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Landlocked chowhounder seeking the best SF-area seafood

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spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 06:25 AM

Our seafood-deprived family will be in SF for a week in July, staying in Pacific Heights (but with a rental car), and as I plan a trip that will be part-food pilgrimage, one of the things I'll be seeking is great fish and shellfish. Among the targets are West Coast-only items such as Dungeness Crab (which I can only get at home cooked and frozen). I love all types of cuisine and am adventurous.

Which places and dishes would be at the top of your list?

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    DavidT RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 10:36 AM

    Sorry, but Dungenss crab (at least the crab locally caught) is out of season during the summer months.

    This topic gets discussed here quite often. It would be worth your while to go to the upper right hand corner of this page and do a search for seafood.

    The "old-school" places that are recommended most often are the Tadich Grill, Sam's Grill and Swan's Oyster Depot.

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    Tadich Grill
    240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    26 Replies
    1. re: DavidT
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      DavidT RE: DavidT Apr 12, 2011 10:38 AM

      Here is one thread on the subject:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/715980

      Here is another: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/731703

      1. re: DavidT
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        spicefinder RE: DavidT Apr 12, 2011 10:53 AM

        Thanks for your help David. I read on SFgate that the Dungeness catching-season goes until July 15 this year; Is that incorrect? Or is it a moot point by July because the catch is exhausted locally?

        One reason I posted, in addition to doing searches, is that food can be seasonal (Dungeness, for example) and access depends in part on location.

        Thanks for the summarizing recommendations for "old-school" places, Do you have a preference among the three? Since I'm an adventurous eater, I'm also curious in less old-school options.

        1. re: spicefinder
          Robert Lauriston RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 10:59 AM

          Dungeness is almost always available, it just comes from places farther north, all the way up to Alaska. If the crab's not alive when you order it, you have no guarantee it wasn't frozen.

          1. re: spicefinder
            JasmineG RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:30 AM

            You'll like Bar Crudo if you want less old school options. Also, definitely go to Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building.

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            Bar Crudo
            655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

            1. re: JasmineG
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              spicefinder RE: JasmineG Apr 12, 2011 11:51 AM

              Thanks for both suggestions. I see oysters and other crudo are the stars but the roasted sardines at Bar Cruso look intriguing too.

            2. re: spicefinder
              Windy RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:32 AM

              The catch is probably already exhausted locally for this year now. The season started in November.

              Contrary to popular belief, this isn't an area that has a ton of local fish and seafood, and a lot of restaurant fish comes from out of the area. Do try fresh sardines and sand dabs while you're here.

              Anything called a seafood restaurant is old school in my view. Asian restaurants are a great place to explore, as vliang points out: lots of good seafood in this area from Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants. Skool is a fun new place with a Japanese chef and commitment to sustainability.

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              Skool
              1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              1. re: Windy
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                spicefinder RE: Windy Apr 12, 2011 11:48 AM

                Thanks for the very informative post. I may have to persuade my wife to quit her job as a teacher so we can come the next time when fresh dungeness is available.

                Interesting point about the gap between reputation and reality. Another summer spot we enjoy, Aruba, is similar -- the local catch is to scarce and chaotic to support any of the major restaurants, which buy fish caught off the Venezuelan coast and returned to the mainland first. That said, there is one small place we love where the chef owns a fishing boat and gets his own catch daily.

                Looking forward to sardines. I eat a lot of the canned stuff at home but nothing like fresh.

                Sand dabs would be new for me — just did some reading about them and they have a lot of qualities I enjoy in a fish.

                I'm with you on seafood restaurants. Thanks for the Skool recommendation; any others that standout? I love Vietnamese and regional Chinese cooking. Then again, I also love Italian and French.

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                Skool
                1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. re: spicefinder
                  Windy RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:55 AM

                  Most SF Italian restaurants (and there is a lot of interesting regional Italian here) will have some kind of fresh fish or seafood. La Ciccia and Incanto are both excellent, especially for adventurous diners.

                  For Vietnamese, PPQ Dungeness Island way out by the Legion of Honor does have fresh crab year round, even if it comes from further north.

                  Of the old school places, I love sitting at the bar at Swan, and they have very good cured salmon as well as local oysters and clams. Lunch only, closed Sundays, cash only, always a line.

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                  La Ciccia
                  291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                  1. re: Windy
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                    spicefinder RE: Windy Apr 12, 2011 01:04 PM

                    Great suggestions. I was just looking earlier this week at La Ciccia's website — someone I only know through a University of Virginia website who moved to SF in August was kind enough to send me a spreadsheet of favorite places and La Ciccia was among the choices. My wife is from Southern Italy near the borders of Campagna, Puglia and Molise and we have tried to eat our ways through the regions of Italy but not yet Sardinia, so that would be an excellent choice. Thanks too for the Incanto recommendation

                    PPQ Dungeness Island sounds as if it's our best and closest choice for fresh crab and it's actually not that far from where we are staying near the southeast corner of the Presidio. Any one or two of their crab dished that you especially recommend?

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                    La Ciccia
                    291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                    1. re: spicefinder
                      Windy RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 01:11 PM

                      It sounds like you and your wife would really enjoy La Ciccia; the owners are lovely people, and the food is delicious.

                      Stick to the classics at PPQ: salt and pepper or garlic. Swan and Woodhouse, mentioned by several people on this thread, also have great classic crab preps; Woodhouse does a white wine and garlic that's very good.

                      Incanto can be wonderful, but more for how ambitious the food is than any kind of Italian authenticity.

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                      La Ciccia
                      291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                    2. re: Windy
                      hill food RE: Windy Apr 12, 2011 07:04 PM

                      Windy I LOVE Swan's if only for the window display, but are the stools that uncomfortable on purpose? these are all great suggestions above and below in the thread, I would add Anchor Oyster Bar down in the Castro (straight, um direct, shot down Divis across Market past 18 driving from Pac Heights or taking the 26), even though a large amount of the bivalves are flown in.

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                      Anchor Oyster Bar
                      579 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                      1. re: hill food
                        Robert Lauriston RE: hill food Apr 12, 2011 07:06 PM

                        24, not the 26.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          hill food RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2011 07:12 PM

                          sheesh, I was never good with numbers...and to think I lived in the lower Haight and Alamo Sq. for about 5 years. lucky I found my way home each night.

                          1. re: hill food
                            Robert Lauriston RE: hill food Apr 12, 2011 07:17 PM

                            Better than having to find parking in the Castro, anyway.

                        2. re: hill food
                          c oliver RE: hill food Apr 12, 2011 07:08 PM

                          Oh, hill food, I love your description of Anchor tho' I've not been there. Priceless.

                          1. re: hill food
                            Windy RE: hill food Apr 12, 2011 07:54 PM

                            One of these days I'll have to give Anchor a try. Somehow I've never made it, even though I could walk there. Do you stick to the raw bar, or are the cooked things good?

                            The salmon at Swan is worth the uncomfortable stools. (And if they were comfortable, imagine how long the line would be.)

                            1. re: Windy
                              hill food RE: Windy Apr 12, 2011 08:22 PM

                              cooked or raw (I stick / stuck / stank) towards the raw, but I always thought it beat Hayes Street Grill a million years ago in either category (fish shouldn't be dry and chewy IMHO),

                              Robert: that is important info for any visitor to SF, money or time saved by driving can easily be chewed up in finding parking or parking fees. sometimes a cab or bus is better unless one has parking karma raining down like manna.

                          2. re: Windy
                            mariacarmen RE: Windy Apr 13, 2011 07:08 AM

                            Windy, do you know if the crab at Bodega Bistro is fresh? It's good, and I really love them for Vietnamese.... I strongly second Swan - i've loved everything I've had there, and it's always a fun experience. If you get in line by 11:00 you should only have a 20 minute or so wait.

                            and agree on the La Ciccia recommendation too. If they have the cured tuna heart - get it.

                            -----
                            La Ciccia
                            291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                            Bodega Bistro
                            607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                            1. re: mariacarmen
                              Windy RE: mariacarmen Apr 13, 2011 09:47 AM

                              I love Bodega but not sure I've ever had crab there, just the crab spring rolls/lettuce wraps..

                          3. re: spicefinder
                            Ruth Lafler RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:59 AM

                            For fresh, local Dungeness, come during her Xmas break -- that's peak season for California Dungeness (for many SF families it's a Xmas eve or NY's eve tradition).

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
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                              spicefinder RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 12, 2011 01:07 PM

                              We'll bring the Champagne if you bring the crabs!

                              My wife is Italian so we work our way through the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which this past mas-eve included dungeness crab I bought cooked/frozen.

                              1. re: spicefinder
                                c oliver RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 01:15 PM

                                You can order fresh, whole Dungeness crab online. A friend of mine uses a Seattle place. It's not cheap, of course, but cheaper than airfare.

                                1. re: c oliver
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                                  spicefinder RE: c oliver Apr 12, 2011 06:45 PM

                                  Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, while I'm American, I live in Canada, and many things can't be shipped across the border, because, you never know, they could be terrorist crabs. What you can ship costs significantly more. Non-perishable stuff I ship to a border town and pick up but crabs would be a problem. I once lived in rural Ohio where the nearest good restaurant was . . . no where. I'd probably live off mail order if I lived there now.

                        3. re: spicefinder
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                          DavidT RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:43 AM

                          As you are staying in Pac Heights, I would certainly give the Woodhouse Fish Co. (1914 Fillmore St.) a try.

                          I like both Tadich and Sam's Grill. Tadich is bigger, with more tourists, but still retains an genuine feel. There is a large counter where you can eat if it is just the two of you and the wait for a table is too long. Sam's is more of a local place and is smaller/quieter. If you like mussels, try a place called Plouf in Belden Place, just around the corner from Sam's.

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                          Belden Place
                          44 Belden Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104

                          Plouf
                          40 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104

                          Woodhouse Fish Company
                          1914 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

                          1. re: DavidT
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                            spicefinder RE: DavidT Apr 12, 2011 06:48 PM

                            Thanks David. All things equal, it's nice to have some places picked out int the neighborhood so we can walk back to the hotel after dinner. Anything in particular you recommend at Woodhouse Fish Co.?

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                            Woodhouse Fish Company
                            1914 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

                            1. re: spicefinder
                              BernalKC RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 09:31 PM

                              Woodhouse is inspired as a New England clam shack, with decor and menu to match without being too tied down by the motif. The seafood is, to me, good, honest fresh seafood, without an excess of pretension *or* inspiration. Prices are pretty good for a seafood place. Fish & Chips is my regular order. But its all good.

                      2. Robert Lauriston RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 10:43 AM

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/373958

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                          spicefinder RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2011 11:08 AM

                          Thanks Robert. I see the post was from 2007; I'm hoping for more current recommendations because the dining scene can change quickly. restaurants open and close and chefs move. Not that 2007 is that dated —  last time I was in SF was in 1994.

                          1. re: spicefinder
                            c oliver RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:47 AM

                            That thread looks pretty up to date to me. And as Windy wrote, I also think SF isn't quite the local seafood place that alot of people assume it is.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              Windy RE: c oliver Apr 12, 2011 11:57 AM

                              My mother always brags about when she came to SF for the first time, and all they ate was salmon. I'm pretty sure they were thinking of Seattle.

                            2. re: spicefinder
                              Robert Lauriston RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:52 AM

                              That thread is pretty up to date, and I didn't find anything that comprehensive that was newer.

                              North Beach Lobster Shack has since closed. Bar Crudo moved. Sotto Mare is a new place that frequently comes up in that sort of discussion.

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                              Bar Crudo
                              655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

                              Sotto Mare
                              552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                spicefinder RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2011 01:07 PM

                                Thanks Robert!

                          2. b
                            budnball RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 10:52 AM

                            This is the time for Fisherman's Wharf. Sometime the tourist thing is the most fun. Give yourself one afternoon and have crab salad or chowder in a bread bowl and walk around. Most sit down places are very pricey for fair but fresh food, so I would eat at the stalls and wander.
                            This is only for a crab fix in July and I would not say that this is the best of our food scene at all, But if you are in town in July and want easy clean and fresh crab, it's the wharf.
                            FYI bring sweaters.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: budnball
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                              spicefinder RE: budnball Apr 12, 2011 11:03 AM

                              Thanks for the suggestions. Any other crab fixes? I should have mentioned that I've been to SF three times, but not since 1994, and I am not a big fan of Fisherman's Wharf — you find the same sort of crass commercialization that appear at tourist sites around the country. Took my wife there in '94 because she wanted to see it, but 30 minutes there were enough to convince her that there are many other Bay area neighbourhoods that are more fun and interesting to amble through.

                              Sweaters and wind breakers - check. One of the things I love about SF is that you can be in a wind breaker in the NW of the city and then go to shorts and t-shirt weather in the Mission.

                              1. re: spicefinder
                                Robert Lauriston RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:08 AM

                                Recent topic on good crab values:

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/772141

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                                Swan Oyster Depot
                                1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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

                                Woodhouse Fish Company
                                1914 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  s
                                  spicefinder RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2011 11:16 AM

                                  Than you so much for the suggestions. Any sense on whether fresh dungeness will be available in early-July or am I out-of-luck, as David suggests?

                                  1. re: spicefinder
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:30 AM

                                    Live crabs are almost always around. That time of year they're less likely to be local. If the commercial season's still open, you might find local out on the coast, e.g. at Spud Point.

                                    -----
                                    Spud Point Crab Company
                                    1860 Westshore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

                            2. v
                              vliang RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:07 AM

                              Asian preps of dungeness crab in SF are great. Salt and pepper at R&G Lounge and garlic roasted crab at PPQ Island or Thanh Long/Crusteceans. These places usually have tanks and the crabs are alive until they cook them for you. In July, the crabs may not be from waters right off of our shores. Might be further north and the meat might not be at its dense-est and sweetest. But they are fresh fro sure.
                              Also, if you're adventureous and have a car, you might want to check out Koi Palace which is about a 15 min drive south of SF. They specialize in all sorts of live seafood.

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                              Koi Palace Restaurant
                              365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: vliang
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                                Calvinist RE: vliang Apr 12, 2011 12:00 PM

                                Really like PPQ Island for Vietnamese crab, and La Ciccia is an outstanding Sardinian place (get reservations if going) that often has excelent seafood dishes.

                                I have not been to Sotto Mare in North Beach, but I understand they also do the Cioppino, sand dabs, etc. similar Tadich.

                                And I have been to Ichi Sushi in the Mission/Bernal Heights. Very small, excellent fish and great selection of small batch sakes.

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                                La Ciccia
                                291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                Sotto Mare
                                552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                1. re: Calvinist
                                  moto RE: Calvinist Apr 12, 2011 12:05 PM

                                  Sotto Mare does a fine job with old school Cal-Ital seafood dishes and has a friendly, convivial ambience.

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                                  Sotto Mare
                                  552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  1. re: moto
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                                    spicefinder RE: moto Apr 12, 2011 01:34 PM

                                    Thanks moto!

                                    1. re: moto
                                      cosmogrrl RE: moto Apr 12, 2011 02:33 PM

                                      They have excellent sand dabs too! But be prepared to wait.

                                    2. re: Calvinist
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                                      spicefinder RE: Calvinist Apr 12, 2011 01:30 PM

                                      Any or the crab dishes you especially like at PPQ Island? I see they offer it roasted, drunken, curried, spiced and peppercorned, with apologies for creating a new verb.

                                      You're the third to recommend La Ciccia and it's now near the top of my wish-list.

                                      Ichi Sushi sounds very good; I'm just learning about sake from a Japanese friend and all things equal I prefer smaller restaurants.

                                      Sotto Mare sound like a possibility too; it's nice to have some options in various neighbourhoods so we can see what fits in best as we plan what we will do day-to-day.

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                                      La Ciccia
                                      291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                      Sotto Mare
                                      552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                      1. re: spicefinder
                                        twocents RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 09:17 PM

                                        I also love love love La Ciccia but I fear you may be out of luck... I think I heard them say they're taking July off this year (they've done it before). Should they be open, you must go.

                                        -----
                                        La Ciccia
                                        291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                        1. re: spicefinder
                                          Civil Bear RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 11:38 PM

                                          The black pepper crab over garlic noodles is incredibly good!

                                    3. b
                                      Bunson RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 02:59 PM

                                      How about going it a little rough and check out Tomales Bay Oyster Co -

                                      http://www.tomalesbayoysters.com/

                                      They have a picnic area where you can either grill the oysters or just self-shuck and eat them raw.

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                                      Tomales Bay Oyster Co
                                      15479 Highway 1, Marshall, CA

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Bunson
                                        majordanby RE: Bunson Apr 12, 2011 03:17 PM

                                        i second tomales bay...i go here to shuck oysters with friends every year - always fun and yummy!

                                        1. re: Bunson
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                                          spicefinder RE: Bunson Apr 12, 2011 06:51 PM

                                          My better half is sadly not a fan of oysters. Maybe I'll have to sneak out.

                                        2. c oliver RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 03:35 PM

                                          Note to OP: I see you're new to CH. If you haven't noticed it, by scrolling to the bottom of this thread you'll find similar threads. Generally quite helpful.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: c oliver
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                                            spicefinder RE: c oliver Apr 12, 2011 05:32 PM

                                            Thanks c oliver. I had noticed that and made use of it but it was still very thoughtful of you to point it out. Some very good threads linked below. Also a lot of great suggestions on this thread — I have a much better sense of which places I'd most like to try.

                                          2. BernalKC RE: spicefinder Apr 12, 2011 09:44 PM

                                            Which ever landlocked place you come from, you probably don't get a lot of Peruvian food, and we have a lot of it in SF. With some really good seafood offerings, especially if you like ceviche. La Mar Cebicheria is on the high end, and offers an impressive waterfront setting and an approachable menu. If you want to get off the beaten path check out Piqueo's on Bernal Heights. Quite a few other Peruvian options, but those are the ones that come to mind when I think, seafood.

                                            And if you seek sushi, don't be swayed by the naysayers here. There may be better sushi elsewhere, but there's plenty of really good sushi to be had here.

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                                            La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
                                            Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: BernalKC
                                              c
                                              Calvinist RE: BernalKC Apr 13, 2011 01:31 PM

                                              Piqueo's is very good. In the little neighborhood of Bernal Heights. Just up the hill from Ichi Sushi!

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                                              Piqueo's
                                              830 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                              1. re: Calvinist
                                                Robert Lauriston RE: Calvinist Apr 13, 2011 02:13 PM

                                                Have you been to Piqueo's lately? I wonder both it and Mochica it might be suffering from the chef's main attention being on Costanera—which is a great choice if you're out Half Moon Bay way.

                                                -----
                                                Piqueo's
                                                830 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                Mochica
                                                937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                La Costanera
                                                8150 Cabrillo Highway, Montara, CA 94037

                                            2. l
                                              lrealml RE: spicefinder Apr 13, 2011 02:47 AM

                                              If you are looking for CA style fish tacos with fresh fish, Pacific Catch is a great choice.

                                              1. c
                                                Cheesy Oysters RE: spicefinder Apr 13, 2011 12:59 PM

                                                I'd head over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and go to Fish. Whatever they have is fresh, in season, sustainably caught and delicious. It's very casual and Sausalito is fun too.

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                                                Fish
                                                350 Harbor Dr, Sausalito, CA 94965

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Cheesy Oysters
                                                  l
                                                  lrealml RE: Cheesy Oysters Apr 13, 2011 01:54 PM

                                                  +1
                                                  In retrospect Fish should have been one of the first places mentioned... They are exactly what the OP is looking for....

                                                  Good thinking!

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