Forgive folks in California, Oregon, and Washington for salivating this time of year. They can’t help themselves, not when local Dungeness crab season gets underway typically in mid-November and lasting through June or July. Get your fill early in the season for the biggest, sweetest pick of the bunch, and—for some extra delicious preparations—look no further than these ten West Coast spots.
Standing in line for one of just 20 stools is part of the experience at the landmark Swan Oyster Depot, a classic, old-school eatery in San Francisco. The seafood counter has been owned by the Sancimino family since they bought it in 1946 from an immigrant Danish family, who founded it in 1903. This is crab as fresh as it gets, served cracked in salads or in cocktails. Just be sure to come with an empty stomach and a full wallet: It’s cash-only.
It may be called the Walnut Creek Yacht Club, but there are no yachts nor any water. The restaurant— located in a land-locked city—may not boast bay views, but it takes its seafood very seriously. It serves fresh Dungeness crab only when the Northern California season is open, preferring not to bring it in from outside the region. Enjoy the sweet, fluffy meat in a classic Louis salad, in bulging crab cakes, or as the centerpiece on a family-style platter.
Since 1894, Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero has served up stellar seafood and sublime pies to locals and tourists alike. The crab cioppino is legendary at this James Beard Award–winning "American classic restaurant.’’ Just save room for the equally famous olallieberry pie.
Farther south, on the Monterey Peninsula, Chef David Baron of Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette kicks it into high gear with whole Dungeness crab served with spiced butter, garlic noodles, and bok choy; and fragrant butternut squash soup accented with ginger, lemongrass, chili, pomegranate seeds, and crab meat.
Roll up your sleeves and prepare to get messy in the most delicious way at PPQ Dungeness Island in San Francisco, where whole crabs can be enjoyed tossed in curry, spicy, peppercorn, or drunken sauces. If that weren’t enough, there’s also crab fried rice, and asparagus-and-crab-meat soup.