Swan Oyster Depot

Review by: Michael Stern

An always-too-crowded oyster bar with a row of nineteen wobbly stools and a menu on the wall, 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.

Directions & Hours

  • Monday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Thursday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Friday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Saturday: 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

What To Eat



Boston Chowder

Seafood Mix Salad

Seafood Mix Cocktail


Swan Oyster Depot Recipes


What do you think of Swan Oyster Depot?

One Response to “Swan Oyster Depot”

Dan Murrell

December 9th, 2007

Walked up and down the hills of San Francisco to reach the Swan and it was worth every step. Beat the crowd that day and got seated immediately next to two young ladies, each with a bowl of clam chowder followed by a three-tiered rack of freshly-shucked oysters and clams. A student sat down to my left and immediately struck up a conversation about coming to Swan whenever he could find the money. Makes no difference that this place is only about 10 feet wide and 30 long.

I ordered a cup of clam chowder, easily some of the best I have ever had, served with sourdough bread and a huge bowl of oyster crackers on the bar. That was followed by an incredibly simple crab salad: an oblong eight-inch plate with a layer of iceberg lettuce, a little of their secret sauce and a mound of fresh crabmeat. Not a single bite without lots of fantastic crabmeat in it! Chased it all down with a cold Anchor Steam – and walked next door to See’s Candies for dessert!


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