Sometimes only soup will do, and sometimes that craving calls for creamy, briny, hearty clam chowder. Clam chowder is an American classic for a reason: soulful, satisfying, and regionally specific. San Francisco’s waterfront proximity to the freshest catch means clam chowder has become one of the city’s iconic foods, alongside sourdough loaves and the seafood stew cioppino. Here are the 24 most popular clam chowders in San Francisco among Caviar diners for when you’re looking for a bowl — maybe a sourdough bread bowl? They’re mostly creamy New England-style, but you’ll find a few tomato-based Manhattans in the mix.
Perry’s has been a San Francisco fixture since 1969. It’s American comfort food, Cobb salads, hamburgers, loaded potato skins, and, of course, clam chowder. It’s as classic as it gets: An ultra-creamy New England-style chowder served with oyster crackers and a sprinkling of parsley on top. Grab a side of green chile- and sweet corn-flecked cornbread, and you’ve got lunch.
Based on its name, it’s no surprise that this restaurant is a fish and seafood mecca. Open 363 days a year, they are bringing you everything from fish and chips to lobster rolls from their two locations. The chowder is a must-order. It’s a creamy New England-style bowl that’s topped with chives, and you can either have it by the cup or served as a meal in a sourdough bread bowl. If you’re looking for something extra, grab a side of fries or onion rings — Woodhouse makes ’em extra crispy.
Sotta Mare is, you guessed it, not all American, rather totally Italian and totally about the seafood. Who would’ve guessed that Italians could make a mean Boston clam chowder? It’s creamy, and yes, it has bacon in it. Grab it by the quart or pint, depending on your appetite. We’d also highly recommend ordering their iconic Best Damn Crab Cioppino next time. It is jam-packed with seafood and serves two.
A person cannot subsist on oysters alone; that’s why Mission Street is bringing you a few additional options. They have premium oysters by the piece, with options from Washington state to Baja California and British Columbia, Canada, but you’re here for the chowder, and theirs is a classic Boston. It comes by the bowl or cup. If you’re anything like us, you’ll want a little something else. They do a pasta combination with the soup, one with prawns or a vegetarian option. If that doesn’t appeal, a side of their toasty garlic bread will surely satisfy.
This Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant is named after what they do best. It’s a bountiful seafood extravaganza of Dungeness crab legs, clams, mussels, snapper, calamari, and shrimp stewed in a savory tomato broth — but that might be a little much for the moment. Good thing they make a classic New England clam chowder. It’s creamy and filled with potatoes and pancetta. It’s up to you if you want to go big and get it in the bread bowl or keep it simple and straight up.
6. Supreme Crab
Another Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant, but this time it’s not Italian, but Cajun influenced. You’ll find a menu of crawfish, po’boys, and deep-fried oysters. This food is meant for sharing since the portions are ample. Many dishes also have that classic kick of cayenne, paprika, and garlic that is classic in Cajun cooking. The chowder is one of the tamer menu options. It’s that creamy New England-style, and you can get it San Francisco-style — in a sourdough bread bowl. Feel free to add crab or lobster meat on top, too. The option entices us.
Luke’s started as a tiny lobster roll shack in New York back in 2009. Owner Luke Holden is a third-generation lobsterman from Maine and was frustrated that he couldn’t find his home-state classic in his adopted New York, so he made it himself. Now he’s expanded to over 20 locations and, luckily, one of them is right in SF. The chowder is one of the secret stars of the menu. It is chock full of sustainably caught Atlantic surf clams. Maybe grab a crispy grilled cheese to go alongside it for maximal dipping.
OK, clam chowder might not be the first thing that comes to mind when a place might be most well known for its dragon rolls, poke, and salmon teriyaki, but trust us, the chowder is worth ordering. One of the most affordable options on the list at $6 for 12 ounces, how can you not give it a try? It has the appealing bread bowl option if you’re into that as well. We won’t judge you if you order some sashimi as a side. A little Japanese-American fusion that we can get behind.
Another Cajun option on the list, Hyde Street has been around since 1985 and they’re still in the business of serving some of the city’s freshest seafood. The menu is filled with both cooked and raw seafood, seafood salad, shrimp cocktail, and parchment-baked local snapper. The chowder is simple and satisfying. It’s creamy and topped with black pepper and a sprig of parsley. Sometimes basic is better.
10. Boudin Bakery
With 26 locations throughout the Bay Area, chances are there is a Boudin nearby or that you already have it in your delivery rotation. Known for being that family-friendly, something-for-everyone-at-every-time-of-day restaurant, it’s no surprise that they do a great classic SF-style clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. It’s still that thick, creamy New England version, but the crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bowl gives it that West Coast flair. If you’re not into the whole bread thing, don’t worry; you can grab it in a cup.
Well, there’s chowder right in the name, so if there’s one thing you should order, chowder must be it. You’ll find many types of seafood on the menu, all of which are sustainably sourced. It’s a priority for the Scott’s team. You can find their chowder three ways: Boston, Manhattan, and — we can’t believe we’re typing this, but — a vegan option made with corn, sweet potatoes, celery, herbs, and coconut milk. Grab them by the cup, bowl, in a bread bowl, or, if you’re feeding the family, by the quart.
12. Lou’s Lounge
Lou’s is a true soup-and-sandwich joint. With five tiny Lou’s locations in SF, their food was meant to be delivered. Grab their New England-style chowder by the cup or bowl to go alongside one of their iconic sandwiches. Never have you seen so much meat crammed between bread. Our pick is the Roma’s Club, with turkey, bacon, avocado, Swiss cheese, and pesto aioli served on a Dutch crunch bun.
13. Seniore’s Pizza
Yes, there is pizza in the name, but at Seniore’s, they do much more than just ’za. They have locations throughout the Bay Area, and we’ll be happy to bring you anything on their extensive menu, but their chowder is a strong choice. It’s a creamy, classic New England, straightforward and to the point. We’d recommend an order of cheesy garlic bread to go alongside.
Portofino is as classic as it gets. A true North Beach Italian American gem, it’s all about the seafood. You can find it in just about everything, from the risotto to the carbonara to the sandwiches. Their chowder comes two ways, one of the rare places to find that tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder, but also a New England-style for those who need their cream. The whole menu is killer, but if you’re looking to splurge, we’d highly recommend the lobster tail Thermidor. It’s a dish to be remembered.
You wouldn’t think there would be chowder on the menu at this Danish-leaning bakery and café, but there is, and it’s good. It’s New England-style, packed with potatoes, and served with their house-made crusty loaf. We know you’re here for the savory, but you really should order one of their sweets for later. They make some eye-catching cakes; we’d recommend a strawberry shortcake slice or the tiramisu-adjacent cappuccino cream cake.
16. Cajun House
If you’re looking for a crab boil right smack in San Francisco, Cajun House is the place. I mean, they have a whole “Get Down N Dirty” section of the menu. This is food that is meant to be eaten with your hands, but if you’re looking for something a little more delicate, they do a nice chowder. A homemade New England-style bowl will hit the spot, but we’d also recommend an order of the fried oysters or spicy Cajun fried rice. A little bit of the South to go with the Yankee classic.
Betty Lou’s has long been a North Beach fixture. The team of San Francisco restaurant vets brings their Italian flair to all the seafood on the menu. Of course, they do a mean SF cioppino packed full of Dungeness crab, prawns, scallops, clams, mussels, and calamari, but they also do a humble Boston clam chowder. It’s packed full of crab meat, potatoes, celery, and black pepper. It’s what we keep coming back for.
18. Seafood Station
This Bernal Heights restaurant is family owned and operated. It’s a fairly new spot, having opened in 2020, with the aim of making seafood more accessible without sacrificing quality. You’ll find fish and chips, a calamari-topped Caesar salad, and fried shrimp. Their chowder is thick and hearty, filled with clams, potatoes, and onions in a creamy base. You’ll want to get an order of garlic bread or steamed corn to go alongside.
The menu leans into Cal-Ital at this Presidio Heights restaurant. It’s that seasonal, farm-grown fusion that has become iconic to the Bay Area. The team at Magic Flute promises quality but unpretentious food, and it delivers, offering elevated favorites like salmon piccata, grilled pork chops, and pesto chicken penne. Their chowder is New England-style, and it’s as refined as the rest of their menu. If you’re looking for an inspired side to go along with it, the saffron arancini is a great choice.
Not unlike the Magic Flute, this restaurant is also a blend of American and Mediterranean cuisines. The house clam chowder is a simple bowl of classic, creamy soup, studded with big chunks of clams and potato and finished with a drizzle of olive oil and parsley. Alongside an order of their crispy zucchini fritters, you’ve got lunch.
This craft beer bar came onto the scene in 2012. Started by Josh Leavy, a third-generation brewer, his beers are all small-batch brewed to offer the freshest product for his customers. The menu goes beyond just the typical beer-drinking snacks like burgers and wings, offering dishes like crispy fried cauliflower bites and, of course, a luscious chowder. It’s New England-style and comes topped with bacon gremolata.
22. The Buena Vista
This Fisherman’s Wharf-adjacent cafe is known for its Irish coffee. It happens to be the first place in the U.S. to serve the drink back in the 1950s. The menu has changed a bit since then to include many American comfort classics like BLTs, turkey clubs, and, of course, a killer chowder. Grab it in a cup or bread bowl. It’s thick, hearty, and satisfying.
23. The Ramp
The Ramp was once a public boat ramp and bait shop in the ’50s. Now it’s a staple of the Dogpatch neighborhood for all-American classics and seafood. You can find lighter options like grilled fish tacos and more indulgent ones like the melted cheese-topped fried chicken sandwich. Their chowder is thick, rich, and topped with crispy bacon. You might need a side of their crispy onion rings to go with it.