Sail Couture’s picks for the best waterfront dining locations on San Francisco Bay.
How to improve waterfront dining? Arrive by boat, of course; the fare is that much more flavorful, the views more dramatic, and the experience more memorable.
Looking for quick nosh or out for a special occasion, our 2017 edition is sure to please. This year we focus on two new destinations, a nice accompaniment to our last edition. Read on to be inspired.
Brooklyn by the Bay
Foodie yachties rejoice! Oakland’s gourmet renaissance has ushered in a crop of noteworthy restaurants set waterside at the Jack London Square Marina. The first three hours of docking are free at the public dock.
Brooklyn by the Bay, as the New York Times has dubbed Oakland, is well represented by Lungomare, which means waterfront and somehow sounds more chic when said in Italian. Enjoy the view from one of the two outdoor patios while savoring modern Italian fare. Two favorites are the hearty Seafood Stew (littleneck clams, mussels, prawns, octopus, kale, farro, tomato) and the daringly named Squid Ink Chitarra (cuttlefish, littleneck clams, chili, garlic, white wine).
The Pan-American Bocanova sports a stylish, festive vibe with a menu and cocktail list to match. The cuisines of South, Central, and North America are thoughtfully explored with inspired seafood and meat dishes. I like to make a meal of the small dishes, particularly the Ceviches y Crudos. Make sure to order a side of bread as you don’t want to waste an ounce of this deliciousness. Other than large plates vs. small plates the question is where to sit, at the outdoor seating in the breeze or at the festive counter of the exhibition kitchen?
Pizza lovers will delight in The Forge, which uses an imported Italian Valoriani oven to prepare nearly 80 percent of the menu, including their famous Neapolitan-style pies. The Forge uses only local, organic and seasonal ingredients, including hard cheeses that stand up to their 850-degree ovens.
A traditional seafood dining experience can be had at Jack London Square veteran Scott’s Seafood. A nice touch is the live jazz at Sunday brunch and on evenings.
Along Oakland’s Embarcadero is the Bavarian-inspired restaurant and biergarten Brotzeit Lokal, which features their own guest dock. Fresh, locally caught fish and oysters, as well as traditional German Schweinshaxe (whole braised pork shank served with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and mixed greens), Leberkäse (traditional veal meatloaf with spätzle and rotkohl) and numerous homemade sausages, cured meats and sauerkraut are some of the most popular dishes.
How cool is it that owners Tony and Krista Granieri are members of the Classic Yacht Association’s Northern California Fleet. They own two classics, Xantippe, a 43′ Stephens Bros motor yacht built in 1925, and a 36′ Cheoy Lee Robb sailboat. Kristi’s father owns a 75′ schooner he chartered all over the Caribbean, which is now his home as he is retired.
There is just something vibrant about Sausalito. Even though there is a fee to dock for these restaurants, the beautiful inlets, boats, and architecture you encounter on the way make it worthwhile.
Fish, Sausalito’s ultra casual seafood restaurant features fresh, sustainable and organic food served in a no-frills industrial modern decor. It’s best experienced outside on a beautiful sunny day, so after placing your order at the counter make your way to one of the picnic style tables overlooking Clipper Marina to enjoy.
The classics reign supreme for me, Anchor Steam Beer Battered Fish and Chips, Grilled Fish Tacos, and chowder. I love that they offer both their award-winning New England White and Portuguese and chowder. It’s all delicious. Specials like the Oak Grilled Whole Local Dungeness Crab with Spicy Cuban Mojo Glaze over Garlic Shoestring Fries are also quite inviting.
Expect simple fish shack style and a cash-only menu; however it’s not cheap, so make sure to come prepared. Clipper Marina’s guest dock is open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and charges $10 an hour for boats under 50 ft., $20 for those above.
Le Garage at the lovely Schoonmaker Point Marina ranks high on the charm meter serving imaginative French cuisine in a converted auto shop on the water. In this little piece of Paris in Marin, waiters greet you with authentic accents wearing mechanics coveralls. C’est chic.
Francophiles will no doubt be drawn to the Mussels Normande and Mariniere, Croque Monsieur and Madame, and Steak Frites, which are exquisiteBrandade Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Bolinas Black Cod with Brussels Sprouts, Serrano Ham and Lobster Bisque Emulsion, and the Vegetarian Organic Sugar Pie Pumpkins should be experienced as well.
In true French fashion, meals are meant to be enjoyed and are served in a leisurely manner, worth the wait for sure, but make sure to budget extra time. Docking fees for at Schoonmaker Point Marina are $20 for four hours.
An exquisite date option for that special someone would be a meal at the luxurious Cavallo Point resort in San Francisco’s National Park Lodge, on the site of the former Fort Baker. The property’s Murray Circle restaurant is recognized as one of the Bay Area’s top culinary destinations. The expertly prepared local ingredients, Wine Spectator Grand Award winning wine list and elegant yet comfortable dining room are sure to delight. The stunning San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge views are the cherry on top to of the amazing dining; the overall experience is magical.
Cavallo’s more casual option is the resort’s Farley Bar, where small plates are served amid an understated and relaxing decor of cozy fireplaces, leather chairs, and creative cocktails.
Murray Circle and Farley Bar are a short walk from Travis Marina. Call the harbormaster to reserve a spot for $20 – $30 depending on boat size, and get parking for the whole day.
And when you’re in more of ultra casual bar mood, visit the Travis Marina Bar, which is also used by the Presidio Yacht Club. It’s like stepping back in time with an original retro decor and vibe. The bar has tons of character but limited food options. It’s best for a drink or perhaps a little snack while you admire the majestic Golden Gate Bridge view.
For additional suggestions, check out the first installment of Best Places to Dock and Dine featuring San Francisco, Tiburon, and Half Moon Bay.
This article also appears in the 2017 Northern California Yachting Yearbook, the annual publication of the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association, available for purchase here and at PICYA’s 100th Anniversary Opening Day on the Bay!