Thursday, April 28, 2016

Far from the Foodie Crowd

The Chronicle releases this year's list of top 100 Bay Area restaurants.

Your humble blogger's pocketbook, distance--both physically and culturally from the foodie scene--and pragmatism initially made him indifferent. It was not surprising that I had heard of less than half the names, but it was surprising that I had actually dined at ten of the top 100. Like the fog, snobbery comes on little cat feet.

A pleasant memory: the 2012 visit to the Swan Oyster Depot with my younger brother is reprinted below.

After satisfying the visitor's request to tour Grace Cathedral, we strolled west on California to the Swan Oyster Depot, which has a permanent spot on the list of the Chronicle's top-100 Bay Area restaurants. One has to make a determined effort to dine there: seating is limited to an 18-stool counter (and there's always a line), the restaurant closes at 5:30 p.m., payment is cash only, and street parking is scarce. But determined efforts are what we amateur tour guides are known for.

There were five people ahead of us when we arrived at 4 p.m. Wednesday. We were seated in 20 minutes.

There are no menus at SOD. The fairly limited selection and prices are posted behind the counter.

Because of the proximity to fellow diners (and the girth of modern-day Americans, including ourselves), one is nearly forced to make conversation, such as "I think that's my bread" or "these clams are delicious." ("How do you like them oysters?" is neither witty nor original.)

Despite the aforementioned drawbacks the Swan Oyster Depot is definitely worth a visit. The seafood is very fresh, and the prices are reasonable.

The $11 combination cocktail was chock full with crab, shrimp, and clams. The $5 bowl of white clam chowder had a distinctive clam flavor; it was thinner than prepared by most restaurants and didn't have too many chunks of potatoes and clams. When complemented by sourdough and butter, however, the SOD clam chowder is the archetypical San Francisco meal.

Dining at Swan Oyster Depot is one of those experiences where positive memories become stronger as time passes. At some point in the future, when the craving for fresh crab, oysters, and clams becomes overwhelming, I'll be back.

No comments: