10 best places for clam chowder in San Francisco

Feb 20, 2017

Fancy a comforting bowl of the thick and creamy seafood speciality? Here’s where to get your fix in San Francisco.

Clam chowder originated in New England before San Francisco even became a city but, today, the seafood dish is one that San Franciscans are proud to call their own.

This gourmet comfort food consists of simple ingredients – clam juice or broth, finely chopped clams, butter, milk or cream, diced potatoes, leeks or onions, and celery – blended into a hearty soup. Herbs like bay leaves or thyme may be added for extra flavour, and some establishments top their chowder with bits of bacon for a decadent finish.

New England clam chowder is traditionally thick and white, while the Manhattan variety has a thinner consistency and is red and tangy from its use of tomatoes.

In San Francisco, clam chowder is commonly served in a crusty “bowl” fashioned from a hollowed-out loaf of sourdough bread. Today, vendors all over the city give diners the option of enjoying their soup in a sourdough bread bowl. You can also opt for a cup or bowl of the chowder with oyster crackers on the side.

These 10 eateries are the city’s top spots for the delicious dish:

1. Famous and intimate – Swan Oyster Depot

This small, 104-year-old restaurant seats only 12 and there’s always a long line outside (the wait can take up to two hours on most days). It’s known for its clam chowder, which is said to be among the best in the country – not too thick, buttery, flavourful and filled with super-fresh clams.


2. Generously portioned and creamy – Sotto Mare Oysteria and Seafood Restaurant

This lively establishment, run by a close-knit Italian family, serves Boston-style white clam chowder with bits of bacon and a generous amount of clams. The bread is delicious, crusty and fresh. Reservations are a must if you want to get a seat; otherwise, be prepared to wait for at least an hour.


3. Contains a variety of clams – Scoma’s

Located on Fisherman’s Wharf, this classic San Francisco seafood restaurant has been around since 1965. Its New England clam chowder always hits the spot with its savoury, buttery flavour and creamy texture, and it uses different types of clams to keep the soup’s texture and flavour interesting.


SEE ALSO: A local’s guide to San Francisco, USA