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Crab at Swan Oyster Depot? [SF]

sabre3198 Oct 3, 2013 08:55 AM

Was in the city on a quick turnaround 2 weeks ago and went into Swan Oyster Depot for lunch. Tried to order some crab and was told that they had no Dungeness, and had not for a month. Will be back in town next week and want to try again. Does anyone know if they have it? Is this a common occurrence?


  1. Amishchow Oct 14, 2013 09:16 AM

    30 years living in SF and every time I drive by Swan's I am continually amazed at the line of sheep snaking out their door. Its shucked bi-valves and steamed crab. Not too tough or complicated. I do love the 1950's ambiance but aside from maybe the chowder there is not a lot of cooking skills going on in there. And BTW, I'd much rather buy a live crab from Alioto Sister's down at the dock for $5.95 lb and throw them into boiling water at home then pay Swan's $21.50 for the same end result.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Amishchow
      Dustin_E Oct 14, 2013 10:13 AM

      when i'm cooking an ambitious dinner, i usually stop by chinatown for live crab/lobster/prawns, and then swans for fish and/or scallops.

      1. re: Dustin_E
        Amishchow Oct 14, 2013 10:29 AM

        Most of the Chinese fish markets have good prices. But you'd be surprised to find pretty comparable pricing at both Allioto's and out at the New England Lobster Co. near SFO airport. Big difference is the crabs and lobster are kept in massive tanks with seawater continuously pumping through them. Versus the recycled stale water in the tanks at the Chinese fish stores. Like all fish, the shorter the time from their natural habitat to your plate. The sweeter the flavor.

        1. re: Amishchow
          Dustin_E Oct 14, 2013 10:41 AM

          thanks, i'll have to try Allioto's some saturday morning.

          1. re: Dustin_E
            Amishchow Oct 14, 2013 12:21 PM

            Dustin, it is called Alioto Lazio Fish Company. Kind of cool too in that it is a woman owned business (sisters and cousin's). When I started going there their 91 year old mom used to be there most Saturday's. They close early afternoon on Sat.
            Yelp it and see what others think. It is a gem.

          2. re: Amishchow
            ML8000 Oct 14, 2013 12:11 PM

            I don't think there's much difference in how crabs are stored at Chinese vs. non-Chinese places except for what you perceive.

            Crabs are birthed and grow in the ocean and there's literally crap in the water and that's way before it gets to a market.

            Where ever the place, crabs will need salt water and aeration/ oxygen. If they have those, they'll stay alive and any place selling crabs will have that ability or what's the point? Few people buy dead crab.

            Also once a crab leaves the sea, they all begin to shrink and no longer eat. This would be the case in a Chinese market or if you booked a room at the Ritz with a salt water tank and aeration.

      2. j
        jmicheller Oct 9, 2013 05:06 PM

        Commercial Crab Season starts on November 2nd.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jmicheller
          Civil Bear Oct 9, 2013 05:33 PM

          That would be the opener for recreational Dungeness crab. The commercial season opener is scheduled for 11/15.

          1. re: Civil Bear
            little big al Oct 14, 2013 12:52 PM

            As a harbinger of the season, I just saw out my shop window in Sausalito my first truck full of crab pots.

        2. c
          chocolatetartguy Oct 3, 2013 10:53 AM

          I drove by there last Saturday around 3 and there was a long line. Be prepared for a wait.

          5 Replies
          1. re: chocolatetartguy
            mariacarmen Oct 9, 2013 01:17 AM

            there is always a wait. if you get there at 11:00 a.m. you should get in within a half hour or so. any later, at least an hour, maybe 2. i've done it, though. always worth it to me.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy
              slew Oct 9, 2013 12:35 PM

              I live half a block away and grab take out... ^^

              And people in line stare at me like I'm cutting in front... ^o^

              Love their seafood combo salad!

              1. re: slew
                Dustin_E Oct 9, 2013 12:44 PM

                i also very often do the take-out thing.

                1. re: Dustin_E
                  mariacarmen Oct 9, 2013 02:35 PM

                  lucky both of you! jealous.

                  but i do love sitting there.

                2. re: slew
                  ML8000 Oct 14, 2013 10:02 AM

                  Use to get take out for my grandmother who lived a few blocks away...and a seafood salad as well. Actually I've experienced the food at the counter.

              2. CarrieWas218 Oct 3, 2013 09:31 AM

                Yep. Swan specializes in sourcing the freshest ingredients and crab season doesn't start for another month. They aren't going to serve something that has to be shipped in from too far away.

                1. Robert Lauriston Oct 3, 2013 09:16 AM

                  Local season starts mid-November.

                  This time of year places that have it year-round get it from Alaska or British Columbia. Try Woodhouse.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Dustin_E Oct 3, 2013 09:30 AM

                    when does it go until?

                    1. re: Dustin_E
                      Robert Lauriston Oct 3, 2013 09:35 AM

                      Depends on how fast the commercial crabbers reach the limit and how you define "local."

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        baron45 Oct 7, 2013 09:47 AM

                        There are no limits on take for commercial crabbers in California. However, they do have a limit on the number of crab pots (traps).

                        1. re: baron45
                          Civil Bear Oct 7, 2013 10:40 AM

                          I think by "limit" RL meant how soon the commercial crabbers collect most (the limit) of the crabs in the area.

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                          Dustin_E Oct 7, 2013 11:16 AM

                          and when is that usually? january? june? april?

                          1. re: Dustin_E
                            Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2013 11:22 AM

                            Varies from year to year. They're allowed to take only male crabs more than six inches across, and stop when they're having to throw back too many.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Dustin_E Oct 7, 2013 11:26 AM

                              i understand it varies. most things do.

                              but isn't there some range that captures 75% of when the season ends? like "may to july" or something?

                              1. re: Dustin_E
                                Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2013 11:36 AM

                                January to June? Takings can vary radically from year to year.


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  Dustin_E Oct 7, 2013 12:54 PM

                                  thanks. had no idea it varied so wildly.

                                  1. re: Dustin_E
                                    Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2013 12:58 PM

                                    It's not terribly obvious, since if there's a bad year locally they just bring crabs in from further north.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    Ruth Lafler Oct 9, 2013 01:23 PM

                                    I think from a technical, legal standpoint the local season, which starts in mid-November (after the traditional strike for higher wholesale prices) extends through June. But the large-scale commercial season usually peters out in March. After that, there are still some crabbers who have an established customer base that pays top dollar -- either direct to consumer or restaurant contract(s) -- for whom it is feasible to crab further into the spring.

                        3. re: Robert Lauriston
                          sabre3198 Oct 3, 2013 09:30 AM


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