HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Where to eat Dungeness Crab in SF?

We're heading up to SF this weekend and I hear it's crab season (yum yum). I did a search on the boards, but it looks like most people are looking for places to buy live crab to cook at home. We don't have that luxury, so where is a good place to indulge in some crab? Chez Panisse seems a little too spendy for my tastes and I don't know that we'll be in Berkeley around meal time.

Should we just head to Fisherman's Wharf and see who's cooking when we get there?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My favorite is the cold cracked crab with warm truffle butter at Absinthe.


    Don't eat at Fisherman's Wharf.

    1. I wouldn't eat at the Wharf - you can try Tadich's. Last weekend I had the crabcakes there - pretty good, but truthfully I prefer the crab Louis and a shrinp cocktail! I must confess that I am a person who hates extracting the crab from the shell and want that done for me!

      1. Just ate fantastic dungeness crab at PPQ Dungeness Island Vietnamese Cuisine on Clement Street. Order the crab dinner for two which comes with a cabbage & chicken salad, imperial rolls, and garlic noodles. You have a choice of how you'd like the crab done. Everything was excellent and very good value ($46 for two). Or you could wait in line and go to Swans Oyster Depot, but it's counter service only and they close at 5 pm. Tadich's might be an idea - call and ask. Or maybe Yabbies is doing crab.

        2 Replies
        1. re: vuvy

          I love Swan's. Just order the crab without cocktail sauce. Go for the butter. Or the Louie sauce on the side.

          1. re: uptown jimmy

            One of my faves! They are always so nice about melting some butter for me. That plus the sourdough and a glass of wine is sheer heaven for me. The chitchat with the staff and regulars is just icing on the cake.

        2. definately *do not* eat at fisherman's wharf! i would recommend a small place on Geary called La Vie. It's a sweet, friendly Vietnamese place that specializes in crab. They're similar to Crustacean, but cheaper and friendlier. I like the noodles and crab at La Vie just as much as at crustacean.

          1. So, between La Vie & PPQ what would be the consensus pick?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Peter Cherches

              They are both fab! PPQ is a bit more cool in feeling, casual and loud, La Vie a bit more refined, warmer room and quiet with a friendly staff... I have been to both a couple times each and think the quality is about the same, menu and prices comparable.

            2. Yes, DON'T EAT AT FISHERMAN'S WHARF,
              but I did about 6 months ago [don't ask], and had a freakin' great crab for far less than at the Tadich Grill or Absinthe.

              If you go to the little cement square where the theater mechanique is (worth a stop - listen for the cackling), there's an awning on the west side of the square, and under the awning is a line of the usual chowder-in-a-bread-bowl steam-tray-lunch tourist places. But one of the places had a steaming vat of water, a pile of crabs, and a guy with various implements. A big pile of crabs. When I said I wanted a crab, the cashier gestured at pre-made, pre-cracked "lunches" with a small 1/4 crab and a slice of lemon shrink-wrapped sometime last century. Eeeewwww.

              No, one of *those* crabs, I said. From the pile. Get me a heavy one. No no, that's the crab. Crab lunch. Yum, yum. No no, I said, THOSE are crabs. Sell me one. Finally, the cash register lady yelled over to the guy with the tongs, who who fished around for a bit, testing them, finally held up one for my approval. I nodded, and he tossed it in. Boiled it for a minute, and expertly cracked it with some kind of stick. Sure, they must have been pre-boiled, because they were red already and cooked quick. I paid by weight for the whole crab (a rule of street market chowing - don't ask the price in advance). I went over to the pee-smelling, cement square, fended off the birds, and dug in - and it turned out to be one excellent crab, sweet and tender.

              There are some things so elemental and good that even something as aweful as fisherman's wharf can't screw up. Although I now have the delectable scent of human urine associated with Dungeness.

              2 Replies
              1. I'd choose Tadich or Vietnamese. Tadich has a wonderful salad with house dressing that you can get as a dinner side salad or a main course with their house dressing (a very sophisticated take on a louis dressing - much less sweet, though).

                Vietnamese dry-fried crab with that black pepper/vinegar sauce is heaven on earth!

                The crab we had at the Chowhound banquet at Asian Pearl in El Cerrito was also fab.

                1. Pier 29 Cafe - at Pier 29 on the Embarcadero and no where near Fisherman's Wharf. The crab is fresh. It is oven roasted in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs and lemon juice. I always thought there was a bit of white wine in it, but when I inquired, they said the lemon juice provided the nice acidity. It is served cracked, but whole, with wonderful SF sourdough bread. The bread allows you to enjoy every drop of the delectable flavours.

                  Singaporean style chili crab - Straits Cafe/Restaurant (SF Centre)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: SanseiDesigns

                    I found a place called Pier 23 Cafe... is there another Cafe at Pier 29, too?

                    1. re: leanneabe

                      Oop! Sorry, it is Pier 23 Cafe. Hope you like it!

                    2. re: SanseiDesigns

                      Do you recall the price of the crab at Pier 29/23?

                      1. re: SanseiDesigns

                        We tried Pier 23 Cafe and the crab wasn't on the menu - we even asked the not-very-confident waiter. Since we were already sitting down when we discovered this, we had some garlic prawns and chowder, then made reservations at Absinthe for "real" dinner.

                        The whole sauteed crab at Absinthe is the same price as (what should have been) Pier 23, but it's a completely different atmosphere. I'm glad we ended up there, because I have a feeling the crab was so much better. It was a mess, but delicious! My bf had the coq au vin, which was very rich and satisfying. We were so full that we waddled back to our hotel and promptly fell into bed.

                      2. Thanks! Nice menu...Pier 23 has definitely been below my radar...it sounds like a fun place!


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                          Food is OK to good at Pier 23, but worth it in my opinion as it can be a fun, very casual place to get a beer or cocktail, with something like a burger, fish & chips or fish tacos.

                        2. RANCH 99 Or LYONS Supermarkets.... You Gotta Boil it Yourself though... 4.99 0r 3.99 a pound