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Swan's Oyster Depot [SF]

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. 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. 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: Robert Lauriston

          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

            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

              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

            that looks like sea urchin to me.

          3. 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

              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

                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

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: funmarysf

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

              2. 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

                  the best crab just pure and simple

                2. 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

                    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

                      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.

                      1. re: chipman

                        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.

                    2. 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

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

                      2. 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: Robert Lauriston

                            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

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

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Melanie, I posted on the other thread just now.

                                      It's just my two cents.

                            2. re: vulber

                              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

                                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.