After a five hour flight a girl could really use a crab salad and a couple of pints of beer. Don’t you think?
We drop our bags and head straight to Swan Oyster Depot at 1517 Polk Street. This place has been around since 1912 – and there is still a line up every day. Don’t think much has changed in the last 99 years they’ve been in business – but then why mess with what works?
The line-up and the fact there are only 20 odd seats should not deter you. At 1:00 on a Friday, five of us waited a mere 25 minutes and once we were under the awning – were rewarded for our patience with a tiny ice cold glass of Anchor Steam Ale – which incidentally made the rest of the wait fly by perfectly. (When we got our seats we were asked if we’d like to graduate to “big girl” glasses – AFFIRMATIVE!!) Impeccably fresh seafood is displayed in the window: fresh fish, crab, shrimp, clams, squid….Inside there is but a single marble counter lined with old school stools. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and could not be nicer – calling out to say hi to the regulars by name, welcoming the tourists and answering their questions like they had not heard them thousands of times before.
We start with oysters – 4 different varieties – ranging from spectacular to slurpacious. You get a “base” cocktail sauce which you doctor up to your personal specifications with super hot horseradish, lemon juice and Tobasco. There’s also a classic mignonette, loaded with fresh shallots and a fiery house made roasted habanero sauce.
Next up – cup of clam chowder – served with ACME’s sourdough bread (reminded me of Poilaine in Paris – dark, dark just almost burnt and super chewy crust) served with old school butter pats (hardly see those anymore – the ones with the cardboard on one side and the wax paper on top!) The chowder was divine – creamy and loaded with clams.
Crab Louie was the main event – a platter of shredded iceberg (no field greens here) topped with “Louie” dressing, and then crowned with a veritable LOAD of fresh sweet Dungeness crab. Some say the Louie dressing, which is a classic with cold seafood, was invented at the St Francis Hotel in San Fran – at Swan it is a staple, maybe they helped out in its creation. It is basically a blend of mayo, touch of tomato, minced onion, lemon juice and a little horseradish. We overheard a regular ordering takeout ask for vinaigrette instead of Louie (gasp!) with his crab salad. He seemed to be a pro, so we followed suit and asked for some on the side. Our super friendly (and efficient at pouring draft beer) server brought a small bowl to the counter in front of us – a dollop of real Dijon, a splash of olive oil, a touch of red wine vinegar. He then pulled a tiny whisk out of his pocket and whipped them into vinaigrette – I guess it does not get more real with that. Our crew concurred that an even blend of vinaigrette and Louie on the salad made quite a divine combination.
A perfect lunch. A perfect start to our San Fransico adventure.
Check it out. Hope you’re not expecting a link to their site – because they don’t have one – silly! After nearly 100 years in business – who needs a website? I am not even going to give you the phone number – you have to look it up in the Yellow Pages…..and yes, they do have a phone – a black one – on the wall – with rotary dial and an old fashioned ring. Sometimes never, ever changing has its advantages.