Every single day from 5-7 P.M., weekends included, a little restaurant in a ridiculously hard-to-park area of San Francisco called Russian Hill offers you a chance to buy a little bit of happiness for a $1 a piece. Twelve dollars, and it’s almost guaranteed that your mood will begin to improve the minute you see twelve lovely and plump oysters, shucked just for you. Throw in a $3 draft beer, and your world may appear to be infinitely better. This place is called Hyde Street Seafood House and Raw Bar.
They have a beer and wine license, but no hard liquor license, so you won’t be getting your Grey Goose fix here. They do, however, have a really lovely wine list, including some tasty Prosecco which will undoubtedly be the perfect accompaniment for your oysters. They carry one of my favorite “easy and chill” wines – the Fume Blanc by Ferrari-Carano. It’s an economical wine (under $30) with a surprisingly crisp taste, balanced nicely by a subtle sweetness and fruitiness that is fantastic on its own, or with oysters. They also have Franziskaner – on tap! This is a truly tasty beer that I have found on tap at only one other place in San Francisco. (It also might be the only beer I know of that actually tastes better from a bottle, but Hyde Street even having this available makes this a rock star joint.)
As you may have noticed from my little food review site here, I love oysters. I really do. The cholesterol may be shaving months off my life each time, but I’ll take it, as a person’s got to live a little!
I’ve hesitated to review this place though I’ve been going for years. I’ve watched various restaurants take off after a review (not just mine, but the reviews of many), and one night, I am inevitably standing in line waiting for an hour whereas everyone else is inside eating. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot knowing I contributed to this line and now I am paying for it. So some secrets, I keep to myself.
One such secret was Hyde Street Seafood.
I first came to this place based on the $1 Oyster Happy Hour, and was so impressed with the quality of service and food that I have been coming back often since then, which was about a year and a half ago. There are quite a few spots in San Franciso that have $1 oyster specials during Happy Hour; most are during the weekdays only, or on specific days of the week. One good joint that comes to mind is Hog Island, which offers $1 oyster specials on Mondays and Thursdays. While having these oysters looking at out the San Francisco Bay Bridge is amazing — once you stand in that line to get a seat, you never want to go back.
So my search for a good $1 oyster place continued.
Despite loving oysters, paying $2.75 for ONE oyster always struck me as ridiculous, but $1? One dollar, I could do — and I could do lots and lots of it. So my go-to place became Hyde Street Seafood. While looking at the bridge is very “San Francisco” – so is watching our world-renowned cable car.
Right in front of Hyde Street passes the cable car quite often, and looking out the window at Hyde Street, you can’t help but fall in love with the city all over again.
The service at Hyde Street Seafood is simply phenomenal, and has a family business aura to the place. When the servers here welcome you – it feels genuine, and like they are truly happy to see you. I’ve brought in large groups of people who have all chowed down on oysters, and sometimes, it’s just me and a close friend wanting to have a cold glass of Prosecco and two dozen oysters. Per person.
Each time, the quality of oysters has been good to great, though one time, they were shucked haphazardly. They usually have four varieties of oysters. I’ve always found Fanny Bay here, and other varieties are Steam Boat, Kumamoto (never included in Happy Hour prices) and Marin Bay, but this selection may vary based on the season and availability. A few of those times, I’ve opted to have dinner here after gorging on oysters, and I’ve always enjoyed the food at Hyde Street Seafood.
But before I explain the food, let me give a disclaimer.
The seafood dinners here are much like what your mom would cook in her own kitchen. It’s not fancy; you’re not going to find a foie gras based tapenade cream dressing adorning salmon from Italy, steamed in banana leaf cultivated in Indonesia, for instance. (What on earth would that be?) What you do find, for quite reasonable prices, is well-cooked, simple cooking. A seafood salad, like the one pictured above with fresh greens and simple seafood. The dressing is simple, too, preserving all subtle flavors of the seafood and vegetables.
For under $20, Hyde Street Seafood offers swordfish, a fish I very much enjoy, with a simple lemon sauce and steamed vegetables. The fish portion is not huge, but it is delicious and it is fresh. Like I said, it’s simple. There’s simply nothing grandiose about this place from portion to price to ambiance. The majority of their entrees hover close to but remain under $20.
Amongst the choices at Hyde Street Seafood are local seabass, New York Steak, Atlantic King Salmon, Dungeness Crab, Seared Scallops and a pasta selection for those who crave no protein source. They even have Cioppino on the menu.
Lest anyone goes here based on this review, I want to emphasize again that all the entrees I have had to date are truly what I consider to be excellent homestyle cooking.
Other places that offer the same seafood fare, like Boboquivari’s in San Francisco, may cook up a more interesting and fancier dish, but guaranteed, they will also charge almost double to serve up a bigger piece of salmon, or a larger cut of steak. The appeal of Hyde Street Seafood is that they have kept their prices low, and offer fresh seafood for a tasty, fresh and simple meal. There’s no real ingenuity or great creativity in the cooking; it’s much like our own moms would serve up the dish. With terrific $1 oysters, to boot.
On one visit, I actually had room to order desserts at Hyde Street Seafood. We ordered the rice pudding, homemade, and the vanilla bean ice cream w/ chocolate chip cookies. The server mentioned that the two together were even better. While each was good on its own, both desserts combined into one bite was simply phenomenal, it was the perfect blend of sweet, hot, and cold. The rice pudding nearly burned the roof off of all of our mouths. It was also a really unusual spin on the typical rice pudding — definitely worth a try.
Hyde Street Seafood in Summary
All in all, Hyde Street Seafood is a solid choice if you want to have unlimited oysters with some good beer or prosecco. If not for the parking situation in this part of town, I’d be here a lot more often.
I won’t lie to you — the parking is sometimes horrid. If you can, this is a location to which you cab or take the cable car, as it stops right in front. I’ve been known to park on Polk Street and just catch a cab over as my friends have had to take up to 45 minutes to find parking.
No matter how much you eat here, you never feel like you’ve overdone it on food, and be it the champagne, wine or beer – their selection is vast enough to accommodate all palates.
Combine that with the good service and you can’t ask for much more. Hyde Street Seafood is located at 1509 Hyde Street between Jackson and Pacific Street. They are open nightly until 10 P.M. with the aforementioned happy hour going on every day from 5-7 P.M. You can also make reservations for this restaurant via OpenTable.com.
Service: 8.8/10 Ambiance: 7.5/10 Food: 7/10 Addictive Factor: 7.5/10 Overall Rating: 8/10 (for the oysters)