So Much Seafood, So Little Time
By Tom Molanphy
San Francisco Local Expert
Certain restaurants are known for their expertise at turning out signature dishes really well. They've pinned down the ingredients, mastered the process, and gained a strong following as a result. San Francisco has had much success cultivating great restaurants and creating a substantial market for Seafood. Locals can't get enough of the city's excellent food, and you'll often find them, along with eager tourists, at popular Tadich Grill or at Farallon, a major player in the field. Make sure you see what all the fuss is about!
Mahogany paneling, tiled floors, and a zinc-topped bar hint at Pesce's sophisticated bent, which is only confirmed by its terrific cuisine. Small-plate portions mean that you can indulge in several taste sensations, and fortunately, full-sized entrees can also be had. They include grilled ahi tuna, beef tenderloin, and cioppino. A raw bar is also a treat, as are refreshing Italian cocktails. (415-928-8025)
8 Tadich Grill
Seafood is the standard, prepared a variety of ways (mesquite-grilled, baked in a casserole) and always impeccable in quality. Among its mainstays are lobster Thermidor, oyster stew, clam chowder, Dungeness crab, calamari steak, and petrale sole. Meat dishes are available, and desserts include baked apples and cheesecake. Great local color and servers. (415-391-1849)
What began in 1965 as a small coffee shop has evolved into an oft-frequented, family-run restaurant. It's also the only place amid Fisherman's Wharf's touristy eateries that locals recommend for quality of food and generous portions. Celebrity photos grant silent, smiling endorsement, and broad windows showcase wharf and Bay vistas. The lengthy menu tempts with Italian-accented seafood, including pastas, grilled fish, shellfish and a fabulous cioppino alla pescatore with Dungeness crab. (415-771-4383, 800-644-5852)
6 Swan Oyster Depot
For generations, this small eatery has been delighting seafood lovers from all over the city. Distinguished by a marble counter and pull-up stools, the place puts all its attention on fresh shellfish, especially just-shucked oysters. You can also try clams on the half-shell, cracked crab, lobster, and shrimp, along with a few soups and salads. The place doesn't stand out from the street, so keep your eyes peeled. And if you're around during the lunchtime rush, you'll most likely have to wait. (415-673-1101)
The name says it all: this place is serious about serving fresh, local fish. Sausalito is almost always sunny, so you can take advantage of Fish's ample outdoor seating, too. The place is packed, but be sure to ask the knowledgable servers whatever questions you have on the many fish dishes this restaurant offers. They know their fish! ((415) 331-3474)
4 Cap'N Mike's Holy Smoke
Rarity only adds value, which makes the yummy dishes from the weekly pop-up appearances of this fantastic restaurant even more valuable. The San Francisco Lox sandwich is the featured attraction on this simple menu, but it's alone worth a trip to the Ferry Building. Afterwards, enjoy the enticing shops inside the iconic Ferry Building, or take a stroll along the Embarcadero and enjoy the bay. ((707) 585-2000)
3 Thahn Long
Thahn Long is a trek, but it's Colossal Royal Tiger Prawns and famous Roast Crab are worth the long ride on the N-Judah train to the foggy Sunset. You'll be blocks from Ocean Beach as you enjoy some of the finest Vietnamese food the city has to offer. Founder Helene An continues to develop dishes here and at her other seafood restaurants throughout California - one of her most recent obsessions is the "tiato" herb, a member of the mint family that is crushed into most of the dishes. (415-665-1146)
2 The Codmother Fish and Chips
Location location, location works for this simple but popular seafood restaurant. If you're looking for fancy atmosphere, The Codmother is not your place, since you might have to fight off hungry seagulls while sitting at their modest patio tables. But if you want perfectly grilled, fried or baked fish, you can't do much better than this charming restaurant. ((415) 606-9349)
Established in 1925, Alioto's has been a reliable seafood restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf for years. Family-run, very friendly and attentive service, and wonderful bay views. (4156730183)
About Tom Molanphy
The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom! Tom has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since 2000. He teaches writing, journalism and literature at the Academy of Art University in downtown San Francisco. His latest book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, is available through Outpost19.
Read more about Tom Molanphy here.