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Need Nice, Simple Seafood Dinner recommendation

After many searches and much perusing of the San Francisco Board, I still haven't found the answer I'm looking for. I'm looking for a nice, simple seafood restaurant for dinner with my boyfriend and my father. Nice, but not overly fancy - pretentious people make me a little nervous :-P

Preferably not over $30 per entree - a $15-$20 average would be great. We like the basics - fresh seafood, grilled or broiled, potentially sauced but not overly so. Lightly fried stuff is always appreciated, when done well (not too greasy). Something along the lines of Fish. in Monterey or even Devon in Philadelphia.

Location: We're staying in San Mateo, but will be spending the day in San Francisco, so really anywhere in or between the two areas will work. We will have a car - easy/cheap parking is a plus, but not a necessity.

OK I think I've covered all the basics; please help me, Chowhounds! Thanks in advance :-)

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  1. Hayes Street Grill?

    Hayes Street Grill
    324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

    1. That's a tough one...good seafood in the city is usually expensive. If you're willing to cross the bridge into Sausalito, I'd recommend going to Fish. It's the definition of unpretentious, most entrees in the $15-20 range, and they serve the freshest local seafood you'll find anywhere. Parking is no problem, naturally, and it's located right on the bay.

      1. If you could be persuaded to spend the day in the East Bay, rather than the West Bay, I'd say Sea Salt. http://www.seasaltrestaurant.com/ Of course, depending on where you'll be in San Francisco, it still might work. If you're downtown or South of Market, you're right next to the bridge and not more than 20 minutes from Sea Salt (assuming you can avoid traffic...so much depends on when you're going to be there). I think it's just what you're looking for.

        If you'll accept your seafood even more "basic"--and by that I mean raw--you might consider Bar Crudo in San Francisco. There are a few cooked items, but it would be pointless to go if you were not happy with the raw bar. The prices should be just right for you. http://www.barcrudo.com/menu.htm

        1 Reply
        1. re: lexdevil

          As much as I love Sea Salt, their portion size puts them into the $30 range—except for the fish and chips, I always need to order another dish.

        2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Tadich Grill. It's not cheap, but it's not $30 an entree, either: most entrees are in the $18-20 range. Although you can get "fancy" seafood preps, their simple preps are the best -- get the sand dabs if they have them. Traditional atmosphere, servers who are old and occasionally brusque, not pretentious.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I was thinking the same thing, Ruth. I second either Tadich or Hayes St. Grill.

          2. Fish in Sausalito is a clean, fresh and simple as you can get- it's casual outdoor, pinic style dining, great on a nice day with a big parking lot.

            I agree with Robert L about Hayes Grill is good, I have not been for a while so can't say as of lately.
            Parking difficult.

            I think One Market offers great seafood, might be a bit more than what you want to pay. Parking Lots near by.

            1. Saw on your other post that you're going to be driving down to Monterey and back, so I'll give you a San Jose rec as well - Race Street Seafood Kitchen - I've actually never eaten there, but a friend of mine used to swear by it when she lived in the South Bay. I've bought seafood from their retail market, and it was excellent, so I imagine their simple grilled and fried preparations are good too. Ultra-bare bones ambience.

              Race Street Seafood Kitchen
              247 Race Street
              San Jose, CA

              1. Hayes Street serves very good seafood..although a tad expensive. The environment however is BORING and sterile...any place that thinks banker green carpeting is okay needs to re-evaluate things. Yeah...if it was $10-12 less per I probably be more forgiving...but it's not. Always struck me as the "go to place" for the opera/symphony crowd.

                I'd go to Tadich, save a few bucks and be in a place with some real old school charm and character.

                8 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  Hayes Street Grill's entrees are $19-24, pretty average for SF restaurants that use top-quality ingredients.

                  The quality of the fish and other ingredients at Tadich are a couple of steps down.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    How is the quality of the fish different at Tadich?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Hayes Street they buy the best available. If something's not first-rate, they don't put it on the menu. They selection of fish is relatively short.

                      Tadich will buy less than the best to keep the cost down and they keep some items on the menu whether or not top quality is available. As the owner told R. W. Apple Jr., ''We don't claim to be the best."


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        The article by Apple is very enthusiastic about Tadich's. In fact, he said "For decades now, I have been sitting down at Tadich's counter ...". The comment by the owner has to be read in context.

                        1. re: mc2

                          You can eat well at Tadich if you order the right things, such as the sand dabs and petrale sole he recommends. Factor in the atmosphere and it's a fun time, old-school in a good way.

                          On the other hand, frozen prawns. The crab's not always great, either. That's what happens when you have items of seasonal / limited availability on the menu 365 days a year. That's old-school in a bad way.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            But old school in a good way is that they have the best sourdough in SF because they are probably still having the original recipe baked with their own starter.

                            I have to agree that quote was very out of context and made Tadich seem like it was serving substandard food. The very next sentence was

                            ''But we believe in what we do and the way we do it, and we're not about to change. This is our life, not an investment. We don't pretend. You're not buying a Mercedes for $80,000 when you come in here."

                            Also, as far as local fish, the article mentions that they didn't buy some sand dabs because they weren't acceptable.

                            So it is more than just a fun place to eat. They say upfront you are not eating at a place like Aqua a few doors down. It is basic seafood at good prices.

                            Which if you look at the first sentence in the OP, might exactly fill the bill for the OP.

                            Don't get me wrong. I like both. I probably like Hayes Street more because it is less busy than Tadich. However, as is always mentioned on the board which is what Apple said, there are some dishes to zone in on at Tadich.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              They print the menu every day, and they don't always include items that aren't available. I think the prawns and the crab may be there because people expect them, but if they can't get some other items fresh, they won't put them on the menu.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Sure, like I said, you can eat well if you order the right things.

                                Tadich is fun once in a while but I prefer places where I can order any dish and know the ingredients are first-rate.

                  2. I like the Fish Market, either Palo Alto or Foster City, not a fan of the Santa Clara branch or the Top of the Market in FC. Lots of choices of fish and styles of cooking, casual, choice of side dishes and both locations have parking lots. If it has to be on the day you are in SF, I also recommend Tadich, good food and great atmosphere and history.

                    1. If decor is not an issue, try Yuet Lee in Chinatown. The best salt and pepper squid! Not greasy and so addictive. Fillets of fish with veggies, crab dishes, whole fish and all kinds of seafood dishes. It's basically a dive but the food is great. Inexpensive, that way you can go somewhere really nice for dessert and after dinner drinks.

                      1. Weird Fish in the Mission is in your price range and can be surprisingly good. Their fried seafood tends to be pretty decent with the oysters special standout in my experience. The fish and chips might not blow you away, but they won't devastate your wallet either. In terms of atmosphere, Weird Fish is definitely more simple than pretentious and more hip than staid.

                        It can be crowded at peak times, so it might be a good idea to go a little early.

                        Street parking in the neighborhood is generally cheap, but rarely easy to find.

                        Weird Fish
                        2193 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. OP here. Thanks to everyone for all of the great suggestions and discussion! We went with Fish. and LOVED it. The decor was just right - casual yet fun, comfortable yet cute. We got lucky with the weather, as it was a perfect evening for sitting outside on their large deck and taking in the sea air. And the best part, as it should be: the FOOD. I had the fish and chips, which were absolutely wonderful. The batter on the fish was wonderfully light and crispy - my one complaint was that I could actually still taste the beer in the batter, and as I don't drink alcohol, that didn't suit me too much. But I can see how it would appeal to beer fans. But even in spite of that, the fish itself was so perfectly fresh and the texture of the batter was so delightful that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The "chips" - wedge cut fries - were slightly oily but otherwise incredibly delicious. BF had the crab roll and Dad had the Local Albacore Tuna grilled over pasta. Both were spectacular - especially the crab roll. The pasta itself was housemade, and as with all great pastas you could really tell the difference. The dish as a whole needed a bit more salt. On the whole, a wonderful experience. Thanks again for the recommendations! BF and I are visiting til Saturday, so we may give Tadich a try too. If we do, I'll be sure to report back!