Jennie Tai
Nob Hill Seafood

Swan's Oyster Depot: A Seafood Lover's Utopia

On a typical afternoon in sunny San Francisco,  you’ll find a peculiarly long line, flowing out the front door of a cubby-sized restaurant in Nob Hill. Tormenting passer by-ers with a tantalizing display of mouthwatering buckets of fresh, vibrantly-colored seafood – I was left defenseless to this seafood lover’s utopia. Yes, even after having brunch, a tall cup of coffee, and indulging in a mid-day dessert from a few blocks down the street – I still stopped in my tracks. I should have kept treading up the hill, walking off my satiation –  but there’s always a bit of room left for fresh oysters and clam chowder for any seafood lover, right? It was nearing lunch time, so I made my excuse and sneaked in line for a quick bite. Don’t judge! I mean, you really can’t call yourself a real seafood lover, and not enjoy the freshest of seafood, sent straight from the Wharf by the San Francisco Bay.  And with fresh scallops, maine lobster, smoked salmon, clams on a half shell, and three different kinds of oysters on display – it was more of an automatic attraction, than an actual decision I had to make. I had to stop by.

{ Front Display | 18 Total Seats | Fresh Seafood }

After hanging your coat on the wall behind you, sit down and rest your arms on a gorgeous slab of solid white marble that’s been at Swan’s for over 100 years. Serving fresh seafood that’s as simple, and wonderfully timeless as that white marble top is only one of the many reasons to love this place. Here, you’ll always have a front row view of how each dish is prepared – another comforting example of the confidence they have in the freshness of their food.

{ House Baked Sourdough | Menu | Chardonnay & Clam Chowder | Smoked Salmon }

The only menu they have is the one on the wall, and even that changes from day to day – depending on what is in season. Whether it’s crab, oysters, and (sometimes) even sea urchin – there’s always something wonderful to enjoy at Swan’s. Their baked sourdough bread was perfect for dipping in their creamy clam chowder soup, and as I waited for the rest of my food – I got to enjoy watching servers shuck fresh oysters, throw together colorful seafood salads, and carve delicate slices of smoked salmon while enjoying a glass of chilled chardonnay. Sure, it’s still a bar without a TV – but with the front row entertainment, I couldn’t have cared less.

{ Shrimp Cocktail | Kumamoto, Miyagi & Blue Oysters }

The shrimp cocktail, and oysters were so fresh and delicious by themselves, that tartar and cocktail sauce became unnecessary. This was easily my favorite part of the entire meal, and I ate each little piece of shrimp, one by one like it was buttered popcorn at a movie theatre. It’s like tasting a slice of margherita pizza in Napoli – you’ll find it remade in several other corners of the world, but you’ll never find it as fresh and as perfect as you would at it’s original home. And providing the freshest of seafood, and serving it clean, and absolutely untouched to let its’ original flavors shine through is why Swan’s Oyster Depot is such a popular favorite among seafood lovers. Polk street is full of delicious little eateries, and foodie favorites – but be sure to make a quick visit to this little seafood bar. This is the way fresh seafood should be enjoyed, and a great experience for vacationers who may not have the opportunity to taste such fresh seafood back in their hometown.

Swan’s Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 673-1101

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