Fellow San Franciscans: Dungeness crab season is almost upon us! November 3 is the start of the season in Northern California and there's no delays in sight this year, unlike last. Although the commercial crab season officially runs until the end of June, most of the season’s total catch is typically hauled out of the ocean in the first couple of months — so the supply of fresh Dungeness is typically reduced to a crawl by February.
It’s time to get cracking. Here are some San Francisco restaurants that are dishing up Dungeness in various forms and styles.
Anchor Oyster Bar
Seafood is prepared simply at this small and popular Castro restaurant. Whole, cracked crab is pan-roasted in garlic, white wine and stock or served cold with drawn butter. Or get your crab in a cake, cocktail or Caesar.
Crab House At Pier 39
Crab is king at this Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant: it’s in chowder, cioppino, cakes, Caesar and Louis, pasta Alfredo, lasagna, melt sandwiches, omelets and enchiladas. It also comes whole, roasted and served with garlic butter. The only form it doesn’t come in is dessert.
During Dungeness season, you’ll see a whole crab on practically every table of this Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant in the Tenderloin. The salt-and-pepper crab is dry-fried; after gobbling the crab meat, you might find yourself scooping up the tasty bits of fried garlic and pepper clinging to the shell and the platter. Other variations offered: steamed; stir-fried with ginger and green onion; and stir-fried with black bean sauce. The garlic noodles are a popular accompaniment.
PPQ Dungeness Island
Whole crab prepared five different ways is offered at this Richmond district Vietnamese restaurant: roasted (baked with garlic and butter); peppercorn (deep fried with garlic, salt and pepper); spicy (similar to the peppercorn, with jalapeño and basil added); drunken (cooked in a wine sauce); and curry.
Featured in one of chef Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” television segments, the salt-and-pepper Dungeness is a signature dish of this long-time Chinatown restaurant, and rightfully so. The crab is chopped, lightly battered, deep fried, and tossed with a salt and pepper mix.
Swan Oyster Depot
This century-old seafood shop and diner was named an America’s Classic by the James Beard Foundation. Join the line for one of the 18 counter stools. Cracked, cold crab comes with plenty of butter and sourdough bread. Or keep your fingers clean and order the crab Louis, a perfect ensemble of lettuce, Dungeness and zesty dressing.
Tadich Grill calls itself “essentially a seafood restaurant,” its name withstanding. Dating back to 1849, it’s also the oldest restaurant in California. Crab, served on white tablecloths by white-jacketed waiters, is offered in cake, cocktail and salad forms and is featured in a classic cioppino. Other crab-centric entrees include crab sautéed in a light cream sauce, deep fried crab, baked seafood curry casserole, and Dungeness crab and prawns a la Monza (baked in a paprika-spiked bechamel sauce with cheese and rice).
The roast crab (a whole crab cooked with garlic and other spices) and garlic noodles are the most popular order at this Sunset restaurant. But you can also get your crab drunken (simmered in wine, sake and brandy and seasoned with scallions and chives), tamarind-spiked (cooked with tomatoes, tamarind and dill) and in puff form (mixed with soft cheese and encased in a wonton wrapper).