Dining in San Francisco; Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building and A 16 Restaurant
April 15, 2009
Last week while in San Francisco, we visited the Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building for their Monday night Happy Hour and followed it with a dinner at A 16.
After returning from the Alcatraz tour, we start walking down the Embarcadero toward the Ferry building. The plan is to get to the Hog Island Oyster company in time for their Monday Happy Hour (from 5-7 pm) when they have $1 oysters. Along the way we stop at an artisan chocolate shop called TCHO which is tucked into an old Pier building.
Hog Island Oyster Company
We arrive at the Hog Island Oyster Company around 4:40 and it’s already crowded. In fact, we’re told if we want a table outside the wait could be about an hour. However, there are seats at the bar, four on a corner (2×2) and would we like them? In what is quickly becoming a dining trend for us, we say yes and take our seats at the counter. Because Happy Hour does not begin for another 20 minutes, we order drinks to start at full price and peruse the menu. Sitting at the bar gives us a chance to watch the oyster shuckers in action and they are going full tilt given the waiting crowd, shucking dozens in advance of the orders they know will be coming. The oysters end up flying out without wait.
By the time the drinks arrive, we can order off the Happy Hour part of the menu and we start with some of everything on it; 2 dozen “Sweetwater” oysters ($1 each), warmed Castelvetrano olives ($5), Grilled Sardines- ($6) two enormous ones with breadcrumbs, baby bok choy and almonds, and Grilled shrimp- ($9), three huge ones, with harissa chili sauce. Later, we order 2 dozen more oysters and a few more drinks.
In contrast with an earlier lunch at a Fisherman’s Wharf tourist trap which shall remain nameless, the oysters here are served on a glistening mound of ice with the proper accompaniment of a perfect mignonette sauce. The sardines are freshly caught, moist, and perfectly grilled. The shrimp is tasty with the spicy sauce. Our “snack” for four is $123 before tax and tip. Note; most of our drinks (3 glasses of champagne, 2 glasses of wine, and 2 beers) were not at happy hour prices. Oysters are usually $2.25 each and up on the regular menu.
Full, happy, and a bit tipsy, we leave the Ferry Building and decide that a trip back to the hotel for a rest is in order before dinner. We want to try A 16, the sister restaurant of SPQR so I call them to see if I can get a reservation. All I get is a recording. When I try again a few minutes later, someone answers, but they tell me they are all booked, though we are welcome to walk in. We head back to the hotel on the F tram.
We meet up with our friends around 8 PM and walk a few blocks where we can pick up the #30 bus which will take us right by A 16. When we arrive, the restaurant is full and crowded in the cramped waiting area in the front. We’re told it could be up to an hour and D gives the host his cell number to call. I’m irritated. Waiting that long for a restaurant is a pet peeve of mine; I’d rather just go somewhere else. We take a walk down Chestnut Street, checking out all the cute shops and a couple of other restaurants. After about 20 min, we end up back at A16, debating if we want to wait any longer when D’s phone rings. It’s the host, telling us if we are willing to sit at the Chef’s Bar, we can be seated now. See what I mean about a trend?
We are seated right in front of the pizza oven and it’s hot! So hot that J strips down to a tank top, T removes a layer in the restroom and I’m contemplating if I can get away with sitting there in a bra, this being San Francisco after all. I decide to roll up my sleeves instead and order a very cold white wine.
We look at the menu and settle on a bunch of dishes to share;
Romaine and Chicory Salad with lemon and Olive oil ($6)
Roasted Beets with Full Belly Farm Farro Salad, roasted cipolline, mint & ricotta salata ($10)
“Monday Meatball” special (1/2 order, $11)
Maccaronara with tomato ragu and house-made ricotta salata (1/2 order, $9)
Ricotta gnocchi with roasted wild mushrooms, green garlic and fava leaves (1/2 order, $10)
Verde Pizza-fresh ricotta, asparagus, prosciutto cotto, red onion, grana padano, chilies, olive oil, ($16)
Side of Erbette Chard with garlic, anchovy and lemon ($6)
Roasted Carrots and turnips with green garlic, mint and chiles ($6)
Both salads are lovely and I vow to try and recreate the beet one soon. The pasta dishes are “ok”. I found the gnocchi bland, but T loved it, so it just goes to show how much food is a matter of individual taste. The special meatballs are excellent. The chard is so good I do recreate it on Easter Sunday (recipe coming soon). The pizza is very good and after watching the pizza cook make dozens of them, next time
I think I’d order the “salsiccia” pizza with fennel sausage. I think I’d also try some of their various house cured salumi. D sits next to a “regular” who fills us in on the local gossip about some of the other regulars at the bar, life in the neighborhood, and what he knows about the restaurant. His Beef Flank arrotolato looks pretty darn good too.
Again, we very much enjoy sitting at the counter watching the cooks do their thing. The cooks are all in white, short-sleeved shirts, aprons and the ubiquitous tatoos. I’m impressed by the calm demeanor of the Sous Chef who obviously enjoys the respect of her cooks. Every plate which left the line was checked by her, garnished, and perfected. Service is great and we’re all happy with our meal. Dinner for four, with 4 drinks is $114 before tax and tip.