Sourdough bread and fresh seafood are just 2 of the things you must do when visiting San Francisco. I found both at Hog Island Oyster Company
Two weeks ago I was in San Francisco for my Association of Luxury Suite Director’s conference. My alarm clock went off at 2:30AM that Sunday morning. NOT fun. However, it got me on the direct flight to San Francisco that arrived at 9AM, so I had the entire day for sightseeing. I walked around all afternoon, and hit several of the must-see hot spots. I had asked friends for dinner recommendations, and one that came up several times was Hog Island Oyster Company.
Hog Island Oyster Company has 3 locations, plus you can buy fresh oysters at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. I went to location at The Embarcadero, inside the Ferry Building Marketplace. It’s only about a mile from my hotel, so I walked. It’s a very easy walk, and the route became the start and end of my run each morning. Hog Island Oyster Company is on the bay side, with really great views of the water and the Bay Bridge.
There’s an outdoor patio that takes up about 75% of the length of the restaurant. The remaining outdoor space is where guests wait in line to be seated. The line wasn’t horrible, but there were probably about 15 people ahead of me. After just a couple minutes though, the hostess pulled me to the front of the line. Sometimes dining solo has its advantages.
They certainly make the most of their seating, with several options. The patio is all tables. Inside the restaurant to the right of the door are 2 family-style tables of 8 each, and then seating for 10 at the open kitchen behind those tables. There’s an oyster bar in the middle with seating for 18. And to the left of that are another 2 family-style tables of 8 each, and seating at the bar for about 10.
I sat at the oyster bar. I’m not normally a fan of bar seating because you often don’t get the same level of service…the bartender is serving drinks as well as taking care of you. But this wasn’t the case at the oyster bar. It’s a really unique setting, and we have dedicated servers taking care of us.
First to arrive was sourdough bread and butter
San Francisco is known for its sourdough bread, and this one did not disappoint. It was nice and crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. I also got a glass of wine. My server helped me with the selection, and I got Domaine Auchere, a sauvignon blanc from France. It was crisp and light, and just a slight buttery hint. Of course it was the most expensive glass of sauv, but not bad in the grand scheme of things.
I went to the restroom, and when I came back this little note was in my spot. I guess that’s how the staff knows that you haven’t walked out!
The Hog Island Oyster Company menu is all about the seafood. There are a couple of meat items, but why would I do that when I could get fresh, delicious seafood?! Besides, I couldn’t come to an oyster restaurant and not have oysters. The funny thing is, for a long time I never ate oysters. I’m all about texture, so the thought of eating something slimy was not even remotely appealing. Then about 15 years ago, my friends Chappy and Ernie convinced me to try my first oysters at a bull & oyster roast. I tried to get out of it, but they wouldn’t relent until I did. One oyster, and I was sold. I even tried my hand at shucking them. I failed miserably, and decided to stick with just eating them.
Hog Island Oyster Company serves different oysters daily, and the entire menu depends on what is freshest that day. Their oysters tend to come from California, Washington, and even Virginia.
I have no clue what to order when it comes to oysters, so my server helped me choose. I went with 2 each of Sweetwater (Tomales Bay CA), Kodomo (Hammersley Inlet WA), and Island Creek (Ouxbury Bay MA). And I loved that I could watch the chefs shuck them basically right in front of me.
The oysters were fantastic. So fresh and delicious. The vinegar sauce was excellent and not overpowering at all.
Of course, oysters by themselves isn’t nearly enough for dinner. Especially just 6 of them. I perused the menu more, and couldn’t decide between mussels and steamers. Again, my server came to the rescue and helped me select the mussels. I added the fries, because she said they were really good to dip into the broth
The mussels were wonderful. Fresh, screaming hot, and of course freshly steamed. I’ve said it a million times, but there’s absolutely nothing like really fresh seafood. The broth was extremely flavorful. The fries were okay, and they did taste very good with the broth. But because I ate the mussels first, the fries were only lukewarm by the time I dug in. I’m a huge french fry snob, and always want my fries to be screaming hot. Plus, the fries were an a la carte charge, so next time I would skip the fries and instead ask for more bread. That bread would have gone wonderfully with the broth.
The couple next to me got the grilled corn salad, and raved about it. I ignored the fact that I was kind of full, and ordered some.
Wow, I’m so glad I got this, as it was excellent. The avocado lent such a great creaminess to the dish, and the peppery arugula really stands out. It looks and tastes like there’s mayo in it, but it’s just the avocado. The only thing that would make this better would be to add bacon. I’m going to need to make this at home.
On my next trip to San Francisco, a repeat visit to Hog Island Oyster Company is a definite must. My goal is to sit at the outdoor patio and enjoy the view.