1517 Polk Street, SF, CA 94109 | 415. 673.2757 | Mon-Sat 10:15 am – 5:30 pm
The best place in the city for a seafood feast is Swan Oyster Depot, where it’s pretty much always lunch as it is only open from 10:15 to 5:30. Even though we got there at 10:45, there was already a long line of seafood lovers waiting to sit at one of the highly coveted 18 seats at the counter. This local institution was recently included in Bon Appetit magazines 20 most important restaurants in America list, and the long lines certainly attest to its popularity!
The window display is filled with a bounty of seafood that tantalizes and tempts while you wait to enter the memorabilia filled restaurant. It’s bustling behind the counter, with half a dozen congenial servers fulfilling peoples seafood desires. The Sancimino family has run the place since 1946 (which has been open since 1912), and there are many photos up on the walls depicting faces over the years. If you look hard enough you can find the prestigious James Beard American Classic award that they won in 2000 hanging to the left of the register. The vibe is casual, lots of regulars stopping in to pickup orders to-go being greeted by name, and it’s similar to sitting at the sushi counter, except the guys are shucking oysters and throwing together plates of delectably fresh seafood, instead of rolling it up in sushi rice.
The hand lettered menu is simple but very inspiring. Each seat at the counter is well apportioned with a bowl of fresh lemon wedges, a variety of hot sauce, horseradish, salt and pepper shakers, a bowl of crunchy oyster crackers, and you are also served slices of fresh sourdough with pats of creamy butter to spread over.
Some must try dishes: oysters on the half shell. All of the oysters are good and are served with your choice of cocktail sauce, mignonette (cracked black pepper and minced shallot in red wine vinegar), Tabasco or Crystal hot sauce, or just a squeeze of lemon.
While we were slurping up the oysters, we watched them carve a smoked salmon into delicate thin slices.
We asked our man to hook us up with a plate of the Smoked Salmon, which he topped with a liberal handful of capers and chopped red onion, then sprinkled with salt and pepper. Delicious with a squeeze of fresh lemon and eaten with the buttered bread.
Calamari Salad, marinated rings and tentacles tossed in a bright and lively marinade with celery, red peppers, onion and fresh herbs.
We had to order the Dungeness Crab and Prawn Salad, which was full of big meaty pieces. So good dunked into the accompanying cocktail sauce that Mr. K doctored with a healthy dose of horseradish.
We finished up with one of our favorite dishes, the Scallop Crudo which is Italian style sashimi! Thin slices of raw scallop drizzled with olive oil, minced red onion and capers. The flesh is sweet and tender, the silky texture is topped with brilliant fresh flavors in each bite.
Our bill was close to $100 for the two of us, but if you compare the amount of seafood consumed to that of an equitable amount of sushi, it was a fabulous feast. The seafood craving beasts are satisfied for the time being…