Swan Oyster Depot
Swan Oyster Depot, open since 1912 in Nob Hill, is a raw fish institution. The seafood is unbelievably fresh, and the menu includes everything from clams, oysters, and Dungeness crab to sashimi platters and sea urchin. The clam chowder, a buttery and briny both made with the day's clams, is awesome, as is the twice-cracked crab. Basically, everything here rocks. The narrow space has only 18 bar seats, and it's a great option for a solo lunch since parties of one can usually bypass the long wait.
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.