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Jul 9, 2006 07:08 AM

Hey, San Francisco visitors, tell the locals about Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

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.


Complete posts at end in alphabetical order.


Gary Danko
Nick's Lighthouse


Buena Vista (but ONLY for the Irish coffee)
Fishermen's Grotto #9
Pompei’s Grotto
Saigon Grill and Sandwich


A. Sabella’s
Joe's crab shack
Sabella and LaTorre


BEST BET - Eagle Café


Crab House
Forbes Island
Neptune's Palace


BEST BET - Ana Mandara



Blue Mermaid (corn and crab chowder)
Norman's Ice Cream & Freezes (Mitchell's Ice Cream)


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.”



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


BLUE MERMAID (corn and crab chowder


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 ?
Forbes Island





Family of 6 report – Sultan (actually Nick’s)


SF - Norman's Ice Cream & Freezes - Mitchell's Ice Cream & halo halo



the fried clam hunt - six degrees of desperation


new banh mi place at the wharf
SF- A Tale of Two Banh Mi – Saigon Grill & Little Vietnam Café


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.

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  1. Wow, fantastic post.

    Are you saying avoid Ghirardelli?

    8 Replies
    1. re: Atomica

      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.

      1. re: rworange

        The wharf has a new Afgan restaurant that has had some favorable reports, Kabul City. Here's more info:

        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

        The Chowhound Digest did two nice summaries of this and other posts. Check the first link for Wharf updates:

        1. re: rworange

          Last time I ate at the wharf was 30 years ago. it was OK, but why bother grading fine nuances of just OK? Places outside tourist areas attract people with their food, not their location.

          1. re: mpalmer6c


            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.

            1. re: rworange

              Re: 1. -- Not elitist food snobs, or not missing out on great eats?

              1. re: Gary Soup

                From my own personal experience ... for the most part ... neither ... nor

              2. re: rworange

                One does not have to be a food snob or any kind of snob to consider the Wharf and Pier 39 utter eyesores. And visitors do not "insist" on eating at FW. Lots of the visitors have taste too. Yes, avoid the whole thing: the tacky malls and mall food.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Some visitors quite definitely insist on going to and eating at the wharf, just as they insist on eating Chinese food in Chinatown.

        2. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: taco_belle

            Thanks for your report. Sounds like Fisherman's Grotto.


            Maybe Tarantio's but the door to that is around the corner from Alioto's.


          2. 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.

            1. 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....

              1 Reply
              1. 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.

              2. 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."