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We couldnít come to San Francisco without a meal at this iconic seafood institution – it’s been†around for over a hundred years! Popular with both tourists and locals, Swan Oyster Depot is notorious for their long waits, so plan your visit accordingly.

The space is essentially made up of one long counter so as you can imagine, they canít seat a tremendous amount of people at once which just adds to the wait time. We arrived around 11:15am on a rainy Friday and we were shocked to see a small line which barely spilled†out the door. We only waited for 10 minutes and after†eating, we were out by 12:15.†Super lucky!

Our view

The view from our seats

The restaurant has a very old school diner-ish feel. You wonít find printed menus here Ė check the†wall behind the counter for their offerings. While itís a no-frills kinda joint, it certainly isnít cheap. We ended up spending $100 on lunch and we didnít even order alcohol. Oh, and bring cash – it’s cash only.

We started out with a Mixed Dozen Oysters ($32) which consisted of both east and west coast oysters. It was a nice selection and I appreciated the fact that there was a good†mix of small and large varieties.

Assorted Oysters

Assorted Oysters

The Crab Back ($6) is a must-order and a steal at only $6! Itís not the most appetizing looking dish with an off-putting shade of yellow (itís crab guts, after all) but if you can get past all that, youíre in for a treat. Served cold (which surprised me), the insides are liquid-y in texture with soft creamy bits in it. Served with sourdough bread, this is†insanely good and worth all the cholesterol.

Crab Back

Crab Back

Up next was the Crab Salad ($29). This was†easily the most Iíve ever paid for a salad, which, for my Canadian readers, is the equivalent of around $40 CAD at these (terrible) exchange rates. On the plus side, they certainly donít skimp on the crab. The salad consists of a huge†mound†of de-shelled crab chunks sitting on a bed of iceberg lettuce. The dressing was reminiscent of a Thousand Island dressing and while the dressing was tasty, the crab didnít really need much of it (if at all).

Crab Salad

Crab Salad

We finished off our meal with an order of Sicilian Sashimi, an off-menu item but something that most people seem to know to order. Unlike Japanese-style sashimi, itís served Italian style – simply drizzled with olive oil and topped with capers and chopped red onions. Todayís selection included scallops, ahi tuna, salmon and yellowtail. My personal favourite was the scallops. I couldíve eaten an entire plate of those alone!

Sicilian Sashimi

Sicilian Sashimi

What I loved about this place was the incredible hospitality. Even though they knew most of us were tourists, they were ridiculously†patient with us and†there was never any pressure or hint of annoyance despite all our questions. They also didnít seem like they were in it to turn tables as quickly as possible. They donít rush you at all. But having said that, please donít linger after your meal. Thereís going to be huge line of people out there waiting for the same great meal you just had. Needless to say, Swan Oyster Depot was worth the hype.

At a glance:

  • San Francisco seafood institution thatís been around for 100+ years
  • Open Monday to Saturday from 10:30am-5:30pm
  • No reservations; notorious for long waits
  • Old school, no frills joint
  • Counter-seating only
  • Cash only but not cheap; spent $100 on lunch for two without drinks
  • Great hospitality
  • Enjoyed everything we ordered

Ratings (out of 5):

  • Food: 4.5 stars
  • Service: 4 stars
  • Atmosphere: 3 stars

Swan Oyster Depot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



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