Occupation: Personal Trainer & Boxing Instructor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Woodhouse Fish Co.
Reviewed Woodhouse Fish Co.: Saturday, April 17, 2010
Seafood, seafood, seafood! Dang it, this place is good. Sure, it’s my pick, so I’m a bit biased, but if you like seafood this is the place…seriously. I first went to the Woodhouse Fish Company soon after it opened. I believe it was the summer of 2006. My mom and I were out and about, and we were hungry. Something needed to be done, because it’s not pretty when we’re hungry. Despite being super picky about new restaurants, the handwritten signs in the window with enticing words like “beer-battered” and “fried” lured me in without much back and forth on whether or not we should go in. Wow, we were happy we went in. Shortly after the opening, the restaurant offered promotional lunch specials, which allowed us to try several things in one order. I’d like to take a moment to talk about these things.
There was the clam chowder…excellent! First off, it came with the cool, little, old-school octagon crackers, and that’s how chowder should be served. The chowder is thick, full of clams, and without any weird stuff that Californians often put in their clam chowder. It’s some straightforward clam chowder, and it’s good. Then, there was the Dungeness crab melt. It was excellent and full of crab, not just the “melt.” The guy next to us had a full plate of the fried Ipswich clams. It was too much, so we had to order some of those too. Not over-battered, not over-greasy, and full of big clam flavor, the Ipswich clams are a must, especially if you’re craving something fried. I’ve actually never had the crab melt again, and the reason for this is because I go back to Woodhouse Fish Company over and over. Over time, I’ve developed some other favorites.
The stuffed artichoke and the split top Maine lobster roll have now taken front seat in my ordering at Woodhouse. I need to warn you, once you’ve tried the lobster roll, there’s really no going back. Sure, it’s the most expensive sandwich I get on a regular basis, but whatever. It’s so worth it. It’s packed with lobster and not too much dressing or anything else. The bun, again, is old-school and soft with a slight toasting. The accompanying fries are also very good, and there’s always a generous portion of them. The stuffed artichoke, on the other hand, is a complex plate. At the heart of it is a grilled artichoke dressed with a tangy, yummy, light sauce and topped with a large scoop of Dungeness crab and a large scoop of bay shrimp. All of this sits on a bed of salad with its own fantastic dressing and two pieces of garlic bread on the side. If you’re looking for a mix of flavors in a very satisfying meal, this is the plate for you.
The atmosphere is casual, and the interior is what I imagine restaurants in Maine or New England in the 1950s might have looked. The big windows allow light to flow over the cleverly-designed tiles and retro booth seats. It’s got a good vibe, and it’s easy to have a stroll down the Castro after a nice dinner at Woodhouse. I’ve had several different experiences with the service, and overall it’s been pleasant and efficient.
During my last visit to the Woodhouse Fish Company I decided to try everything I’ve mentioned above, just to make sure I was right. I’m always right, so needless to say, my memories were correct and the consistency of good food that comes from the Woodhouse Fish Company remains intact. They also have take-out if you’re going to get embarrassed by ordering the entire menu at a table by yourself…I’m just saying. This place is great and remains a favorite.
Occupation: UC Berkeley Media Studies Professor
Favorite Restaurant: Addis Ethiopian Restaurant
Reviewed Woodhouse Fish Co.: Saturday, April 10, 2010
I went to the Woodhouse Fish Company with my husband and five friends and had a great time. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, and we were a bit apprehensive about getting a table for seven people on a Saturday night. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem. The restaurant is on a small side with only about 10-12 tables. However, they were very accommodating and didn’t make us wait until the whole party arrived, but sat us almost immediately. That was just as well, because it took our friends half-an-hour just to find parking. This is, of course, not the restaurant’s fault, but bear in mind that it is located in the middle of the Castro in San Francisco, so allow plenty of time to find parking on a Saturday night or just take public transportation.
The restaurant is really cute. It looks kind of hip from the outside, but inside it is effortlessly unpretentious. I think that the look that they are going for is a New England crab eatery. Having never been to a New England crab eatery, this is, of course, just a guess. The furniture is unremarkable diner-style furniture, but the decorations are very cute. The floor tile has little crabs on it — a motif that repeats throughout the restaurant. There are various sea accouterments on the walls, including a TV screen that runs black-and-white movies of Moby Dick-like struggles against the sea. The TV is on mute and doesn’t disturb the dining experience. There is also a tiny bar area with the view of the kitchen.
The service was superb. Our waiter was funny, friendly, and extremely accommodating. We wanted to order a bottle of wine and couldn’t decide which one to get. He let us taste a couple of different varieties, and when we got confused about which one was which, he very patiently let us taste them again. He was also very patient when half of our party ran late because of the parking situation. All together we spent close to two and a half hours in that restaurant without once feeling rushed.
The place is called a fish company, but more accurately the menu is almost completely shellfish based. There are a couple of fish dishes like fish and chip and the fish of the day, but most of the menu is definitely shellfish dishes. Not that I am complaining! The shellfish was fantastic! Our favorite was the fried clam plate appetizer. Again, I am not an expert in shellfish or clams, or even deep-fried methods, but they were really great. The batter was light and not overwhelming, and the clams were juicy and flavorful. The dish came with tartar and cocktail sauce. These, to me, often tend to be a bit too acidic, but here the sauces were well balanced and flavorful enough without being too overwhelming. Definitely a high point of the meal.
I ordered a grilled artichoke stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp. I love artichokes, and this one was grilled to perfection. However, the stuffing was essentially just a clump of crabmeat and a bunch of tiny shrimp. They were very fresh, but I wish that they did something a bit more creative with the stuffing, like actually mix it up with a sauce and spices and make it more stuffing like. My husband ordered a cioppino, and that was great. Again, a tomato-based sauce with plenty of various shellfish — flavorful and yummy — the sauce perfectly balanced with the flavor of seafood.
I also tasted the lobster roll, which consisted of 3 ounces of lobster meat mixed with cream sauce and served on a bread roll with fries. I loved that and wished that they would use that sauce on the stuffing for the artichoke. I also tasted the fish and chips. I believe that it was cod. Again, perfectly light batter with flaky juicy fish, as good as fish and chip get in my opinion. I think that overall they do fried seafood very well. I also have to mention the cheese toast that came with my artichoke and cioppino. Usually these sides are an afterthought, but this was delicious. It was perfectly grilled bread fused with just the right proportion of cheese.
They were also very accommodating to my vegetarian friend, who bravely went to the seafood restaurant to hang out with all of us. They had an asparagus appetizer that was very well prepared, but they also made her a separate entrée: a grilled artichoke with broccoli and salad. She really enjoyed it, and I appreciated that they made an effort to accommodate her.
The portions were generous and a fair value. The atmosphere was friendly and laid-back, and we had a blast hanging out with friends and eating good seafood. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to shellfish aficionados. I am thinking of coming back myself specifically for that lobster roll and fried clams. Yum!
Occupation: Retired Middle School Teacher
Location: San Anselmo
Favorite Restaurant: Panama Hotel & Restaurant
Reviewed Woodhouse Fish Co.: Sunday, April 18, 2010
This restaurant really wants to be perched at the end of pier, sitting over water. The F line is a poor substitute for bobbing crab boats, but it will drop you off right at the front door. The sounds of traffic don’t quite make up for squawking gulls, but inside a playlist of retro tunes distracts from outside noises. The wedge-shaped floor plan of the restaurant makes for some tight and tricky seating. The walls have intentional arrangements of fishing reels, lobster pots, an old harpoon, and black and white photos showing the life of the fisherman at work. On one wall, a movie screen was showing Gregory Peck chasing down the white whale in Moby Dick, alternating with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty.
The menu has an excellent sampling of crab shack fare. It is easy to navigate through the choices of starters, sandwiches, and main courses. A selection of side dishes, beverages, and a pair of desserts complete the menu. Beer choices are either local or contain a nautical theme, the wine list is small and value priced, by glass or bottle. Along with the printed menu, a daily fish special is presented on a chalkboard. This evening, it was Alaskan halibut, asparagus, and fingering potatoes. At less than $20, I thought the price was right, but when I asked the waitress if the halibut was wild caught, she could not tell me. I also wondered what the letters PEI stood for in the mussel selection. Again, the waitress did not have an answer. Turns out it means, “Prince Edward Island.”
We began our meal with a set of Washington State oysters. They came on ice with a dish of cocktail sauce laced with horseradish. The oysters were excellent; a small bite of sweet meat and salty brine. I could easily have eaten more, which makes the $1 Tuesday seem like a great time to revisit. My main course was the stuffed artichoke. The cooked artichoke was halved, glazed with a pesto, and grilled to create a crisp char. One half was stuffed with bay shrimp, the other with crabmeat. The crab was clearly fresh from a cracked leg or claw. The stuffings were chilled, as you might expect on a seafood salad. A dish of cocktail sauce for the fish and mayonnaise for the artichoke were included on the side. The artichoke halves sat on a mixed baby green salad with small plum tomatoes and cubed beets dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a satisfying meal, and included elements that I would like to incorporate into my own menus.
My wife’s choice was the crab cake entree (two for $10), which were served with the same mixed salad as my artichokes. The cakes were thick with finely shredded crab, combined with bits of celery, green onions, and parsley. A spicy kick was provided by Old Bay or Tabasco. Breaded and fried, they were crisp on the outside and delicate on the inside.
We enjoyed our window seat with a view of the busy Market Street scene. So what if it wasn’t sand and surf, our meal transported us, nonetheless. Our server was diligent about keeping our iced tea glasses full. I only wish she was more familiar with the menu.