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May 7, 2007 11:30 AM

Sansom St. Oyster House, Philly - sad

I rarely write a negative review, but the time has come. It is really sad when a once thriving place with high standards takes a fall.

We hadn't been here for a while because I hadn't been enthusiastic. My shad had been overcooked last time, and the atmosphere seemed dowdy.

My husband craved oysters, so we gave it another try.

First, when he ordered clams, we were told that anything from the raw bar would be a twenty minute wait. The bar at the front of the restaurant was jam packed with happy hour patrons, while there were only a few scattered tables that had customers in the back rooms. Evidently, the bar people come first.

When my husband complained about this, our waitress pulled some strings and got his clams in a short time. My grilled octopus looked lovely, but was chewy and tasteless. They were out of snapper soup. This was at 6pm on a Friday evening.

The best entree was the fried oysters, which my husband said were as good as always. I had ordered the Crab Louis, which the menu described as crab, lettuce, tomato, etc.
It came with a scoop of crab salad - no lumps, just shredded crab and quite salty. I eat salty food, but this was unpleasantly salty. The rest of the platter - a wedge of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, asparagus - was okay.

The woman at the next table was also unhappy with her crab "Louis" and called the manager. He was very nice about it and said he would make an adjustment. We both had a 20% reduction in our check.

My advice is: unless you want oysters, skip it. Ambience: dreary.
We decided that McCormick and Schmick is a better place to go for fish before a concert. Recently, we have had delicious oysters and fresh fish there, with excellent service in a comfortable and attractive setting. And the prices are reasonable.

Oh, the glory days of Sansom St. Oyster House have passed. It's a shame.

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  1. I have to agree. The Bride & I tried it for the first time within the last year (Oct 2006), after recommending it to others based on CH consensus. We were very disappointed and will likely not return.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JugglerDave

      I got a lot of flack for saying this place was average a couple of years ago. However, it appears that others agree. I didn't even think the oysters were all that special but it was the dinner entrees that really made me wonder how this place gets so much praise. And the decor is "dowdy".

      1. re: jcmods

        I got a lot of flack a few years ago too for saying that the fish was like Mrs. Pauls. The raw bar stuff was pretty good though...

        1. re: jcmods

          Do you think there is a better place to get oysters in Philly though? The only other places I've had oysters are mostly super-high end where it wouldn't be worth going (or appropriate really) for just oysters... though Ansill's happy hour, where I'll be next week, is supposed to include oysters, but I don't know how they are (anyone?).

      2. I agree--not up to snuff for the past couple of years. They used to have the best crab cakes around and now they're smaller, not nearly as good, and way more expensive than they used to be. Another of my favorites, the shrimp salad, disappeared long ago.