San Francisco seafood restaurants
Decked in lush tropical wallpaper and checkerboard tile by San Francisco design guru Ken Fulk, this buzzy oyster bar is modeled after the glam cocktail lounges of the ‘50s. Start with the Leo’s Plateau: two tiers of oysters, shrimp cocktail, and snow crab claws. Entrees are rich and decadent like the warm buttered lobster roll glistening with uni butter and champagne-steamed mussels, served with a side of frites and dijon.
Terry and Roseann Grimm have owned this Castro seafood spot and fish market for more than 40 years. It’s known for oysters, of course, as well as sustainably caught shellfish, crab, and fish. The starters are simple and classic, like salads topped with shrimp, crabmeat, and prawns (or a combo of all three) or a perfect shrimp cocktail. The golden-brown crab cakes are served with house-made tartar; order it as an entree and it comes with a cup of Boston clam chowder. But the specialty is the the cracked Dungeness crab, available seasonally.
Culinary director Mario Tolentino melds Californian and Southern influences, offering a mix of bar snacks, meat, and seafood. The daily fish and chips is a popular choice, served alongside a heap of herbed fries, as is the ahi tuna tartare, topped with avocado mousse and fresno chili. But the real crowd-pleaser is the shellfish tower, a tiered platter of oysters, gulf prawns, little neck clams, and tuna tartar.
Lines start forming down the block at 4:30pm for Bar Crudo’s daily happy hour (5–6:30pm), which promises high-end, sustainably sourced seafood at a third of the price. The buttery, flaky rock cod tacos come piled with salsa, guac, pickled onions and cotija cheese, and the seafood chowder—which incorporates fish, mussels, squid, shrimp, potatoes, bacon, and cream—is decadently rich.
Farallon’s singular seafood obsession is evident in the decor, from the custom jellyfish chandeliers to the octopus-styled stools and “caviar” staircase embellished with marbles. Order a flight of west coast oysters at the raw bar, served with a sparkling rose mignonette, or a sampler of fruits de mer: chilled gulf prawns, local dungeness crab, and Maine lobster (half or whole). Farallon offers a half-dozen kinds of caviar, as well as starters like local halibut tartare and a Jimmy Nardello pepper stuffed with Dungeness crab. Specialties include the charcoal-grilled scallops and the charred Spanish octopus.
This family-run raw bar has been slinging fresh seafood for over 100 years. Despite its advanced age, its popularity hasn’t diminished—hour-long lines regularly form to snag one of the counter’s 18 seats (Anthony Bourdain was a lifelong regular). The cold case is piled with lobsters, shrimp, crabs, and squid. The specialty is the Dungeness crab, served cold with a generous dish of housemade Louie sauce.
With its white marble bar, wood accents, and understated nautical theme, Woodhouse bridges the gap between a stuffy fine dining restaurant and a no-frills seafood counter. It’s hard to go wrong on a menu devoted to seafood, but we recommend the buttery Maine lobster roll, loaded with tender meat, and the Dungeness crab linguini, which is slick with sea urchin butter and white wine and garnished with applewood-smoked bacon.
This prix fixe restaurant is worth the splurge. The vibe is upscale and refined, from the dark wood walls and moody, gold-hued lighting to the gleaming wooden slab tables. The $275 prixe fixe changes nightly, showcasing inventive flavor combinations and artful presentations like abalone served with caviar, dashi jelly, and flowering coriander.
Hog Island is a California institution, harvesting over 3.5 million oysters, Manilla clams, and mussels each year. Situated in the Ferry Building, the San Francisco location is all about the view: The bay and the Bay Lights are framed by floor to ceiling windows. Fittingly, Hog Island takes a “Bay to bar” approach, serving super-fresh oysters raw or grilled. Order with a side of Old Bay fries.
Chef Massimiliano Conti cooks recipes from his native Sardinia using organic produce and sustainable fish. We love the Prupisceddu in Umidu cun Tomatiga, a baby octopus stew in a spicy tomato base. And if you see squid ink pasta on the menu, it’s a must-order: It’s laden with fresh seafood and deftly flavored with citrus zest.
Sotto Mare is a family-run seafood joint in the heart of North Beach. The menu is Italian, including an array of seafood pastas and mains. The raw bar offers fresh oysters, clams, and cracked crab, while salads are heaped with crab, prawn, Bay shrimp, and octopus. But the spot’s most famous dish is the crab cioppino, a spicy, warming seafood stew that’s large enough to serve two.
This 45-year-old seafood joint has the happiest wait-list around: The wine is complimentary until you’re seated. The vibe is inviting and old-school, thanks to friendly longtime servers and cozy wooden booths. The menu is uncomplicated, organized into categories like “grilled,” “baked,” “sauteed,” and “fried.” The vast array of fish includes at least half a dozen varieties daily, including snapper, salmon, rainbow trout, ahi tuna, halibut, and sole. It’s expertly cooked, usually with a spritz of lemon, a splash of white wine, and a generous dollop of butter.