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Fisherman's Wharf

sallyawalk Jul 9, 2011 04:54 PM

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!

  1. wolfe Jul 9, 2011 05:04 PM

    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
      bobcam90 Jul 9, 2011 05:46 PM

      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
        Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 10:32 AM

        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
        pikawicca Jul 11, 2011 08:23 AM

        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. Civil Bear Jul 9, 2011 05:32 PM

        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
          rworange Jul 9, 2011 08:13 PM

          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
            nocharge Jul 9, 2011 09:58 PM

            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
              rworange Jul 10, 2011 12:49 AM

              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
                nocharge Jul 10, 2011 02:28 AM

                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
                  cosmogrrl Jul 10, 2011 05:16 PM

                  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
                    Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 05:35 PM

                    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
                Civil Bear Jul 10, 2011 10:32 AM

                >>"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
                  Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 10:38 AM

                  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
                    rworange Jul 10, 2011 10:43 AM

                    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
                      soupçon Jul 10, 2011 11:55 AM

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

                  2. re: rworange
                    jman1 Aug 5, 2011 10:15 PM

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

                    1. re: jman1
                      rworange Aug 6, 2011 02:04 PM

                      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. b
                  bobcam90 Jul 9, 2011 05:43 PM

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

                  1. soupçon Jul 9, 2011 08:25 PM

                    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
                      rworange Jul 9, 2011 08:37 PM

                      Is it the same chan restaurant with a different name?

                      1. re: rworange
                        soupçon Jul 9, 2011 08:43 PM

                        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
                          jman1 Aug 5, 2011 10:25 PM

                          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
                        nocharge Jul 9, 2011 10:16 PM

                        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
                          walker Jul 10, 2011 12:02 AM

                          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
                            Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 10:20 AM

                            Revised: Never mind, I was confusing two chains.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              walker Jul 10, 2011 11:26 AM

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

                      3. b
                        budnball Jul 9, 2011 08:55 PM

                        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. s
                          sugartoof Jul 10, 2011 12:36 AM

                          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
                            misterb Jul 10, 2011 11:14 AM

                            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. otis Jul 10, 2011 09:01 AM

                            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
                              bobcam90 Jul 10, 2011 09:32 AM

                              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
                                sugartoof Jul 10, 2011 12:08 PM

                                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
                                  Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 12:33 PM

                                  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
                                    sugartoof Jul 10, 2011 04:40 PM

                                    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. scubadoo97 Jul 10, 2011 09:38 AM

                                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
                                  wolfe Jul 10, 2011 09:59 AM

                                  La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

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

                                  1. re: scubadoo97
                                    Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2011 10:23 AM

                                    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
                                      jman1 Aug 5, 2011 10:19 PM

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

                                      1. re: jman1
                                        Robert Lauriston Aug 6, 2011 11:11 AM

                                        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
                                          jman1 Aug 6, 2011 12:54 PM

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

                                  2. m
                                    margob111 Jul 10, 2011 08:35 PM

                                    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
                                      walker Jul 10, 2011 10:18 PM

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

                                      1. re: walker
                                        sallyawalk Jul 11, 2011 04:18 AM

                                        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
                                          walker Jul 11, 2011 10:41 AM

                                          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. Chandavkl Jul 10, 2011 10:17 PM

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

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Chandavkl
                                        rworange Jul 10, 2011 11:17 PM

                                        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
                                          sallyawalk Jul 11, 2011 04:20 AM

                                          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
                                            rworange Jul 11, 2011 08:13 AM

                                            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
                                              mlou72 Aug 7, 2011 05:18 PM

                                              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
                                            soupçon Jul 11, 2011 09:41 AM

                                            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
                                              rworange Jul 11, 2011 10:22 AM

                                              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
                                                Glencora Jul 11, 2011 10:56 AM

                                                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
                                                  jason carey Jul 11, 2011 10:51 PM

                                                  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
                                                    sugartoof Jul 12, 2011 12:24 AM

                                                    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
                                                      Robert Lauriston Jul 12, 2011 09:22 AM

                                                      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
                                                cosmogrrl Jul 12, 2011 12:04 AM

                                                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. s
                                                sallyawalk Aug 5, 2011 07:04 PM

                                                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
                                                  rworange Aug 5, 2011 07:10 PM

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

                                                  1. re: sallyawalk
                                                    scottca075 Aug 7, 2011 09:40 AM

                                                    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
                                                      sallyawalk Aug 7, 2011 11:50 AM

                                                      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. j
                                                    jman1 Aug 5, 2011 10:21 PM

                                                    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

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