The story: Hog Island Oyster Co. has been serving up fresh local oysters for years at the San Francisco Saturday farmers market, and when the Ferry Building was refurbished, Hog Island opened up an oyster bar that is often crowded. Earlier this year, it expanded and took over the adjacent space that was once home of the Ferry Plaza Seafood. Now it seems even more popular, with a line stretching outside, especially on farmers market days when people like to dine outside munching on raw oysters, bread and chowder while enjoying the waterfront view.
Why I went: I’m a fan of raw oysters and I wanted to check out the new, larger restaurant. While it’s popular with groups of people, it’s also convenient for a solo diner because of space either at the new U-shaped oyster bar in the center of the space or the new 9-seat cooks counter where I ended up both times I visited for an early dinner.
The vibe: Bustling space with a mix of locals and tourists who are roaming the Ferry Building, this is definite a place to people watch. At the counter, I met a few solo diners who were either in San Francisco for a convention or vacation, and heard about the oysters and Hog Island.
The menu: With the larger space, Hog Island has gone beyond the traditional selection of raw oysters, chowder, and grilled cheese sandwiches. It now offers up several crudo selections, additional seasonal seafood plates and a several daily specials, such as the albacore tuna poke ($12) that wasn’t traditional Hawaiian poke but has a nice, light sauce of furikake and sesame oil with the addition of Fresno chili, salmon roe, and wasabi aioli. There’s still a nice selection of oysters (local and from the Pacific Northwest), but they’re now served either raw or grilled with special sauces such as sriracha oysters I got that were coated with butter made with Sriracha, lime, and cilantro.
The booze: Before Hog Island offered wine and beer, but now it has a full cocktail program with several specialty cocktail drinks. I tried the Coastal Pimm’s Cup ($11) that was well mixed and refreshing.
My favorite dish: There wasn’t any standout dishes despite the reputation of things like the chowder and shrimp and grits. I found that most of the newer dishes were light in flavor, almost on the watery side (like the order of steamers with pasta and the shrimp and grits). So my favorite dish is simply the fresh oysters served with a herbal mignonette.
Insider tip: The line (and sign-up list) starts outside facing the waterfront, so if you’re walking in from inside the Ferry Building, you’ll need to make a bee-line outside to check-in with the host/hostess.
The last bite: The expanded space makes Hog Island a bustling spot for fresh oysters, but its high prices and light-in-flavor dishes make it border the “over-rated” realm. I do enjoy its raw offerings, from the oysters to crudo, and, of course, the waterfront views.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Hog Island Oyster Co., 1 Ferry Building, 11A (ground floor), San Francisco. PH: 415.391.7117. Open Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. No reservations. Website
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