Best Place for Seafood or Chowder?
I'm supposed to plan a road trip for some friends and I this coming weekend, and we're thinking of heading to the Bay Area. The one thing they want to do is eat some good clam chowder and/or seafood. I'm not much of a seafood fan, but will go whreever they want.
Where's some good, not too fancy-schmancy :-), places around the Bay Area?
Too be honest, clam chowder is not a San Francisco specialty. Since Dungeness crab season has just started, that would be the way to go. Not fancy-schmancy ... Swan Oyster Depot? Although, it's not open for dinner (hours are Mon-Sat 8am-5:30pm) and it's very small -- just a counter -- so there's almost always a wait. Best to get there before 11 or after 2.
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
per Ruth's post, I thought the Dungeness season had been delayed (by the oil spill)? Read today in the Chron that there will be some being in trucked in from the Northwest.
As Ruth says, chowder is not really a bay area specialty. That said, I love the clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Bar, and its location in the Ferry Terminal can't beat. You can eat outside by the water if the evening is nice. The chowder is thin but creamy (no yucky thickeners here!) with cream and fresh oysters still in the shell. It is surprisingly rich.
The oysters are great there too, though the menu is somewhat limited.
As for fancy-shmancy, definitely not. You would be comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, which is what the servers will be wearing. However, unless you go on Monday ($1 oysters and big crowds) your bill can add up pretty quickly if you order oysters...
Hog Island Oyster Bar
Ferry Building,, San Francisco, CA 94111
Yes yes yes, the chowder at Hog Island is to die for. It is *not* anything like traditional new england clam chowder, nor is it like manhattan clam chowder. It is really a bowl of clams (in the shell) in an amazing cream broth (has bacon I think, so not for people who don't eat pork). They also have a clams dish that is also good; this one can vary but often has sausage and white beans. But aside from oysters and chowder, the place doesn't have much, if any, other seafood. But it is phenomenal. And they serve the clams with Acme Epi, which, IMHO, is the best bread in the world. The clams, by the way, are hard shell, not like the steamers in new england.
Another place I like quite a lot is Pacific Cafe, way out on Geary at 34th. They have fairly simple preparations - grilled salmon and scallops, sole dore, crab cakes, sand dabs; they have chowder which is pretty good by SF standards (that is, it isn't new england but it's ok). They do not take reservations, but they do give out free inexpensive wine while you are waiting. They hand out white only, but will give you red if you ask for it. They open at 5 pm and I like to get there shortly before that so I am in the first wave of people being seated; If you go on Saturday then get there by 4:40 if you want to be in the first wave. Portions are huge but it's very good basic seafood and not at all fancy - the place feels like a 70s throwback (exposed beams, that kind of thing).