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best place to buy dungeness crab

I get my dungeness crab at Whole Foods cause I feel like it is best quality and Chinatown food scare me. I like to get my crab pre-cleaned, slightly cracked and cooked. Any words of wisdom for me? Do you think I am being a snob getting the crab at WF and do you think its just the store that makes it appear different or do you think it is best? I should mention that I have been getting it here for several years and it is always wonderful. Thanks!

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  1. I have always gotten my NYE Crab at the Market Hall Fish Market on College Avenue in Oakland and it's always been great.

    1. Chinatown food scares you? That just about says it all.

      1 Reply
      1. Lauren, I think you should be comfortable about your food, and if you're comfortable getting your crab pre-cooked and cleaned from Whole Foods, then that works for you.

        I think crab is one of those food items that tastes best when really really fresh. That means having it as alive as possible before eating. That's why for me, I do buy my crab live and then cook it at home, cleaning it myself. That just ensures the meat is the most succulent because it's the most fresh.

        That said, Whole Foods and other reliable stores will cook their crab that morning. So that should still be good. But if you ever want to taste fresh crab, you should try boiling a live one yourself.

        1. Crystal Springs Poultry in San Mateo is very fresh as the owner , Greg, has excellent connections

          1 Reply
          1. re: Giselle

            Lauren, you might give the new Marina Meats a try

            The owner is a 3rd generation San Franciscan whose grandfather was a Sicilian fisherman. According to the website he goes down to Fisherman's Wharf ever morning to buy his fish.

            Like someone else said, whatever makes you happy is great. Which Whole Foods do you get your crab from? The quality varies from store to store. The one major deficiency in the new Oakland Whole Foods is the fish department. It is actually somewhat of a disgrace. I know other Whole Foods that have better quality fish.

            That being said, I would guess that the crab at Whole Foods is like everything else there. There is more care than the standard supermarket and the quality is higher and you pay for that.

            I don't really like Dungeness that much so I've never bought it there or anywhere much. However judging from their fish department (Oakland excepted) it probably isn't as high quality that you would get at a fishmonger like Monterey Fish in Berkeley or fished out of a tank live from a Chinese market.

            Even so, over the years I've read all the tips you need to know about getting a live crab from the tank ... make sure it is peppy ... make sure it hasn't been hanging around the tank too many days because they loose flesh the longer they sit in the tank ... etc, etc, etc.

            So going that route has its perils.

            Marina Meats might be really cool to try for crab because it is off the boat that morning and the website says they will handle any request so you could ask for your crab to be prepared the way you like it. Hope you report back if you try that market.

            Besides, Joey knows all the fishermen at the Wharf ... they're probably not going to sell him anything but the best crab.

          2. If you want to try something different, you might find Ranch 99 markets a little less "scary" than Chinatown. I believe they will let you choose a live one, then cook and clean it for you (although not when they're super busy). That way it will be as fresh as possible.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              They will clean it for you, but not cook it.

              Lauren, if you like the quality of WF then stick with it.

              1. re: theSauce

                It depends on which Ranch 99 you go to. The one in Dublin will also steam it for you.

                1. re: Theta

                  I think it also depends on how busy they are -- on holidays when they have people six deep at the fish counter, then no, but on a "normal" day I think they'll usually do it.

            2. I don't think you are being a crab snob, you should be espeically in these times. Swan's does a nice job, best to preorder and pick up. Growing up with fresh lobsters and crabs being brought home by my brother who was a commercial diver I trust the quality of Swan's

              I buy most of my fish at Bryan's market but never tasted their crab, I know the overall quality is always there.

              If in Bodega Bay, go to Spuds.

              1. If Chinatown food scares you I'm not sure how you'll feel about mission food. But I always buy my crab at Sun Fat at Mission and 22nd. I myself am too scared to handle a live crab but at Sun Fat I can pick them out live and the monger will chop them in half, clean them and then i take them straight home to the pot so I know it's fresh. The cost is usually around 2.99/pound and they don't charge for the cleaning. I'm sure this is less then the cost at whole foods.

                5 Replies
                1. re: sfeater

                  Is this "Sun Fat" similar to a "99 Ranch Market"?
                  (*Posters above, I'm pretty sure this is the actual name.)
                  $2.99/Lb. is half the price that the 3 + pounders
                  will fetch in San Diego's, Asian, live-tank markets
                  (if you can find them that size).
                  Once you've had a 4 pounder, it's hard to go back to the 2 pounders!
                  I guess my real question is:
                  Which place am I most likely to find a freshly caught, live
                  Dungeness Crab that weighs around 4 pounds?
                  I'll gladly pay more for the "Oh my Gawd... that's Huuuge" kind of experience.

                  1. re: KitchenSkank

                    Sun Fat is nothing like a 99 Ranch Market. It is a small shop that sells nothing but fish, and very good, fresh fish in my experience. The last few times I've stopped by they didn't have any crab, but that may have been because it was around the holidays (between Christmas and New Year).

                    1. re: KitchenSkank

                      Yes, 99 Ranch. That's what I used to think was right, then I kept hearing people say it the other way and now I have trouble remembering which way is right.


                      Good luck finding a 4 pounder! Your best bet might be to contact a fishmonger and specifically ask them to get one for you.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        The crabs seem small this year. Lucky to find any that are 2.5 lbs.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          You're hurting me.

                          What about my other inquiry?
                          Something to do while waiting
                          around Pillar Point Harbor.

                  2. Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley has both cooked & live. They have only the highest quality, freshest seafood available. Reasonable prices, too.

                    1. does anyone know if the boats are going out in half moon bay?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chuckl

                        Today? Seems unlikely. You can call the harbormaster and ask, though.

                      2. The best place for fresh live crab by far is off the boats at Half Moon Bay. We bought some the Sunday before New Years and they were amazingly delicate and sweet. just bring a cooler to get them home. They were $4.50/lb, and the seafood shop in town was selling them for $7.99/lb. You can get them live in shops but you never know how long they've been in those tanks.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sunnyside

                          12/5 El Cerrito Ranch 99 $5.49/ pound, cleaned but not cooked. Tanks are now full even the one at the back wall meaning they are fresh to the store but I don't know where they were previously, for how long and where they were caught. Based on yesterday's weather I doubt it was around here.

                          1. re: sunnyside

                            Yeah, this is the way to go.
                            I'm getting excited!
                            We get off the plane midmorning tomorrow.
                            Finally some calm weather is forecast.
                            First stop, Pillar Point Harbor.
                            We may have to wait around for the early boats to get in.
                            Any suggestions for a diversion while we
                            wait around to buy our 4 pound beauties?