Fog Harbor Fish House
Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39
San Francisco, CA
Not exactly high on my personal “bucket list” but I nonchalantly accepted the invitation from two of my fellow travelers – both first timers to Fog City – to go check out the Golden Gate Bridge after a long day and make the trek over it by foot. I had no problem with the physical act of crossing, that perhaps took us 30-40 minutes, give or take some for various stops along the way to take photos. Though we’d only intended to do this one-way, but without any taxi options on the other side, we reluctantly made a U-turn and made the same walk over back to where we came from. By the end of it all, we pretty hungry and luckily flagged down a ride to take us to Pier 39.
As the fall chill at night on the waterfront is none too pleasant, we quickly scurried to the nearest spot we could find that looked remotely decent. Our choice was made simply by scanning the signage in our line of sight. Fog Harbor Fish House, situated on the second deck of the structure not far from where our taxi dropped us off it was. No wait to be had, good. Inside was bustling however, and seemingly with people mainly much older than us. Especially in the back of the house near the restrooms, there were packs of people with white colored hair and fitting the retired tourist demographic. What made this very interesting was the fact that our server was also in that plus-sixty age zone. One of my dining partners remarked, “guess we’re getting served by grandma”. It was cute watching her waddle down the row to bring us our drinks and warm, fresh serving of sourdough bread, it made us feel like we were in grandma’s house. :)
After hearing about the daily specials (fish), my partners elected to go with that and we later found out that they were the last two to be able to do so, as they had run out of the key ingredient after that. Strange I thought. In lieu of following suit and trying to stay on course with the whole seafood-only angle, I decided to order a bowl of their “award winning, best in San Francisco” clam chowder (which came out in a much shallower soup plate) to start my meal. Boy was this hearty. Rich, creamy and certainly not lacking fat. It had decent flavors but I might have appreciated a slightly looser consistency as it was very filling. Another at our table just got the cup-sized serving (which I think was $2 less) and that smaller quantity would have suited me more.
I’m not certain if these are anything special but the packaging and suggestion they were baked and from the northeastern state of Vermont made me wonder if these are typical crackers that come with clam chowder on the west coast. They were slightly “airy”, by that I mean some empty space within the crackers themselves, which bode well for absorbing the thick soup into which they were plunged.
In actuality, these dungeness crab cakes served with tartar sauce was listed among their appetizers. But rather than go with something from their rather uninteresting list of seafood mains, I stuck with yet another starter. In terms of size though, and it was seen in the plate of clam chowder, there was no skimping and for me, it was plenty big enough to act as my main. These were two large pucks of crab meat. Yes, some filler inside but for the most part, had that distinct flavor that comes from this delicious crustacean meat. Seasoned just fine and a nice golden crust that was even all around.
The old school style of service and attention, the general ambiance and dinner menu suggested to me this is a tried and true formula that’s been working here for a long time. Sure, its in a tourist location, THE tourist location when it comes to his town, but it wasn’t a complete wash. We weren’t there for the view, but reportedly if you get a good window side table – its has some nice sight lines out to the bay. Though all we saw were some massive speed boats providing bay tours for the out-of-towners from our location on the floor.