Swan Oyster Depot (SF)

A couple months ago, CT and I decided to plan a trip to San Francisco over Memorial Day weekend. She had never been before so we made sure to hit up all of the tourist sites. Of course, there was plenty of eating to do too. Join us as we recap our wonderful time on the West coast.

After getting in super late the night before, the first thing we did after waking up was head out for breakfast. Since we had a pretty good outline setup ahead of time of where we would be eating, we knew our first stop would be Swan Oyster Depot. Ever since I saw this place on The Layover, I knew CT and I had to go. Since they only have counter service and serve only the freshest seafood, it is key to get there EARLY! We got there at 11 and there was already a line way out the door.

We took turns going up to the storefront window to ogle the trays of seafood they had.

It’s kind of hard to see, but above the mussels was a tray of whole uni. It was pretty funny because as the line was moving, we overheard the guys in front of us mention there were only two uni left in the window. We were scared they would sell out before we got a chance to order.

About an hour later, we finally were able to grab two open stools at the counter. All those visits to Shake Shack helped our line-endurance!

The only menu is what’s on the wall. The place has been around forever and has that old-school, we ain’t changed nothing charm. $4 pints of Anchor Steam? SWEET!

CT is a big fan of rubber duckies, so she appreciated the collection they had.

They had a couple guys working behind the counter that were waiters/servers/chefs all wrapped into one. Our guy was especially nice and built up a pretty good rapport with us.

We had a nice little setup in front of us: oyster crackers, jalapeno & habanero mignonette, classic red wine mignonette, fresh horseradish and sliced lemons. We were also fortunate to be right in front of the smoked salmon that was sliced to order.

After ordering we were given some slices of fresh sourdough bread and some butter pats. For those of you who don’t know sourdough is basically synonymous with San Francisco. It was very good with a nice dark crust, but I had to hold back to save room for our food.

First up was the Combination Seafood Cocktail ($11). We were given some cocktail sauce on the side, but just a squeeze of lemon was all that was needed. As you can see there was a little bit of everything; crab, oysters, shrimp and clams. A good start to our lunch.

Next was a mixed dozen oysters ($26). Our server explained what they all were, but of course we didn’t write it down. As the picture of the menu indicated there were kumamoto, miyagi and blue points. They were all very good. We especially liked the jalapeno & habanero mignonette on top. However, the oysters had plenty of liquor already and were excellent on their own without any toppings needed. A good problem to have when eating oysters.

Fortunately, they had a couple more uni than what was in the window. I have no idea how much it cost but we waited long enough and didn’t care. Look at how gorgeous that is! Plucked fresh from the shell and beautifully presented. It was awesome. Even better than the uni we had at Mo C Mo C back in Princeton, at least because they was no rice getting in the way. Then again, the uni didn’t have to fly across the country.

While we were eating, we saw that most people around us had dungeness crab shells filled with what looked like butter that they were soaking up with bread. We didn’t see it on the menu. Since we were still a little peckish, we decided to order it too by basically pointing at our neighbors and saying “We want that.” Turns out it was called “Crab Fat” and was just as the name implies. It was awesome, buttery and sweet. Perfect with the tangy bread. Again we had no idea how much it was, but it was so good we didn’t care.

We then got pretty full pretty quickly, but when we were offered a taste of the smoked salmon we couldn’t refuse. It was very good and definitely NY-deli level quality fish.

It was cool that they didn’t actually write down what we ate until after we asked for the bill. Uni, what? No, I didn’t have any Sir. haha, just kidding. It ended up being just about $100 including 3 beers and a healthy tip. An expensive lunch, but well worth it considering the quality of what we ate.

We were also given a little gift and a postcard. Cute touch. The little yellow card was actually a sponge that puffed up when wet.

All in all, Swan Oyster Depot was even better than expected. Service was excellent and all of the seafood was delicious. Much much better than some tourist trap at Fishermans’ Wharf. Bring cash and get there early! Don’t forget to get the uni and crab fat.

Swan Oyster Depot on Urbanspoon


  1. says

    Seeing the picture of the sea urchin reminded me to recommend you never, ever visit the Galapagos. Literally thousands of urchins in the shallows around each island, and you can’t touch them. Neener!

  2. says

    This has been on my radar as well. Your post has solidified it as a must go. They serve seafood the way I love it best: simple and au natural.

    • CT says

      Definitely a must go! That crab fat was not only the best surprise on the trip – but possibly the best bite too! Soooo good!!

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