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Woodhouse Fish Company
2073 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94102
(415) 551-CRAB (2722)
Loved: Fast Service, by-the-sea décor, neighborhood friendliness
To Die For: Clam chowder, Dungeness Crab Louie roll, stuffed artichoke
Prices: $$-$$$ (Inexpensive to Moderate)
Hours: Open daily 11:45 AM – 9:30 PM (10:00 PM on Friday and Saturday)
Noise Level: Low
Service: Extremely attentive
Reservations: call ahead, but generally not needed
Good for Kids: yes
Good to Know: great venue for a fun afternoon lunch or when a friendly gathering spot is needed with friends who want some fresh seafood.
Recommended / Rating: 3 Stars (0=Don’t Bother to 5=Highly Recommend)
There’s something promising about entering a restaurant for the first time and being made to feel like you’re a regular. Of course, it’s also promising if the food is tasty, the service impeccable and the surroundings enjoyable. The Woodhouse Fish Company is just such a place. Owner Dylan Woodhouse MacNiven (cool name, huh?) opened this seafood delight in June in the space formerly occupied by the World Sausage Grill and the much-missed Café Cuvee on Market Street.
On a chilly Wednesday night, when I’d sufficiently recovered from a nasty cold to get out of bed and out of my house, I was craving a bowl of piping hot clam chowder and a New England style seafood roll. Several friends had mentioned they’d eaten at this quaint seafood “joint” and been pleasantly surprised. So, I thought I’d give it a try, which I did on three separate occasions.
The dining room is small without being uncomfortable, with lots of sea-related black-and-white photographs, whitewashed walls, and lots of bright lights, which gives one the impression of being either on a ship or a dock restaurant on some eastern seaport. I haven’t been in such a clean restaurant in a long time, which I’m sure would make the Health Department proud. Besides the main dining room, which seats about 50 people people, there’s also room at the bar/counter for another five or six diners. What’s fun about sitting at the counter is that you’ll get an eye-to-claw view of the live lobsters and crabs the line cooks keep on ice until they’re ready to be used. Luckily, they’re behind glass, which came in handy as two lobsters decided to charge at me during my second bowl of clam chowder. The noise level in the dining room was not bad at all, which was nice as I could hear myself think. Fresh, crusty bread and water were promptly brought over by my server, who was also very fast in letting me know about the night’s specials.
While there isn’t a specified executive chef, the line cooks in the kitchen do a nice job of sending out fairly decent seafood that is presented quite nicely. I think Woodhouse is still growing, as there were a few items on the menu, which still need improvement, but overall the food satisfies. On my first visit, the cup of New England clam chowder ($4.50) was served with oyster crackers and was a pure delight, with lots of big chunks of tender clam, potatoes, and lots of heavy cream. The taste of the chowder wasn’t overly fishy as they sometimes are, and the seasoning was perfect. Other starters include fresh oysters on the half shell ($2 each or a half dozen for $12), and the Woodhouse salad with Dungeness Crab or prawns, avocado, egg, tomato, lemon, and Louie or blue cheese dressing ($8.95)
For the main courses, or “Maines” as they’re called on the menu, the Dungeness Crab Louie roll served on a grilled bun with fries, cole slaw, and a watermelon slice ($11.95) was a real treat. The succulent crab meat was mixed perfectly with just the right amount of cheese and what tasted like mayonnaise and other seasonings. I hated the fries, which were neither crispy nor seasoned well. Skip them, although they did get better on subsequent visits. The slaw also needs work, as it was extremely bland. Skip it, too. Other Maines include the refreshing stuffed artichoke (or avocado) with prawns and Dungeness crab with lemon mayonnaise, cocktail sauce, mixed greens, cucumbers, and watermelon ($15.95), crunchy fish and chips made of beer-battered Icelandic cod ($9.50 for two pieces, $12.50 for three pieces), and a one-and-a-half pound New England lobster named “Pinchy” served hot with lemon and cole slaw ($23.95). I liked the fish and chips, but found that the cocktail sauce, which I had to ask for, needs a bit of spice to make it more flavorful. Otherwise, it almost tastes like you’re dipping the fish in ketchup. I couldn’t bring myself to eat “Pinchy” after seeing his cousins lunge at me from behind the glass, but did ask the hostess if there was some way I could buy the lobsters and put them back into the sea. A little lobster guilt goes a long way. She laughed, but declined my generous offer.
For dessert, your only choice is the tiny moist chocolate brownie that’s given to you when you receive the bill. It would be nice to have a lemon pie or some other “after seafood” desserts. Despite this minor quibble, the Woodhouse Fish Company is the perfect place to go for some good seafood. Just beware of lunging lobsters.
Bio & Past Articles
Betty's List Restaurant Review
Columnist David Grabstald.
An enthusiastic freelance writer, editor and copywriter with marketing, media and daily newspaper experience, David serves as senior food critic for Betty's List. His articles have been published by Macy's Westbound, Mervyn's, The New Filmore, SF Examiner, Marina Times, North Texas Daily, And Baby Magazine and others. He is an experienced writer of grant proposals, documentation plans, feasibility reports, press releases, employee procedure manuals and other formats. David has written news scripts for NBC and produced video packages for the Irving Community Television Network. David can be reached at email@example.com. His website is http://davidgrabstald.blogspot.com/