When we asked what food San Francisco is best known for, the verdict was clear… Clam Chowder came out on top. When you go to this city you HAVE to have clam chowder. The thing is, when we arrived and spoke to the locals they all told us that the clam chowder is what the tourists eat. That’s why it’s known so well around the world. So… Is it just a tourist thing or can you find great clam chowder in San Francisco?
We had heard great things about one place in particular. Hog Island Oyster Co. Yup… Oysters. But with a difference. They raise their own Oysters, which led to them also raising their own clams, which is one of the things that makes their Clam Chowder a little different.
The place was different to a lot of the places we visited previously in the trip. It’s a big, bright trendy restaurant in the Ferry Building: a popular, bustling foodie hotspot. Inside there is an open kitchen and oyster bar while outside are more tables with an amazing view of the Bay Bridge.
Behind all of this is a bunch of down to earth people who love seafood and are really passionate about clam chowder! After Chris the executive chef cooked up a spread including grilled cheese sandwiches we sat down with the owner, John, to talk clam chowder. He gave us some top tips to make great chowder.
1. Raise your own clams
OK, this one is a little tough to try at home, but we have to mention it because it’s really unique. These guys have their very own sustainable farm hand raising small, sweet clams. You can’t get much more local!
2. Keep it simple
A base of vegetables, smokey bacon and potatoes. Add clams, cream and a little fish stock. That’s it.
3. Keep it local
It’s not just the clams that are sourced close to home. The bread comes from local bakeries and even the bowls are from a local company. Finding out where your food comes from is a great way to get great tasting food.
4. Don’t use flour
John was adamant about this. He’s from the East Coast and grew up with clams and chowder. The traditional way to thicken the broth is simply with the potatoes in the dish. No flour necessary. The result is something slightly thinner than you might expect, but fresher and tastier!
5. Cook every portion to order
Everything can be prepared, but putting it all together at the last minute makes a difference. The flavours are still there, fresh and colourful. This is how food should be served!
6. Have a twist
Ever tried grilled cheese with clam chowder? Neither had we, but it has become a customer favourite here. Next time you make chowder try it with a good grilled cheese. It was great
This chowder was awesome. It was creamy but still light, full of flavour and generous on the clams. So… Although it might not be what the locals eat, look in the right places and you can definitely find some fantastic clam chowder in San Francisco.