Serving the freshest, most delicious sustainable seafood in San Francisco
The Ferry Building
Hog Island Oyster Company is housed in the historic landmark Ferry Building on The Embarcadero, a heavily trafficked street in San Francisco. Originally designed by A. Page Brown in the Beaux Arts Style, the impressive arched arcade is reminiscent of European architecture of the 20th Century.
The distinctive 245-foot clock Tower, constructed in 1898 presides over the building. The clock’s prominent four dials gave rise to the debatable distinction of being the largest dialed windup mechanical clock in the world at the time.
To get an idea of scale, the clock hands are 278’ in length. The clock was modeled after the 12th-century Giralda bell tower in Sevilla, Spain. It is now modernized with an electric motor, keeps time accurately, and works all four sides simultaneously.
Originally opened in 1898, the Ferry Building underwent a huge renovation in 2003, and was transformed into a major food destination for the City. Reclaimed from being run-down and neglected, it was brought into the 21st Century, using the same footprint.
Today, the Ferry Building is a major food destination. It houses top-tier restaurants and an indoor avenue, showcasing some of the the finest Northern California artisan vendors. Occupying the space formerly used as the baggage handling area, there is now an outdoor organic food market.
Hog Island Oyster Company
After spending time in the Bay Area, I recommend Hog Island Oyster Co as one of the MUST DO dining experiences in San Francisco.
The restaurant is located inside the Ferry Building, overlooking the Bay at the beginning of Market Street. The street meets the San Francisco Bay here, creating a unique setting.
Prominently located on The Embarcadero in the heart of the Financial District, the restaurant is convenient for both business-people and tourists.
Open daily from 11.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m., it is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. It is estimated that 14,000 people pass through The Ferry Building each day, validating the expression: “Location, location, location.”
Hog Island Oyster Co. is serving some of the freshest, most delicious sustainable seafood in San Francisco. Their home base is at Tomales Bay where they sustainably farm, harvest and shuck their own oysters.
In addition to the glorious seafood, also available is a selection of meat dishes on the menu to accommodate the carnivores. There is a mouthwatering option to suit every taste. This San Francisco eatery has succeeded magnificently!
Inside the Restaurant
Hog Island opened the San Francisco restaurant in 2003. It was one of the original tenants when the Ferry Building re-opened after its renovation.
Then, in 2014, the restaurant was expanded to twice its size to cope with the demand. The new expanded venue was designed by the award-winning San Francisco/NYC firm of Cass Calder Smith Architecture, renowned and internationally recognized for high profile modern restaurant and residential design.
The new dramatic space consists of a modern idiom with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. The view of the Ferry Terminal embraces the Bay. The boat’s constant comings and goings add to the tableau.
From the outside terrace there is an unobstructed view of the Bay Bridge with its continuous flow of cars and trucks.
Entering the restaurant, I felt the energy watching the busy waiters bustling about.The open kitchen was a hive of activity featuring Chefs shucking oysters and filling with the endless orders. It takes a small army of 100 staffers to keep the restaurant moving and serving between 1000 to 1,200 meals a day.
The Food, The Food, The Food!
Hog Island Oyster Co originated in Marshall, Northern California where oysters are sustainably farmed in Tomales Bay. Oysters are the most important item on the menu, and they are served fresh and cooked. It is estimated the Restaurant shucks about 5,000 oysters in house daily.
The oysters they farm are Hog Island Sweetwater (Pacific) oysters that are available all year. Others are seasonal oysters, such as Hog Island Virginical, Hog Island Kumamatos, and Hog Island Earthquakes (a tumbled Pacific Oyster).
At least one of their farmed oysters is always on the menu and they also feature 4 – 6 varieties grown by farms they know and trust. All oysters on the menu are identified by the grower’s name and the region. The sourcing of oysters requires trust with their growers, and they have a personal relationship with all the growers who supply the Restaurant with oysters.
Inside the restaurant, there are three bars and rows of simple wooden tables with chairs. The center bar has sixteen seats mainly for serving oysters. To the left is the 8-seater Cocktail Bar, and to the right is an 8-seater Chef’s Counter bar both allowing viewing access to the activity in the kitchen. Mirrors at the bars reflect the view of the Bay, so no matter which way one faces the bay is ever-present.
In addition to the food, Hog Island Oyster Co. does a brisk trade in Craft Cocktails with creative names, such as “Smoke on the Water” and “Mud Marlin Old Fashioned.” These are based on seasonal ingredients from the on-site Farmers Market with a focus on Bay Area micro distillers. As the cocktails are seasonal, many appear only once a year, when in-season.
Reigning supreme is one of the best Bloody Mary’s in San Francisco and that is available throughout the year. The carefully monitored Bar Program is overseen by Saul Ranella, Cocktail and Spirits Director for Hog Island Oyster Co.
The Clam Chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co receives accolades for is flavor and quality and is one of the most requested items. Small, sweet Manila clams are grown and harvested in Tomales Bay, especially for their unique flavor.
The clam chowder recipe was developed by John Finger, a co-founder of the company who instructed the chef to use only fresh clams. He also forbids the use of flour to thicken the broth.
The broth gets its consistency from the ingredients and allows the soup to cook slowly and reduce. This clam chowder has a fresh tasting creamy broth filled with tiny manilla clams and tastes as good as it looks. For those wanting to make this recipe, it is available on the internet.
Another soup that is in demand is a Fish Stew. This is similar to Cioippino, the San Francisco version of Bouillabaise, except that it does not use crab. The broth is made from tomatoes, wine, garlic, clams, mussels, parsley and cod. It cooks slowly reducing by half before the seafood is added, allowing all the flavors to blend. It is served in a bowl with two slices of Acme wholewheat bread, (one of the local purveyors) for dipping into and slurping the Fish Stew. This recipe is also available on the internet.
All told, waterside dining in San Francisco does not get much better than this. The freshest, sustainable seafood and delicious cocktails served in a spectacular setting.
The restaurant takes no reservations. If you want to eat lunch, be in line by 11.30 a.m. to guarantee a table by 12.00 Noon. Any later and you may find a really long line as the restaurant is packed from the time it opens.
If you are in the Wine Country, the Oxbow Market in Napa has a Hog Island Oyster Bar annex including all the other food attractions that offered in the SF location.
In Marshall, near Tomales Bay where the oysters are farmed, there is an outdoor Oyster Bar, “The Boat”, and shuck your own picnic tables (by reservation) at their Farm. This is a real fun experience.
Hog Island Oyster Co. will soon be re-opening Tony’s Seafood in Marshall, a mile south of their Farm for indoor dining serving fresh oysters and a Classic Seafood House Menu.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
- Ferry Building Marketplace | One Ferry Building #11 | San Francisco, CA 94111
- Tel. 415/391-7117
- 11 AM till 9 p.m. Daily, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
This article was originally written Nov 11, 2018 . Revised 9/6/19