6 Recommended Restaurants on Pier 39, San Francisco
If you are visiting San Francisco, Pier 39 should definitely be on your list of places to go. Not only does Pier 39 offer great shopping and entertainment, there are also wonderful places to eat.
Pier 39 is one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco. The Pier offers something for everyone. There are plenty of distinct little shops that offer a variety of options for unique souvenirs. There is Lefty’s, a shop for the left-handed person in your life. The NFL/College shop for everything the football fan would want. The Alcatraz shop offers not only a huge collection of Alcatraz-themed gifts, but also souvenirs with the San Francisco theme. You can’t miss the carousel near the end of the Pier, pretty much a must if you have children or are still a child within. Depending on what time of the year you visit, there are also wandering and stationary performers.
Don’t miss the now famous Pier 39 sea lions. In September of 1989 sea lions started to come onto the pier. In the beginning they were a great nuisance. The part of the pier they decided to hang out on would have to be closed for public safety, including the shops. For a brief time there was a discussion on how to deter the sea lions from coming onto the pier. The final solution was to embrace the sea lion invaders of Pier 39. Floating docks were built for the sea lions and a viewing area for visitors with seating. So you can take a break and enjoy the antics of the now world famous Pier 39 sea lions.
Pier 39 also offers some of the best food in San Francisco with some of the best views. After a walk on the Pier and exploring the shops, sea lions, and watching a performer or two, your stomach and feet will likely be ready for a lovely sit down meal. I spent two years working on Pier 39 and have had the pleasure of dining at every restaurant I am about to recommend. No matter which restaurant you decide to dine at I assure you, your experience will be pleasurable.
Fog Harbor Fish House
Fog Harbor Fish house offers an amazing view and some of the best and freshest seafood you will ever have. Family owned and operated, the hospitality of this restaurant is exceptional. If by chance you have to wait for seating, the lobby is very comfortable and warm from a fireplace on a cold day. When it comes to dining be sure to check the daily specials. My personal favorite has always been the crab cakes from the starter menu. Fog Harbor does fall into the fine dining category and is priced as such. I can assure you, it is worth any wait you might have and every dollar you spend.
Pier Market Seafood Restaurant
Pier Market Seafood Restaurant is owned and operated by the same family that owns Fog Harbor Fish House, the Simmons family. Pier Market has been around pretty much as long as Pier 39 itself. Famous for having been voted “the Best Seafood in San Francisco” by television’s KRON 4 “Best of the Bay”. The Pier Market is a more casual dining experience then Fog Harbor Fish House. You have the choice of ordering at an outside counter and eating as you explore Pier 39, or sitting on one of the many benches and people watching. You can also sit down inside the restaurant and enjoy a view of the marina, Alcatraz, the sea lions, and the bay.
Pier Market also has a mesquite grill, offering a unique and distinct flavor for any seafood dish prepared on the grill. If dining inside, I recommend trying the Pier Market Mixed Grill, this dish includes salmon, fresh swordfish, and shrimp skewer all cooked on the mesquite grill. If grabbing a bite from the counter outside, nothing beats the crab & shrimp sandwich. If not everyone in your party is fond of seafood, Pier Market also has other amazing non-seafood choices including BBQ pork ribs and NY steak.
The Eagle Café is located on the second level of Pier 39 and is actually older than Pier 39 itself. At one time the Eagle Café stood where the Pier 39 parking garage is today. Before it became the Eagle Café, the structure housed a ticket office for boats going to Mendocino and Humbolt counties.
The ticket office metamorphosed into a very popular café for the locals that worked on the water front. Serving up breakfast since the 1920s, the café added a bar in the 1930s at the end of prohibition. Threatened with demolition in the late 1970s the local landmark was moved to the brand new developed Pier 39, where it stands today.
If you arrive at Pier 39 early in the day, the Eagle Café is the place to go for breakfast. Since the original owner, the café, while keeping its original character, has improved its menu to include a wonderful selection of seafood delights, including an oyster bar.
Boudin Bakery & Café Pier 39
Boudin Bakery (pronounced bo-deen) is a San Francisco staple. Boudin Bakery is known as the original maker of San Francisco sourdough French bread. The bakery was originally established in 1849 by Isidore Boudin, the son of a master baker from Burgundy, France. Isidore combined his talent for making French bread with the sourdough popular among miners of time from the Gold Rush.
Famous throughout San Francisco, California and the nation with a number of locations in California (including Disney’s California Adventures) you cannot get fresh-made Boudin sourdough outside of California. It is not unusual to see people departing from San Francisco on airplanes with loaves of Boudin bakery sourdough French bread they are taking home with them. Going to San Francisco and not trying Boudin Bakery sourdough French bread is like you didn’t go to San Francisco at all. Although the menu at the café on Pier 39 has a great variety of sandwich options, I recommend a sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. takes its name from the Academy Award for Best Picture movie Forrest Gump. With a restaurant and gift store, dining at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is fun for everyone in the family. Although there is sometimes a line waiting to get seated in this restaurant it is well worth the wait. Bubba Gump’s sits at the very end of Pier 39 on the second level and commands views from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge.
The menu at Bubba Gump’s offers a wide variety of choices including gluten-free and a kids menu. My favorites include the “Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp” and “Lt. Dan’s Drunken Shrimp” which is char-grilled shrimp and Andouille sausage with bourbon sauce. Don’t forget to stop at the park bench just outside the door and put your feet into Forrest Gump’s shoes for a souvenir picture.
Hard Rock Café San Francisco
Hard Rock Café may be a chain restaurant; every one I have been to visit has been unique including the Hard Rock located at the entrance to Pier 39. The food is consistently good and affordable for the travel budget. The memorabilia on the walls will take you back, no matter what era is your era.
The Hard Rock on Pier 39 often hosts live music. Be sure to check their website if you want to check a live performance. It would be a great way for the whole family to enjoy some of San Francisco‘s local talent.
If you have to wait for seating, Hard Rock provides a beeper/buzzer that you can take with you (to a certain distance) that will go off when your table is available. While waiting for your seating, you can check out the Hard Rock Café memorabilia store. If you look closely or are a good shopper, it is likely you can find some good deals.
Be sure to save room for dessert, the Hard Rock Café has some of the most decadent desserts you can imagine. If you are lucky enough to visit during strawberry season, anything with strawberries will be amazing.
No matter what time of the year or day you visit Pier 39 you are guaranteed to have a great time. When it comes to dining, Pier 39 also has something for everyone. In fact, Pier 39 can even be romantic in the evening; dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House is the perfect place to have a quiet moment with your special someone.
If you are traveling with children, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is the place to go, both the menu and the ambiance is kid-friendly. For the visitor on the go, Pier Market or Boudin Bakery Café are perfect for the quick bite.
If you are a rocker at heart, then there is no missing the Hard Rock Café and a trip to the gift store for memorabilia specific to Hard Rock Café in San Francisco. If you are early risers and Pier 39 is first on your list of places to go, the Eagle Café is the place for breakfast.
Pier 39 has been a fixture in San Francisco since 1980 and one of the top tourist destinations since opening. While visiting don’t just stick to the inner portion of the Pier, there is also a walking path around the outer part of the Pier. At the Bay end of the Pier on a clear day you can see all the way to the other side of the Bay. You will also encounter people from all over the world on Pier 39. My time working on Pier 39 has left me with unique and wonderful memories of the people I worked with and the people I met visiting from everywhere. The suggestions I offer in this article are sincere and come from true experience.
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