Just as San Francisco’s fog isn’t for everyone, San Francisco’s oysters aren’t for everyone. Sure they don’t look all that appetizing, and their slippery texture might take a while to get used to.

But nothing says seafood like an oyster. Dress it up with some cocktail sauce, give it some crunch on a cracker, or, if you can handle it, try them straight up and call yourself a true seafood eater.

Although the closure of Drake’s Bay was hard for those locals who love oysters, there are still plenty of oysters out there. Swan Oyster Depot has been serving oysters for generations, and Hog Island Oyster Bar is getting more popular by the day.

If you’re wandering around San Francisco with a growling belly and just not sure how to satisfy your hunger, go with what a native would do. Grab a beer and some fresh oysters!

Photo courtesy of Waterbar

Waterbar knows its a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful city – and makes the most of it. Designer Pat Kuleto spared no expense to ensure diners will walk away with a complete ocean experience, including floor to ceiling aquariums full of Pacific Marine life. Some of what’s swimming in the tanks might look tasty, too – including the calamari, “dip net” caught in nearby San Pedro. For those who want to have one, big, special meal in San Francisco to really remember, be lavish and spend a long evening by the water at this sumptuous restaurant. With this food and these views, it’s a decision that’s very hard to regret.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Waterbar has an extensive menu but also offers excellent oysters.

Tom’s expert tip: Start your night off with one of their original cocktails, like the William Munny:
High West Rendezvous Rye, Amontillado Sherry, and Dry Curaçao.

Read more about Waterbar →

Mayes Oyster Bar

Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

Founded in 1867 by George Mayes, this upscale oyster bar is a perfect fit for a fancy night out. Mayes offers a full bar and large menu, including a memorable ceviche and savory smoked pork ribs. What separates Mayes from the other oyster bars is that it’s also a late-night entertainment option. As soon as the dinner hours are over, the house lights go down and the house music starts. If you’re looking for a more lavish setting than a belly-up-to-the-oyster-bar atmosphere, Mayes is your place. And if you don’t want your after-dinner excursion to include wondering what to do with the rest of your night, Mayes has that covered, too.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Mayes has great oysters but also a lively late-night scene, as well.

Tom’s expert tip: Order the local Tomales Bay oysters from nearby Marin County.

Read more about Mayes Oyster Bar →

Woodhouse Fish Company

Since they don’t take reservations, Woodhouse is the classic example of a pop-in oyster bar. If you’re wandering San Francisco and need that quick snack to get you up the next hill, step into Woodhouse and order up some oysters with a side of slaw. Since it’s open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can always depend on Woodhouse Fish company. Two convenient locations, one downtown on Market and one in the Fillmore district, both close to public transportation. If you want some quality oysters but don’t want to “put on airs” (or a tie) for one of the frillier oyster spots, head to Woodhouse Fish Company.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Woodhouse Fish Company is a no-nonsense, no-frills oyster spot believed by locals.

Tom’s expert tip: Great side-dish selection to compliment your oysters, including garlic sauteed veggies.

Read more about Woodhouse Fish Company →

Foreign Cinema

Photo courtesy of Postcard Communications

While Foreign Cinema’s misleading moniker may seem a better fit for a movie theater than an oyster bar, this restaurant’s real attraction is their Mediterranean-inspired menu and outstanding oysters. They do, in fact, offer film showings in the adjoining courtyard, an added perk for those savoring tasty shellfish like the Hog Island Sweet, Marin Gem, Chatham and Steamboat oysters. The dinner menu changes regularly, and brunch is served on weekends. Foreign Cinema has a lot to offer besides oysters, so it’s a good choice for groups who have varied and eclectic tastes. It’s also one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Foreign Cinema has lots of delights, and the oysters are just one of them.

Tom’s expert tip: Opened in 1999, Foreign Cinema has become such a part of the fabric of the community that September 18th was proclaimed “Foreign Cinema Day” in San Francisco. for its “unique neighborhood and city-wide leadership and standards in excellence.”

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Anchor Oyster Bar

Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

Distinguished from other Bay Area oyster bars by its tiny yet undeniably charming setting, Anchor Oyster Bar makes up for its intimate size with out-of-this-world eats, including a fresh, daily changing oyster selection. Diners particularly love the Anchor Special that features 12 handsome oysters on the half shell, eight juicy steamed clams and four monster-sized chilled prawns. And with the same owner since its opening in 1977, you can rest assured that this place has been consistently popular over a long stretch. And its location in the always fun Castro District is a great excuse to explore this historic and important neighborhood.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Open since 1977, Anchor Oyster Bar has proved its quality over time.

Tom’s expert tip: Their clam chowder and buttery garlic bread are delightfully rich and satisfying.

Read more about Anchor Oyster Bar →

Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar

Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

Hyde Street doesn’t hide the fact that oysters are the freshest seafood around. When it opened in 1985, the concept of raw food wasn’t as wildly popular as it is today, so you can rest assured that this place knows how to prepare and handle raw food. When the decor is nautical maps, wood plank benches and dim lanterns, it’s hard to not picture being at sea, which is the perfect atmosphere for oyster eating. Besides oysters, their hot plates are prepared in the French “En Papillote” cooking style, where the food is wrapped and cooked in parchment paper to seal in natural juices and flavors.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Hyde Street was in the raw food business before raw food became hip.

Tom’s expert tip: The raw bar sampler is a great way to taste oysters, prawns, clams and smoked salmon.

Read more about Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar →

Bar Crudo

Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

It’s hard to beat the eats at Bar Crudo, a beloved local establishment whose reputation for amazingly fresh seafood is well deserved. The space is small but comfortable, with bar dining downstairs and a handful of tables upstairs. Fresh Kumamoto, Miyagi and Kusshi oysters are available by the piece, and there’s also a sampler platter that features shrimp, mussels and clams. Their Happy Hour from 5-6:30 offers Oysters on the Half Shell for a dollar each, as well as Herb and Jalapeño Marinated Mussels for a dollar each. (Order by Half-dozen or dozen.) Open since 2005, it has quickly established itself as one of the best oyster bars in the city.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Bar Crudo is small but always offer the freshest oysters on the market that day.

Tom’s expert tip: Started as a “modern raw bar” in 2005, their selection of fish is of the best and freshest quality.

Read more about Bar Crudo →

Swan Oyster Depot

Locals can’t help but rave over this oyster bar’s fantastic selection. Opened in 1912, Swan Oyster Depot is a small, lovable hole-in-the-wall where seating consists of about 20 stools along a long marble bar. There’s usually a line outside at lunchtime, but it moves quickly and the food is well worth your wait.

As far as oysters, it’s hard to beat this place. You get to watch them picked right out of their brine tanks and shucked before your eyes. Frankly, the whole place smells like oysters, so it’s really the best spot for oyster lovers. Grab a few for a mid-day snack or sit for a while until you get a full meal.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Swan Oyster Depot has been serving quality oysters in San Francisco for a long time.

Tom’s expert tip: Be sure to try the Kumamoto and Sweetwater oysters.

Read more about Swan Oyster Depot →

Leo's Oyster Bar

Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

1950’s style, a classic oyster bar that has become a mainstay for the movers and shakers of the Financial District. If you think slurping oysters should be in a decadent, stylish atmosphere as opposed to standing elbow-to-elbow with slurping strangers, then Leo’s is the place for you. Make no mistake, you’ll pay for that elegance because cheaper oysters can be found in many places in San Francisco. But there’s something about an expensive but tasty cocktail and some oysters on a foggy San Francisco night that just makes the Northern California experience come together. Leo’s is run by the successful “Big Night” restaurant group of Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas, along with executive Chef Jenn Puccio, so Leo’s gets even the smallest details right.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Leos’ is a great choice for those who want a full-restaurant experience and not just a slurp and go atmosphere.

Tom’s expert tip: Pair your oysters with Leo’s French Fries and “Dynamite Sauce,” a mix of kewpie mayo, sriracha, and tobiko (flying fish roe.)

Read more about Leo’s Oyster Bar →

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Photo courtesy of Ed Anderson

Delicious fresh seafood and a veritable “oyster experience” await you at Hog Island Oyster Bar. Here, enthusiasts savor the freshest local oysters, including Hog Island Kumamoto, Sweetwater and Atlantics, served raw, baked or as part of a stew. Other menu favorites include steamed Manila clams, daily seafood specials, organic salads and the ever-popular Hog Island grilled cheese sandwich. And with its fantastic location right in the Ferry Building alongside the beautiful Embarcadero, you’ll be eating in one of the liveliest spots in all of San Francisco. Enjoy half-priced chef’s choice oysters during happy hour from 5 pm to 7 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Hog Island Oyster Bar has been growing in popularity but its service and quality never seem to suffer.

Tom’s expert tip: If you have the time, drive out to Point Reyes and eat Hog Island oysters at their source.

Read more about Hog Island Oyster Co. →

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