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Fisherman's Wharf

I know, it is touristy and not the best food in SF for sure. But I will be in the area on a Monday night, coming back from Alcatraz at about 6 pm, and will be looking for dinner with a hungry 16 year old. I don't want to have to park again (we have to drive on to Sacramento that night), so figure we will try to eat in the area after getting off the boat. We eat most anything -- price is not an issue, although we will likely be dressed very casually, and probably don't want to take more than about an hour and half to eat so we can get on the road. I checked out several pages of threads by searching "wharf" on this board, and mostly just found warnings to stay away :) But since we really are probably going to eat there, I wondered if anyone had any suggestions. Thanks!

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  1. Check Fog City Diner actually closer than Fisherman's Wharf.

    Fog City Diner
    1300 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      I haven't been to FCD in over 20 years. Just checked their menu and it looks great. So I'll second that recommendation.

      1. re: bobcam90

        Albona's not far and is good but is closed Mondays.

        The sidewalk seating at Fog City is nice but I've only had drinks there in recent years. Michael Bauer called it a tourist trap last month.

        Il Fornaio in the next block has always been reliable if not exciting, though it was recently purchased by Arby's.

      2. re: wolfe

        I agree -- FCD is a great spot. The 16-year-old will love the atmosphere, and the food is solid. For oyster lovers, they have a wonderful selection available on the half-shell.

      3. Do a search for Butterfly. I have never eaten there, but it is at the same pier as the Alcatraz ferry (I think), and it gets pretty good reviews from locals.

        Pier 33, The Embarcadero at Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

        12 Replies
        1. re: Civil Bear

          Has it gotten better in the past year? All I remember is bad reports about Butterfly on Chowhound. It only gets little over 3 stars on yelp. If they are going that far, they might as well go to Piperade.

          I haven't been to the wharf in over a year, but things change slowly down there. Here's some lists I put together.

          Best Bets - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants


          Tourist traps - SF Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants


          If it is on Pier 39, you can pretty much count on it being overpriced drek though with good views. Pretty much the same restaurant group owns most of the restaurants. Two exceptions, sort of - Chowders and Crab House.

          First of all, clam chowder in a sourdough bowl is NOT something locals eat unless they are playing tourist. Boudin is best known for this, but it is their own canned chowder. There have been better reports about Chowders on Pier 39 where my understanding is that the chowder is made from scratch.

          Crab House has gotten a few good reports. It is part of a local restaurant group that also owns the Franciscan at the wharf. The Franciscan is kind of worn, and, IMO, not one of the better of the group's restaurants. They all do try. They mimic whatever the local trend of the moment may be and they serve Acme bread which is a very good local artisan Bakery.

          My favorite seafood joint is Scoma's. They have their own fishing boats. This is HIGHLY qualified. I like them for lunch and I only like the fish. The sides are really mediocre. The prices at night are stupidly expensive. The portions are megasized. A strategy might be to split a portion at night ... but again ... it's the 3 course lunch special that is what makes me a repeat diner.

          Boudin Bistro (upstairs) has its ups and downs. I've been there at times when the food was better than ok and other times when it was over-priced and gimmicky. I can't tell you how the menu is currently. You take your chances there. Nice room and good view though.

          If you are looking for fish, wherever you go, ask what is being caught locally. All of these joints serve fish from all parts of the world.

          Here's the restaurants flagged as Fisherman's Wharf in the restaurant database. Not every one has a report. Seriously, ignore the star ratings. Very few people use them on Chowhounds and the ratings I see currently are stupdi.


          As another poster mentioned, nearby North Beach might be the better choice. Tony's pizza might be a good choice. Here's a list of North Beach restaurants. Again, ignore the ratings. There are raves for places like Stinking Rose which is a chian serving mediocre drek.

          Hope you report back whatever you choose.

          1. re: rworange

            I was at the Franciscan not too long ago and it didn't seem worn at all. I believe it underwent some major remodeling a few years ago.

            1. re: nocharge

              When it changed owners, they remodeled. Last time I was there was about a year and a half ago.

              How did you like the food?

              1. re: rworange

                The food was fine but we only ordered stuff that they would be unlikely to screw up. Usually what we would do at that kind of place.

                1. re: rworange

                  I like the food there. Especially their sizzling platters of shellfish; fresh and tasty. I lie the their Ciopinno too. Not the best, but tasty. Great views. Definitely better than the usual swill that is served down there. And always on my list of places to take out of towners to who want the view.

                  1. re: cosmogrrl

                    Franciscan is owned by the same corporation that owns the Stinking Rose, Crab House, Calzone's, Bobo's, Dead Fish, the Old Clam House, and Salito's.

                    Stinking Rose
                    325 Columbus, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    1450 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                    Old Clam House
                    299 Bay Shore Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94124

                    Dead Fish
                    20050 San Pablo Avenue, Crockett, CA 94525

                    Crab House
                    3395 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051

              2. re: rworange

                >>"If they are going that far, they might as well go to Piperade."

                Are you sure we are talking about the same place? Butterfly is very close to the Alcatraz ferry launch.

                1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  Butterfly and the Alcatraz ferry are both at Pier 33.

                  If you park at the Ampco garage at Lombard and Sansome, you'll be close to Il Fornaio, Piperade, and Fog City.

                  1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. re: Civil Bear

                    Did it move? Looking at both maps, Butterfy is farther away than Piperade. Or is the Alcatraz ferry in a different location these days? I've been away for a while.

                    Actually, I don't think either place would warm the heart of a 16 year old.

                    1. re: rworange

                      The Alcatraz tours are now run by Hornblower, not Red & White and leave from Pier 33.

                  2. re: rworange

                    I've tried clicking on your lists, but they are all empty. Perhaps it's a chowhound bug.

                    1. re: jman1

                      Engineering has been working on some infrastructure changes. I'll give it a try tommorrow and see if it is more than a temporary glitch.

                2. Do a search for North Beach. Walking distance and lots of choices.

                  1. Hillstone f.k.a. Houston's is just across the street from the Alcatraz pier and certainly can feed a hungry 16 year old boy.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: soupçon

                      Is it the same chan restaurant with a different name?

                      1. re: rworange

                        Hillstone is a restaurant group which rebranded some outlets of some of its acquisitions as flagship "Hillstone." restaurants. http://www.hillstone.com/

                        1. re: soupçon

                          Haven't been since the name change, but I'd suggest that it would be a good choice for most teenagers (esp. if they are meat and potatoes types).

                      2. re: soupçon

                        I like to go to Hillstone now and then. The food, while not particularly interesting, gets the job done and the ambience is nice and warm. I know a lot of locals who go there regularly, something that is not the case with the touristy places in Fisherman's Wharf.

                        1. re: nocharge

                          They have free corkage and are busy every day. The baby back ribs are excellent and portions are not skimpy. Excellent key lime pie, when they have it. The mgr told me they make it there, from scratch .. squeezing fresh key limes themselves!

                          (It used to be called Houston's .. seems exactly the same except prices edging upwards (like every place else, I guess.)

                          1. re: walker

                            Revised: Never mind, I was confusing two chains.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Did you go to the one in SF, Montgomery/Francisco?

                      3. I would give Pier 23 a shot. Simple clean seafood and fun attitude. Dress Warm!
                        I was at Butterfly on Thursday after noon and it is fine for grazing. The Happy hour bar menu is fun and is pretty cheap.

                        Pier 23 Cafe
                        The Embarcadero and Union St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        1. I've heard good things about the Hillstone.

                          If you end up running late, or decide to do something extremely low key, there's an In and Out on the Wharf.

                          North Beach is very close. You'll need to drive, and if you're not blessed with parking, just give in to putting it in a lot. Once there, you'll have plenty of choices within walking distance to pick from.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sugartoof

                            We saw Butterfly on Check Please thought it looked good and tried to drop in. Apparently many others had seen the same show, so we were sent across the street to Hillstone. While it is part of the Hillstone chain with Houston's (as is Rutherford Grill), I think there is a fair amount of variation between spots. Upshot is: we were quite happy and I agree that this would be a place both Mom and 16 year old can find something they will like.

                            Rutherford Grill
                            1180 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA 94558

                          2. Boudin may not be gourmet dining but the baking bread smells great and it's cheap if you eat in the informal part vs the more "formal" restaurant.

                            Also, if your home is not near an In N Out that is probably the best choice of all. I have a 14 1/2 year old son, have recently relocated to a burger deprived area, and this is always our first stop when returning to SF.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: otis

                              But, IMO, the bread is shamefully mediocre. Having not had it, we took a loaf to NYC to give to friends. I was shocked and embarassed how totally not sour it was.

                              1. re: bobcam90

                                Bobcam90, tIt's been the topic of some spirited discussion here, but it's true, the days of a sour sourdough are pretty much gone. Sometimes Boudin hits the spot anyway.

                                1. re: bobcam90

                                  My top 10 Bay Area sourdoughs that remind me of what I grew up eating:

                                  2. Acme Italian (sourness varies from day to day)
                                  3. Boudin special bake for Tadich
                                  5. Boudin
                                  9. Bordenave round loaf, dark, extra-sour (sold at Spenger's)

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Acme over Tadich? ....Okay, Wow. It's not a sour bread.

                                    The Bordenave is the sleeper, but only if you're lucky enough to find it fresh.

                                    Anyway, there's probably no reason to hijack this thread with another sourdough discussion.

                              2. We had dinner at La Mar which is very close to the Alcatraz boat landing. The cebiche was good. Fresh fish and interesting food overall.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                  La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

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

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    La Mar is at Pier 1.5, close to the Ferry Building. The Alcatraz ferry landing is at Pier 33, a mile away.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I'll just be pedantic and say that Google maps says .8 mile walking.

                                      1. re: jman1

                                        Says 0.9 for me. What's very close to La Mar is the Gate B dock for the Blue & Gold ferries to Tiburon and Vallejo.


                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          ;-) I see. Difference is your route includes walking from the pier to the Embarcadero and mine including only walking along the Embarcadero.

                                  2. Go to Scoma's - you can share an entree with your son (portions are large) and they have valet parking.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: margob111

                                      FREE valet parking. No reservations so go early if you don't want a wait.

                                      1. re: walker

                                        Yes, I noticed the "no reservations" policy. We would probably be getting there around 6:20-ish, I figure, on a weeknight. Is that early enough, or are we in for a long wait?

                                        1. re: sallyawalk

                                          At that time, there'd either be no wait or a short one. (I think/hope.) The fried sand dabs are great, if available.

                                    2. For somebody from out of state, In-n-Out Burger, hands down.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                        For a chain food it is good ... but it is still just fast food. It gets enough 'meh' posts.


                                        Sometimes it is stronger than 'meh'

                                        In-N-Out Burger sucks (moved from L.A. board)


                                        1. re: rworange

                                          We do intend to try In-N-Out, but we will have a chance while we are down in the LA area prior to this swing up to San Francisco.

                                          1. re: sallyawalk

                                            Though my post had a link starting out why someone hated it., I included it because there were lots of comments about why people loved it.

                                            IMO, the best options are the not-so-secret secret menu options.

                                            If you are driving to LA, depending on the road, there are a few In-N-Out burgers along the way.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              You're right about the secret menu. I think it gets a lot better once you customize your order, which of course means several visits and not just one stop on the way back to the airport. Mustard fried patty, grilled whole onion, double tomato, chopped chili peppers... *drool* Still, it's fast food, but it's all fresh and tasty and the employees are awesome and will do anything you want with the ingredients they have on hand (shocking for a fast food joint).

                                              Just don't ever ask if they have mayo....

                                          2. re: rworange

                                            I'd say it's definitely forgettable. There's a reason the only location in SF that could sustain an In-N-Out is Fisherman's Wharf. There are no taste receptors in the human palate for secret menu terms and Biblical references.

                                            1. re: soupçon

                                              Yeah, but it is one of those moth-to-flame type of joints. The hype is so bright people get sucked in. I've had my share of joints I had to try despite being warned. That being said, I don't dislike it anymore than any other fast food joint. It is just best not to go into thinking it is the holy grail burger. It is what is is.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                It's definitely case of moth-to-flame. I finally tried the one in Marin, just out of curiosity. The place was packed. It seemed like a lot of people were driving through and jumped of the highway. It was weird. Did not feel like Marin. If I were visiting, I would skip it and go to a place with a more local vibe.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  It is a lemming effect with In and Out, like Shake Shack in NYC.. there are hundreds of better burgers everywhere.

                                                  1. re: jason carey

                                                    At least people admit In and Out is fast food chain. It's not contending for The City's best burger in polls, or getting name dropped as a must visit in every Chowhound thread.

                                                    1. re: jason carey

                                                      I'm not a fan of In-N-Out, but their burgers are probably the best in their low price range ($2.10? for a basic hamburger). If I were in some godforsaken place where there was nothing to eat except chain fast food, I'd be happy to see one.

                                              2. re: Chandavkl

                                                It's fast food, but very good for fast food. But that's not saying much. However i do like the single burger animal style because for me it's just the right size and tasty for the simple burger it is.

                                              3. Just a quick update, since we are back from our trip. Ended up at Scoma's, and had a great meal. The carmel sauce they serve with their desserts is fabulous, so it is one thing they do well in addition to the seafood.

                                                We tried an In N Out burger while on the road elsewhere in the state, and thought they were great. Probably wouldn't have tried them without your tips out here, so thanks! That will be on our list for sure if we get back to CA.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: sallyawalk

                                                  Thanks for reporting back and the tip about the caramel sauce at Scoma's.

                                                  1. re: sallyawalk

                                                    Curious what you had at Scoma's (if you remember). It is one of the few places I'll go to FW for and I usually go for cioppino and that is more out of habit because I have been eating it there for so long.

                                                    And as fast food goes, In 'n Out is a pretty good burger compared to the rest.

                                                    1. re: scottca075

                                                      Yes, I can tell you what we had at Scoma's. I had the fixed price dinner ($39.50). Included the Dungeness Crab Cake on Watercress Salad, Broiled Scallops on Linguini Pomodora with Pesto Granish, and the tiramasu & sourdough bread pudding dessert. My kid had the Linguine Pomodara with prawns and the walnut brownie with triple espresso ice cream & carmel sauce. I thought the crab cake was especially good, and the scallops were great (although only 4 of them, which I thought was a bit sparse).

                                                      They did have the sand dabs, but I had missed the recommendation on them above, or would have tried those. The sand dabs sold out pretty quickly, at around 6:30 I heard our waitress tell the next table that there were only 2 plates left.

                                                  2. If you are willing to walk one half of a mile, Piperade is almost in your area and quite good.

                                                    Oops, saw it was already mentioned, so I'll just add the walking distance.

                                                    1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111