Swan Oyster Depot has been around a long time and always popular but of late the popularity has shot up so that you can regularly depend on at least an hour wait to get in and this is even if you line up prior to opening. Trick there is to get there early enough to be in the first wave that is seated on the only 18 stools. Another option is to order the food for takeout but I don’t think it’d be the same to eat it without the show behind the counter. It is a sliver of a restaurant with passage for about one person behind the stools – some of that was due to coats being hung on the hangers. It hasn’t changed in the number of years we’ve been going, even the personnel. You get to walk through part of the kitchen to get to the one bathroom but most of the food is assembled or readied up front.
Everything is ultra fresh and the menu is seafood only with the exception of the complimentary bread and butter. Mounds of ice hold lots of different fish and shellfish along the counter (separated by a glass) and in the front display window looking out to the street. The fresh Dungeness crab is my favorite and we were ultra lucky as they have not been able to get it for days but the day we went they’d gotten in a shipment. Normally they offer it in the shell and you pick it out or you can get the already picked meat. On our visit only the former was available which isn’t too bad as the crabs are large and the chunks of meat are easily retrieved. If they have it I get the combination salad with crab and shrimp, so on this visit we got the salad (with shrimp only) and 1/2 cracked crab on the side and made our own. The salad comes with a sauce of Louie dressing (that mildly resembles thousand island) and this visit it was packed with 3 kinds of shrimp, small and large cooked and some raw. It is filled out with a bunch of lettuce that absorbs the dressing but the shrimp are the stars. With the crab you can ask for a Dijon crab fat vinaigrette that also goes well with both. Additionally there is a trio of sauces on the bar, one of which is a hot sauce that adds a nice touch to the mixture. On this visit the bread was a tad dry which was fine cause this way we filled up on lots of tender, sweet and freshly cooked crab meat. It was wonderful.
They offer an interesting dish called a crab back which is just the shell with a bit of juice and butter in it to be eaten with the bread. It seemed quite popular but I didn’t try one. Service is efficient and ultra friendly and along with the lively banter amongst those working there. It makes a fun vibe and a spot not to be missed it you have the patience.