Swan Oyster Depot is a San Francisco institution. Anthony Bourdain has visited this place, not once, but twice, while filming “The Layover” in 2012 and “Parts Unknown” in 2015. It should be no surprise to know the place is overrun with tourists, myself and The Annoyer included. As a result, the wait for a seat at the tiny 20 seat counter is pretty ridiculous. We waited for 2 hours in some dreary damp weather during prime lunch time on a Saturday. The restaurant is a short walk from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, so some fresh baked goodies helped tide us over. The Annoyer had been here before, but ordered some different things. It’s safe to say he had a much better experience this second time around.
Boston Clam Chowder
The Annoyer didn’t have stellar things to say about the clam chowder. He thought I should try it anyways. The clam/seafood flavor was not lost in excessive amounts of cream, but it was a bit offputting to see the cream broken like that. There were a good amount of real clams and potatoes. Overall, I’ve had better chowders. You can skip this.
I wavered on this for a while. Ordering this was the best decision we made. For $6, we feasted on the most flavorful and richest part of the crab. I usually try to steer clear of the the guts and brains of the crab. I was wholly impressed at how rich and buttery this tasted, totally not fishy. We asked if there were any eggs, butter, or something else added to this, but our waiter emphasized there was nothing but crab here.
Served cold, it went perfectly atop some crusty bread. Uniquely wonderful.
They had a small selection of oysters including Miyagi, Blue Point, and Kumamoto. I’ve eaten a good amount of oysters in my life and I always love Kumamoto best. These were delightful.
Sicilian Sashimi ahi, salmon, yellowtail, scallop, sardine, olive oil, capers, red onions, sea salt
This was another popular item on Yelp, and another great dish. The fish was so fresh. The minimal dressing and toppings really allowed the flavor of the fish to shine through. The Annoyer was really really pleased. If you love sashimi, this is your dish.
Crab Salad louie dressing on the side
I knew we would be pushing it by ordering the salad, but after a 2 hour wait, we just had to go all in. At $29, this was the most expensive dish of the meal. It was packed, and I mean PACKED full of huge pieces of crab meat. I think a lot of crabs lost their claws for us here. The meat was so fresh and sweet. Underneath, was a bed of very forgetful shredded romaine lettuce. On the side, was a very heavy and thick creamy Thousand Island like dressing. I’m glad it was on the side, because all I needed was a dip here and there. The crab was totally delicious on its own.
The wait for Swan Oyster Depot paid off. A tourist trap it was not, even though most of the patrons were probably tourists. All the locals picked up to go orders and completely bypassed the wait. The crab back and Sicilian sashimi were perfect. The oysters were without fault. The crab salad was very simple, and maybe not worth the price tag, but I doubt you’re going to find any place that will serve you that much fresh crab on a plate. Aside from the food, I would like to commend the service. Everyone working behind that counter was extremely friendly and easy going. It definitely makes that wait feel a little less sour once you get a seat and are greeted by such warm and happy people. Swan Oyster Depot isn’t doing anything particularly magical to their food. They are just sourcing and serving the best seafood out there, just as Mother Nature intended. I’d skip Hog Island and come here instead, if you can stand the wait. It may not be as posh, but great food trumps shiny chairs and a fancy cocktail menu any day. Next time, no chowder for me and we’ll be good to go!
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here