The Old Clam House: Reviews

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CioppinoClambake SpecialOysters on the Half Shell
Cioppino, Clambake Special, Oysters on the Half Shell

Kristen Schwartz
Name: Kristen
Occupation: Mother and Paralegal
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: The Old Clam House
Reviewed The Old Clam House: Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I first started going to the Old Clam House when I was pregnant with my twin boys, about four years ago. I had heard about the restaurant and had a craving for fish and chips, so we rolled on down from Bernal Heights to check it out. Parking is easy, and I often find a spot in front or to the side of the restaurant. When you walk in, you can either step up into the bar area or you can have a seat in the dining room. I always eat in the bar area, because it is lively, bright, and the same servers have been there since my first time, and we've become friendly with them.

Once you sit down, you are promptly provided a small cup of warm clam broth and fresh, crunchy sourdough bread. My boys like to dip the bread in the broth. I'm not a fan of the warm clam broth, but the kids sure love it. After I had the twins, I stopped ordering the fried fish platter (a heaping combination of fish, oysters, shrimp, scallops, and calamari) and switched to the Lazy Man Cioppino, which is served in a huge bowl and is filled with clams, mussels, fish, crab, scallops, and is absolutely delicious! I always start my dinner or lunch with the house salad, which is big enough to split. The salad is not your average house salad. It starts with romaine lettuce, then is surrounded by a sliced egg, olives, tomato, croutons, and topped with shaved raw beet and carrot.

The Old Clam House is very family friendly, which keeps bringing us back. All three of my boys and my husband have their favorite dishes: the twins share a burger or a big plate of pasta with marinara sauce, and my oldest son usually has the pesto clams and linguini, the seafood ravioli, or the fish and chips. My husband will often order the special, which changes nightly. Most recently, he ordered the prawns and scallop kabob and was served a huge plate of rice, fresh steamed vegetables, topped with a skewer of three large prawns and three large scallops. When dining with friends, I like to order appetizers for the table. The steamed clams are a must, and the calamari is always perfect. We've tried the chicken wings, raw oysters, and stuffed mushrooms with crab, and all are quite good.


The food at the Old Clam House is prepared in a traditional fashion and rarely fails to please. The portions are huge, so sharing a meal is not a bad idea if you are not super hungry. The Old Clam House has been a San Francisco hot spot since 1861. My mother-in-law, a native San Franciscan, recalls first going to the Old Clam House in the 1940s. I would recommend this restaurant to all my friends and often do. The Old Clam House is a simple, comfortable, family restaurant with friendly severs and bartenders. The walls in the bar dining area are covered in old license plates, San Francisco memorabilia, and the barstools around the bar are old tractor seats and sure are comfortable!

Fernando Gonzalez
Name: Fernando
Occupation: Pediatrician
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Gialina
Reviewed The Old Clam House: Monday, December 8, 2008

Two words: old school. This is the kind of place my father would love, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. He generally doesn’t like to eat at restaurants that haven’t been around since at least the Carter administration. And you have to see the setup at the Old Clam House to believe it. Enough flair to start a forest fire, and the stoplight above the bar was nice and subtle. Also, full disclosure: I really wanted to hate the food. My wife and I were only able to eat there after a few attempts. Since there was no website to check the hours of operation, we tried calling the number listed on Yelp and other websites. No one answered on Monday after a few tries, so we figured they were closed on Mondays, then on Tuesday there was also no answer.

We did end up finding the hours somehow via Google, which claimed the restaurant was open each night until 9pm, and 9:30 on Thursday through Saturday. So, on Thursday, after my wife returned from work, we arrived at 8:30pm, but the bartender told us the kitchen was closed. I asked for clarification on the hours of service, and she confirmed the 9:30 closing time. When I showed her the time, she responded by saying “Oh, you’re right!” She went back into the kitchen but came back saying that everyone had gone home. I got the impression that the Old Clam House operates similarly to my cafeteria at work. The posted hours say the grill closes at 7pm, but when people stop lining up the cooks go home.

Therefore, in an effort to actually eat food here, we arrived at 6:45 on a Monday evening. The large neon sign out front, which was illuminated on our previous visit, was not lit, so I began to worry that I was destined not to try it. However, they were open and actually serving food, so we sat down. I started with the Blue Point oysters, which were tasty and fresh, while my wife had the side salad, served with a hard-boiled egg and deep-fried croutons. For the mains, I opted not to try their famous cioppino, but rather their seafood Provençal. I was surprised by how good this dish was. The pasta was piping hot, the crab legs well prepared, and the seafood blended well with the marinara. I quite enjoyed it. My wife, on the other hand, had the deep fried seafood combo, a massive platter of snapper, calamari, shrimp, scallops, and other components I couldn’t identify, with a side of over-steamed vegetables. Not as big a hit.

Finally, we asked to see the dessert menu, but the waiter returned with our check. We took that as a hint, either that the desserts were not worth trying, or that it was closing time. I suppose I would return, especially to try the impressive-looking cioppino, but only if my father were in town.

Greg Marvin
Name: Greg
Occupation: Retired Art Teacher
Location: Napa
Favorite Restaurant: Mustards Grill
Reviewed The Old Clam House: Saturday, November 28, 2008

The Old Clam House is located in a rather dark industrial area of San Francisco on the Old Bayshore Blvd. It was established in 1861 and has remained in the same location with the same original building. Entering into the Old Clam House is like stepping back into history.

Coming from out of town, I found it easy to locate with parking available behind the restaurant. The restaurant is divided into two sections: on one side there is a large bar with seating for food, and on the other side, a more formal casual dining area. The staff is friendly and helpful. There are numerous photos of celebrities and old photos of the restaurant on the walls.


When first seated, we were brought a cup of clam broth and sourdough bread. The clam broth is very savory with fish and lemon flavors. It was a good start for a chilly November night. I chose their signature dish: the clam bake special. It comes in a large bowl filled with steamed clams, scallops, oysters, mussels, crab legs, prawns, and an ear of corn in a delicious broth. The bowl is filled with shells, so you do not get as much fish as you do in other dishes on the menu. I had the opportunity to try the cioppino, which was filled to the top with shell fish in an outstanding tomato base sauce. Those in my party who chose the crab salads found them to be filled with a generous amount of crab and very crisp greens. The menu is large with many different items and the pricing is moderate. The restaurant was somewhat empty for a Saturday night, which made for an enjoyable evening.