Anchor Oyster Bar, San Francisco.

October 2013.

This place is one of the more “respectable” joints in wild and wooly Castro. It’s mentioned in the Michelin guide, and features an atypically straight clientele.

No reservations, of course, and we turned up at about 8 PM on a Friday night and had to put our names on a whiteboard and wait for about 35 minutes. It was worth the wait.

There is a no-nonsense feel about the busy tiny room with bar, and the specials up on a blackboard definitely don’t include any haute cuisine: seafood pasta, several kinds of oysters, a couple of different specially-prepared fish, and artichoke with a sauce. We went for the artichokes and oysters on the half shell, along with crab cakes and Caesar salad.

You sit at a stainless steel table, and they bring soft coarse white bread with unsalted butter, but there is salt on the table. Oysters came first and they were perfectly served with mignonette and horseradish, but so cleanly and accessibly shucked that there was nothing but enjoyment. Three kinds, all different, all delicious.

The artichoke was nicely boiled and it was a strong-garlic aioli we dipped it in, maybe not as velvety as hollandaise but tasty. The crab cakes were simple, but no vegetable in the crab, crisp outer toasting, and background of garlic. I couldn’t identify the fat, but these were delicious and made me start thinking about using a little less coarse vegetable in my own.

The big surprise of the evening was the Caesar salad. Every dreary suburban cattle-trough serves this by name, but I was reminded of the first time I ever tasted it, in an old-house restaurant in Seattle with my parents when I was a boy. They brought the whole business to the side of the table, coddled and mixed it all up, and everyone made delighted noises. Well here, Romaine lettuce was just liquid in my mouth it was so fresh, the dressing was delicious (I wouldn’t have minded a little more anchovy…), but the real take-home fun was the gorgeous soft croutons. Wonderful treat.

Nice introduction to San Francisco and to Castro. 7.8

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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