Whether you’ve been to San Francisco as a tourist or live in the Bay Area, you’ve likely walked along the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf. No doubt you’ve visited some of the shops and restaurants from Pier 1 all the way down to Pier 39, the latter of which is where the historical Crab House sits. Overlooking the water, Crab House is famous for its “Killer Crab” (whole Dungeness Crab roasted in a secret garlic sauce served on a sizzling iron skillet), as well as other favorites also loaded with garlic such as garlic crab fries, garlic noodles, crab fried rice and more.
As you enter the restaurant, you can hear the sound of sizzling skillets and smell the garlic aroma coming from the kitchen. A must order is an iron skillet shellfish plate, which you can get with mussels, shrimp or veggies or you can opt for the combo which is what we ordered. Personally, I am a big lobster lover and it’s always been my go-to dish for shellfish (especially having lived in New England for more than a decade), as it was easy to find and reasonably priced. I haven’t ordered crab that often and when I have, it’s disappointing – either a small serving or simply not that fresh. When we were offered the opportunity to review the Crab House’s Killer Crab, how could we refuse? And, with garlic to boot.
Hot skillets keep your crab warm while you crack open your Pacific Ocean crab in between garlic-saturated mussels and shrimp. Of course you get a bib, which you shouldn’t refuse btw, because it’s dang messy if you’re going to eat it correctly, which in my humble opinion, is to devour it. These local crustaceans are both sweet and tender compared to other crabs you may be accustomed to from other parts of the world. I couldn’t get enough of them and it was definitely worth the effort.
You can also order a half or whole crab or if you’re going as a group, why not try what they refer to as a CRAB FEAST — keep ’em coming as they say.
If you’re not a shellfish fan, they offer other seafood and meat options, such as fresh cod topped with caper lemon butter sauce, pan-seared salmon with taragon butter, clam chowder, seafood cioppino, fried calamari and various seafood pastas. If you’re a vegetarian, they’ve got you covered with their garlic noodles, vegetables on a sizzling skillet, cheesy sourdough skillet, truffle garlic fries, and heirloom tomatoes and burrata appetizer. You can also get a simple caesar or mixed salad. If you’re an east coaster and used to clam chowder, then you’ll want to try their crab chowder, which they offer as a cup or in one of their sourdough bread bowls.
What if you have kids in tow? They do have a kids menu, which has the standard options, such as burgers, pasta with butter and chicken tenders with fries. Older kids might opt for the Fish and Chips (cod battered), which they serve with french fries and cole slaw. If you’re here from England, you may want to see how it compares to home. Beer you can pair your epic fish and chips dish with include house lager, Stella Artois, Cali Squeeze Blood Orange Hefeweizen, Coors Light, a Fort Point IPA and a 21st Amendment IPA from San Leandro California, all local except for Belgium’s Stella of course.
Cocktail lover? They had thirteen options at the writing of this review. If it’s a hot day, the Cucumber Mint Refresher sounded ever so delish, but if you want something a little more classic, then go for a Vodka Mule, Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, Margarita or Mojito to name a few. If you’ve been reading We Blog the World for a while now, you know that we’re not only wine lovers but write about wine from time-to-time — both reviews and wine tasting events. We went with a McManis Chardonnay for the seafood pairing although if you want to get a bottle, we’d suggest the Neyers from Sonoma, one of our favorites. If you have more of a European palette, then you may want to try the Italian Pinot Grigio (Barone Fini) or their Prosecco (Avissi, DOC).
If burgers are your thing, then order the crab-topped cheeseburger, which includes two quarter pound patties, cheese (or without) and crab meat topped with glazed aioli. It’s one way to try the crab without having to work those crab crackers. Another crab tasting option, without having to do all the work, is their Crab Topped NY Steak, which is served with a glazed reduction sauce (below).
Quite frankly, I think doing the work is half the fun, that is as long as you don’t show up to the restaurant feeling famished. I opted for the Surf and Turf, which is a pan-seared NY steak with half of their garlic roasted Killer Crab. Like I said, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Vegetarians or those who wish to eat a little lighter should not pass up the heirloom tomatoes and burrata. Yup, that’s pesto on the crostini and there’s basil and balsamic vinaigrette as well. It was simply divine and a great way to start your meal.
We tried some of the garlic shrimps off the iron skillet with the pesto foccacia crostini. Anthony was in garlic and pesto heaven and I only wished I had captured the look on his face as he enjoyed it.
Below, roasted veggies and couscous.
Below is one of their seafood pastas: you can get a crab and shrimp fettucine (with garlic, mushrooms, white wine and parsley), a mixed seafood pasta with red crab sauce or their shrimp tomato basil garlic pasta dish topped with shaved parmesan. Oh YUM
For dessert, they offer a Tiramisu, Chocolate Torte and a Creme Brulee Cheesecake. We naturally ended our evening with a cappuccino.
The dining room overlooks the San Francisco Bay — can you catch the Golden Gate Bridge in the background? You can also spot Alcatraz and the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf below, but without the noise.
If you’re a crab lover, add it to your list next time you’re in San Francisco. Dungeness crab season is typically November through March when San Francisco crab restaurants are able to catch and serve fresh, local, two pounds and larger Dungeness crabs right from the local waters. This season apparently moves around a bit due to algae spikes and whale patterns so as not to harm whales in the crab nets. If you’re a serious seafood lover, then consider King Salmon season, which is open from April through May and again from late June through October.
A few other fun places to dine in the Bay Area
The Crab House
203 C Pier 39
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94133