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Jun 21, 2009 12:41 AM

Bluefish at Hayes Street Grill

One of my complaints about San Francisco fish and seafood restaurants is how they tend to ignore east coast fish in favor of other imports equally or more distant. Bluefish was my canonical example of a fish I had never seen offered in a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant in the 15 years we've lived here. On my trips back to Boston it's often one of the first things I get, ahead of lobster (though I try to get to that too), because of its scarcity outside the east coast.

So I was delightfully surprised to see eastern bluefish with mustard sauce and new potatoes on the menu at Hayes Street Grill on Saturday night! Naturally I ordered it and it was quite good. Adding a little salt snapped all the panopoly of bluefish flavors into place. It wasn't as great as you'd get it as a local fish on the east coast, but it was mighty fine. If they still have it next weekend I'll see if I can get it just grilled with french fries like their regular fish offering. The mustard sauce was good, but with fish this rare to the area I think the simpler preparation would be an even bigger treat.

So if you've been craving bluefish, now's your chance - who knows how long it might be on the menu?


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

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  1. mdg,

    Thanks for the post. I'm also one who occasionally suffers from bluefish deprivation. Have you encountered any markets which sells fresh or smoked bluefish in the bay area? I love smoked bluefish -- prefer it to almost any other smoked fish, including salmon.


    2 Replies
    1. re: fishhead

      The fish monger in the Ferry Building had fresh Bluefish last Saturday. They've also had
      mackerel recently which I really miss having grown up on the eastern atlantic seaboard.

      1. re: vagetarian


        Hopefully when we're in Rhode Island this summer, I'll get a chance to catch some.

    2. Funny, when I grew up on the East Coast bluefish was chum. Not considered worth eating. You couldn't buy it in most well-stocked markets. More lowly than mackerel, which was likewise disdained. The decimation of fish stocks certainly has had its impact.

      I've always loved it (and mackerel) when we'd catch it fresh, but they are both fish that need to be served ultra-fresh and cleaned very carefully. It's no surprise to me that it is rare in this area. If you find it I'll bet its frozen or air freighted in at some astounding price.

      3 Replies
      1. re: BernalKC

        Out of curiosity, when was that? I lived in Boston for most of the '80s, and bluefish was always popular in season.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          fishing days would have been in the late '60s, lived there through the '70s.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            I'll add that we always loved catching and eating blues. We fished from a small boat close to shore so it was a treat to cross paths with a school of bluefish. At that time you could find it at places that were close to the boat, like the original Legal Seafood in Inman Square -- which predated the chain and was an entirely different beast from the industrial-scale operation it has become, for those that may not have experienced it.

        2. Bluefish is delicious. But it's a bottom feeder, and shouldn't be eaten too much:

          "As a migratory fish near the top of the food chain, bluefish can accumulate many toxins in their system ranging from PCBs to mercury. As with most fish of such nature, they should not be consumed by pregnant or nursing women, or children under six."

          8 Replies
          1. re: escargot3

            That quote is from Wikipedia, and perhaps is borderline.

            According to the rhode island department of health, mercury is low in bluefish. PCBs are a serious concern. However, if you look at some of the raw FDA data, I think you'd have some concern.




            1. re: bbulkow

              You can't possibly eat "too much" bluefish in the San Francisco Bay Area - it's hardly ever available!

              In our industrial world, anything in our food supply has potential problems, from fresh vegetables onwards.


              1. re: mdg

                I s'pose my alert buttons were pushed as I remembered the years on the East Coast when we were warned not to eat it any longer.

                1. re: escargot3

                  I included the links to raw data in some cases. The PCB numbers are above the FDA limits, which is why they've ordered a generic no-eat policy. That's usually saying something - there are no FDA limits on mercury.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Nothing you've linked says the FDA issues a 'no eat' policy.

                    The data are also from the 80's.

                    Everything in moderation.

            2. re: escargot3

              It won't stop me, but the Environmental Defense Fund says it's safe to eat zero meals of bluefish a month due to high levels of mercury and PCBs.


              1. re: escargot3

                Bluefish are certainly not bottom feeders. They're some of the most aggressively predatory fish out there and will chase baitfish throughout the water column and up to the beach. They'll even "skyrocket" - jump completely out of the water and come crashing back down into a ball of bait. Kind of the opposite of a bottom feeder.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  They have high levels of mercury and PCBs because they're high on the food chain.

              2. I'm curious, what does bluefish taste like, texture, compatibles, etc?

                I don't think I've ever had it but I've read smoked, have to have it and chum all in the same thread, so you wonder.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  The simplest description I can come up with is a really large mackerel, though Wikipedia doesn't really bear me out in this. Fast, muscular, predatory fish that run in schools. The ones I caught as a kid were big for me, running around 5 lbs, but apparently on the small side of the bluefish distribution. Chum is probably not correct. They are used as bait for larger fish like tuna.

                  Like mackerel, they have a fairly gamey taste. If they are not cleaned and thoroughly chilled or frozen quickly, their flesh gets oily and discolored and altogether unappetizing. And, as with mackerel, if you're not careful to completely clean away every little bit of the spinal column, any little taste of that black oily stuff is enough to ruin the dish. Many people cut off all the dark meat that runs the length of the spine, but I like that part as long as the spinal ick is completely cleaned away.

                  If you really like fishy fish, you'll like the gamey taste. If not, stick to mellower white fish like cod, rockfish, etc.

                  1. re: BernalKC

                    Exactly - it's similar to mackerel or sardines, but it's a bigger fish. The dark meat is often the tastiest bit so I was happy to see some in my serving at Hayes Street.


                  2. re: ML8000

                    Yeah, similar to mackerel. Really good mackerel.