The Franciscan Crab: Wharf seafood feast
Just a short stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf sits one of San Francisco’s iconic seafood restaurants and a bit of Fifties charm – The Franciscan Crab Restaurant. Because of its unmistakable architecture, you can’t miss it. Inside you’ll find panoramic dining offering views of all of the city’s ‘big names’.
From its twenty foot windows, you’ll gaze out onto the bay and spot the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and even Alcatraz. Ever table at The Franciscan has a view of the water because of its staggered seating. On a bright and sunny day, the views alone are worth a trip in to this restaurant.
Built in the 1950s, the remodeled space still shows plenty of character and reminds you of glitz of the “Happy Day”, tossed with a little class from Marilyn Monroe and swank of Hugh Hefner. Though the restaurant is quite large, it is so popular you’ll want to be sure you make a reservation. I visited The Franciscan on my recent trip to SF with the intent of finding a nice seafood restaurant that offered a great view – and I found it here.
The restaurant’s menu offers a little bit of everything. Particularly notable offerings include the freshly made Burrata and Salumi Bar, an assortment of crostini like the Crab & Smoked Salmon and the Octopus Condito, whole-roasted Dungeness Crab and Sizzling Iron Skillets with roasted seafood.
I visited my first night in San Francisco and was eager to taste the city’s fresh catches. To start the meal, my companion and I ordered the Shrimp Cocktail and the Calamari Fritti. The shrimp cocktail was an instant winner with five plump, succulent shrimp arranged neatly in a flute with cocktail sauce and a wedge of lemon. The calamari fritti held its own and had a beautiful golden crisp to it – not at all greasy like some restaurant’s fried calamari preparations.
Before entrees, I enjoyed their Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Salad topped generously with salty and peppery pancetta crumbles. They absolutely do not skimp on this salad; in every bite I managed to get a taste of pancetta and a crumble of tangy blue cheese – fantastic.
For mains, we shared the Whole-Roasted Dungeness Crab and the Sizzling Iron Skillet of Mussels & Shrimp. It is always a fun experience cracking your own crab and we enjoyed every bite of its rich, sweet meat. The mussels were insanely good and a rich broth of garlic and white wine accompanied them for dipping. The broth was to die for and made this my absolute favorite part of the meal.
As we were completely stuffed after such a spread of the ocean’s best, we had to pass up dessert (though I hear they offer some pretty tasty frozen custard).
One of the unique details of the restaurant is their menus, which are actually their cookbooks (available for purchase after your visit). The menu is literally a book of everything the restaurant offers with photos and recipes of each dish. Though it is a bit uncommon for an upper-end restaurant to have a picture menu, I actually really appreciated the visual – especially for a menu that doesn’t change too much seasonally (seafood is always available in SF!). I was particularly impressed that the dishes we ordered actually looked as good in person as they were photographed on the menu – no skimping or cosmetic food styling here.
All in all? I’d definitely recommend heading to The Franciscan Crab Restaurant if you are planning to visit the Wharf, have a craving for Dungeness crab, and are looking for a restaurant with a view. The restaurant seems to be very busy especially on weekends so be sure to make a reservation beforehand and remind the staff to validate your parking when you get the check!
Learn more about the restaurant at its website, franciscanrestaurant.com.
The Franciscan Crab Restaurant on PIER 43 1/2 | San Francisco, CA | 94133 | 415-362-7733