Eatery - Crab House (CA)
203 C Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Neighborhood: Fisherman's Wharf)
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - Seafood
San Francisco, San Francisco - I dream of you and your dungeness crab often. When I had my first taste of that sweet sea-meat, I fell in love with the crustacean and could not find another crab to compare. Therefore, when I knew I was returning to San Francisco this summer, I actively sought someplace that would have great crab. My other mission was to expose myself to cioppino again, a San Francisco-born dish that I had had once before by FIsherman's Wharf but wanted a different opinion. Searching online resulted in this gem on the tourist-filled Pier 39, and my friend and I were quite pleased with the visit.
As I mentioned earlier, the whole pier is just a huge tourist attraction. Throngs of people milling about, dropping into kitsch stores and buying up souvenirs - that would be Pier 39. Of course, this also meant that there would be a wait at Crab House but we were surprised that it only took 15-20 minutes. Perhaps the large groups of visitors needing large tables had to wait much longer but for two people, it was fair. You just put your name down and browse the menu hanging on the outer wall to get an idea of what you want. International traveler? No worries - there are menus in several different languages as well! Once inside, you can see the crab boat themed decor with plenty of nets and ostentatiously decorated crabs. Tiled everything kept a clean feel to it all and if you were lucky, a window table could be yours. We got the view and some crab bibs to boot!
My craving for dungeness had been jabbing at me all week so I immediately placed an order for their Crab Cakes ($16.95) which came out quickly and very hot. I admit to being slightly disheartened at the amount we received - just two small morsels for nearly a twenty. The outside seemed panko crusted and the inside was just glorious though. My oh my did I satisfy my craving with these bad boys - there was hardly any filler! The minimal slices of green onion and diced red bell pepper made parts of the cake pop but the true power laid in the sweet, tender strings of dungeness flesh. Such an excellent appetizer and one I recommend should you want to splurge.
Because we had already put down some decent dollar signs on the appetizers, we went slightly lighter on the entrees. Crab House is well-known for their "Killer Crab" in its signature sauce so we had to opt for that; the full order would be too much though so my friend and I chose the 1/2 order Killer Crab ($24.95 - 1+ lbs roasted in secret garlic sauce). It arrived on a sizzling skillet, two sizable legs with a large claw piece - almost a grotesque half crab. The crab utensils came out (metal shell crackers and tiny fork) as well as wet towelettes that our waitress opened for us ahead of time, and we went to work. Because the meat was already so sweet, sometimes I felt like the sauce detracted from the crab so I would ended up eating most of my crab as it was, without sopping up extra sauce from the skillet. It was a process but not too difficult considering how well equipped we were. I think the experience is definitely a large part of the fun with this dish.
Then we had a "small" tureen of their Seafood Cioppino ($26.95) which we both thought was much larger than a small should dictate. It was plenty for two people. There was such a mixture of seafood in it that we each had sufficient variety and portions. Mussels, shrimp, octopus, more delicious dungeness crab - it was all tastily in there and just right. I loved how savory the broth was and that it was not too heavy on that tomato flavors. The ample amount of seafood was prepared well and generously. I think that the bread that came with it though was distractingly tough; perhaps a fresh baguette would be better at sopping up extra soup. Between this and the past cioppino I tried, I greatly preferred Crab House's version!
Oh and of course, here is an obligatory picture of the sea lions by Pier 39. This was taken from the window by our table! That's how close we were to everything. Overall, the food here is excellent but because of the location (I'm assuming so), the prices seemed quite elevated for the portions.
Photography by Minerva Thai.