A new U-shaped oyster bar anchors the center for the expanded Hog Island Oyster Co.

A new U-shaped oyster bar anchors the center for the expanded Hog Island Oyster Co.

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.

There are now daily specials, such as this albacore tuna poke (Hawaiian-style raw fish) served with Fresno chilies and a dollop of wasabi aioli with salmon roe, $12.

There are now daily specials, such as this albacore tuna poke (Hawaiian-style raw fish) served with Fresno chilies and a dollop of wasabi aioli with salmon roe, $12.

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

2-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

Hog Island Oyster Company on Urbanspoon

Coastal Pimm's Cup ($11) is among the specialty cocktails now available.

Coastal Pimm’s Cup ($11) is among the specialty cocktails now available.

Grilled Sriracha oysters with lime and cilantro butter ($13 for four) didn't have much kick despite the name.

Grilled Sriracha oysters with lime and cilantro butter ($13 for four) didn’t have much kick despite the name.

Steamers made with Manila clams, fennel sausage, kale, Chalaca chilies, butter beans, gold tomato and garlic with a citrus vinaigrette. $17 (with pasta added) The pasta was an odd curly macaroni-like dough, and the broth was on the watery side.

Steamers made with Manila clams, fennel sausage, kale, Chalaca chilies, butter beans, gold tomato and garlic with a citrus vinaigrette. $17 (with pasta added) The pasta was an odd curly macaroni-like dough, and the broth was on the watery side.

Sitting at the cook's counter, I got a front-row view of the line cooks prepping the various dishes.

Sitting at the cook’s counter, I got a front-row view of the line cooks prepping the various dishes.

Fresh raw oysters are always a good bet. I got half a dozen once ($20) trying smaller oysters called kyushu and then another variety known as Sea Cow from Washington state.

Fresh raw oysters are always a good bet. I got half a dozen once ($20) trying smaller oysters called kyushu and then another variety known as Sea Cow from Washington state.

White wine always seem like a good choice with oysters. This is a pinot gris from Oregon that I got before I took off for a weekend in Portland.

White wine always seem like a good choice with oysters. This is a pinot gris from Oregon that I got before I took off for a weekend in Portland.

Grilled cheese sandwiches waiting to be served.

Grilled cheese sandwiches waiting to be served.

Shrimp and Grits ($13) with whole gulf shrimp, picnic ham and cheesy grits. The shrimp was fresh, but didn't have a Louisiana flavor that I'd hoped for.

Shrimp and Grits ($13) with whole gulf shrimp, picnic ham and cheesy grits. The shrimp was fresh, but didn’t have a Louisiana flavor that I’d hoped for.

Working the firey stove top. This can make sitting at the counter quite warm with the flames.

Working the firey stove top. This can make sitting at the counter quite warm with the flames.

Special of Monterey Bay sardines ($18) with beluga lentils, delicata squash and baby greens with bacon.

Special of Monterey Bay sardines ($18) with beluga lentils, delicata squash and baby greens with bacon.

A chalkboard displays the daily specials, often local seafood dishes.

A chalkboard displays the daily specials, often local seafood dishes.

5 Responses to A Review of the Expanded Hog Island Oyster Co. in San Francisco’s Ferry Building

  1. Julia says:

    These are some excellent photos that really capture the beauty of the dishes! What is your favorite seafood restaurant in San Francisco? Please share it on you Besty List! http://www.thebesty.com/focussnapeat

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks Julia. I love the classic Swan’s Oyster Depot and Bar Crudo, and almost any good sushi spot like Ichi.

  2. Sandy says:

    Hmmm, did you have the grilled cheese? I always loved their version with their housemade pickles! Mr. K and I were just saying that we need to check this out, wonder if they still have their $1 oyster happy hours?

    • Ben Ben says:

      Sandy, you know I can’t just eat a whole bunch of cheese. I just snapped the picture as those dishes sat at the counter. I don’t think they have the happy hour any more. I was there on a weeknight around 5:30 p.m. and everything was regular price. Their website specifically says no happy hour. 🙁

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    I hope it’s easier to get into now that it’s bigger. I love their oysters. The only ones I eat just plain with no added sauce. They are so sweet, you just don’t want to mask them with anything else.