Had a few hours to spend in SF before a flight out of Oakland, so I lunched at Swan Oyster Depot. Loved the old charm of the marble bartop and the lunch counter ambience, but I wasn't blown away by the food.
Perhaps I should have better researched what's good here. I skipped the raw oysters being it's summertime, and also because on the counter next to me was a large metal bowl of shucked oysters sitting in what looked like water (instead of oyster liquor). I don't know what the shucked oysters were for, but was afraid that's what I'd be served on the half shell.
What I ended up with: a bowl of clam chowder w/ sourdough bread, and a soft shell crab. I liked the classic white chowder well enough: obviously made in house with milk and plenty of butter. The broth tasted of mildly of clam juice and had a thin consistency I prefer to the usual starchy glop that most places serve. Smallish cubes of potatoes were cooked just unti tender, and hadn't fallen apart yet, so I could tell that batch of soup was prepared recently. Overall, a nice way to start my lunch.
I ordered a soft shell crab, which I was told was sauteed with olive oil and garlic, and came with a side of shrimp salad with Louie sauce. What came out was a crab buried under a blanket of roughly chopped, nearly raw, garlic and parsley. It must have been nearly a head and a half worth of garlic. Seriously.
If you *really* love raw garlic, by all means order this while softies are in season. However, I can't recommend this because I couldn't taste the sweet delicate crab. The shrimp salad consisted of small bay shrimp on shredded iceberg with a nice mayo & tomato sauce that somewhat resembles Thousand Island dressing.
I get the feeling that they put a great deal of time into their sauces and condiments. A small crock of mignonette sauce and freshly grated horseradish sit on the counter, and both taste wonderful.
Although I love the look and feel of the place, what I ordered just didn't merit a return trip when next time I visit SF. Nice soup, but not brilliant. Liked the very shalloty mignonette sauce, which would've been great had I ordered raw clams or oysters. But there's too many other food choices in SF to rehash what I thought was a fair to middling lunch experience. Sorry to those who just adore the place - I just didn't walk away super impressed.