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Bay Area Fish Shacks?

Juniper May 8, 2010 07:01 PM

I'm going to be based in and around San Jose for the next month or so and I was doing some research into good eats. I came across a post referring to "west coast fish shacks" and was intrigued. However, I wasn't able to find many other specific mentions about them in other posts. Would anyone be able to shed some light on which fish shacks are worthwhile in the Bay Area? Also open to suggestions for crab/lobster/clam/other seafood shacks, and suggestions that are a day-trip away as well.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Ruth Lafler RE: Juniper May 8, 2010 07:10 PM

    I wouldn't bother. There aren't any "fish shacks" that I'd consider "destination" places from San Jose. In addition, lobsters and clams aren't local, and local crab is for all practical purposes out of season. A real local fish shack this time of year would mostly be featuring local flatfish (e.g., halibut, petrale sole, rex sole, sand dabs).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler
      bbulkow RE: Ruth Lafler May 8, 2010 07:41 PM

      Although I agree in principle,

      The oyster shacks on tomales bay are probably the closest to what you're after. Long drive though.

      Santa Cruz might be the closest possible option to San Jose. I don't know of any fish places there - CS never seems to have that great food. I think they're discussed on another board.

      Barbera's Fish Trap in Princeton-by-the-sea gets good reviews. Maybe a little more like a restaurant than a shack, but reputed to have good local whatever.

      Jonathan's Fish and Chips is closer than either (menlo park), but is a soul-food-fried-catfish kind of place. I think they mostly traffic in frozen fish. Still tasty.

    2. Robert Lauriston RE: Juniper May 8, 2010 09:16 PM

      Second on Barbara's Fish Trap.

      The Marshall Store for barbecued oysters. For some reason the place link doesn't come up in the search:


      Barbara's Fish Trap
      281 Capistrano Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

      1. m
        ML8000 RE: Juniper May 8, 2010 09:34 PM

        I'll disagree on Barbara's and raise you guys a Flying Fish Grill. Looks like a shack and total tourist trap from the highway but seafood is very good and reasonably priced (almost cheap to low moderate)...isn't that a shack? A few twists like rice bran oil and tempura batter but it works on the deep fried stuff, actually a real improvement.

        Flying Fish Grill
        99 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

        1. moto RE: Juniper May 8, 2010 10:44 PM

          if the obscure object of desire is a minimum frills place with very fresh ingredients, simply prepared, Fish in Sausalito might fit your requirement. if it's shack-style decor you seek, it would not suit--it's closer to a bright, modern cafe, but it's next to the water. to my taste, the food at Barbara's Fish Trap is decent but not worth a special trip.

          Barbara's Fish Trap
          281 Capistrano Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

          2 Replies
          1. re: moto
            bbulkow RE: moto May 9, 2010 02:30 AM

            1 hr 10 mins from downtown San Jose.

            1. re: bbulkow
              Shane Greenwood RE: bbulkow May 9, 2010 07:13 AM

              And quite pricey. Do read up on this place before going.

          2. wolfe RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 04:09 AM

            Not sure it's worth a day trip but Art's Crab Shak, Oakland.

            Art's Crab Shak
            4031 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

            5 Replies
            1. re: wolfe
              Robert Lauriston RE: wolfe May 9, 2010 09:28 AM

              Despite the name, Art's is more of a soul-food place, like JJ.

              Another sort of upscale take on a fish shack (like Fish! and Old Port) is Woodhouse.

              350 Harbor Dr, Sausalito, CA 94965

              Woodhouse Fish Company
              2073 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

              Woodhouse Fish Company
              1914 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

              Art's Crab Shak
              4031 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston May 9, 2010 09:43 AM

                Please explain the difference between a crab shack and a soul food place.

                1. re: wolfe
                  Ruth Lafler RE: wolfe May 9, 2010 11:31 AM

                  I think mikeh h described a "fish shack" pretty well: a casual place on the coast where they serve fresh-off-the-boat seafood.

                  1. re: wolfe
                    Robert Lauriston RE: wolfe May 9, 2010 11:41 AM

                    There's certainly some overlap between the two, but your classic fish shack would be on the coast and would not have hush puppies, fried okra, catfish (or any fresh-water fish), wings, or collard greens, while it would be odd for a soul-food fish place's menu to be missing any of those items.

                    1. re: wolfe
                      moto RE: wolfe May 10, 2010 12:58 AM

                      it's like the Supreme Court justice said about knowing porn when he saw it, if you walked into Art's you'd know it isn't a fish shack. The neighborhood is basically the northern edge of Oakland's 'auto row', and the ambience would fit the archetype of a neighborhood bar and grill, if you didn't know that it's called Crab Shak.

                2. Shane Greenwood RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 07:15 AM

                  Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City. Not local, but flown in fresh lobster and the ambiance you might be looking for (on the inside)

                  Old Port Lobster Shack
                  851 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City, CA 94063

                  1. k
                    kc72 RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 07:22 AM

                    Dia De Pesca

                    Dia de Pesca
                    55 N Bascom Avenue, San Jose, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kc72
                      Shane Greenwood RE: kc72 May 9, 2010 08:07 AM

                      This is a taco truck that specializes in fish dishes. They are pretty good at fish tacos.

                      1. re: Shane Greenwood
                        bbulkow RE: Shane Greenwood May 9, 2010 08:25 AM

                        Since we don't have fish shacks so much, maybe the OP would prefer a taco truck crawl?

                    2. Juniper RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 11:03 AM

                      Thanks, everyone, for the leads (though it sounds like the pickings are slim). But I am looking forward to having some super fresh seafood while I'm here since I'm not usually this close to an ocean. I'll do a bit more research on the suggestions you've supplied and will report back if I get the chance to make the trek out to some of these places.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Juniper
                        Ruth Lafler RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 11:34 AM

                        I'll put this a different way: there are places that are serving fresh, local seafood that aren't fish shacks. If you want to make a trip out to the coast to enjoy the coast (which I recommend) that's one thing. But don't do it just to get fresh seafood.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Juniper RE: Ruth Lafler May 9, 2010 11:45 AM

                          Thanks, Ruth. From your previous reply that's what I gathered. So if some of these places happen to be on the way to another day-trip destination, I'll venture in. Otherwise, it's been noted that it's not quite worth the trek for these places alone.

                        2. re: Juniper
                          Robert Lauriston RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 11:47 AM

                          Even if you go to the ocean, typically most or sometimes all of the fish comes from the airport. If you want fresh, local seafood, you're better off going to places that specialize in that. E.g. Scoma's owns its own boat, Hog Island Oyster Bar raises its own oysters and clams, Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station buys almost exclusively local ingredients.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Juniper RE: Robert Lauriston May 9, 2010 11:52 AM

                            Thanks, Robert, for the recommendations. I'll definitely look into these and also search the board for places that specialize in local foods.

                            I was hoping that the fish shacks would be like the sort you find on the east coast, or even in Asia, where you hang out by the dock with a local fisherman who sells and prepares his day's catch.

                            But no worries. I'll find other ways to get my fresh seafood fix while I'm here!

                            1. re: Juniper
                              Ruth Lafler RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 09:06 PM

                              The geography coast here is very different. Unlike coastal areas that have wide coastal plains and are threaded with estuaries, there are relatively few places to launch a boat and most of the fishing is deep water fishing in larger boats -- there are very few places where you can have a dock on tidal rivers where a guy with a boat can go out for a couple of hours and come back with his fish.

                        3. m
                          mikeh RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 11:19 AM

                          It doesn't seem that people in this thread are making any distinction between places that are serving locally-caught seafood versus places importing seafood in that happen to be casual.

                          Unfortunately there's not a lot of selection out here. I grew up in the Southeast where you find coastal fish shacks where they can name the fisherman and location that each item on your plate came from. I guess there just isn't much of a local seafood industry out here to facilitate that. Even places like Flying Fish grill, I imagine they're using flown-in products.

                          I would definitely check out Fish in Sausalito though, because at the very least they are using sustainable stuff. So you at least know that the quality of their sourcing is different from a transnational "trucking seafood in" company like Sysco or US Foods:


                          1. openhelix RE: Juniper May 9, 2010 02:08 PM

                            Prolly a shack by silicon valley standards, but I'm surprised no one's mentioned Race St. Fish in San Jose. They are a fish market, but also serve their fresh fish in simple but delicious ways!

                            1. eatzalot RE: Juniper May 10, 2010 09:52 AM

                              I read through this topic and was surprised to see only passing mention of Santa Cruz (more or less the nearest coast to San Jose, circa half-hour car trip in light traffic).

                              Driving out to the Boardwalk area, to the right side of the boardwalk (left of Cowell's beach) is a pier poking out some distance, with several simple fresh seafood places, with daily specials posted. There's parking along the pier, more parking on shore, and people often walk out (half mile or so?) along the pier.

                              We often stop there for a crab sandwich (if available) or fresh fish when going to the beach. A caution if you hang out on the beach with food: Larcenous seagulls won't hesitate to rifle a bag of take-out food if you leave it unattended for a while. (The tuition I paid for that lesson was an order of French fries that had come with a fish sandwich.)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: eatzalot
                                Ruth Lafler RE: eatzalot May 10, 2010 10:02 AM

                                Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, discussion of Santa Cruz is off topic for this board (I know, but a line had to be drawn somewhere). Maybe you can point Juniper to some relevant discussions about Santa Cruz on the California board.

                                1. re: eatzalot
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: eatzalot May 10, 2010 11:13 AM

                                  The Bay Area board covers the counties that have SF Bay shoreline. Some related Santa Cruz topics on the California board:


                                  1. re: eatzalot
                                    Juniper RE: eatzalot May 10, 2010 01:27 PM

                                    LOL. Your story is reminiscent of how seagulls were portrayed in Finding Nemo -- loved that movie!

                                    Anyway, I will search the California board for more info on Santa Cruz, but thanks for the confirmation that what I seek does in fact exist within a reasonable distance of where I am. Look forward to some adventures along the coast with chowhound tips on hand!

                                  2. escargot3 RE: Juniper May 10, 2010 10:02 AM

                                    It's not a "fish shack" as such, but in nearby Palo Alto, a good resto for fish (and a place to purchase a good selection of fresh raw fish) is The Fish Market.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: escargot3
                                      eatzalot RE: escargot3 May 10, 2010 11:04 AM

                                      The Fish Market is a great suggestion. Good, focused, small regional chain, with (at least when I last went) its own boats. It also has locations closer to the OP than Palo Alto, including Santa Clara (near the Sunnyvale border) and San Jose itself.


                                      1. re: eatzalot
                                        Juniper RE: eatzalot May 10, 2010 01:29 PM

                                        Ooohhh... excellent. I think I heard about this place from a friend and it's nice to hear that it is in fact a good option for what I'm after. Will definitely check it out. Thanks!

                                        1. re: Juniper
                                          Melanie Wong RE: Juniper May 10, 2010 03:19 PM

                                          It's been a while since I've eaten at a Fish Market, but the one in San Mateo used to be a regular stop when I worked nearby. The trick is to do some window shopping at the fish counter before you take a seat. You can judge for yourself which seafood selections look best that day and then order accordingly. And, I'll confess to having many business meetings over a basket of the cheese-y bread.

                                    2. rworange RE: Juniper May 10, 2010 03:57 PM

                                      It was probably me referreing to Fish in Sausalito as a West Coast fish shack .., and it is. It is on the water, tables are manly on the docl. However, prices are high and the presentation is different than on the East Coast,

                                      You are not exactly on the beach at San Jose so no fsh shacks there Race Street also serves seafood. There are many Asian supermarkets where you can pick your fish out of the tank and have someone fry it up on the spot. Some of the fish is local, most not ... but definately alive when you choose them.

                                      If you do go over the mountain to the coast, the choice is south to Santa Cruz and Monterrey which are on the California board ... or north to Half Moon Bay,

                                      I think Princeton Seafood Company at the marina could be your classic seafood joint, Next door is Ketcb Joanne. I don't remember which is which, but the shack on the left as you stand facing them is better. Neither is fancy

                                      1. k
                                        kshennessy RE: Juniper May 31, 2010 06:47 PM

                                        Another place to consider is Nettie's Crab Shack in San Francisco - the food is good, and the environment is definitely 'fish shack-y.' They do a crab feed on Sundays, and have a great patio in front for sunny days.

                                        It's more of a restaurant than Fish in Sausalito (which I also love), and the food is slightly more refined than Woodhouse.

                                        Nettie's Crab Shack
                                        2032 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: kshennessy
                                          Shane Greenwood RE: kshennessy May 31, 2010 08:25 PM

                                          Always worth noting that this time of year crab is not in season around here so they'll be serving non-local, probably frozen crab. They tout Michael Bauer's review and his quote, "the crab was the best I've ever had..." But his review in the prime of crab season in December. So if seasonality and freshness matter, it's worth knowing what you're getting.

                                          1. re: Shane Greenwood
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 1, 2010 08:47 AM

                                            Nettie's menu says "local crab." That would have to be frozen this time of year. Unless by "local" they mean North America.

                                            Lots of places have tanks with live crabs year round or close to it. This time of year they're coming from British Columbia or Alaska.

                                          2. re: kshennessy
                                            Val RE: kshennessy Jun 26, 2010 12:53 PM

                                            My son and I tried Nettie's last week when I was in San Francisco to visit him...we LOVED it...his dungeness crab sandwich came with rosemary shoestring fries...ooooh!!! The rosemary was fried bright green, and not battered....we loved it ... his sandwich came on a type of bread that just melted in his mouth; lovely and abundant pieces of crabmeat, whether in season or not, it was totally delicious. I had the warm fresh grilled sardine salad...totally loved it, never having had fresh sardines before but love the canned ones. That's a great little place but not at all like a shack (to me, anyway--we sat outside as the weather was sunny that day).

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