14 Essential Seafood Restaurants in San Francisco
From Fisherman’s Wharf to the Financial District, here’s where to get the best and freshest seafood in SF, including our signature Cioppino.
Considering this city’s prime location between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, it’s no surprise that we have some of the best seafood in the country. This is especially true for the SF trifecta of Dungeness crab, oysters, and our signature Cioppino—an Italian-American fish stew that originated in our fine City by the Bay.
We fished around to find the very best spots to enjoy traditional and creative seafood preparations, including upscale romantic options, several worthwhile tourist spots, and a couple of raw bars and crab shacks where you won’t have to shell out a ton of clams for an unforgettable meal. From Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro, here are our 14 of the best seafood restaurants in San Francisco:
Estiatorio Ornos a Michael Mina Restaurant San Francisco
Transport yourself to the Greek Isles for an evening of warm hospitality, Mediterranean vibes, and flavorful seafood dishes at this Michael Mina spot that is one of very few reasons to actually head to the Financial District these days. You’ll find all kinds of delicious seafood on the shared plates menu, including marinated big-eye tuna, sea urchin, hamachi, grilled octopus, smelts, and an oh-so-fancy caviar service, as well as fish that’s flown in daily and prepared by the chef to best showcase its “unique qualities and characteristics.” Even if you know exactly what you want, ask to speak to SF’s only Fish Sommelier, who operates a roving cart showcasing each of the dishes to your table and explaining them to you in the most delightful manner.
How to book: Reserve your table on the Estiatorio Ornos website.
The Anchovy Bar
All we should have to say to convince you to check out this tiny, laid-back oyster bar is that it’s from the team behind State Bird Provisions and The Progress. And don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of slippery little fish (although even if you think that, the preparations you’ll find here are likely to change your mind), there’s plenty of other seafood on the menu, including six kinds of oysters (plus a broiled option with date-bacon sambal butter), tinned fish, Meyer Lemon-Miso Clams, Seafood Stew, and possibly the best whipped butter you’ve ever been lucky enough to slather across toasted ciabatta.
Scoma’s is one of SF’s most classic seafood restaurants, serving “pier-to-plate” fare from local fishermen who bring their daily catch directly to the restaurant’s pier. Obviously, that means that the best thing to order is whatever was just reeled in, including the Cioppino with Dungeness crab, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, and market fish. But, no judgment at all, sometimes you just want a really good fish filet sandwich, and when that happens, Scoma’s—prepared with fresh flounder and served with fennel slaw, salad, and fries—always hits the spot. Whatever you order, you’ll be enjoying it with water views (including fishermen hard at work) indoors and out.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
The very best way to enjoy Hog Island Oyster Co.’s oysters is at The Boat Oyster Bar on the oyster farm in Marshall, where you’ll get to eat them fresh out of the water while drinking great wine and sitting at a waterside picnic table. But, if you’re not in the mood to make the drive (or can’t snag a very hard-to-get reservation), the Ferry Building restaurant is an exceptional second choice. There, you’ll find seating (indoors and out) overlooking the Bay, seafood fresh off the boats, including oysters served on the half-shell as well as several grilled preparations, produce from local farmers markets, and excellent cocktails. You’ll also find one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in SF, which we understand has nothing to do with seafood but is still very much worth an order.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
This massive Peruvian seafood restaurant on the water has some of the best cebiche you’ll find in San Francisco and the Tiradito with sushi-grade ahi tuna is beyond flavorful. The Limeña Causa, made with whipped purple potatoes and topped with a Dungeness crab salad, avocado, and tomato is a must-order, as are the empanadas. Want to try it all? Order the La Mar Tasting, which includes the cebiche, causa, tiradito, nigiri, empanadas, grilled catch of the day, and dessert. La Mar also has excellent cocktails, so be sure to start with one of those and ask for seating on the outdoor (heated and enclosed) patio if you want to maximize the water views.
At Waterbar, you’re not just paying for the great seafood, you’re paying for great seafood that is fresh-caught and sustainably sourced with respect to the seasons and the sea—definitely worth it. You’re also paying for the panoramic views of the Bay that you’ll get no matter where you sit—also definitely worth it. All of the tables are great, but if weather permits and you can snag one on the patio, that’s the way to go—usually more feasible for a seafood lunch or a happy hour—2:30 pm to 5 pm, daily. And about that happy hour: it’s actually many happy hours, at least in terms of oysters. One featured oyster is just $1.55/each every day between 11:30 am and 5 pm, which makes the $29 deep-fried Soft Shell Crab Burger feel much more reasonable.
This modern raw bar has supported local producers and served sustainable seafood, including a very popular chowder, since it opened its doors in 2005. If you haven’t been there in a while, you may be surprised to see some Mexican dishes on the menu, which, even though change sometimes freaks us out, turned out to be a smart move. You can still get the favorites, specifically the crudo, oysters, and that chowder, but now you can also get tacos with crispy cod, grilled prawns, and seared scallops, and chips and guacamole to start. It’s pretty much the perfect marriage. We’re certain Ariel would agree.
This homey family-run seafood spot in North Beach, complete with nautical decor covering every inch of every wall, is the ideal union of authentic Italian food and fresh seafood. The restaurant is famous for its “Best Damn Crab Cioppino” for very good reason, but the oysters, cold-cracked Dungeness crab, prawns, and shrimp cocktail, all of the Louis salads a girl or guy could want, and sauteed or grilled fish are all shining stars. That being said, it’s almost impossible not to order one of the pasta seafood dishes because who can resist linguine with a mountain of seafood?
How to book: Call 415-398-3181 for reservations for three or more people.
Hook Fish Co.
This bustling fish market and seafood shack is the brainchild of a couple of guys who grew up surfing and fishing in California, with a passion for taking care of the ocean. That passion inspired them to create a place where people could buy thoughtfully sourced seafood and better support local fisherpeople by cutting out the middleman. Sure, that’s something a lot of high-end SF restaurants already do, but at Hook Fish Co, not only is the fish something you can feel good about eating, it’s also super tasty and very reasonably priced. (Hence why there’s always a line during peak hours). The menu is pretty simple: poke, ceviche, burritos, and tacos with grilled fish, a blackened fish sandwich, fish and chips, and a couple of salads. The coolest part? You can look at the wall above the kitchen to find out the vessel the fish were caught on, the method used to catch them, and the port they came into.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Woodhouse Fish Co.
Woodhouse is an excellent choice when you’re in the mood to enjoy a Dungeness crab or lobster sandwich with chips and slaw in a very nautical-kitsch setting. The seafood is all very fresh, the Dungeness crab cakes are way more crab than filler, and there’s strawberry shortcake for dessert. Think of it as the kind of place you go for an early dinner when you want quality seafood without any pomp and circumstance.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Anchor Oyster Bar
This seafood restaurant and fish market has been delighting Castro diners with fresh, sustainably caught seafood since 1977. Always check the specials board—that’s where you’ll find the best dishes, like an open-faced crab and shrimp melt, crab-stuffed mushrooms, and, when available, the cracked Dungeness crab. The crab cake entree with housemade tartar sauce and roasted potatoes that’s served with a cup of chowder (or a green salad, but just ignore that option) never ceases to be exactly what you want: delicious, comforting, and satisfying.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Fog Harbor Fish House
Are there two restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf on this list? Shell yeah there are, and we refuse to apologize for reasons that are explicitly explained in the neighborhood’s name. It’s just a fact that if you want fresh catch, you should go to where the people who catch it are. Plus, Fog House takes major advantage of one of the best attributes of that neighborhood—truly stunning views of the water and the Golden Gate Bridge. Besides the views, Fog House also serves up 100% sustainable seafood, sourdough bread that is baked in-house every hour, and lick-your-fingers-good garlic, whole-roasted Dungeness crab. The menu is extensive, so if you’re not willing to put in the work for the crab, there are plenty of tasty dishes where the kitchen has done all of the heavy lifting for you, and all you have to do is get your fork to your mouth.
How to book: Reserve a table on Yelp.
Chef Joshua Skenes (previously the chef at Saison) is the driving force behind this “sea-life focused” restaurant on the Embarcadero, much of which is cooked over the star of the restaurant, a 32-foot-long hearth and wood-fire grill. Absolutely order something from that section of the menu, but don’t skip the bivalves straight from the tank. (Or the parker house rolls with cultured seaweed butter.) The space is impressive—two dining rooms, both with sweeping views of the Bay Bridge and impeccable decor, so much so that you’ll figure out right when you walk in that you’re going to walk out substantially poorer (but also completely satisfied).
Swan Oyster Depot
A “Best Seafood in SF” list is incomplete unless it includes the city’s seafood mecca: Swan Oyster Depot. People start lining up at this fish market/raw bar before it even opens to get a coveted spot at the 16-seat counter (the only place to sit) and order as much seafood as they can handle. The most popular things to order are the Sicilian sashimi, uni (when it’s available), oysters, and for the more adventurous: crab backs—the liver, fat, and innards of a crab served in its shell with salty, buttery broth, perfect for dipping sourdough. Not convinced? Anthony Bourdain, who called Swan Oyster Depot his “happy place,” described crab backs as “unicorn juice.” But even if you stick to the basics, like a seafood cocktail or a Louis salad with a cup of chowder, you’ll leave happy and sated.
How to book: Walk-ins only; cash only.