Good Cheap Eats around Fisherman's Wharf?
I must respectfully disagree with those who would dis the seafood restaurants at Fisherman's Wharf. I find the crab cocktail at Scoma's unparalleled . My wife enjoys the crab louis there. We find the good quality to be consistent at lunch, although we usually don't dine there for dinner.
At Sotto Mare in North Beach, we would recommend the sand dabs, should they be a special the day you dine. The clam chowder there, though, seemed only average. Also, North Beach Restaurant, around the corner, still in North Beach, offers a seafood risotto, that was one of the highlights of our recent month-long trip to San Francisco. The ravioli Toscano is also not to be missed. If you have never tried a lobster roll, there is a quite tasty one two doors down from Sotto Mare, on Green Street in North Beach.
Back to Fisherman's Wharf, Ristorante Pescatore has quite a tasty crab ravioli dish, as well as other fresh daily fish specials. You will not be disappointed there.
Scoma's is fine for what it is, but there is much better to be found not far. it does sound weird, but usu. the farther from the water the better.
I would say DO walk the immed. West side of pier 39, but mostly just to watch the sea lions. they are worth a trip across town alone. that and aquatic park if you like art deco architecture and ship models.
You'd be wrong guessing there is a praticularily good seafood restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf. They are pretty average. All they cater to is tourists so they don't try all that hard. And if anyone reads this and disagrees, I would ask what restaurant do you go to regularly at FW when it isn't taking vistors who insist on eating there.
It is not that you will usually get a really bad meal (though stay away from Pier 39). You will get an average meal that is way over-priced. The best of the group is going at lunch to Scoma's. They have a three-course $22 prix-fixe lunch. It can be a late lunch since it ends at 3:30. Nick's Lighthouse gets more good than bad reports and it might be another place to consider.
And remember ... clam chowder is not a native food of SF. It is usually canned. However, contradicting myself a bit, on Pier 39 is Chowder's and I have read they really do make their own chowder and it is decent.
For dinner Scomas is waaay overpriced.
You might consider hanging out at the Ferry Building instead ... the new Fisherman's Wharf, so to speak, with betther food. You can then either eat there or walk a block to Tadichs, an old SF seafood house with lots of character.
Another idea is Sotto Mare in North Beach. I haven't been there yet but it is high on my list. They oysters are $1 each and I understand the seafood is good and well-priced
How cheap is cheap to you?
Whatever you choose, if you eat in the Wharf area, hope you report back since we don't get a lot of info on that area because locals won't eat there and visitors don't report back. A few more ideas ... be sure to read the comments for updates on the original report
Fisherman's Wharf Survival Guide
Thanks for the pointer to Sotto Mare, rwo. This place has somehow escaped my scrutiny but sounds like just the ticket for us. We are still compiling places that serve fresh, plain, not too-crazy expensive seafood in your great city. The fact that SM has sand dabs puts it at the top of the list for next visit...