HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
What are you cooking today? Get great advice
TELL US

Swan Oyster Depot --- do they locals actually like it or is it merely a sucks for bucks type of tourist trap ???? [San Francisco]

k
kevin Jan 30, 2014 05:41 PM

Thanks.

  1. Melanie Wong Jan 30, 2014 06:15 PM

    I like it. But I never wait in line.

    Just because a place is full of tourists doesn't mean it's a tourist trap. E.g., The French Laundry is full of out-of-towners.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      n
      nocharge Jan 30, 2014 07:50 PM

      It's not a tourist trap in the Pier 39 sense. However, you could question the sanity of the tourists who stand in line for an hour on Polk when you can get good oysters more conveniently elsewhere. Sometimes, restaurants get a little more popular with tourists than they might deserve even if they weren't originally designed to be tourist traps in the wikipedia sense of the word. The Slanted Door and Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach come to mind.

    2. k
      kevin Jan 30, 2014 08:52 PM

      Well. I also thought the prices where high too.

      For instance, about 5 years back, I had a crab Louise, a few oysters (no more than 3), a small clam chowder, and an anchor steam on tap and it was 50 dollars before tip.

      Also, on my way to the John in there I saw huge gallon size cans of Cambell's clam chowder, unless that was only there for decor and homeyness.

      One time I waited on line for over an hour. While another time I got there around 10am on a weekday and surprise surprise surprise there was no line.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kevin
        Melanie Wong Jan 30, 2014 11:06 PM

        Yeah, duh, Swan opens at 10:30a. No line if you get there before 11am usually.

      2. Josh Jan 30, 2014 08:55 PM

        In no way is this place worth waiting in line for.

        1. mariacarmen Jan 30, 2014 09:31 PM

          i love it.

          i have waited in line and loved it.

          i like going at 10:45 or 11:00 when the line is minimal.
          the chowder is well-known to be Campbells. i don't go there for the chowder (though i've had it and i like it - maybe they doctor it up?).

          i go there for the steamed crab with crab butter, the shrimp cocktail, their homemade thousand island dressing, the Boudin bread, the white fish, the oysters, the smoked salmon, the sashimi (not on the regular menu, i think) in olive oil and capers, the muscadet, and most of all, the ambiance, the experience, and to have those rough and ready men serve me. it's a casual and cozy place, especially nice on a rainy day. i'm making myself want to go back right now.

          i'm not really sure how you could have spent that much with what you ordered, looking at the menu.... it's definitely not cheap, a bit of a splurge, but for me, it's a comforting one.

          1. s
            sugartoof Jan 30, 2014 10:01 PM

            It's one of many, many places which are beloved by locals but which now caters mainly to tourists. Locals typically go elsewhere, without lines, looking for lower prices. It's the kind of place that's nice to revisit, but for most of us, that visit is a once in a blue moon event.

            I'm more likely to go to Tadich or Anchor Oyster Bar.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sugartoof
              mariacarmen Jan 30, 2014 10:34 PM

              hmm! i've still never been to Anchor, though i want to. But Tadich to me doesn't compare. except for the ambiance, of course. I'm going to have to try Anchor tho.

            2. hill food Jan 30, 2014 10:55 PM

              when I lived in the neighborhood, I never sat down to eat there, just got the stuff to go and cook/prep at home. pricy, but back then my alternatives were Cala (gone) or Whole Foods.

              and NEVER during prime lunch hours.

              1. s
                slew Jan 31, 2014 12:49 AM

                I just get a take-out combo salad and eat at home, since I'm only a block away...

                No wait in line... Just go in and place your order...

                When I first started to go, the salad was $12.95 and that was in the late 80s-early 90s...

                It's climbed to $20 now, and I only have it on occasion...

                Prices have gone up, but so has my salary... ^_-

                1. g
                  girlstar Feb 18, 2014 08:58 AM

                  Toronto chowhounder coming for a weekend. If I wander up here after 1:30 on Friday afternoon will there be a lineup?

                  80 Replies
                  1. re: girlstar
                    w
                    walker Feb 18, 2014 10:29 AM

                    In short: Yes

                    If you go at 4:30, line shouldn't be too long.

                    There is usually no line (or short one) for take out. If you get a salad, I rec. getting the louie dressing on the side.

                    1. re: walker
                      g
                      girlstar Feb 18, 2014 10:49 AM

                      Thx I guess if anything I'll do takeout and walk back. 4:30 too close to my dinner time lol. The walk from union square shouldn't be too bad? Google shows half hr walk. Thx!

                      1. re: girlstar
                        s
                        sugartoof Feb 18, 2014 12:47 PM

                        It's not a bad walk, and you could probably beat the half hour estimate. I think I would take Post St. and plan a detour to grab coffee or a pastry while you walk. You'll pass a colorful stretch for a few blocks, and there are some minor hills to deal with. Keep in mind there are several buses that will make a straight shot from Polk to Union Square, depending on which side street you're on.

                        I'm not sure I'd want to race back to Union Square with seafood if it happens to be a sunny day though.

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          hill food Feb 18, 2014 01:36 PM

                          yeah send her through the Tenderloin - nice. (actually not as bad as it sounds, just not material for (most) tourist guide books.

                          1. re: hill food
                            wolfe Feb 18, 2014 02:11 PM

                            Well there's always Powell to California, more scenic and certain to work up an appetite.

                            1. re: hill food
                              s
                              sugartoof Feb 18, 2014 04:11 PM

                              Post? Have you been lately? It's calm in the afternoon and you get to avoid the deathly steep hills this way, in addition to being shielded from the worst parts of the Tenderloin. Sutter, on block up is a great alternative if the neighborhood entertainment gets to be too much. They'll be near some ethnic food dives that do get recommended on Chowhound, plus an influx of art galleries as you get closer to Polk. I'd probably turn on Hyde.

                              1. re: sugartoof
                                hill food Feb 18, 2014 04:27 PM

                                ahh I'm such a softie that in rainy season I was known to sneak in the back of the Ritz, take an elevator up to Stockton, go over to the back of the Fairmont and again take an elevator up to the square and then trudge over to Grace and go in the front and slip out a door in the lower croft.

                              2. re: hill food
                                k
                                kevin Feb 18, 2014 04:36 PM

                                it was still a little dicey the last time i walked thru the tenderloin. i had thought it would have been hipsterish gentrified by now.

                                1. re: kevin
                                  n
                                  nocharge Feb 18, 2014 04:58 PM

                                  The Tenderloin still has a long way to go when it comes to gentrification. It's not your Chamber-of-Commerce picture-perfect area to walk through, day or night.

                                  1. re: nocharge
                                    hill food Feb 18, 2014 05:06 PM

                                    yes, but it still isn't as grim a picture as some paint. an awareness of one's surroundings is good SOP no matter the city or neighborhood.

                                    which has little to nothing to do with Swan's, just potential paths from Union Square to the corner of Polk and Cal.

                                    1. re: hill food
                                      c oliver Feb 18, 2014 07:13 PM

                                      Agreed and agreed. My motto is 'don't be where you shouldn't be when you shouldn't be there.' I wouldn't hesitate to be in the Tenderloin until late at night. And if I were going to Swan I'd probably take the 38 Geary to Polk and walk a few blocks.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        n
                                        nocharge Feb 18, 2014 08:38 PM

                                        The issue with both the Tenderloin and Swan is really about why going there when there are other alternatives that are more comfortable. I'm not particularly scared being in the Tenderloin even at night, but it's not a really nice environment either. Why go there? I have no reason to be there and would rather hang out in other parts of the City. Same thing with standing around tourists for an hour on Polk Street in order to have oysters at Swan when there are plenty of places that serve good oysters under more civilized circumstances.

                                        Who in his right mind would stand in line at Swan when there is Zuni, Waterbar, Farallon, Bar Crudo, etc. and plenty of other places including the ridiculously overrated Hog Island in the Ferry Building, which has better views?

                                        1. re: nocharge
                                          Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2014 11:06 AM

                                          Why go to the Tenderloin? Saigon Sandwich, Burmese Kitchen, Lers Ros, House of Thai (formerly Thai House Express), A La Turca, Ngoc Mai, Hai Ky Mi Ga, Turtle Tower, etc.

                                          Swan Oyster Depot is in Polk Gulch, which is a fairly affluent neighborhood.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            s
                                            sugartoof Feb 19, 2014 11:56 AM

                                            Chowhoundes also used to routinely send visitors to Dottie's where they had to stand in line for a while, and still do send people to Brenda's.

                                          2. re: nocharge
                                            g
                                            girlstar Feb 20, 2014 06:38 AM

                                            Since I want to go for lunch I didn't want a fancy sit down like waterbar or farallon. Is there any place close to union square with seafood for lunch like I'm looking for a good clam chowder and maybe crab salad but not super fancy sit down. Thanks :)

                                            1. re: girlstar
                                              v
                                              vulber Feb 20, 2014 08:48 AM

                                              hog island is casual with really good clam chowder, but it's not cheap.

                                              1. re: vulber
                                                g
                                                girlstar Feb 20, 2014 02:22 PM

                                                Saw it's temporarily closed :(

                                              2. re: girlstar
                                                w
                                                walker Feb 20, 2014 10:28 AM

                                                There are 2 Woodhouse Fish restaurants: one in the Castro area, 14th/Market. The one I prefer is on Fillmore near Bush. (It's sort of Pacific Heights, near Japantown. You could take the Geary bus, get off at Fillmore and walk north.) They have excellent clam chowder, fresh fish, good prices, no res. There are small tables and a counter and it's a casual place. All along Fillmore St. there are boutique type clothing stores.

                                                1. re: girlstar
                                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 10:42 AM

                                                  Sam's Grill is near Union Square and good for old-school local seafood specialties such as crab, Rex sole, Petrale sole, and sand dabs. Make a reservation if you're going at peak lunch hours.

                                                  Clam chowder is not a local specialty. Neither are crab cakes, which are not a great way to enjoy Dungeness crab.

                                                  Woodhouse primarily specializes in East Coast seafood, though they're good for Dungeness crab, too.

                                                  1. re: girlstar
                                                    s
                                                    sugartoof Feb 20, 2014 10:56 AM

                                                    You can sit at the bar of Tadich's. I've enjoyed their chowder.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                      g
                                                      girlstar Feb 20, 2014 02:23 PM

                                                      I think I'm leaning towards Tadich now for lunch since I'll be pretty hungry having flown in the morning. And saves me a walk while hungry. I'll walk to Chinatown after for my favourite egg tarts.

                                                      Thank you everyone. Sorry for steering this discussion slightly off tangent :D

                                                      1. re: girlstar
                                                        Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 02:32 PM

                                                        After 1 the line at Tadich gets shorter and eventually you can just walk in and sit down. Same menu as Sam's Grill, basically.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          g
                                                          girlstar Feb 20, 2014 02:35 PM

                                                          Thanks! I'm really looking for like a crab cocktail and soup for lunch so Tadich should do the trick :)

                                                          1. re: girlstar
                                                            Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 02:51 PM

                                                            Tadich has cioppino, which has sort of the same place in the local tradition as clam chowder does in New England, except that it's a main course.

                                                        2. re: girlstar
                                                          Josh Feb 20, 2014 03:43 PM

                                                          Tangentially, if you like beer at all Zeitgeist is a unique experience for an afternoon pint, especially the beer garden.

                                        2. re: sugartoof
                                          k
                                          kevin Feb 18, 2014 04:34 PM

                                          by colorful stretch ???? do you happen to mean the Tenderloin ???? :)

                                          1. re: kevin
                                            s
                                            sugartoof Feb 18, 2014 09:41 PM

                                            "do you happen to mean the Tenderloin "

                                            Uh, why yes, we are talking about the Tenderloin. It's not a gentrified hipster wonderland yet, but some of you are describing a different part of the Tenderloin.

                                      2. re: walker
                                        hill food Feb 18, 2014 12:38 PM

                                        1:30 there will still be folks, 2:30 or 3:00 and it should be tolerable. 4:30 is getting dangerously close to closing time.

                                        1/2 hour walk from Union Square sounds about right. take Stockton (walk fast and hold your nose on the stairs) to Bush then take that to Hyde and then you're on California and you're home free. (SF is all about hill avoidance unless desired)

                                        if you do t/o the best place to eat it in nice weather would be back up the hill by Grace Cathedral (sounds weird but on the sidewalk at the intersection of California and Mason or Taylor - you'll understand when you see the topography) or take the cable car (or the #1 California) back downtown and go to the 15th floor roof of 343 Sansome - hardly anybody goes up there.

                                        http://www.spur.org/sites/default/fil...

                                        but those work for any take out downtown, like if you do the Ferry Building stalls.

                                        1. re: hill food
                                          g
                                          girlstar Feb 18, 2014 05:20 PM

                                          Thank you all for your info. I've done the hills of SF before so they're not a problem for me. Just hope I won't be too hungry coming from the plane. So which route would be the most comfortable for a woman to walk on her own? This Tenderloin sounds a bit iffy lol. I plan to grab lunch then come back to shop Union Square before meeting my husband who is travelling in to the city. Google

                                          1. re: hill food
                                            g
                                            girlstar Feb 18, 2014 05:23 PM

                                            Thx the link!

                                            Do you guys think its worth my while to walk here for lunch? I will be staying near Union Square and feel like there's nothing around there for me to eat in terms of seafood. Like before I've just eaten chowder at Boudin in Macys basement but don't want to do that. Like I don't want fancy sit down for lunch by myself. Husband wants to go to swan too but I'm only in town for the weekend and feel it would be super busy on Saturday for us to both go so he can maybe go on Sunday after I am off to the airport.

                                            Swan caught our attention last night watching this Daym Takeout show we stumbled on tv and then Anthony Bourdains Layover.

                                            Thanks :)

                                            1. re: girlstar
                                              Josh Feb 18, 2014 06:20 PM

                                              I figured maybe you'd learned about this place from Layover. That's how I learned about it, too. I watched that episode before moving here, and now that I've lived here for about 2 years, I can say that I don't know who gave him that list of places to go, but none of them are places I'd send someone now.

                                              If you're coming from your flight, hungry, and you have a good-sized appetite, then unless you're wanting to spend $100 on a meal I'd say skip Swan's. I see it has some fans here, but I thought it was kind of a rip-off, and was old-school in a bad way. Spending $20 on a "salad" comprised of shredded iceberg lettuce with crab on top is not my idea of a good value - especially when you can buy fresh Dungeness crab at local markets for much less money.

                                              Just my $0.02. Not trying to rain on your parade, but I'd take Bourdain's recs in that episode with a *big* grain of salt.

                                              1. re: Josh
                                                k
                                                kevin Feb 18, 2014 06:26 PM

                                                i agree.

                                                1. re: Josh
                                                  w
                                                  walker Feb 18, 2014 06:35 PM

                                                  Really FRESH delicious crab that you don't have to pick out yourself is not cheap anywhere. The salad is big; you can get smaller shrimp or crab cocktails. (You can also order cracked crab in the shell.)

                                                  The salads cost approx. $20. The average person does not spend $100 here.

                                                  1. re: walker
                                                    k
                                                    kevin Feb 18, 2014 06:44 PM

                                                    Yeah, it's probably not going to be 100 per unless you get a few beers (maybe 2 or three), and a crab louisee, and a dozen oysters per person.

                                                    Having said that it is still expensive in my opinion, even given the going market rate for shrimp and crab and oysters these days.

                                                  2. re: Josh
                                                    g
                                                    girlstar Feb 18, 2014 07:01 PM

                                                    Thx I appreciate your advice. is there anywhere with fresh seafood for lunch closer to union square you'd send someone to?

                                                    Is the tonga room he went to stupid? Lol looked interesting. The Toronto layover had some of our good eats and some I questioned.

                                                    1. re: girlstar
                                                      Josh Feb 18, 2014 07:41 PM

                                                      Tonga Room is also best avoided. :-)

                                                      If you want tiki drinks go to Smuggler's Cove. Tonga Room is for tourists and is way overpriced for what you get. The drinks aren't that good either.

                                                      Another good spot for cocktails, in the Tenderloin and near your hotel, is Tradition. If you make a reservation there you get a private booth and a huge menu of cocktails, with each page representing a different kind of bar, including Tiki. They make a lot of their own mixers there, too. Great spot.

                                                      1. re: Josh
                                                        g
                                                        girlstar Feb 18, 2014 08:00 PM

                                                        Lol thx they made tonga room look so interesting but I trust your rec! Will note!

                                                        My trip to sf is last min and I'm reading the threads on San Francisco in 4 days etc here and yelp. It's not our first time but looking for good eats having a hard time picking a dinner spot (with availability) for a nice Saturday night dinner. :S. Will continue reading tomorrow. Thanks!

                                                        1. re: girlstar
                                                          Josh Feb 18, 2014 08:12 PM

                                                          There's a lot of good food in this city, it's hard to go wrong. If you like Indian food at all I suggest taking a look at Dosa. There's one in the Mission district and one in Japantown. It's a south Indian place, but non-traditional and more upscale. Some really great cocktails there with Indian spicing. Their gin and tonic is amazing, and they make their own tonic water.

                                                          Another good spot you should consider is Alembic on Haight St. Great cocktails, and really interesting food. Jerked duck heart skewers and pickled quail eggs are both really great beverage accompaniments. :-)

                                                        2. re: Josh
                                                          hill food Feb 19, 2014 09:08 PM

                                                          aww c'mon, one drink at the Tonga, you don't go for the drinks and certainly not the food, you go for the room and the monsoon. but just one drink and then pretend you're going up to the Crown Room and take the glass elevator for the thrill (what are they going to do if you don't stay and order - kick you out and send you back down the vertiginous thrill ride which is all you wanted in the first place?)

                                                          1. re: hill food
                                                            s
                                                            sugartoof Feb 19, 2014 09:17 PM

                                                            Agree, Tonga is a treasure, and most of us wanted it to stay frozen in time. San Franciscans do visit it, though sparingly, much like Swans. You go to Tonga for the whole experience, not for a craft cocktail.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                              n
                                                              nocharge Feb 19, 2014 09:36 PM

                                                              Yeah, all the criticism of Tonga as being kitschy, overprised, touristy, and what not is probably valid. But if you only go there once every few years and have fun, what's the problem? A friend of mine celebrated a major birthday there. He got drunk and jumped into the water. I wasn't there but he told me afterwards that jumping into the water is a sure-fire recipe for getting kicked out of the place.

                                                              1. re: nocharge
                                                                s
                                                                sugartoof Feb 19, 2014 09:46 PM

                                                                I'd say your friend should be legendary for that antic, but it probably happens once a month. It was the hotel swimming pool, after all. I think there used to be synchronized swimming before the boat moved, unless I'm very mistaken.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 10:52 AM

                                                                  The Tonga Room's "lagoon" is just deep enough to float the boat-stage, too shallow for most synchronized swimming moves.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    s
                                                                    sugartoof Feb 20, 2014 10:57 AM

                                                                    There's a story there, because it wasn't built for the boat. There used to be visible swimming pool markings on the floor.

                                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 11:18 AM

                                                                      The swimming pool was deep enough to dive in and took up much of the area where bar customers sit now. There might have been a swimming show sometime between 1945 and 1967, in one of its pre-Tiki incarnations.

                                                                      http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/WHEN-PLUNGE-WAS-A-SPLASH-2652696.php#photo-2131162

                                                                      http://www.sfgate.com/business/articl...

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                        v
                                                                        vulber Feb 20, 2014 03:03 PM

                                                                        anthony bourdain also got too drunk and ended up in the pool when he was here

                                                                2. re: nocharge
                                                                  hill food Feb 19, 2014 10:27 PM

                                                                  nc - LOVE that, wish I'd been along!

                                                                  it IS a piece of Disneytype schlock but it takes me back to when The Carpenters were emerging; Hawaii was still considered 'exotic'; Dad was experimenting with creative facial hair (Dickensian); Mom was discovering fondue and nobody realized the evening news was maybe not appropriate viewing for a young child (oh yeah and people still thought Liberace might be straight) and the SLA was running around CA.

                                                              2. re: hill food
                                                                mariacarmen Feb 19, 2014 10:04 PM

                                                                Mehhh.... going to have TO chime in and disagree. i went once, never wanted to go again. the whole experience for me is kitschy but not in a good way.

                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                  Josh Feb 19, 2014 10:22 PM

                                                                  I understand people like it. I guess I got my fill of retro kitsch in the '90s.

                                                                  We went to Tonga Room once, the weekend we came here to find an apartment. The drinks were overpriced and not very good. Luckily we got there early enough to avoid the cover charge and the wait. Man, if we'd had to wait *and* pay the cover we'd have been really annoyed.

                                                                  :-)

                                                                  1. re: Josh
                                                                    hill food Feb 19, 2014 10:53 PM

                                                                    oh I'd never wait, and I've never paid the cover for a table at Tonga. silly expensive drink? sure, usually it was while dashing out of an endless Easter midnight vigil at Grace (those people baptize 200+ and individually, no way I'm sitting through that, plenty of time to duck out for a snort and get back before communion and benediction) which gave us the choice of Tonga or the "Big Four"

                                                                    1. re: Josh
                                                                      s
                                                                      sugartoof Feb 19, 2014 11:02 PM

                                                                      "I guess I got my fill of retro kitsch in the '90s. "

                                                                      Tonga isn't retro it's original, circa 1945.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof
                                                                        Josh Feb 19, 2014 11:10 PM

                                                                        That's a bit like saying driving a '57 Chevy isn't retro because the car is from 1957.

                                                                        1. re: Josh
                                                                          hill food Feb 20, 2014 12:16 AM

                                                                          Persian aub Zam Zam (before Bruno died) was original, the Red Room on Sutter was retro-kitsch.

                                                                          oh Cocktail Nation: you were so fun in 1992, but look were it led. Now I want to demand boilermakers where I once requested a Gibson.

                                                                          how much work has that '57 Chevy seen? retro is an attitude, classic is a status.

                                                                          1. re: hill food
                                                                            v
                                                                            vulber Feb 20, 2014 08:49 AM

                                                                            tonga room has revamped its drinks and can definitely be recommended now. saw an interesting article on insidescoop about how switching to fresh pineapple juice in the mai tai sent the sales soaring.

                                                                            food is still just eh though.

                                                                          2. re: Josh
                                                                            s
                                                                            sugartoof Feb 20, 2014 11:02 AM

                                                                            People should know it's the original preserved artifact, rather than a new Tiki Bar reviving an old style.

                                                                  2. re: girlstar
                                                                    s
                                                                    Sgee Feb 18, 2014 08:56 PM

                                                                    If you're open to Chinese, Crab at R&G lounge in Chinatown! Best Chinese style crab I've had in the US.

                                                                    1. re: Sgee
                                                                      g
                                                                      girlstar Feb 19, 2014 05:53 AM

                                                                      Thank you all. Toronto is full of Chinese and Indian restaurants so we can get that here :). Found a reservation for Anchor and Hope.

                                                                      Speaking of Anchors how is Anchor Oyster bar compared to Swan? Saw the name around CH.

                                                                      Thank you all again.

                                                                      1. re: girlstar
                                                                        s
                                                                        sugartoof Feb 19, 2014 12:04 PM

                                                                        Anchor Oyster Bar is lovely. There is table seating, as it's more of a restaurant. I think the food is better than at Swan, but the experience is different. I've enjoyed the chowder, the salads are great, and so is the crab melt. Salads are in the $20 range, but it's with Romaine over Iceberg, which isn't traditional, but a a plus. I've never had Oysters there. It's been empty in the daytime whenever I've been.

                                                                        Smuggler's Cove has silly lines and it's very cramped. Drink menu is overly complicated, and they skip ingredients anyway.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                          g
                                                                          girlstar Feb 19, 2014 03:47 PM

                                                                          Thx all! Will avoid tonga room and use your recs for a nice drink. I'm only in down for 36 hours or so :(. Wish I had more time! Sf chowhound community is super helpful!

                                                                          1. re: sugartoof
                                                                            hill food Feb 19, 2014 09:10 PM

                                                                            love Anchor, but there can be a bit of a wait on a weekend night. super fresh. and a wider choice of preparations than Swan's. Oysters from the East and West Coasts, varieties depending.

                                                                            prices comparable-ish.

                                                                            1. re: hill food
                                                                              g
                                                                              girlstar Feb 20, 2014 06:40 AM

                                                                              Thx how about weekend lunch? Wish this or swan were closer to union sq. planning to drop my stuff in my hotel grab lunch relatively close within walking distance then spend the rest of the time shopping for first afternoon.

                                                                              1. re: girlstar
                                                                                hill food Feb 20, 2014 02:48 PM

                                                                                while Sam's and Tadich are much closer, if you choose Anchor it's an easy F-Line ride up Market on a restored streetcar and hope for the wooden one from Milan with frameless windows (slick? slick) or the open-air 'boat' from Blackpool, or just take the KLM underground if you want fast.

                                                                      2. re: girlstar
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2014 11:09 AM

                                                                        The Tonga Room's drinks are mediocre and the food is worse, but locals go there for the campy decor and show. Eat somewhere else and go to Smuggler's Cove for first-rate tiki cocktails.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          g
                                                                          girlstar Feb 19, 2014 03:48 PM

                                                                          Thx gonna look it up!

                                                                          1. re: girlstar
                                                                            eatzalot Feb 20, 2014 10:22 AM

                                                                            Tonga Room is certainly historic. Wayne Curtis's splendid, comprehensive 2006 "American Heritage" article on the Tiki-Bar phenomenon (the magazine is in front of me now) opens with a full-page photo of the Tonga Room, "the Rome of surviving tiki bars." James Teitelbaum's Top-10 Guide that ends the article says "visually it has no peer except for Ft. Lauderdale's Mai-Kai."

                                                                            The Bay Area may no longer have former institutions like Spenger's Grotto of past notoriety, Trader Vic's on Cosmo Place, or Herb Caen, but it does still have the Tonga Room, one of the originals of the Tiki Bar phenomenon. (In its own way, a bit like Paris's Tour d'Argent. I don't send people to the "Tour" for the food -- though it certainly can be decent -- but because the restaurant is around 500 years old, and the fork was popularized there.)

                                                                            1. re: eatzalot
                                                                              Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 10:59 AM

                                                                              Spenger's is still in business. After the founder's grandson ran it into the ground in 1998, McCormick & Schmick bought it and spent millions restoring the place.

                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                eatzalot Feb 20, 2014 11:04 AM

                                                                                "Spenger's is still in business."

                                                                                Of course, Robert -- I took that for granted in my comment.

                                                                                The Spenger's Grotto of past notoriety that I referred to, which so many people remember from 50 years ago or longer -- low ceilings, multiple bars, rooms with names like "The Brig," hundreds of people waiting for tables, one of the highest volumes of daily restaurant covers in the US, rumors of fire codes overlooked via money changing hands -- is however gone with the wind. (Unlike the Tonga Room.)

                                                                                1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 11:24 AM

                                                                                  You lumped Spenger's in with Trader Vic's on Cosmo Place and Herb Caen, which I took to mean you thought it was gone.

                                                                                  I believe Spenger's ceilings, bars, rooms, booths, etc. are unchanged except for being spruced up and the menu and cooking are still too old-school for me. "The Brig" might now have a boring corporate name.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                    eatzalot Feb 20, 2014 11:49 AM

                                                                                    Oh, I find the New Spenger's unrecognizable after having many experiences with the old. So do all my east-bay friends even though some of them eat there.

                                                                                    The formerly claustrophobic ceiling height -- adorned with ship's wheels, cork, etc -- is now about twice as high, the ambience bright and modern, the food and service corporate.

                                                                                    No more squawky PA dispatcher sending hungry long-waiting patrons off from the (naturally) smoke-filled bars, through the warrent of dark dining rooms ("Hayakawa, party of six, to the Brig...")

                                                                                    1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2014 11:53 AM

                                                                                      Huh, I guess I don't have a very clear memory of the old place, maybe because of the way they'd make you wait in the bar for an hour or two after your theoretical reservation time.

                                                                    2. re: girlstar
                                                                      w
                                                                      walker Feb 18, 2014 06:25 PM

                                                                      They are closed on Sundays. To eat in, there's only a counter and stools so it is not at all awkward to eat there alone; it's not fancy. All kinds of people eat there, it's very friendly. If you want a crab salad or something to go, ok, but if you want oysters or smoked salmon, maybe you'd better wait and get a seat. You could both go at 4 or so and the wait won't be that bad. Buy some fruit or something to eat at your hotel if you're hungry later.

                                                                      It's so much easier to just flag a cab back to Union Square, they cruise Polk St. Get one heading south, right in front of Swan. If you decide to walk, take Polk to Post and go east on Post. Post is NOT the Tenderloin.

                                                                      1. re: walker
                                                                        g
                                                                        girlstar Feb 18, 2014 07:02 PM

                                                                        Thx :)

                                                                        1. re: girlstar
                                                                          mariacarmen Feb 18, 2014 08:49 PM

                                                                          i am in the camp of people who love Swan, and i don't feel it's touristy, and i don't feel it's overrated, or overpriced. a bit pricey, maybe, but not ridiculously overpriced. the only time i spent $100 there was with a friend, and we had a lot of wine, a whole crab, plus oysters and a few other things. it's fun, and to me it says San Francisco. and i'm not a tourist though some may count me as one - i've only been here for 19 years. if you had more time, i'd say, yeah, go to Swan's! i also might say go there, stand in line for awhile, enjoy lunch there, and just miss out on a bit of Union Square shopping, but that's just me.

                                                                          however, all that said, i think you might like Belden Place instead for a nice sit-down lunch in a cute little Euro-like alley with about 7 restaurants to choose from, most of which have seafood, most very good. it's also really close to Union Square. people get snobby about this place, but it's full of locals who work in the financial district.

                                                                          here's a link so you can see all the different menus. i love Plouf (mussels and other seafood), B44 (catalonian dishes, a lot of which are seafood), and even Sam's, an old-school seafood place, much like Tadich Grill, some say better. Tiramisu is good italian and they also have seafood dishes.

                                                                          http://www.belden-place.com/

                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen
                                                                            s
                                                                            Sgee Feb 18, 2014 09:01 PM

                                                                            I'm in the fan camp. Didn't dine there much when I lived in the Bay Area. Decided to grab a quick bite in the afternoon during a recent business trip, they do a pretty decent job!! Not the cheapest place but very good quality overall. I like that it's still old school and unpretentious.

                                                                            1. re: Sgee
                                                                              Josh Feb 19, 2014 01:09 AM

                                                                              Nothing wrong with unpretentious, though one might argue charging big bucks for canned clam chowder and iceberg lettuce is its own form of pretense.

                                                                            2. re: mariacarmen
                                                                              c oliver Feb 19, 2014 07:43 AM

                                                                              I also recommend Belden and specifically the places you mention.

                                                                              1. re: mariacarmen
                                                                                hill food Feb 19, 2014 09:27 PM

                                                                                Belden is a great place to kill an afternoon, had some of the best monkfish ever at Bastille once. don't the same people own Bastille, Plouf, B44 and maybe more? ehh it's a good place to eat outside and so close to Union Square. the worst thing you can say is they're all decent food at a decent price.

                                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                                  mariacarmen Feb 19, 2014 10:06 PM

                                                                                  a few are owned by the same group, but not sure which - as is, i believe, Garcon in the Mission, and Barlata in Oakland (sister to B44). and agree- i have DESTROYED many an afternoon there. fabulous (non)-memories.

                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen
                                                                                    hill food Feb 20, 2014 12:07 AM

                                                                                    heh "well yes I think we WILL have another bottle of wine, it's only 3 PM"

                                                                                    1. re: hill food
                                                                                      mariacarmen Feb 20, 2014 12:01 PM

                                                                                      ohmygod, did I used to work with you??

                                                                  3. m
                                                                    ML8000 Feb 18, 2014 11:41 AM

                                                                    +1 Take out, use to do that for my grandmother who lived in the neighborhood. Use to call it in by phone.

                                                                    1. ipsedixit Feb 18, 2014 08:53 PM

                                                                      I would wait in the line but there isn't much on the menu that I like.

                                                                      The chowder isn't anything special and neither are the seafood salads. Nice vibe, though.

                                                                      There's that Vietnamese place a couple of stores next door that I kind of like for a quick, cheap and filling lunch.

                                                                      1. m
                                                                        Malcolm Ruthven Feb 19, 2014 06:23 AM

                                                                        I lived nearby for many years "back in the day" and, while I appreciated its ambiance, I never thought the food was anything special so stopped going there a long time ago. One thing you should know, though, is that I don't like oysters and never order them.

                                                                        Show Hidden Posts