Last Friday I took my very special friend Nancy to The Anchor Oyster Bar for her birthday. We sat at the window watching the rain fall and started with a sampling of all the oysters on the menu with a half bottle of Pinot Grigio. Each variety of mussels tasted like they were farmed that morning. They always ask if you want bread, and unless you are watching your carb intake, I highly recommend their bread, it’s always fresh and crunchy on the outside. They have a board above the bar with all the specials of the day. Right below all the choices of oysters were the cod cakes. I had never had these before, and boy, that was the great find on the menu for me. These cakes were perfect; the outside was lightly fried and the inside tasted light and filling at the same time. How do I describe them? You can taste the fresh fish, but it was so delicate. "Yum" is all I can say; "Yum," and "I’m going back for the cakes." We then shared a crab salad with blue cheese dressing. Because it was crab season, it really doesn’t get any better than this, but I have to admit I usually have one of their salads only to top it with their blue cheese dressing, Mmmmm -- it’s so good and really tastes like it’s good for you. Well, for your soul anyway.
The pasta of the day was shrimp in a creamy red sauce and I honestly savored every warm creamy bite, it was soooo good. I have had this dish before and am always looking for it on their daily special board. I wish I were eating it right now. We finished the Pinot Grigio, and my friend wanted to try the house white wine, which I had never had due to the fact that I thought I wouldn’t like it. I was wrong. It’s fresh with a light body; perfect with fish. Even though we both were pretty full, I ordered a cup of the clam chowder. I wanted Nancy to try it. She lives near Fishermen’s Wharf and has tried many clam chowders in her neighborhood. Her face lit up when she took her first taste; it’s a perfect clam chowder. Not too creamy with just enough clams and tiny pieces of potatoes. I love it and now she loves it!
I’m crazy about this restaurant and I take a lot of pride in it because it’s in my neighborhood. I have come to know most of the waitstaff and the chefs. They are amazing at what they do, real professionals. Oh, and you can buy fresh fish there as well. I have gone down many times to buy the freshest fish you can get at a reasonable, market price. Many times John, the night chef, will give me tips on how to cook whatever fish I have chosen. This restaurant epitomizes why San Francisco is known for its great food! And we San Franciscans know what great food is.
Occupation: MBA Student
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Lalime's Restaurant
Reviewed Anchor Oyster Bar & Seafood Market: Saturday February 2, 2008
Remember the feelings you get at the end of a great first date? Well, that’s what I was experiencing after my first meal at Anchor Oyster Bar. I was giddy; I was a bit too excited and afraid I was getting carried away; I was trying not to go head over heels; I wondered how long I should wait to call again!
Anchor is pretty easy to love. It’s popular and stylish, but not in the least bit stuck up. It’s petite and cute. It does its thing and does it well. It does some everyday things in an adorably different way. It makes you comfortable. It’s cool. It’s got grace and good manners, and you want to introduce it to all of your friends because you know they’ll be impressed. What a catch!
I went to Anchor for an early Saturday dinner with two friends prior to catching a movie at the Castro Theatre’s film noir festival. We ended up staying at the restaurant so long that we had to catch the later movie. We started our meal with glasses of deliciously sweet Pinot Grigio and a sampler of the day’s fresh oysters. The variety of oysters changes frequently, but I doubt the quality does. They were great! Oysters are presented in a round on a nicely chilled bed of rock salt. The drawn butter is gentle enough to allow the subtle flavors of each different oyster to come through. The cocktail sauce had a nice touch: freshly grated horseradish on top. We could already tell this was a special place. One of my friends, who had sworn she would never eat an oyster, actually tried one and liked it! I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the moment with the right company. We were going with the flow and decided to try as many dishes as we could. Next came a revelation dressed as a Caesar salad. This salad is so common now as to be almost pedestrian in most places, but Anchor Oyster Bar makes a great Caesar! The dressing is fresh and creamy without being too heavy. What makes their Caesar a standout is the inclusion of hot croutons. Hot croutons! Who knew? They added a wonderful contrast to the cool and crispy fresh lettuce.
The Boston clam chowder was very nice, smooth and velvety. In fact, a dinner of Caesar salad and clam chowder alone would be a great, complete meal at Anchor, but we were enjoying ourselves and were hungry for adventure, so we somehow found room for a few more dishes. The garlic bread was delicious, warm and comforting. The crab cake entrée was good too. I can’t say they were the best I’ve ever had, but they were satisfying with plenty of crab and not too much breading. I guess I can’t say the clam chowder was the world’s best either, but I liked it. I could eat it all the time and not get tired of it. It was just… simply yummy! The mahi mahi was nicely done as well, freshly pan-cooked and buttery without being overpowering. It was a star quality fish dish that would be right at home in any of the Bay Area’s best seafood houses.
And finally, I must say a word about the service. It was impeccable and quietly graceful. I wasn’t expecting great service at a small restaurant where almost half the seats are at the bar. What a joy to find such skilled and attentive waitstaff! Our server was very helpful with recommendations and information about the daily specials. Moreover, he was there when we wanted him and wasn't there when we didn’t. He had that sixth sense that all great waiters have about caring for their guests: a great combination of timing and intuition. We never lacked for wine or food, and felt welcome to enjoy the meal at our own pace, which is quite unusual for a small restaurant with tables in high demand. I was very impressed.
Anchor Oyster Bar does everything well and does some things extraordinarily well. You can spend as much or as little as you like and walk away satisfied. For great seafood in a casual atmosphere in the Castro, you cannot beat Anchor! Oh, I think I might be getting carried away. I can’t wait to see this place again.
Occupation: Director of Operations, Test Prep Exams
Favorite Restaurant: Indian Aroma
Reviewed Anchor Oyster Bar & Seafood Market: Sunday January 27, 2008
We arrived at the restaurant around 6:30, and we almost missed it due to the filming of Milk. We ended up waiting 20 minutes for a table in what had to be the worst weather of the week. There were other people waiting as well, so I was convinced this place was good. Stepping in, I found myself transported to a SpongeBob SquarePants episode, as the restaurant looked like the Krabby Patty kingdom and was about the size of my television set. It was tiny inside.
We got a nice seat by the window and waited about ten minutes for our first round of bread. I was questioning the service, but then I came to realize there were four people total working in the restaurant! The people at the tables seemed to linger longer than one would in a typical restaurant, but this may have been due to the dumping rain outside.
We started with the clam chowder. It was good, but it was not the best I've had. It was a bit watery, and there were only a few, small pieces of minced clams present. We added lots of fresh pepper to enhance the flavor, but I still found it lacking.
Next up was the crab cake appetizer. These crab cakes were a step up from the clam chowder. They were fried perfectly and the crab was fresh and about an inch and a half thick. They were the best things we had from the dinner.
The oyster shooters were a nice surprise. They came in larger shot glasses (about 8 ounces), and the oysters were covered with a spicy Bloody Mary mixture with a lemon wedge and a narrow celery spear. Once they came out, we had a person next to us comment on how appealing they looked. The oysters were quite fresh, and the shooter was a nice complement to the dinner.
The last thing we shared was the shellfish combination. This was a large bowl of clams, two types of mussels, and shrimp, all steamed in a white wine sauce. While there were plenty of clams and mussels, there were only two shrimp. Overall, I found this to be hearty, though lacking in flavor. The steaming juice consisted of white wine, fresh Italian parsley, butter, pepper, and garlic. I didn't really see shallots present, which seem to be a common ingredient in most recipes, and that may account for the lack of substance.
All in all, I thought the restaurant to be a good spot to take special out-of-towners, but not for a regular dining experience. One issue that came up was our waiter did not tell us there were specials. Halfway through the meal, I realized that cioppino had been a main dish option, and I was disappointed the waiter did not tell us about this or the other specials.