We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Very good but slightly overrated”
Review of Swan Oyster Depot

Swan Oyster Depot
Ranked #103 of 5,711 Restaurants in San Francisco
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $21 - $30
Cuisines: Seafood
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine
Dining options: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Delivery
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
London, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
109 reviews
91 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Very good but slightly overrated”
Reviewed October 27, 2013

I visited for Sunday lunch and arrived at opening time. After queuing for 45 minutes I got a seat at the bar. I took the oysters, chowder and crab salad. The oysters & the crab salad were excellent. The chowder was a little uninspiring. Overall an excellent meal but didn't quite live up to the hype.

  • Visited May 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Mark D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

606 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • Danish first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Korean first
  • Norwegian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Stockholm, Stockholms Län, Sweden
Level 3 Contributor
11 reviews
7 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“If your craving is seafood”
Reviewed October 21, 2013

There's only one thing you need to know.
It's worth the wait and go for oyster!
Well, that's actually two things, but I think you get my drift!

Visited October 2013
1 Thank Olle S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level 5 Contributor
54 reviews
36 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 103 helpful votes
“Worth standing in line”
Reviewed October 17, 2013

We knew we were at the right place by the line outside of the small store front seafood store/restaurant. From reading the excellent reviews before our trip, I knew we would have a bit of a wait. The restaurant had only counter seating which allows you to watch as your food is prepared. As we got close to the front of the line, one of the staff offered everyone a glass of wine or beer on the house; seconds were also offered. The Anchor Steam and sauvignon blanc definitely made the wait easier. The staff is entertaining and helpful, but the food is the star here. My husband had a delicious clam chowder packed with fresh clams in a creamy broth. I had a generous portion of smoked salmon with capers and onions and a shrimp salad. Everything was fresh and delectable. The atmosphere is part of the experience, chaotic and lively with the guests packed at the old-fashioned counter. Overall, we totally enjoyed ourselves!

  • Visited June 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
2 Thank coyer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 6 Contributor
536 reviews
351 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 260 helpful votes
“A Throwback To The Good Old Days”
Reviewed October 13, 2013

This is an old restaurant that has not changed in over 40 years. It is run by the men of a family in the business for many years--all brothers. The family resemblance is prominent among the wait staff. They are very friendly and congenial. They have a lot of customers who are friends. They appear to enjoy what they do and are enthusiastic proprietors. The service is very speedy at times and slow other times. The speed of service depends on who is working the counter.

The wooden stools look like they haven't been updated since before the 1950's. The classic white countertop, decorations, tiles and flooring appear to be of similar vintage. If you want a classic 1950's fish market experience, this place is for you. It has real character, perhaps old San Francisco. At some point, this restaurant may be declared an historical landmark.

The menu appears to also be the same as in the 1950's. The bread and butter are fresh and tasty. All of the fish, crabs, oysters and mussels are served just like they were in the 1950's. Everything tastes fresh and delicous. The smoked salmon and trout also taste great. The Thousand Island dressing served with the crab is the best. Early in the morning, when the chowder is freshly made, it is excellent.

Some things about the good old days aren't so great. The seating is not all that comfortable. Customers are jammed against each other. The countertops aren't sparkling clean and appear cluttered. Because there are so many condiments and supplies on the counter, it must be difficult for the staff to clean every part of it.

The restrooms in the back are hard to get to. The store is long and narrow, no room for tables. Some of the employees don't wash their hands as often as they should. Crab and schrimp are scooped out of the display window with bare hands rather than with gloves or serving utensils. I saw one server shake a customer's hand and then scoop up some crab by hand and put it on a plate without washing his hands. Eating raw seafood products is a bit risky, so perhaps the added risk of using bare hands does not make much difference.

In recent years, the menu prices have risen quite a bit. This may reflect higher raw material prices, but Dungeness crab fishermen are still paid under $4 a pound for their catch. The rating being given is only average because of the value for price paid and the dubious sanitary practices. Other restaurants offer comparable quality in a better dining environment. But we never know what goes on in the kitchen, so when one eats raw seafood, one takes his chances.

Despite the environmental impediments, this restaurant still enjoys lines out the door every day from lunch time until closing at 5PM. If you don't arrive before 11AM, you will probably have to wait for a seat. The line becomes longer as the day progresses. The restaurant/fish market opens at 8AM and is closed Sunday.

As long as you know what to expect, you won't be disappointed. And perhaps this review will encourage the family to upgrade the restaurant a bit.

  • Visited July 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Modestotrekkerl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Level 6 Contributor
83 reviews
35 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Really good, but not the best”
Reviewed October 9, 2013

We went after reading all the reviews online and in trip guides. I will say the food is really good, but I have had better fresh seafood in Newport Beach. You need to get to the restaurant really early, or be prepared to wait. Staff is funny and outgoing. However, it is almost like an organized chaos. Bring cash, no plastic accepted. Shrimp Cocktail was great, Clam Chowder was actually pretty watery. We ordered a mixed dozen Oyster plate that was amazing. The location is very old, and it is one long counter with stools and you wait until people leave. It is a very good experience.

  • Visited August 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1 Thank Stangman93
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Swan Oyster Depot also viewed


Been to Swan Oyster Depot? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing