Whenever I go back home to visit San Francisco I try to sneak off to one of my favorite places for lunch, Swan Oyster Depot. I say sneak because this is a place I like going either by myself or with one friend, but more than that, you’ll be extending your already hour-long wait. The shop opens early, as it is an actual fish market, but when the bar opens up at 10:30 the queue immediately grows down the block for this 100 year-old 12 seat seafood heaven.
The present location has been in operation since 1912 where it was owned by four Danish brothers who distributed seafood throughout San Francisco. In 1946 it was purchased by Sal Sancimino who operated it until 1970 when his children took it over. You’ll always see one, if not all, of the five brothers behind the counter and they always greet you like you are the most special person who has walked through the door all day. I belly up to the beautifully aged marble bar and chat with everyone behind the counter like we’ve known each other all our lives. For a lot of people, they have! There are still plenty of customers who’s family have been coming to Swan Oyster Depot for six generations. Just one of the many things that make this place so special….along with it’s authenticity and quality.
The no frills menu hasn’t changed in 70 years with the exception of adding Sal’s clam chowder, Louie salads and beer & wine. The menu is simple; fresh local seafood in season served simply…lemon, cocktail sauce, bread & butter. This particular visit happened to be when crab season had just opened so I ordered a crab Louie salad and, my favorite crab back, which is a buttery deliciousness of roe and fat that collects in the carapace of the crab that you mop up with sourdough bread. Also, not to forget the Tomales Bay Miyagi & Kumamoto oysters and an Anchor Steam beer. This truly is my happy place.
Swan Oyster Depot’s Crab Louie Salad
The recipe here is particular to specific brands of mayo and ketchup so if you want authenticity, I’d recommend it. Though you can certainly substitute any brand you have. Also, they use iceberg lettuce in their salad but I tend to prefer butter lettuce so that’s what I did here. Enjoy, and don’t forget the sourdough bread & butter and ice cold Anchor Steam!
1 1/2 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
1/2 cup Heinz tomato ketchup
1 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoons sweet relish
1 egg hardboiled
1lb Dungeness crab meat
6 cups chopped butter lettuce (or iceberg lettuce to be more authentic to the SOD recipe)
1 lemon quartered
Drain black olives and relish on a paper towel to remove excess liquid. In a bowl, whisk together ketchup and mayonnaise. Finely chop the hardboiled egg and black olives, and stir into the dressing along with the sweet relish. Season with salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest.
Divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Spoon over as much of the Louie dressing as you like then pile on the crab meat. Serve with a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top.