tomatoes were cardboard (December, not much surprise here) the louis dressing was sharp and too sweet - I didn't like it at all. Others ordered the crabcakes and some daily baked fish special, everyone seemed to enjoy their meal more than I did but these are not people I normally eat with so...
On the plus side, the view here is absolutely stunning, and the large bayside windows make for a number of excellent tables.
I also ate at Saigon Grill a few weeks ago, which was mentioned above. I sought this place out having seen it mentioned as a surprise for the area on Chowhound, and since I needed to be there at lunchtime. Had a very good pork banh mi, a very reasonably priced meal for FW at ~$3.50. Pork grilled to order, crunchy baguette, nice radish, carrots, chiles... not best in class but a winner. Those who worried in earlier posts about this place being overlooked by tourists (likely) need not worry. I don't think this place is going under anytime soon - with a dearth of good non-touristy places around, it appears to have attracted the attention of locals who work in the area, and there was a huge line of office groups, and the kitchen was furiously filling large takeout orders, probably for offices/worksites as well. This was the big downside though... they were cranking out so much food for the takeout orders, I had to wait about half an hour for a sandwich, AFTER ordering. This place was just plain slammed, go early.
The other downside was that one of the staff had his pants slung so low you could see half of his... just really unappetizing frankly.
I'm not someone who complain's too much but McCormick and Kuleto's is a good example of the observation that good food and good views are rare combination in San Francisco. Six of us - all tourists - dined there recently and the sunset view was wonderful - but unfortunately our meal was a disaster. Uneven and inexperienced service ( dirty wine glasses - twice ! ) and average food at high end prices. If you're there on an expense account, enjoy a good glass of wine and the oyster selection - otherwise keep reading this amazing chowhoud board for the best advice anywhere.
When I was growing up, the parents always took us to Exposition Grotto. Since its demise, I go to Sabella's for their Crab Louis and the view.
I was waiting for a ferry and was really hungry and didn't have my rworange printout
with me and had 15 minutes and thought, "I'll run across the street and grab a burger
to go from Johnny Rocket's." I ran across the street and thought I'd have just about
enough time and I went inside. And the entire staff had come out to the center of
the restaurant ans was singing, a capella, that awful song from Grease. You're The
One That I Want. Or something. OK, I thought, they're nearly done and I've still got
about 3 minutes to spare so I shou;d be able to get an order in. But instead of
heading back to the cash register and fry-o-lator, after they were done they started
into Hopelessly Devoted to You. Christ on a frikken sesame seed bun! how can they
possibly stay in business when they're singing all the time.
I ran back and picked up a pint of ok chowder from the chowder stand. it was
a lot better after I doused it with a dozen shakes from the tobasco bottle.
I hear you, and I feel sorry for Chris Martin because of the attitude he has to deal with from the so called foodies. One of my favorite Cafe experiences on a sunny day was to select a great brew from the Cannery Wine Cellar when Dan Noreen was still the manager and buyer, go out in the Courtyard and snag a chicken skewer from Emigres, sit down at a rough wood picnic table, and talk to visitors from all over the world who seemed perfectly happy to be there, oblivious to the fact that they were in some sort of purgatory of un-hipness.
if you want a feel of the olod fishermans wharf go to capurros rest. located by aquatic park and t ohe south end rowing club. this is the only swimming spot by the wharf. it is also one block from the original irish coffee was first poured. one can view the cable cars from the windows seats at capurros while dining. good stuff.
We ended up a A. Sabella's with my parents and kids because they had a gift card to one of a few restaurants, and my Mom randomly picked that one.
My meal was a salad and petrale sole. Fine, too much dressing and the pine nuts tasted a bit off, but fine. The sole was not at all remarkable, served with spinach. No real off flavors, but not much flavor at all. Fresh squeezed lemon made it good, but WAY overpriced. My mom had the salmon which she said was good and my father had a mixed seafood grill which was fine. They were nice enough to make a lobster for my son, who really wanted to try it. It was a bit chewy - he just sucked out the flavor and spit out the meat because "it was too chewy to swallow." Of course they charged the $35 for the 1 pnd lobster too! We had $200 to spend of free meal so it was fine. For dessert, parents had a ginger cake. They said it was good but didn't look too thrilled. It looked dry to me. I am Celiac so couldn't partake. (And they did do OK with the Celiac). What got me is that they refused to bring a scoop of vanilla ice cream out for my son even though it is on their chocolate cake. They simply said they couldn't do that, and my mom was getting tired of being there, so I didn't argue. He settled for raspberry sorbet. Food seemed thrown on the plates, not a lot of attention to plating, and overall, I could have made the meal at home with minimal effort. Hey it's FW, so I didn't have high hopes. You pay for the beautiful view.
What I don't understand is why they are mentioned in the Michelin Guide? So many better restaurants, even that do classic food.
lou's for beer and blues. get upstairs before the ridiculous cover charge kicks in. eat somewhere else.
I've had a few occassions to got to Wipe Out Bar and Grill since it opened on Pier 39. It actually had pretty good food and a fun atmosphere.
They're opening one in the Bon Air Center in Greenbrae and I believe have the hopes of making it a concept chain (or at least multiple locations).
I now notice that there's no mention of the Franciscan. I made a long post about our pretty okay dinner there with out-of-towners who insisted on visiting FW, but computer crashed and I'm unwilling to reproduce it just now. Food was all right (not great), but fine. Good service. They served my niece a truly impressive and good fruit smoothie.
Pier 43 1/2, San Francisco, CA 94133
rworange, I so appreciate your info on FW. My nieces INSIST on staying there and eating most meals there...I have argued for years and am now just giving up. Last time they were here (May 2007), we ate at Grotto #9. OMG, I had not been in decades, but it was a total disaster. The food was terrible and seemed like it had come out of a corporate cafeteria, perhaps a few days before. The floor was dirty and the entire thing just creeped me out. It was not cheap, either. Frankly, we had much better food at Boudin's. Love that whole sausage thing - I guess we SF types just associate the name with bread, at least I do!
It depends on where you've been. Recently, we've taken a couple sets of out-of-state visitors to Fisherman's Wharf (at their request) - some with sophisticated palates, some not so much. After walking around a bit, we had lunch at Boudin and dessert at Ghiradell Square.
Boudin was a big hit: "We can't get crab meat and sourdough like this in Denver! There is nothing like this at home. This is great!" "Wow! what a view!".
Ghiradelli Square's chololate and ice cream spot seemed to please everyone from the 2 year old to the middle-agers. The smell and chocolate making demonstration made the 2-year old giggle with pleasure, and her parents were also quite enchanted with the food and smells.
Clearly not our first choice, but still an enjoyable way to take in the area and to please a group of people of different ages and tastes.
Just want to say "thanks" to all the posters here. I used your answers to help determine where to hold a banquet at FW. Four of us went to Bistro Boudin last night to sample food from the main menu that is also on the banquet menu. It was OUTSTANDING!!!!
We sat at a table upstairs, very nice view of the wharf and Alcatraz.
To start we enjoyed the fresh sourdough and pumpernickle raisin bread (excellent!) basket with really fresh butter; the fresh goat cheese with pesto and cooked tomato relish; and the crab cakes (these were really great: not filled with bread crumbs, fabulously fresh).
For entrees, we sampled the halibut en cloche (aka Moroccan style) (excellent), the beef fillet (extraordinary), the casear salad and clam chowder in the bread bowl (good, but I am not a Caesar salad nor a New England clam chowder fan).
Dessert was the chocolate coconut tart and the warm berry crisp with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Both were delicious.
The service was outstanding. I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant for locals and tourists alike. You will not be disappointed!
re: anna r
Thanks for updating us Anna. I'm from New England and there's better clam chowder elsewhere. There can be some good dishes at Boudin as you pointed out. Not a bad choice in the Wharf Area.
900 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
McCormick & Kuleto's
900 North Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Ana Mandara Restaurant
891 Beach St., San Francisco, CA 94109
8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133
A Sabella's Restaurant
2766 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Blue Mermaid Chowder House
471 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Crab House At Pier 39
39 San Pier, Francisco, CA 94133
400 Jefferson St., San Francisco, CA 94109
Tin Fish Eagle Cafe
201 Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94133
41 Pier, San Francisco, CA 94133
333 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Joe's Crab Shack
245 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Neptune's Palace Seafood
Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94133
2801 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Norman's Ice Cream & Freezes
2801 Leavenworth St, San Francisco, CA 94133
340 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Sabella & La Torre
2809 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
2731 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Scoma's Fisherman's Wharf
47 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133
206 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
380 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Nonna Rose Seafood Trattoria
2829 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Ghirardelli Chocolate Union Square
42 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94108
Wipeout Bar & Grill
39 San Pier, Francisco, CA 94133
9 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe at Bakers Hall
2890 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Long dormant topic, but I was searching for recent opinions on McCormick & Kuleto's since I haven't been recently, I have been to McCormick & Kuleto's a number of times and never had a bad meal I tend to stick to fresh and simple, not the composed dishes and I don't recall ever having a bad meal. Their happy hour is a staple of the young turks in my SF office.
We also go to Scoma's Fisherman's Wharf on occasion as I like their cioppino and Alioto's just because it is Alioto's Restaurant and it long history. Yes it is average and over priced for average, but the setting is nice and I don't mind the trade off.
Buena Vista is just good fun. Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe at Bakers Hall is a great place to take kids and do the tour. Gary Danko doesn't need help, they do fine on their own.
McCormick & Kuleto's
900 North Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133
Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Scoma's Fisherman's Wharf
47 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133
I went to McCormick and Kuleto's last week -with of course, a freind from out of town. We started with a dozen oysters. They were very good. I had the Copper River salmon in lemon butter sauce and she had a spinach salad that had crab and bay shrimp on it. the salmon and sauce were excellent-the vegetable medeley it was served with was overcooked and way too buttery-and I love butter (almost as much as Julia Child does :-) Her salad looked fresh and nicely composed-but I just don't get bay shrimp. Service was excellent..and you know about the view already.
221 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94102
re: Gary Soup
Totally untrue, regulars on this board are as happy to hear of a good place on the Wharf as anywhere else--maybe more so given the proliferation of ripoff tourist traps in that neighborhood. E.g. the recent rash of positive reports about Bistro Boudin.
Since out-of-town visitors often insist on going to Wharfland it's always nice to know of a decent place to eat with reasonable prices.
Not that anyone would be likely to go there based on this topic, but the Chron reports that A. Sabella's is closing after November 4.
I would strongly urge more locals to visit the wharf, and have a cocktail. The restaurants may not be anything to write home about, or recommend, but that doesn't mean they can't make a mean cocktail, and all the ones I've been to do. But first off, I can't believe you put Gary Danko in the same category. Nothing in the Wharf comes anywhere close to the worst experience at Gary Danko. I've eaten at Scomas, probably the best the Wharf has to offer, and the preparation of the salmon was decent, but the salmon had been in the freezer for six months (the waitress said so) and was just what you'd expect, preparation notwithstanding. The next best place is probably the Eagle Cafe (dreadful wine list) and if you can get by their massive, and heavily chipped platters, their food is good for lunch. I like their oyster bar. I can't say anything about dinner, yet. Nonna Rose (Aliotos) was decent. I liked the Cioppino, but it was your basic "eye-talian" spaghett-joint. Nothing special. Capurros was also Okay, but just okay. McCormick and Kuleto's would best be described as an elegant Dennys with a view. My favorite is Fisherman's Grotto, for atmosphere (10) and cocktails (9) and passable food (no better nor worse than Nonna Rose). On the other hand, I used to get a 50% discount on food and alcohol at the Franciscan, and on ethical grounds, I refused to go back. I hated to pass up cheap booze with a view, but honestly, the food was that not-good.
Some of the restaurants, especially along Taylor, are old, and have delightful period interiors. I've found that cocktails and appetizers are a sure bet to enjoy a window into a San Francisco that is being energetically erased as we speak. I've never gone wrong with appetizers or cocktails in the Wharf.
With regards to the Cannery, may I quote the Chronicle, who headlined their review of the Blue Mermaid "Blue Mermaid Flounders, Wharf Culture Spawns Mediocrity". I've never heard anything to dispute this assertion, including from people who work at what is otherwise a fabulous hotel (The Argonaut).
Boudins has a nice bar, but no view, unless you sit on the far side, or break your neck to look over your shoulder. Memo to BOUDIN: Build a riser. The tour is WORTH IT. One of the best amusements on the Wharf, and a great way to learn some San Francisco history, and you get a bread tasting!!! I defy anyone to mock the quality of Boudin Sourdough. Between the dungeness crabs and Boudin's sourdough (as long as you don't do the chowder bread bowl) , you really can't go wrong, and with a good Chardonnay, you're pretty much eating as good as you can in San Francisco, anywhere in San Francisco. Just don't be like the tourists and sit on the curb, at exhaust level. Walk over to the water, or the fishing boats, and eat in style.
One should never forget the Buena Vista, and their Irish Coffees, even if their bartenders are the most disinterested louts in the business. I've never felt less like a local at a local hangout than I do there. But, who cares, I don't go for the bartenders. The Irish Coffee's are great. Also worthwhile as a bar Fiddler's Green, just around the corner. A nice neighborhood feel, even if a lot of the summer crowd is from neighborhoods thousands of miles away.
For a chain, if you must: In n Out. Can't get a better chain burger, and the building is nice. Well, that part of it anyway.
I'm not sure where you sat at Boudin, but the upstairs is nothing but view without any neck strain. Downstairs, no, unless sitting on the patio.
Have you been to Eagle Cafe since the ownership change? I liked it a lot in the past and mean to re-visit, but it has gotten nothing but thumbs down since the new owners took over.
I agree that in terms of fish, Scoma's is the best the wharf has to open, but why would you order frozen salmon? Not only does Scoma's have it's own fishing fleet, but there is a fish processing building across from the restaurant ... boat to processing building to restaurant ... that is what makes it a cut above elsewhere on the wharf. Ask for what is fresh off the boat.
The Franciscan was sold within the last few years to a chain that owns the "Dead Fish", "Stinking Rose" and a few others. I can't imagine it is great, but have you been there since then? Actually it is next on my list of FW restaurants to try.
Yeah, I like Boudin Sourdough at the bakeries, cafes and restaurants. No mocking there ... except ... Scoma's. Boudin bakes to order for restuarants. When Parisian bakery (?) closed, Boudin took over for places like Tadich's and Scoma's. Tadich's Boudin sourdough ... greatness. Scoma's Boudin sourdough ... inedible. However, I haven't been to Scoma's in about a year, so I'm hoping they fixed the situation. I know the waiter said on my last visit that customers were complaining.
I haven't tried it yet, but supposedly the crab and corn chowder at Blue Mermaid is good.
As far as I'm concerned, the Irish coffee is the only decent thing at the Buena Vista, but I heard they changed the whisky latey ... have you been recently. You know, it might be time for me to re-visit that Irish coffee.
You have a point about appetizers. I'm fond of sitting at the bar upstairs at Alioto's, gazing out at the bay and having a drink ... and I like their creme brulee quite a bit too.
As rworange notes, Eagle Cafe changed hands. It's now just another tourist trap restaurant in the most plastic built-as-a-tourist-trap mall in town.
For a while Blue Mermaid had a chef that was trying to do something beyond the Wharf norm, but I'm not sure that's true any more. The "menu & chef" link on their Web site doesn't say anything about the chef.
re: Xiao Yang
I stumbled across this rworange-originated maxi-thread while looking for somewhere snackworthy (not a full meal, mind you) near the various FW piers. Although it is a bit out of date, I found it very useful and thought I'd try to revive it a bit by noting that there is a new coffee place that just opened called DeLise serving Four Barrel coffee, ice cream and pastries 327 Bay Street, between Powell and Mason; (415) 399-9694. The pastry chefs used to work at shuttered Bong Su, according to SF Eater. I plan to check it out when we visit early next month and will report back.
I've abandoned this post and am keeping more updated info in lists which can be changed easily
Best Bets - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants
Tourist traps - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants
Fisherman's Wharf Places to try
pier 23 works for me. fine views of the bay, ok beers, really fun staff. interesting people pop in and pop out. tourists wander in but visitors know you can always wind up chatting with a bass player, a tug captain and much more.
I was meeting up with a visiting colleague, who wanted to take pictures of the Applebee's at Fisherman's Wharf (which is actually kind of cool looking). I told her she could take pictures, but that friends don't let friends eat at Applebee's when visiting San Francisco.
But since we were at the Wharf and it was the opening week of crab season, crab seemed to be the order of the day. We chose Nick's Lighthouse at random, because it was there and we were hungry (and she wanted a sit-down place where she could have a beer).
Not bad for a Wharf tourist trap. I had the half crab with drawn butter, which is hard to screw up (and they didn't). My dining companion had a surprisingly tasty linguini with crab. Came with old school iceberg lettuce salads and a big hunk of ordinary sourdough (would have been better if it had been warm). Decor was super kitschy -- a weird but entertaining mixture of Italian (fake grapes on the ceiling), old SF (vintage photos) and maritime. I don't know if I would choose to go there again, but I did not leave thinking "I wish we had gone somewhere else."