Anyone who doesn’t have a good time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me - Anthony Bourdain
Situated at the entrance to the bay that bears its name, San Francisco is the perfect city for the oyster tourist to spend a little time in.
A cultural melting pot, San Francisco is a vibrant, artistic, and creative hub that attracts musicians and writers from all over the country, and thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, it’s also at the epicenter of the technological revolution that has changed the way we all live our lives.
The disparity and eclecticism of its population mean that whatever your oyster pleasure is, whether it’s draped in finery or simply a hearty bar snack, you’ll find it in San Francisco.
And as the city is home to the world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf, all of the oysters that you’ll eat while you’re trawling the length and breadth of its streets, are caught fresh and served well, and have helped to cement the city’s, and the surrounding area’s reputation as a must-visit haven for food lovers everywhere.
But when you finally cross the Golden Gate Bridge and enter the city, how are you going to know where to head for a well-needed plate of oysters or the fine dining experience that your soul has been dying to experience?
That’s where we come in, as we've compiled a list of the places that serve the best oysters in San Francisco and the Bay Area so that when you do arrive, you’ll know exactly where to go and can dive headlong into the best oyster scene in California…
The Best Oysters In San Francisco
If you want to sample all of the oyster finery and the best that San Francisco has to offer, then you’ll need to pay Mayes Oyster House a visit.
The oldest seafood restaurant in the city, Mayes has been a San Francisco institution since it was first opened by its founder George Mayes in eighteen ninety-seven and has a reputation for being the place where old-time San Francisco fun and food come alive after dark.
And when dinner service is finished, Mayes springs into action and becomes the dance and music capital of Polk street, which makes it a one-stop destination for an evening of oyster-filled fun that you’ll never forget.
It may not be the biggest oyster joint in the city, but the Anchor Oyster Bar is one of the most welcoming and has the sort of menu that oyster fans everywhere would give their right arm to sample.
Owned and operated by the same family since its doors first opened in ninety seventy-seven, Anchor’s menu includes the famed Anchor special that despite trying on numerous occasions, we’ve yet to successfully conquer.
But as long as they keep serving it, we’ll keep on trying to beat it. And we’re willing to bet that when you pay them a visit, you’ll try to beat it too.
As well as serving a wide variety of local craft beers and wines that you can sample in order to help wash your chosen oyster dish down, Anchor also serves a drink that they refer to as the “Oyster Shooter”, and if you’re brave enough, you can also try their patented “Sake Oyster Shooter”, which might just knock you off your feet.
First impressions matter, so don’t let the fact that Leo’s refers to itself as a bar make you think that it’s a standing room only hipsterific venue that only caters to the trendy up-and-coming arty set.
It doesn’t, and it isn’t, and there’s a reason why this stylish fifties inspired bar has made the list and isn’t just because it serves up plate after plate of stylish, fresh oyster dishes, although admittedly that was what drew us to it in the first place.
No, the reason Leo’s made the cut was because they get absolutely everything right.
From the incredible food and drink that they serve to the friendly, honest and open approach to customer service that their staff possesses in abundance and the comfort and ambiance of the restaurant itself, everything that Leo’s does is, for want of a better word, perfect.
If you want to experience San Francisco in all of its raw, unfettered glory, there’s no better oyster emporium to do that in than the Hog Island Oyster Co.
Located in the center of the Embarcadero, Hog Island has a simple, straightforward motto that epitomizes everything that they do - “Shuck, yeah!”
It doesn’t matter if you like your oysters raw, baked, in a stew, or as part of a chowder, however, you like to eat them, Hog Island has you covered.
And best of all? From five to seven, Monday through Thursday, they operate an oyster happy hour, so you’ll be able to fill up on all of the half-priced oysters that you can eat while watching the everyday hustle and bustle of San Francisco life.
As the staff of Hog Island is so fond of saying, “Shuck yeah!”
Just because you’re in the Golden City, it doesn’t mean that the streets are paved with gold.
San Francisco was founded, and built on a blue-collar enterprise, and even though it has since graduated to the upper financial echelons of digital success, the city hasn’t forgotten its roots and its natives know a good thing when they see and find one.
That’s why the relatively out of the way and unassuming Swan Oyster Depot has been part of the secret knowledge that only the locals are privy to since it started serving them in nineteen twelve.
Whatever your oyster pleasure, the Swan Oyster Depot has some variant of it on their menu, and if they don’t, ask them and they’ll almost certainly make it for you.
And while we’re on the subject of making things for you, they open, shuck and prepare and cook all of their oysters right in front of you, but be prepared for a long wait if you want to sit down and enjoy what they do.
With only twenty or so counter stools inside and a line of locals that stretches around the block for most of the day, patience is a virtue when it comes to enjoying oysters served the Swan way.
The Best Oysters In The Bay Area
There’s more to the Bay than just San Francisco, and its often forgotten sister city Oakland also has a thriving oyster scene, and as it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away by car, it’d be a shame not to spend some time exploring some of it’s more celebrated oyster eateries
San Francisco doesn’t have a monopoly on classy, oyster restaurants, Oakland has its fair share too.
And right at the top of its premier seafood dining establishments is Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House, which serves everything from fresh, raw oysters (it also has its own raw bar) straight from the shell to a multitude of jaw-dropping, fish centric dishes.
This one hundred seat establishment has made itself an indispensable part of the Oakland food lovers must-do list, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to book a table, you’ll be transported to oyster and seafood heaven by the culinary delights that this oasis of shellfish delights will serve you.
And from three to six every single weekday, it’s oyster happy hour at Jack’s, so if you’re going to book a table, you know what time to make your reservation for.
After a long hard day on the food trail, sometimes you need a little more than just the lure of tasty, inexpensive oysters to make you want to frequent and spend some of your precious free time in a place.
And that’s why District is the perfect oyster bar to spend that time in, as they don’t just specialize in shellfish, they’re also dedicated to serving and helping you to experience sixty of the finest craft whiskeys you’ll ever taste and forty of the best local wines you’ll ever sample.
They also have a not too shabby selection of craft beers on tap, so if the grape and the grain aren’t your thing and you prefer to wash your oysters down with some hoppy delights, then you could do far worse than spend an evening or two camped out in District.
Even though its constantly changing menu doesn’t always feature oysters, alaMar is always focused on delivering the best, and freshest seafood in a variety of mouth-watering and inventive ways, so no matter what it’s cooking up that day, there’s always something on its list that’ll satisfy the demanding pallet of a rabid oyster fan.
As famous for its mind-bending beer cocktails and willingness to push the limit of what can be done with drinks to the extreme as it is for its dedication to creating unforgettable seafood dishes, alaMar is a once in a lifetime experience that should be at the top of the most fervent foodies list of places to visit and dine at.