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Five places to eat oysters in San Francisco 

Wednesday, Feb 11 2009

Swan's Oyster Depot
1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101
Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Opened in 1912, Swan's is essentially a fish market with a long marble bar and 20 stools. You'll have to wait in line for a while to get in, but it's worth it. Typically, Swan's has four types of oysters — Long Island Blue Points, California Kumamotos, Canadian Beausoleils, and tiny native Olympias. Beer is the recommended oyster beverage here — and Anchor Steam is on tap. Jimmy Sancimino is the waiter of choice; he is one of the brothers who run the place. His dad, Sicilian-born fisherman Sal Sancimino, bought Swan's in 1946. The crab Louie, a huge pile of lump crabmeat on iceberg lettuce drenched in creamy dressing, is what Jimmy recommends after a dozen oysters. It goes perfectly with your second beer.

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market (at Franklin), 552-2522
Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Judy Rodgers is a chef who understands oysters. Zuni Cafe always has a large selection, but Rodgers doesn't play games or try to confuse customers with lots of nearly identical selections. In the winter, you will often find five species available. An oyster menu lists the species, market name, and place name of each oyster in meticulous detail. The oysters are always fresh, and the shucking is expertly done. The wine list offers a wide selection of Sancerres and California oyster wines. Even the sourdough bread and high-quality butter are perfect.

Hog Island Oyster Bar
San Francisco Ferry Building, Embarcadero (at Market), 391-7117
Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Hog Island Oyster Bar is in the north end of the Ferry Building Marketplace and offers indoor and outdoor tables with spectacular views of the bay. The oysters arrive fresh daily from Hog Island's oyster farm on Tomales Bay. Be forewarned that there is a long wait for tables at happy hour on most weekdays. Try to stop by for lunch instead.

Hog Island Oyster Farm
20215 Highway One, Marshall, 663-9218 ext. 255

Stop by and see a working oyster farm in action. Bring a cooler and pick up some oysters to take home. Hog Island Oyster Farm is located 10.2 miles north of Point Reyes Station on Highway One. Look for it on the left.

Picnic Area: Hog Island's picnic area is spectacular, but you have to make reservations months in advance to get a table. It costs $8 per person on weekends and $5 per person during the week for a picnic table, access to a barbecue pit for grilling oysters (bring your own charcoal), and free use of shucking tools. You can bring wine, beer, and beverages, and picnic fare to complement the oysters, but you can't have full-blown barbecues.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company
15479 Highway One, Marshall, 663-1242
Daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company has long been a Sunday drive destination. Cruise the coast road and admire the scenery, and then stop to pick up a couple of sacks of oysters, mussels, or clams to take home for dinner.

Picnic Area: This is the picnic place for spontaneous types and breakfast lovers — the waterfront picnic grounds are first-come, first-served. You can buy oyster knives, ice, and charcoal on the spot. Don't forget to bring your cooler.

More info on where to eat oysters in S.F and what species to look for.

Oyster Lovers Unite
This Valentine’s weekend may be your best chance to eat oysters for years to come.

Warning: Don't eat oysters if you take antacids

Your guide to the five species of oysters available in the U.S.

About The Author

Robb Walsh


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