Best Seafood in San Francisco
The Best Seafood in San Francisco: Superlative Edition
It’s no secret that San Francisco is one of the best places to eat seafood in the world. The abundance and variety of top-notch options can make choosing where to find the best seafood in San Francisco more than a little overwhelming. Pile this on top of the fact that everyone will give you a different answer, and you have reached peak decision paralysis.
Instead of boring you with yet another ranked list of places to find the best seafood in San Francisco, Stretchy Pants is shaking things up a bit. We’ve given each of our favorite (aka the best) seafood places a superlative title (think “class clown”) that captures the essence of what they have to offer. In a city where seafood reigns supreme, we’re here to help you master more than just where to find the best seafood in San Francisco, but where to go if you’re craving something unforgettable, seafood fresh off the boat, a fancy night out, a unique seafood experience, something your Nonna would approve of, and more. You can thank us later.
Best Seafood in San Francisco #1
Best All-Around: Anchor Oyster Bar
- 579 Castro Street (Castro)
- Highlight: Oyster shooters
Anchor Oyster Bar has everything you’d expect when looking for the best seafood in San Francisco – freshness, authenticity, ambiance, attitude, sustainable practices, a long history as a family-owned business, and the words “oyster” and “bar” in its name. It truly is the all-around best seafood in San Francisco. Anchor Oyster Bar has been feeding seafood lovers in it’s modestly charming Castro digs since 1977. You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant or a neighborhood that better defines San Francisco than these two.
They don’t take reservations, so expect to wait, but you’ll forget all about it once you’re slurping down your second Oyster Shooter. Just be sure to hit your target because spilled oysters are definitely something worth crying over. The menu at Anchor Oyster Bar is small, which means there are no distractions. Some of Anchor’s most popular items are its Boston Clam Chowder, Sicilian-inspired Cioppino served with a side of warm, buttery garlic bread, and of course, oysters. With the exception of Daily Specials, their menu doesn’t change, because it doesn’t need to: Anchor Oyster Bar Menu
Photo Courtesy of Bob K, Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Farrah A Yelp
Best Seafood in San Francisco #2
Most Authentic: Swan Oyster Depot
- 1517 Polk Street (Nob Hill)
- Highlight: The secret menu
Swan Oyster Depot is the real deal. We wanted to give them “most likely to make you feel like you’re on a boat”, but that didn’t quite roll off the tongue. The pinnacle of seafood royalty in a city full of seafood nobility, this 18-seat counter has been serving some of the best seafood in San Francisco for more than 100 years.
The late and great Anthony Bourdain agreed, and wouldn’t visit San Francisco without stopping by. Everyday except Sundays, customers line-up around the block waiting for their chance to feast on the best seafood in San Francisco. Do not be disillusioned, you will have to wait, but the literal “crabsanthemum” of succulent, freshly-cracked (for you!) crab legs that await you should keep your spirits high.
Besides their legendary hospitality, the highlight at Swan’s is the “secret” menu. If you were to make an album titled “The Best Seafood in San Francisco”, this menu would be its greatest hits. It features delicacies like the “crabsanthemum” mentioned above, and needs no further introduction, as well as a “dozen eggs”, also known as an entire plate of finely sliced raw scallops wading in a shallow pond of ponzu sauce and topped with a drop of Sriracha. Swan’s is proof that dreams really do come true.
Pro tip: this is a cash only establishment (it’s that good), so be prepared. Swan’s stellar daily menu is handwritten on the menu board, but you can read more about the “secret” menu here: At Swan Oyster Depot, a Menu Built for Regulars
Best Seafood in San Francisco #3
Best Ambiance: Farallon
- 450 Post Street (Union Square)
- Highlight: Fruits de Mer
Farallon is the least budget-friendly option on this list, but it’s worth the splurge if you’re celebrating a big occasion, or your parents are picking up the bill. The decor is something like London cocktail lounge meets ‘under the sea’, and we are nothing but here for it. Seat us in a rose-colored clamshell booth beneath a glimmering jellyfish chandelier and make us part of your world, Farallon! Farallon’s “fruits de mer” seafood tower is a sight to behold, and eating it made us feel like mermaid royalty. If you’re looking for the best seafood in San Francisco with a side of opulence, then Farallon is the place to go.
Fun fact: Farallon got its name from the Spanish word farallón (meaning “rocky pillar”) and is pronounced “Fare-uh-lawn” in English. It refers to a group of islands located only 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco called, you guessed it, the Farallon Islands! They are also referred to as “the devil’s teeth”, in reference to the rocky shoals that lie just beneath the surface – right next to all the ships they’ve chewed up over the years. The Farallon Islands are part of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and are bustling with sea creatures, both delicious and majestic. You can even take a boat trip out to visit them if you’re so inclined, but we prefer the more hospitable Union Square location. Start saving up while you peruse the menu: Farallon Menu
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Ward Prufer
Photo Courtesy of Thomas W, Yelp
Best Seafood in San Francisco #4
Most Unique: R&G Lounge
- 631 Kearny Street (Chinatown)
- Highlight: Salt and pepper anything, really
R&G Lounge is a local treasure – there are literal busloads of people coming in and out at any given time. It is not an establishment known for its impeccable service, but what R&G Lounge lacks in hospitality, it makes up for in flavor and variety. What makes R&G truly unique is that it not only serves some of the best seafood in San Francisco, but it also serves some of the best Cantonese food in San Francisco.
The menu is longer than most of the books we’ve read recently, and can be daunting to the untrained eye. Do not be deterred, simply zero-in on anything that has “salt & pepper” written in front of it, and you will not be disappointed. The Salt & Pepper Crab can be found on just about every list of the best seafood in San Francisco, and there’s a good reason for that.
Words to the wise: do get a reservation, and do come with a big group so you can do as the Cantonese do and order twice as much as you could ever possibly finish. R&G Lounge is not the kind of place you go to be dainty. R&G Lounge is a place to be bold. Start studying the menu now so you can flex in front of your friends: R&G Lounge Menu
Best Seafood in San Francisco #5
Best Reason to Visit Ocean Beach: Hook Fish Co.
- 4542 Irving Street (Outer Sunset)
- Highlight: Fish tacos
San Francisco might be surrounded by water, but it’s not a place that gives off heavy beach vibes. Walk into Hook Fish Co., however, and you’ll feel like you just wrapped an epic surf sesh. At Hook Fish Co., everything is thoughtfully sourced, and they don’t skimp on the details. They tell you where your fish was caught, who caught it, and the method used to catch it. There’s a reason why they’ve only been around a few years, but you’d be hard pressed to find a list of the best seafood in San Francisco without Hook Fish Co. on it.
When it comes to ordering, you can choose either to order off the menu, or buy fresh fish to make yourself. If you’re anything like us, you’ll do both. The guys that started this place grew up in southern California, so they know a thing or two about fish tacos – order them. Their House Ceviche rotates with the seasons and is well-balanced, and the Avocado Tacos give the vegetarians in your life a reason to celebrate going to a seafood joint. Check-out the full menu here: Hook Fish Co. Menu
Photo Courtesy of Raja Iliya
Photo Courtesy of Nancy L, Yelp
Best Seafood in San Francisco #6
Most Talented: Hog Island Oyster Co.
- One Ferry Building #11, San Francisco, CA (Ferry Building), 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA (farm), 610 1st Street, Napa, CA (Wine Country)
- Highlight: Hog Island Sweetwaters
We love a good road trip as much as the next millennial, but the fact that we don’t have to trek all the way to Tomales Bay (which is beautiful, and you should go) to get our hands on a dozen Hog Island Sweetwaters is truly a gift that keeps on giving – every time we stop by the Ferry Building.
The founders of Hog Island Oyster Co. got their start as self-proclaimed, “marine biologists by day, oyster farmers by night” so you can see how the whole “most talented” superlative checks out. After nearly 40 years in business, Hog Island Oyster Co. is one of the premier producers of sustainable certified shellfish in the world, not to mention, a Bay Area institution. When you think about the best seafood in San Francisco, remember that Hog Island Oyster Co. is literally creating it.
A lot of what Hog Island Oyster Co. sells at its Ferry Building location is farmed just up the coast, so it’s as fresh as can possibly be. On top of that, it also offers an impressive selection of oysters from around the globe. If you’re looking for something warm, try the grilled oysters or Clam Chowder – both of which are as beautiful as they are delicious. The selection changes based on supply, but you can check out a sample menu here: Hog Island Oyster Co. Ferry Building Sample Menu
Best Seafood in San Francisco #7
Best Place to Eat Outside: Pier 23 Cafe Restaurant & Bar
- 23 The Embarcadero (Embarcadero)
- Highlight: The bay-side deck
Pier 23 Cafe Restaurant & Bar may not farm its own oysters or catch its own fish, but it does have one of the nicest bay-side decks in the entire city. Pier 23 Cafe also has a down-to-earth vibe that makes it the perfect place to enjoy a SF Crab & Shrimp Salad Sandwich and a beer on a sunny day.
We recommend taking visitors here so that you can instill in them the appropriate amount of envy over the beautiful city which we get to call home. As far as the best seafood in San Francisco goes, Pier 23 Cafe tops the list for outdoor delights. Its weekend brunch is full of crowd-pleasing options, but be sure to check the weather in advance, and make a reservation so you don’t have to wait. Peek all of Pier 23’s menus here: Pier 23 Cafe Menus
Photo Courtesy of Jennifer A, Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Kithumini J, Yelp
Best Seafood in San Francisco #8
Most Unforgettable: The Codmother Fish and Chips
- 496 Beach Street (Fisherman’s Wharf)
- Highlight: Fish and chips, of course!
It’s hard to forget the time you ate a piece of perfectly fried Alaskan cod roughly the size of your face, and this is exactly what a visit to The Codmother has in store. A mere $12.49 at The Codmother will get you TWO impossibly large pieces of beer-battered, freshly fried Alaskan cod on a bed of hand-cut fries. It’s almost too good to be true, but miracles do happen once in a while.
The Codmother Fish and Chips is a food truck near Pier 39 that, conveniently, never moves. It also has a cute, dog-friendly patio to sit-down and enjoy the best British-style fish and chips on this side of the pond. It’s positively delightful!
The Codmother serves nothing but the best seafood in San Francisco, but we should warn you, this is not a light meal. We don’t recommend having any plans outside of napping after eating here, but we wouldn’t want our fish and chips any other way. Take a peek at The Codmother’s menu, and start dreaming about your “chips gone wild”.
Best Seafood in San Francisco #9
Best Italian: Sotto Mare
- Sotto Mare (North Beach)
- Highlight: The “Best Damn Crab Cioppino”
Italy is almost completely surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, so it’s not surprising that Italian cuisine features some of the best seafood dishes known to man. However, many of us here in the US are only familiar with the standard linguine and clams variety of Italian fare.
Sotto Mare is so much more than that. Sure, you will find Linguine with Manila Clams on the menu, but you will also find Linguine with Bay Scallops, Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon, Risotto with Seafood, Octopus salad, a full raw bar, and of course, the Best Damn Crab Cioppino you can find in the city.
The entire menu at Sotto Mare revolves around fresh seafood and great wine. Honestly, what more could you ask for? North Beach might be full of tourist traps, but Sotto Mare is serving some of the best seafood in San Francisco – even your Italian grandmother would agree.
Photo Courtesy of Lloyd V, Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Scoma’s Restaurant
Best Seafood in San Francisco #10
Best in Fisherman’s Wharf: Scoma’s
- 1965 Al Scoma Way (Fisherman’s Wharf)
- Highlight: Oyster alla Scoma
We couldn’t highlight the best seafood in San Francisco without including at least one option in Fisherman’s Wharf, right? Sure, it’s crawling with tourists and can be shockingly overpriced, but it’s the place where the story of seafood in San Francisco began. It‘s important to pay homage to that. Of all the places in Fisherman’s Wharf that claim to serve the best seafood in San Francisco, Scoma’s is the one that’s really doing it, and it’s been that way since 1965.
Scoma’s slogan is “pier to plate”, and they mean that quite literally. It even has its own fish receiving station built on Scoma’s pier to allow local fishermen to sell their daily catch directly to the restaurant instead of wholesalers. You read that correctly, Scoma’s has its own pier on Fisherman’s Wharf. This alone makes it worth going to, but you should also go for the Oyster alla Scoma, an original comprised of Pacific oysters, chopped chard, brandy-garlic aioli, and shredded asiago cheese. Simply put, Scoma’s is nostalgia on a plate best served with a San Francisco Bay view. Browse its complete line-up of classics here: Scoma’s Menu
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