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Jul 9, 2011 04:54 PM

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.

                        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