I read in one of Anthony Bourdain’s books that his favorite place to eat in San Francisco is Swan Oyster Depot, so of course I had to check it out. When I looked online, I could not find a web site for them, but the Yelp page said that it is only open from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM, Monday through Saturday. This completely conflicts with my work schedule, since I’m a 9 to 5er, and my office is nowhere near to this restaurant. And you know on Saturdays this place would be a mad house. One day I had an appointment, so I didn’t go to work, and what a perfect day to check out the line at Swan Oyster Depot.
We lucked out! The line was only about 5 people long. When I peeped my head in, I understood why. The “restaurant” is actually just one long bar that seats about 15-20 people. The bar faces the host/server/cook/bartender/busser station, because these guys do it all. From your seat, you get to see all the action. Clam chowder being served up, salmon slivered, oysters shucked, and fresh sourdough sliced. The menu is pretty simple. You get your oysters, just pick the kind. For the seafood, you just pick if you want it on the salad or served straight up. Clam chowder and a few other things on the menu. Chiara and I decided on a half of a dozen oysters, clam chowder, for her mixed seafood, and for me, Anthony Bourdain’s recommendation, lump crab.
The server/shucker offered to give us three different types of oysters for our half dozen, which was great for us to have a variety. It was really hard for me to decide if I wanted to top them with a bit of the pickled onions and horseradish, or a bit of cocktail sauce, or just with lemon. I ended up trying them all ways. They were so fresh and intense, the flavor lingered in my mouth just leaving me craving more. The chowder, unfortunately, was unimpressive. It was not thick enough for my taste, but the sourdough served with it was fresh and squishy with just enough sour. The crab was stuffed and overflowing the brim of a little glass dessert dish. The chunks were so big and delectable; I didn’t want it to ever end. I tried the crab with all of the sauces and plain and with just lemon, and any way, it just melted in my mouth and making me feel sinful for indulging in such a treat.
I wish that it was open at more convenient times, but Swan Oyster Depot is keeping it authenticity by sticking to their guns with a simple schedule, simple menu, and simple flavors, true to the quality of the food they serve.