Slurp Francisco – 8 of SF’s Best Oyster Bars

 

Summer is FINALLY HERE!  It’s that wonderful time of year to shirk your responsibilities, catch some rays (outside of SF, lol) and slurp rosé and oysters, ALL DAY. 

Did you know that eating oysters is actually good for the environment?  Oysters can be beyond sustainable, even regenerative for the environment!  These tasty bivalves filter the surrounding water (which is obviously good for surrounding life forms), AND they can sequester CO2 and nitrogen from the atmosphere in their shells?  How cool is that?!

Ok, enough science, who’s hungry?  Here’s a list of our 8 favorite SF oyster bars, in no particular order.

Woodhouse Fish Company

If rushing to a happy hour isn’t your thing, we’ve got the answer for you.  Woodhouse Fish Company offers $1 oysters all night every Tuesday in not one, but BOTH locations!  Woodhouse Fish Company is a solid choice for oysters in San Francisco, with its kitschy little East Coast vibe (think mounted fish, nautical tchotchkes and fishing nets for decor) because the oysters are great but so are their entree choices and rotating specials.  Ironically, we’ve seen mostly West Coast varieties on the menu, such as Point Reyes & Kumamoto, which are cool by us. If you’re a fan of East Coast style seafood, Woodhouse also has one of the best lobster rolls around: huge chunks of lobster, just the right amount of mayo, gooey buttery, garlicky bread, ugh.  YUM. Woodhouse is a pretty small place that’s already known and loved in SF, so call ahead or plan to wait a little while. The oyster selection rotates, but you can peruse the menu:  Woodhouse Fish Menu.

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Maleah M on Yelp

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Kevin C on Yelp

 Red Hill Station

Ok, we’ll admit it – Red Hill Station isn’t the cheapest place for oysters in SF, but it’s not offensively expensive and it’s an actually a great deal for what you’re getting.  They host an oyster happy hour with $2 oysters and 50% off of wines on tap that they serve in Erlenmeyer flasks (what up, science), including a fabulous Barbera.  This makes us very happy.  Obvs our favorite thing about Red Hill Station is their rotating selection of oysters, which are reliably fresh and interesting.  We’ve seen rare finds like Olympias and hand-picked Malpeques from Prince Edward Island, all for the same price! The restaurant itself is pretty small, but it’s thoughtfully laid out and doesn’t feel cramped like some spots in SF do.  The kitchen opens up into the sunny dining area, so if you’re a curious eater (and you should be), have a seat at the bar and watch your oysters get shucked up! Oyster selection varies daily, but check out their menu: Red Hill Station Menu

 

Pop quiz!  Have you ever made a trip up to Tomales Bay?  Did you go to Hog Island Oyster Co?! If not, you’re doing the Bay Area wrong.  Lucky for you, it’s summertime, so get a crew together now! Hog Island’s flagship location and the oyster nursery is up in Marshall on Tomales Bay, which is about an hour and a half drive north of SF (on a good day).  Take a chance to get out of town and spend some time up there hiking or playing on the Bay, it’s one of those amazing gifts we Bay Area folks get. When it comes to Bay Area oyster bars, we think that Hog Island is pretty much unparalleled.  The flagship location gives you three ways to enjoy their briny little treats: a to-go counter, sunny full-service restaurant, and (if you book far in advance), picnic tables where you can BYOB & other foods to host your own picnic party (with the addition of their oysters, of course).  Hog Island’s famous homegrown oysters are called Sweetwaters, and we think if you don’t like Sweetwaters, you don’t like oysters.

For those of us that can’t venture that far, the Hog Island Oyster Co.’s Ferry Building location has a great SF oyster happy hour in its own right.  Hog Island has secured prime real estate in the Ferry Building, one of the most iconic places in the city and an excellent choice for oysters in SF. This location slings fresh, beautiful oysters not just from their Tomales Bay farms, but from all over the world.  These folks don’t take reservations, but they do have an efficient queue system (and on the weekends, believe us that it gets busy).  They’ve got a similar gig happening at the Oxbow Market in Napa. Peep the menu: Hog Island Oyster Co Menu

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Bluestem Brasserie

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Zuni Cafe

Zuni Cafe is a preeeeetty famous restaurant – they’ve been open since 1979, and are one of the true pioneers of California cuisine.  A beautiful marriage of Italian and French fare, you’ll see nothing but fresh, seasonal ingredients on the menu, and the oysters are no exception.  Zuni Cafe has some of the best oysters in SF- they’re never cheap, but they’re expertly curated (for example, they’re one of the few oyster bars in SF that Hog Island deems worthy of their Sweetwaters).  The menu often showcases multiple variations of the same few species, so it’s a really unique chance to do a vertical tasting and see for yourself how the environment affects the flavor of a species. Could you taste the difference between a Humboldt Kumamoto and a Redwood Kumamoto?  This could be your chance to find out. Aside from their killer oyster selection, the roasted chicken is at the top of many people’s charts and worth a trip by itself. See a sample of their glorious menu for yourself:  Zuni Cafe Menu

Leo’s Oyster Bar

Leo’s Oyster Bar is a too-hip-to-quit kind of joint in FiDi, and, dare we say, the most ‘grammable oyster bar in the Bay Area.  Any place bold enough to put “oyster bar” in their name better live up to the expectations…Leo’s does that, and then some. Leo’s raw bar is rather famous, at least among seafood aficionados.  You can count on an interesting selection of fairly uncommon varieties, including their own proprietary breed of oyster, (aptly) called the Little Leo. In addition to classic oysters on the half shell, at Leo’s Oyster Bar in SF, you can find what they like to call “composed” oysters, which are fresh oysters topped with a variety of special toppings. If you’re really feeling fancy, try the Diamonds & Pearls, which is an oyster topped with caviar.

Pro tip: don’t try to fill up on oysters here, your wallet will seriously hate you.  You can get Little Louie’s for just $1.50 here from 3-5 during weekdays, but otherwise, be ready to shell out for this shellfish.  Thankfully, Leo’s also has bomb apps (we see you, loaded Hawaiian bun) and a pretty phenomenal burrata and kale dish for a little less dough, but it still ain’t gonna be cheap.  See Leo’s menu for yourself. 

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Hieu H on Yelp

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Eric W on Yelp

Swan’s Oyster Depot

Anthony Bourdain (RIP) used to come here every time he came to SF…  We think that’s all you need to know about this place, but since y’all have high standards, we’ll feed you a little more.  Swan’s is an old school, no-nonsense, absolute classic SF oyster bar. Open since 1912, Swan’s Oyster Depot in SF offers delicacies like cracked crab, and of course, a rotating selection of fresh oysters.  You can expect to pay about 2 bucks per oyster here – pretty middle of the road for SF prices. Swan’s also has a secret menu of raw delights; you can impress your dinner date and order things like “Italian sashimi” (raw tuna, salmon and scallops with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper), or a “dozen eggs” (thinly sliced raw scallops with sriracha and ponzu sauce).  You can browse their website to see the goods. Fair warning: Swan’s is so bomb that there’s probably going to be a line out the door by lunchtime.  Also, it’s cash only, so come prepared!

 Waterbar

Waterbar is a great place to bring someone you want to impress.  Literally sitting pretty on the Embarcadero, Waterbar is an expansive (and expensive) SF oyster bar and restaurant that boasts some of the prettiest views of the Bay (and the Bay Bridge).  Hit up the rotating daily oyster selection for just $1.05 each before 5:30, but you should also at least take a look at their other oyster selection. They carry hard-to-find oysters and even have an exclusive deal for a new breed of oyster called Golden Fog (but they’ll cost ya).  You can even give yourself an extra pat on the back for ordering oysters here because they donate a portion of the proceeds from their oyster sales to La Cocina, a local nonprofit that empowers local chefs to open their own businesses. Browse their oyster menu.

BONUS: If you’re into bloody marys, they make one of the best bloody marys in SF.  It’s not on the menu, but ask for an “Ultimate Bloody Mary” and you’ll be delighted with a cocktail with enough accouterment to double as an appetizer.  Score!

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Water Bar 

Best Oyster Bars in San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Peninsula & all Shore Seafood Via Yelp

Peninsula & All Shores Seafood

So.. this place is not really an oyster bar, and it’s not in SF, but we just couldn’t keep it off of the list.  Peninsula Seafood is a Bay Area staple and a true local gem – the first Peninsula Seafood opened at Fisherman’s Wharf in SF in 1946, and the business moved down to San Bruno in 1976.  Located right on El Camino Real in San Bruno, Peninsula is a small storefront in an unassuming white building. The interior and experience initially seem like a blast from the past: a seafood counter with amazingly fresh fish fillets and a handwritten chalk board with the seafood for sale that day.  It doesn’t take long, though, to realize that Peninsula is running an incredibly sophisticated business. Peninsula imports seafood from all over the world and places an impressive emphasis on procuring products from sustainable sources. It’s an excellent choice for sustainable fish of all kinds, but we’re talkin’ about oysters today.  One of the best deals for oysters in the Bay Area, you can pick up a CASE of about 100 shuck-em-yourself oysters for just $60. We’ve seen both West Coast and East Coast varieties on the menu. $0.50 oysters in the Bay Area are simply unheard of these days, so even though there’s a little extra work involved, there’s also a lot of fun! If you don’t know how to shuck an oyster, we got you.  Browse Peninsula’s website.

Love Stretchy Pants?

If you made it this far down the list, we know you really love oysters.  Join us on our Stretchy Pants cocktails and aphrodisiacs tour through SF’s Castro district for a tasty oyster sampling and learn why oysters are the iconic aphrodisiac!  Get your tickets today!!

 

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