Oysters, Seafood, Groovy Lounges
Gonna be in San Fran for 2 nights staying near Union Square. Looking for nice, atmospheric restaurants that have great oysters and seafood. Not touristy places.
Also any nice restaurant or bars with a cool vibe where you can eat at the bar. Or Lounge.
Romantic a plus...
Near Union square, not quite "hip" but not stodgy either: Farallon.
A little far, but my favorite: Bar Crudo.
Hip location/decor but food does not quite match: La Mar or Waterbar.
Not a restaurant, restaurant - but Hog Island in the Ferry Building has awesome oysters and is on the water. Great place to stop by mid-day or for lunch (beware heavy traffic during the Saturday Morning Farmer's market - which is a must-see).
Swan's Oyster Depot (on Polk Street) is the place to go. It has been discussed here many, many times. Do a search to find past threads.
For mussels, try Plouf (Belden Lane), which is maybe a 10-minute walk from Union Square. Sam Grill's (on Bush Street at Belden Lane) is almost next door to Plouf and is a classic old-school seafood house.
Tadich Grill comes to mind, though it's not "atmospheric" in the upscale sense. It's the oldest restaurant in SF and has a great old-style bar/counter where you can sit to eat, instead of getting a table. Fantastic seafood cioppino and all the other dishes we've tried there have been great as well. More FiDi than Union Sq.
By the way -- just because it's different other places --- you can eat at the bar everywhere in SF. 20 years ago it was my secret for getting a meal at places with a tough reservation policy, but now everyone knows. Restaurant design has included "bar seating" that was always intended for diners, like Boulevard's kitchen seats near the back.
COI had a nice lounge, but I think they reorganized and replaced with dining seats (fancy side). Quince has a nice lounge (low tables - cool and upscale). I like Gitane, very close to union square, although it's got a smallish bar which gets crowded - warm, young energy, great cocktails). Zero zero is further from union square but still close, and popular, if you get there earlier, it's got a very nice bar area (a little loud) with great food (especially the non-pizza items).
The best combo of bar seating and great food quality right now has to be Plum. It's so close to the Oakland BART station that you might as well go. Get a rez; I don't think you can specify the bar - maybe if you call after making the reservation on line.