Vancouver is missing that legendary old school joint that everyone goes to and has gone to since they were kids. There’s the Tomahawk in North Vancouver, The Elbow Room on Davie St or White Spot, but nothing has the charm of Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal, Bodeguita del Medio in Havana or Swan’s Oyster Depot in San Francisco.
Schwartz’s is famous for smoked meat. Bodeguita del Mediois the birthplace of the mojito. Swan’s Oyster Depot has been serving the freshest seafood by family behind the counter since 1912.
You’ve got to love Jen for taking me to this place. She hates seafood and is allergic to shellfish. She had a loaf of Boudin Sourdough bread and a plate of lettuce for lunch while I dug in to clam chowder a plate of oysters and an Anchor Steam Ale (as recommended on Yelp).
Four Lauten brothers, from Denmark, opened Swan’s at 1517 Polk St as the headquarters for their fishmonger business. Using a horse-drawn carriage, the brothers delivered fresh seafood throughout San Francisco (the delivery business continues today, minus the horse).
They operated the business until 1946, when it was purchased by Sal Sancimino and his three cousins, Frank, Al and Pat LaRocca. In the 1970’s, Sal’s children took over the business. Along with their loyal family of staff, they continue to run the business to this day.
The staff couldn’t be friendlier, the food couldn’t be fresher.
Lunch here is an expensive check mark on your foodie bucket list, but it beats the stink out of the tourist traps down at Fisherman’s Wharf. Frommer’s describes Swan’s as “little more than a narrow fish market that decided to slap down some bar stools.” Just as with Schwartz’s and Bodeguita Del Medio, a pit stop at Swan’s Oyster Depot is not only mandatory for tourists, but locals fill the lunchtime line as well.
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