#173 - Hog Island Oyster Company, San Francisco CA

Two weeks ago I was in San Francisco for my Association of Luxury Suite Director's conference. I spent all day Sunday doing a walking tour of the city.  I had asked friends for dinner recommendations, and one that came up a couple of times was Hog Island Oyster Company.

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, I was at the RJ Bentley's Bull & Oyster Roast. Bentley's is the bar where we hung out for years both in and beyond college, until I moved to Oklahoma. They hosted this roast every December, and my friends Chappy and Ernie convinced me to try my first oysters. I seriously hesitated, 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 has 3 locations, plus you can buy fresh oysters at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturdays.  I went to The Embarcadero location, inside the Ferry Building.  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 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 outdoors 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 was seated 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 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. 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.  I really enjoyed it.  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!

I couldn't come to an oyster restaurant and not have oysters. They serve different oysters daily, and the entire menu depends on what is freshest that day.  

I have no clue what to order when it comes to oysters, so my server helped me pick.  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

Shallots, celery leaves, leeks, mustard, white wine & butter
The mussels were fantastic. So 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, but they got cold as I was eating. Next time I would skip the fries and ask for more bread. Especially since the fries were an extra cost.

The couple next to me got the grilled corn salad, and were raving about how good it was. I was kind of full, but it looked so good and fresh that I gave in and ordered some.

Arugula, cherry tomatoes, avocado, chili-lime vinaigrette
Wow, I'm so glad I got this.  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, this place is a definite must.  My goal is to sit at the outdoor patio and enjoy the view.