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Swan's Oyster Depot [SF]

Hershey Bomar Nov 27, 2006 05:49 PM

Up from L.A., visiting my parents, I took a couple friends to Swann's Depot. We had a great time -- YOU CAN DRINK BEER WHILE WAITING IN LINE, which we did for 1 hour.

My friends said the experience was kinda like Pinks hotdogs down here. The overall experience was better then the food, we're originally from CT, and pretty opinionated.

We loved the staff and they let me take a lot of really fun photos; behind the counter and in the kitchen. In Los Angeles they would never let you do that!


Is it true that the clam chowder is made from Campbell’s canned? I hope it’s not. Kinda reminds me of how down here people say that the BBQ sauce at BBQ King is from Smart & Final.

Anyway, we had a great time! Nice weather too.

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  1. Euonymous RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 27, 2006 08:02 PM

    Yes, it is true. Had you used the bathroom you would have passed the wall of cans. They do add fresh clam juice, though, which helps.

    1. rworange RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 27, 2006 09:14 PM

      Absolutly great dead on description and terrific pics that capture the spirit of Swan's. What the heck is this though?

      5 Replies
      1. re: rworange
        Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Nov 27, 2006 09:25 PM

        Sea urchin (aka uni at sushi bars).

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Hershey Bomar RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 27, 2006 10:13 PM

          The young lady eating the urchin (not a friend) said it tastes sweet when it's that fresh. So there you go...

          1. re: Hershey Bomar
            kevin RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 28, 2006 04:37 AM

            interestingly, i've never seen uni on their menu.

            swan oyster is nice, the seafood is not that special though, i am one of the dissenters. the clam chowder suffice to say, is not onlything that comes from a can, the shrimp is from a can too. and all this from such a vaunted establishment.

            1. re: Hershey Bomar
              Melanie Wong RE: Hershey Bomar Dec 9, 2006 09:07 PM

              Walking by Monday at 12:30pm, I was surprised by the absence of a line in front of Swan. No live uni in the window display or I would have grabbed a seat (even though i'd already had lunch).

          2. re: rworange
            kevin RE: rworange Nov 28, 2006 04:35 AM

            that looks like sea urchin to me.

          3. Robert Lauriston RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 28, 2006 03:58 PM

            I think Swan gets cut a lot of slack for its old-school atmosphere and longevity.

            Not that there aren't some good things there, but if Woodhouse had served food of the same quality, it'd be closed by now.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Malcolm Ruthven RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 21, 2013 02:37 PM

              I'll reply to this seven-year-old post by agreeing with it. I lived a few blocks from Swans for 15 years in the 60s and 70s and didn't like it then. Haven't been back in a ling time and see no reason to do so.

              1. re: Malcolm Ruthven
                nocharge RE: Malcolm Ruthven Nov 21, 2013 03:40 PM

                I walk by occasionally and see the long line of tourists outside waiting for an hour while homeless people nearby laugh at their folly. The point is that you can get good oysters in SF in a civilized environment without having to stand in line for an hour on Polk Street. I was at the Ferry Building on a Saturday some weeks ago and noticed the long line outside Hog Island and registered a similar folly. But at least those people had a nice view of the Bay while they waited.

                1. re: nocharge
                  ML8000 RE: nocharge Nov 21, 2013 05:11 PM

                  Use to go to Swans to get take out for my grandmother, never ate there or stood in line. If you don't have to wait, it's okay. If you have to wait, forget it.

            2. f
              funmarysf RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 28, 2006 08:34 PM

              No way, I dont believe the soup is Campbells. Can anyone else confirm???!

              1 Reply
              1. re: funmarysf
                larochelle RE: funmarysf Nov 28, 2006 10:03 PM

                Euonymous and others have reported this...Go there. Go to the bathroom. Look at the stack of cans.

              2. r
                rdean RE: Hershey Bomar Dec 8, 2006 02:51 AM

                Swans is great if you want Oysters. I never really like the look of their other seafood. Order in advance or grab what they have and take them home. Eating-in is a definite SF experience but it's not exactly a pick-of-the-litter location. Family run, these guys will tell you what's good and will also let you taste any oyster you are interested in buying. Skip the chowder.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rdean
                  Lori SF RE: rdean Dec 10, 2006 11:14 PM

                  the best crab just pure and simple

                2. h
                  Hungry Hippo RE: Hershey Bomar Dec 10, 2006 06:01 PM

                  I stopped going to Swan a few years ago. I think it's becoming more and more a caricature of itself and a tourist trap, like Tadich.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Hungry Hippo
                    MorganSF RE: Hungry Hippo Dec 10, 2006 09:35 PM

                    I don't think it's a tourist trap, but it's definitely full of tourists. I would love to go more often but the line is too long.

                    1. re: MorganSF
                      notmartha RE: MorganSF Dec 11, 2006 02:12 AM

                      I guess it must depend on when you go. I went around 4PM when I visited last March and it was definitely just the locals, and there was no line.

                      Oysters were good, and cheap for the price. Also had a crab louie salad, which had way too much cartridges for my taste.

                      I don't know though, maybe it's the oyster type(I was looking for Kumamoto, but they were out), but I just don't think it was anything that special. It's pleasant seafood at affordable price for the working class. I don't feel too inspired to go back.

                    2. re: Hungry Hippo
                      chipman RE: Hungry Hippo Dec 10, 2006 10:04 PM

                      Tadich a tourist trap?

                      1. re: chipman
                        Robert Lauriston RE: chipman Dec 10, 2006 10:54 PM

                        You can eat fairly well at Tadich if you order the right things. I wouldn't call it a tourist trap, lots of locals eat there too. Though without the tourist trade I doubt they could get away with charging more than Sam's Grill.

                    3. Melanie Wong RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 21, 2013 12:26 AM

                      Was in the neighborhood and noticed that Swan had live uni on Wednesday morning. Even more interesting to me were the Dungeness crab shells filled to the brim with crab fat.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        kevin RE: Melanie Wong Nov 21, 2013 08:58 AM

                        Mmmm. And I always thought they doled out the canned goods.

                      2. v
                        vulber RE: Hershey Bomar Nov 21, 2013 04:03 PM

                        haven't been in a while, but the freshly cut salmon sandwich is still a treat that's hard to find elsewehre

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: vulber
                          Robert Lauriston RE: vulber Nov 21, 2013 04:42 PM

                          What's unusual about it?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            vulber RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 21, 2013 04:46 PM

                            they slice the salmon from the belly right there in front of you - most places just use pre-smoked/pre-sliced salmon.

                            1. re: vulber
                              Robert Lauriston RE: vulber Nov 21, 2013 04:47 PM

                              If they smoked the salmon to order, that would help explain the lines.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                kevin RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 21, 2013 08:03 PM

                                I doubt it.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  kevin RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 21, 2013 08:03 PM

                                  Tourist trap travesty.

                                  1. re: kevin
                                    Melanie Wong RE: kevin Jan 30, 2014 06:13 PM

                                    Why do you say that?

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      kevin RE: Melanie Wong Jan 30, 2014 08:54 PM

                                      Melanie, I posted on the other thread just now.

                                      It's just my two cents.

                            2. re: vulber
                              hyperbowler RE: vulber Nov 21, 2013 05:41 PM

                              What bread do they serve it on? Is it the dark baked "Italian bread" that Boudin special makes for them? If not, do you know if there are any orders you can place that'll score you some of that bread?

                              1. re: hyperbowler
                                walker RE: hyperbowler Jan 30, 2014 10:16 PM

                                Do you know the Boudin store on the corner of Geary/10th Ave? In the past I've called them up and ordered the extra dark sour dough bread. Tastes exactly like the bread from Tadich and Swan and it costs less than what Swan will charge you for it.

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