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Swan Oyster Depot

1517 Polk St., San Francisco, CA - (415) 673-1101
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/30/2007 5:07:00 PM
An always-too-crowded oyster bar with a row of nineteen wobbly stools and a menu on the wall that lists little more than shellfish, Swan Oyster Depot has been a beacon for seafood lovers since it opened in 1912. Oysters from the east and west coasts are served on the half-shell. There are whole lobsters, cooked to order, seafood salads made of shrimp or crab; and you can get some delicious smoked trout or salmon, available with rye or French bread. Also, creamy Boston-style chowder. The marble counter is strewn with condiments: Tabasco sauce, lemons, oyster crackers.

Dungeness crab is served in season (generally, mid-November through May), available "cracked," meaning sections of cooked, cooled claw, leg, and body ready to be unloaded of their sweet meat. Crab Louie is a regal dish (invented in San Francisco) in which large chunks of sweet meat are cosseted in a condiment compounded from lemony mayonnaise spiked with relish and olive bits, enriched by hard-cooked egg.

Expensive, uncomfortable, and noisy: Swan Oyster Depot is all these things; and its inconvenience is part of its charm (as is the ebullience of the Sancimino family, who have run the lunch counter since 1946). For many devotees, this is simply the best place in San Francisco to eat fresh seafood.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
oysters
Boston chowder
crab
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

3 kinds of oysters.
"3 kinds of oysters."
Nobu Isono





You should try this!
"You should try this!"
Nobu Isono


A half-size Salada.
"A half-size Salada."
Nobu Isono


Best chowder I ever ate in my life!
"Best chowder I ever ate in my life!"
Nobu Isono


Crab leg meat, cold Stella and wonderful San Francisco sourdough bread.  The guy next to me told me he liked the ends best so I gave mine to him.
"Crab leg meat, cold Stella and wonderful San Francisco sourdough bread. The guy next to me told me he liked the ends best so I gave mine to him."
curly


The Swan menu is posted on the wall.  You cannot make a bad choice. (Marc Bruno photo)
"The Swan menu is posted on the wall. You cannot make a bad choice. (Marc Bruno photo)"
Michael Stern


Consider yourself lucky if you walk in and actually find a place to sit without having to hover.  At lunch time, a place at this counter is priceless.  (Marc Bruno photo)
"Consider yourself lucky if you walk in and actually find a place to sit without having to hover. At lunch time, a place at this counter is priceless. (Marc Bruno photo)"
Michael Stern


Breakfast at Swan's counter.
"Breakfast at Swan's counter."
Jeremy Sheldon


History of Swan Oyster Depot.  Click on the photo for a readable view.
"History of Swan Oyster Depot. Click on the photo for a readable view."
Nobu Isono


A great place to eat, Swan Oyster Depot is a storefront market that also displays handsome pieces of raw fish to take home and cook.  (Marc Bruno photo)
"A great place to eat, Swan Oyster Depot is a storefront market that also displays handsome pieces of raw fish to take home and cook. (Marc Bruno photo)"
Michael Stern



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