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    Possibly San Francisco’s Best Seafood: Anchor Oyster Bar

    By David Landis–

    41 years and still shucking: that’s a lot of oysters!

    And yet, Anchor Oyster Bar, a neighborhood gem on Castro Street (near 19th Street) keeps packing ‘em in. “Even after 41 years,” says owner and chef Roseann Grimm, “I love walking through the front door.”

    Her pride of ownership shows in every detail—through the carefully curated seafood menu and wine/beer list, to the simple yet welcoming Cape Cod décor, as well as the consistently high quality of service. (Ann has been there almost 30 years, Nafty is an Anchor mainstay of 18 years and Alex has been serving for around 12 years.)

    What’s her secret? She told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “I taste everything. If you don’t do that, things can slip by you. As long as I’ve been in business, I’ve dealt with the same seafood company: California Shellfish, an old family-owned company. They know not to send me anything that’s not right.”

    A native San Franciscan, Grimm and her dad would head to Fisherman’s Wharf when she was a child. “I grew up eating out in a lot of San Francisco restaurants because my dad was a foodie,” remembers Grimm. “We spent a lot of time at (the now closed) Mayes Oyster House on Polk Street and then I worked for Swan Oyster Depot before opening my own place.”

    The menu at Anchor reflects Grimm’s innate love of seafood. Her signature Cioppino seafood stew “took a while to develop. There was a taste I was after and I had to keep working on it. It took me several months to perfect the recipe. I followed a Sicilian recipe and changed it around to accommodate the ingredients we had. And we haven’t changed it since. People come from all over the world now to try the Cioppino.”

    Photos by Chef Ramses Bravo

    Insider’s tip? Anchor doesn’t take reservations, so get there early. My husband and I arrived around 11:25 am for lunch (they open at 11:30 am) and signed the wait list to make sure we’d have a seat. We always prefer to sit at the marble-topped bar because you get to talk with the servers—and the customers. We started with uber-fresh kusshi and acadian pearl oysters, both small and creamy with a touch of brininess.

    Another must is Anchor’s creamy clam chowder. It’s one of the city’s best; in fact, we ordered it “to go” for a holiday dinner a few years ago. All of the dishes come with fresh French bread and oyster crackers, an added plus. Despite having Idaho red meat trout in a caper brown butter sauce on special, I opted for the classic fresh Dungeness crabmeat salad. The salad comes with Louie dressing, cucumber, par-boiled carrots, olives, tomatoes and lettuce.

    My husband had the crab, shrimp and prawn Louie salad—a similar set up, but with the assorted seafood. Anchor has some of San Francisco’s freshest seafood. It’s always consistent, meaty, delicious and never fishy. The portions are generous so I’d recommend splitting. That way you can taste and share more of the menu’s offerings.

    To accompany our lunch, I had a glass of the bubbly Pommeroy champagne and my husband had a glass of the very dry Dancing Mermaid still rosé wine from Provence. Anchor carries 3 bubbles, 3 whites, 1 rosé and 4 reds, along with wine specials, as well as 4 beers on tap, including Lagunitas IPA, Magnolia, Trumer Pils and Headlands Brewing Hefe Weizen.

    Being a part of the Castro also has been significant for Grimm. “We’re (now) a landmark legacy business designated by the City of San Francisco, a huge honor,” comments Grimm. “Our location is important, I love the Castro neighborhood—in fact, Harvey Milk helped me get my business license! We need to keep the flavor of San Francisco and the success of this restaurant is a testament to that.”

    You may have overlooked Anchor or forgotten about it because it’s been around so long. It’s a top destination in the City for seafood and one of the Castro’s best kept secrets, so go now!

    For information about Anchor Oyster Bar, visit:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer and a PR executive. Follow him: @david_landis, email him at: or visit online at: