Saturday, August 25, 2012


In 1965 when brothers Al and Joe Scoma heard about a small coffee shop on the Wharf that was for sale, little did they know they were on the road to creating a landmark restaurant. The brothers bought the tiny, six-stool coffee shop on Pier 47 that served local fishermen breakfast and burgers and began the long and ultimately successful process of turning the hidden local hang-out into one of the nation's highest grossing independent restaurants.

Using their mother's recipe collection, the Scoma brothers' humble cafĂ© became so popular that it is now one of the highest volume independent restaurants in the United States.  The six stool counter is now a 350-seat restaurant, serving more than 450,000 locals and visitors annually. Scoma's owns its own fish receiving station, which permits public viewing of wild salmon and local Dungeness crab as it's off-loaded from boats and prepared for the kitchen.

Fresh steamed Dungeness crab.

After our boat tour, I was really craving chowder or soup.  We walked around Fisherman's Wharf for a bit, admiring the crab stands and fisherman selling their leftover catch to anyone with a cooler.  We even spotted a harbor seal lurking around for any scraps. I was shocked by how big this guy was and his large brown eyes!  We continued to walk past several seafood restaurants and all seem to have something good on their menu.  My stomach was rumbling, but Keith wanted to turn down an alley after quickly looking up places on his smartphone. Had he found a hidden gem?  I noticed a small line of people walking in the same direction, so I knew we must be headed in the right path.  Past a few other small boat docks, along Pier 47 we found Scoma's.  There was a bit of a crowd waiting to be seated (another good sign), so we put our name on the list, grabbed a menu, and sat in their bar/waiting area until we were called.

We were seated in the side dining room next to the corner window.  The walls were covered in black and white photos of various celebrities and social figures who have dined at Scoma's.  It was packed inside, but not overly crowded nor loud, so it was still pleasant.  Our server was dressed formally in her classic uniform of white jacket with black tie and black pants, and greeted us warmly.  She was happy to recite the day's specials, emphasizing the fresh wild salmon and halibut they had. Though tempting, I was still fixed on a soup or crab dish of some sort.  We noticed the "Lazy Man's" Cioppino dish right away. Another stand out was the Dungeness Crab Spoon-Bread.  We ordered both and intended to share, fitting since the cioppino was huge!  Loaded with fish chunks, shrimp, scallops, and clams in a fragrant tomato broth, this stew was perfect for an overcast day at the wharf.  It also was great for Keith who was still suffering from a mild flu he picked up.  The stew was steaming hot and I was eyeing the basket full of sourdough bread to sop up the extra broth.  Additionally comforting was the spoon-bread.  Loaded with chunks of sweet crab meat, cubes of sourdough bread were baked with creamy corn and roasted peppers.  A generous spring salad with a blueberry vinaigrette complimented my lunch.  Both dishes were outstanding, and while a bit pricey, the quality of the seafood came through and made our splurge worthwhile.  I really enjoyed our lunch at Scoma's and the hospitality of the staff made this place a stand out in San Francisco.  Scroll down for Scoma's recipe of their cioppino - I just may try to recreate it myself someday!

Total Rating: 4.18
Food: 4.5, Price: 3, Service: 4, Ambience: 5, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:
Dungeness Crab Spoon-Bread
Rich, Creamy, Baked Crab and Sourdough, Seasonal Salad

Plus Keith ate:

"Lazy Man's" Cioppino
A Hearty Tomato-based Fisherman's Stew

Scoma's on Urbanspoon

Scoma's "Lazy Man's" Cioppino (Serves 4 - 6 people)
Prep time: 30-45 minutes. Cook time: 30-40 minutes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 teasp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups fish stock or clam juice
  • 6 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1 lb rock cod cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 ½ lbs Manila clams
  • 12 oz prawns (deveined and peeled)
  • 1 lb cooked crab meat
  • 8 oz bay shrimp
  • 12 oz scallops
  • Salt and pepper
- Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic for one minute.
- Add the onions and let them sweat for two or three minutes.
- Turn heat to high and add the wine to deglaze. Cook for 2-3 minutes (or until reduced in half) then reduce heat to medium.
- Add fresh oregano and basil. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
- Slowly add fish, shellfish, and shrimp meat. Bring the cioppino back to a boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until all the seafood is cooked.
- Add cooked crab meat. Thin the cioppino to your liking with fish stock or clam juice.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.
- Serve in a large bowl with fresh sourdough bread and enjoy!

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