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Sep 6, 2011 10:15 PM

What fish IS local?

Besides sturgeon and oysters, that is...

Isn't most everything else shipped in?

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  1. Waterbar's menu might give you some idea.
    Of course, a lot of stuff is seasonal locally: Dungeness crab, salmon, etc.

    1. what are your parameters of 'local' ? if you mean south of Fort Bragg and north of San Diego, right now sand dabs, sardines, petrale sole are mainly local (fishmongers should be able to specify their source). the local salmon season ended recently. halibut is sometimes local, depending on the season (doubtful that it's local at present). some rockfish are local, but various species go by that moniker, and are likely on the 'avoid' list in regard to sustainability. albacore , white sea bass, and beautiful live spot prawn can also be local depending on their season, and of course dungeness crab, spiny lobster for part of the year. if you want to confine 'local' to no farther than Bodega or Monterey, you can call the harbours between the two to check the catch, but the boats might be going a bit beyond those boundaries.

      8 Replies
      1. re: moto

        If you're willing to define local to be as far south as San Diego (and I would), a few more (including other non-finned seafood besides fish since oysters were stated in the OP):
        Yellow fin tuna (ahi)
        Yellowtail (amberjack)
        Ling cod
        Santa Barbara and Mendocino uni
        Farmed abalone and manila clams
        Monterey Bay squid
        Humboldt giant squid
        Bolinas black cod (butterfish, gindara, sable)
        Pacific swordfish
        Rock crabs
        Farmed striped bass
        Spanish mackerel

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I have friends coming from Norway who want to dine on "local" seafood. As they are traveling to Mexico after San Francisco, I discount San Diego waters only because it is so much warmer, they get fish we don't and it does have to be brought in.

          I contacted ABS Seafood (one of the larger wholesale purveyors for local restaurants) and they confirmed my fears: Sturgeon and Oysters are the only fish coming out of waters in Northern California that is currently being sold in Bay Area restaurants.

          Even the halibut is coming from Alaska.

          1. re: CarrieWas218

            Salmon was local but I believe the commercial season has closed. Sport season goes til 9/18.

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              You'll have to go beyond fish. Abalone, oysters, squid probably. I thought there was still various cod coming in at HMB, but that was a few weeks ago.

              The large wholesalers might not have the full scoop, either. I'd call places known for local fish like Flea Street in Menlo Park, Boulevard (if you can reach anyone knowledgable).

              The best norway-like experience would probably be a drive to HMB, so you might try calling the harbormaster and see what *they* say. Or princeton seafood.

              Flea Street Cafe
              3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 94025

              1. re: bbulkow

                Local fisherman who sell to restaurants or customers directly are likely to have a wider selection than a larger wholesaler who needs to have large volume on a consistent basis.

                However, I suspect that for people from Norway, "local" can mean "Pacific coast species that they don't see in Norway" and doesn't have to mean SF. I bought some Rex sole at Nob Hill (of all places) that they claimed was fresh and wild.

              2. re: CarrieWas218

                Of those items on my list, only the ahi, yellowtail and uni are from waters south of Monterey. Monterey Bay is about 100 miles from San Francisco, and some of the warmer water fish are brought in by the hardworking fishing fleet there as well. I've seen a whole albacore tuna in a Salinas fish market landed by its own boat. Two weeks ago I bought a gorgeous hunk of albacore loin from a boat that docks in San Luis Bay and made shiro maguro tataki. While the commercial catch is mostly from waters further south, I mention it as an option to consider because your friends might overlook a sushi bar in their travels as a place to find "local" fish. It's my understanding that albacore/shiro maguro (white tuna) is a West Coast thing and not served in Japan.

                A couple others for the local (California) fish list:
                Thresher shark
                Bonito tuna

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  sounds like that wholesaler you contacted isn't dealing in the local flat fish, like sand dabs or various species of sole (petrale or rex), nor in sardines. depending on their business, they might be buying from non-local sources for stuff like sardines because they find the prices or quantities available for the local stuff unfavorable for their needs. or, they might lack the demand they feel necessary for things like albacore, because they can make more $$ with the non-local varieties of tuna.

                  if your friends came this week and got fresh sand dabs in a restaurant, it's nearly certain they'd be local. many restaurants in the area take the time to identify where their seafood is from, so if your friends are making plans, locate those establishments and go from there.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  true enough, but of course the boats from San Diego go even further south. the ling cod and black cod/butterfish I've seen in the bay area markets is often from British Columbia, and swordfish can often be from Hawai'i. it's up to the consumer to find fishmongers who practice transparency in the provenance of their wares.

              3. Port Seafood's daily list is a good source of information on what's currently available. Currently shows local squid, anchovies, sardines, albacore, sand dabs, and rock cod, Delta crayfish, and California swordfish, white bass, king salmon, oysters, and mussels.


                1. If you go to the pier at Princeton by the Sea you can buy directly from the boats. There used to be a chalkboard with notes of who had what each day. I don't know if they still do that. There is also a fish market right next to the could ask.

                  1. Are you looking for fish to cook or for restaurants?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I am looking to recommend local restaurants to the Norwegians who appreciate both sushi and crudo and want a stellar dining experience.

                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                        Can't say it will be a stellar experience, but Hayes Street Grill is good about id'ing origin. Here's a link to the dinner menu,

                        A reference for major species native to California

                        Simplified market names for California fish landings

                        Hayes Street Grill
                        324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          I sent some Norwegians to Ame and they loved it, but the menu doesn't look very local-focused.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            My current list of recommendations includes Ame for that very purpose. I also suggested Sotto Mare just to have a San Francisco specialty, even if the fish isn't local.

                            Other suggestion include Atelier Crenn and Aziza for originality.

                            Sotto Mare
                            552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            Atelier Crenn
                            3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                            1. re: CarrieWas218

                              Just tell them that the idea of "local" is stupid. Because it is. If you are Norwegian, there is very little reason to look for locally caught salmon (or to worry about whether the salmon was caught at Half Moon Bay or Fort Bragg) since the salmon in Norway is very good indeed. The species that are a little more unique to this area are not all that interesting, but I guess it might make sense for someone from some other part of the world to want to try them if they are into the "local food" fetish.

                              However, I think it would make a lot more sense to recommend something that is not easily found in Norway in terms of cuisine rather than the sourcing of the fish. Ame would be an excellent choice in that respect. And I had some recent Scandinavian visitors describe the ceviche and other seafood dishes at La Mar as their culinary highlight of their visit. (They had never been to a Peruvian restaurant before.) Then you have the usual suspects when it comes to sushi restaurants if that's what they are looking for. But insisting on local seafood? You should do them a favor and tell them to snap out of it.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                That is exactly why I suggested Cioppino...

                                If they are these whole-hearted pescatarians, they can do little better than a bowl of San Francisco Cioppino, getting their seafood fix and a dish not found in Scandinavia.

                                1. re: CarrieWas218

                                  the cioppino we had at Sotto Mare was one of the best we've enjoyed in a restaurant ; the fish, clams, squid, mussels, dungeness, shrimp all had the sweetness of quality ingredients cooked with a light touch. we sat at the bar and could see what lots of other diners enjoyed, which included nicely fried sand dabs. a couple from ShangHai were next to us and dug into a big assortment with enjoyment ; people waiting to be seated got a complimentary glass of white or red wine and an accordionist -singer belted out lounge favorites.

                                  Fish in Saucelito would also give your guests a local experience, and they are meticulous about identifying the provenance of their goods. their take on cooking is very fresh-californish.

                                  Sotto Mare
                                  552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  1. re: moto

                                    These folks are coming in for some high-fallut'n conference and only have dinners available to them so no Sausalito trips are in the works. They want after-work options...