Best San Francisco Waterfront Restaurant

Up until 20-25 years ago San Francisco restaurants on the water and their chefs planned their menus according to tastes; their own and what they knew their customers liked.  Not many ever considered where the products came from, whether they were in season or the carbon footprint involved in importing or transporting across many states. Today, thankfully, things have changed. The best waterfront restaurants in San Francisco and more and more chefs are conscious of the ever-warming planet and the large differences that can be made if we all make small changes.  

As one of San Francisco restaurants on the water, at Fog Harbor Fish House, we are aware of the need to protect the marine environment which we hold so dear to our hearts.  Back in 2011, we were the first restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf to serve a fully sustainable seafood menu approved by the Aquarium of the Bay meets the high standards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. 

We are keenly aware of the need for all of us to do more and through our association with San Francisco Green Businesses strive to learn and achieve more sustainable methods in our food sourcing and production. 

We have recently switched from plastic straws and enthusiastically encourage the Pier 39 initiative to “Skip the Straw”.  Sustainability is part of our restaurant’s ethos and we believe that it creates a deeper, more meaningful connection with your dish. 

Why waterfront dining is a must in San Francisco

Narrowing down the list of where to eat in San Francisco is not an easy task.  There are so many beautiful sites to admire, from the Bay to the Pacific Ocean or one of the bridges – they all have their charm, but what if we told you that you could have it all in one place?  One of the best waterfront restaurants San Francisco has to offer, can be found on the buzzing, atmospheric Pier 39 – the Fog Harbor Fish House.  Stunning surroundings abound with a 360º view of the Bay. Take in the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the famous Pier 39 Californian Sea Lions. 

Everyone from San Francisco knows how quickly the weather can change in the city – the advice is to always dress in layers. That change in weather can often bring in the infamous San Francisco fog which has its own charm and special qualities. San Francisco restaurants on the water get a unique view of the fog as it creeps in over the Bay.  The twinkling lights of the Golden Gate Bridge add to the atmosphere. 

What to expect when dining

Dining at waterfront restaurants in the Bay Area is always a treat.  Fog Harbor is located on the historic Pier 39 with expansive views of the Bay to enhance this extraordinary culinary experience and the best seafood in San Francisco.  Choose from our extensive menu of excellent dishes.  Our chefs source the ingredients for your dish from reputable purveyors and we have a 100% sustainability policy when it comes to where we buy our food products. 

We aim to offer the best waterfront dining San Francisco has to offer, with a varied seafood menu and fresh, seasonal products.  There is something for everyone’s palate from our light starters menu, choose “Crispy (succulent) Calamari” to our house specialties such as “Whole Dungeness Crab” some say the BEST crab in San Francisco, or the famous “Cioppino”.  Bask in the unique atmosphere and the stunning Golden Gate Bridge to frame what is a picture-perfect setting.  

As for diners that plan to enjoy outdoor seating in the City by the Bay, dine like the locals do. Visitors come to San Francisco thinking that California is warm so they will enjoy the city in shorts and a t-shirt. What locals know, is that even on a warm day in San Francisco, the fog can roll in quickly at any moment and it gets quite chilly year-round. Be sure to dress in layers with wind proof and warm clothes if you would like to dine outside so that you will be comfortable. 

What sets us apart from other SF restaurants on the water

It’s not just our historical link to PIER 39, or the fact that our family-owned business has been serving customers for 3 generations that make Fog Harbor Fish House one of the best waterfront restaurants the Bay Area has to offer.  Sure, the guarantee of 100% sustainable seafood puts us right up there on top.  But that’s still not what makes us one of the best San Francisco waterfront restaurants.   

What we offer to every single customer who walks through our doors is a unique culinary and visual experience.  The moment you walk through our lobby, you feel the heartwarming welcome from our open fire along with the soothing sound of the waterfall. Your shoulders will drop, and you will feel instantly relaxed and at ease.  Our friendly staff will greet you and guide you through the dining process from beginning to end. The goal is always that you will enjoy a meal to remember.

The spectacular views of the Bay, unique to waterfront restaurants in SF, highlighting the stunning Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Pier 39 Sea Lions is a picture to behold.  Bask at the moment and enjoy your time with one of the most sought-after views in the United States. Why wait any longer – contact us today to make your reservations.

Seasonal dining

We take great pride in our changing menu to serve the best and freshest dishes based on the season. During Dungeness crab season, we usually provide a supplement menu that contains more than 20 especially crab items like crab ceviche, crab roll, cracked crab, crab cioppino, crab topped burger, garlic roasted crab, and more. 

During the summer months, we typically mix up our dishes to include the fresh produce of the season like corn, fresh tomatoes, and local peaches. 

Wintertime is another special eating experience. We know that during the winter months it is typically cold and cozy so our guests will crave and appreciate warm comforting food and drinks. After we decorate our dining room full of festive decor including a holiday tree, garlands, ornaments, lights, and other holiday cheer in November we roll out menu specialties you are sure to enjoy. 

One of our most popular seasonal items is the Pumpkin Bread Pudding which we offer from October through January. This decadent dessert shows up right as you begin to crave all things pumpkin. You know, that time of year when Starbucks and Trader Joe’s have pumpkin galore. This bread pudding is a special twist that we make San Francisco style with sourdough bread, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, and others. We of course serve it hot and top it with creme Anglaise table-side before you dig in. 

Pumpkin curry salmon also appears on our menus in the winter months! This flavorful dish is a lovely twist on one of our most popular seafood offerings. It comes with big chunks of soft pumpkin bites and is topped with a lavender sauce and pumpkin seeds that are to die for. 

Another spectacular seasonal dish is our Halibut. This seafood delight can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner and is served over quinoa and topped with citrus beurre blanc and crispy onions. 

We also proudly offer many wintertime cocktails to appeal to your taste buds. We add plenty of warm beverages for those cold rainy nights. We also mix in flavors like peppermint, pumpkin and nutmeg to go along with the spirit of the season. 

History of San Francisco waterfront

San Francisco has always been a special place with water on all sides. But how did we get here? We’re glad you asked. 

San Francisco’s history is helpful to be understood through the story of the large ships that brought many gold miners to its shores. These people were known as the 49ers (yes, like the football team.) They got this name because of the many hoards of goldminers that came in 1849. 

The gold miners arrived in the trading post of Yerba Buena which was the entry point for hundreds of ships full of people arriving to find one thing – gold. 

The land actually grew during this time as wel because of many ships that brought people here to search for gold but just deserted the ship once they dropped people off. In fact, there were so many ships that San Frnaicosc was siz full blocks east from the natural shore line. There were less rules and legislation along the waterfront back then. 

Interestingly, these abandoned ships became the first restaurants on the water San Francisco had for visitors. Go figure! Entrepreneurs took over the old ships for productive reasons and turned them into restaurants, storage, hotels, a place of worship and bars to name a few. If they could only see it now! 

Originally the San Francisco shoreline was sand and rocks making it hard to build piers in the deep water. However, ships just kept coming to this beautiful place so engineers knew they needed to find a solution. Eventually, they build a seawall that took 46 years to build and was completed in 1924. The city used anything and everything they could find to build the seawall even dead animals and garbage. 

In the middle of the newly built land was the famous Ferry Building that still stands today. This building originally had a clock tower which was even more useful back then before everyone had a cell phone in their pocket. 

Back in the early 1900s San Franciscans did not have the luxury of the many bridges to get them across the Bay like we have today. Tjhere was a complex ferry system that took passengers across. There was so much demand for passengers to get to the other side that there were many independent ferry companies and as many as 50 ferries shuttling at once. They even carried cars on the boats. One of the famous boats to carry passengers and cars across name Eureka is open in Fisherman’s Wharf today for people to explore. 

Later on, shipping started going more to the Easy Bay since they had more access to inland cities. Thus Oakland was built out to have much more shipping infrastructure than the city of San Francisco itself. Today, the San Francisco waterfront is built out for all to enjoy with cable cars, a wide path for visitors and locals to walk, run, bike, and rollerblade along the great San Francisco waterfront. 

Fisherman’s Wharf history

In the late 1800s, Fisherman’s Wharf hit its stride selling the most fish of any West Coast port around. Soon after, overfishing, pollution, and damming took their toll on the prolific fishing that was originally robust. 

The fishermen were known for their singing which livened up the wharf and allowed the fishermen to hear boats nearby out in the very foggy fishing waters of the San Francisco Bay. The early fishing boats were all sailboats dependent on weather and wind. But how did they know without the weather channel and weather apps to tell them? Early fishermen used the moon, waves and sea life around them to gain insight into the weather coming in. When the weather was too calm the boats would wait hours for the wind to pick up and sometimes attach themselves to a larger boat with rope to get a ride in. 

Getting tired of depending on wind, many fishermen eventually transitioned to gas engine boats as time went on. These bigger engine-powered boats helped the fishermen fish more often and explore different waters and therefore catch a wider variety of steady fish to bring into Fisherman’s Wharf to sell. 

In 1900 they set aside the waterfront between Leavenworth street and Taylor street for commercial fishing boats. This used to take place at Vallejo street and Union street but as things got busier, the shipping was moved to the location where it is today. 

The best place to fish was right beyond the waves breaking outside of what is now the Golden Gate Bridge. The catch was not very lucrative in those days. For instance, a fisherman made about $3 a week. 

The fishermen sold some of their seafood to locals directly from their boats in addition to selling at stalls and a market that came to be. You will notice the seafood stalls around the Wharf still there today that can take you back in time imagining what it used to be like. 

Many of the waterfront restaurants Bay Area has to offer are located in Fisherman’s Wharf due to the proximity to the Bay. The restaurants today offer beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay and many serve fresh seafood caught right in the local waters. 


One of the most interesting pieces of history on the San Francisco waterfront is the fact that someone chose to put a massive prison right smack in the middle. That famous prison is known as Alcatraz. One can only imagine the reactions that came after the first person threw out the idea of putting a prison in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Alcatraz used to be a lighthouse marking the landmass for ships passing through to make sure they did not hit the mass of land in the middle of the popular bay. In 1934 the high-security prison opened and stayed as such for almost 30 years housing some of the most notorious prisoners in the country. 

Alcatraz is located about 1.25 miles away from Fisherman’s Wharf which was strategically too far for prisoners to escape to land. Especially considering the infamously strong tides, rip currents, cold water, and hungry sharks that frequent the Bay. 

Now that you have learned a bit about San Francisco restaurants on the water and the history of how they came to be, we hope that you will enjoy planning your meals a bit more informed.

Fog Harbor Fish House is a San Francisco institution known for its waterfront views and fresh seafood. Reserve your table today!