When former President Barack Obama rolled into San Francisco in 2016, he went to dinner with Silicon Valley moguls at 25 Lusk in San Francisco, where he dined on a double dose of a yellowtail sashimi appetizer for dinner. While perhaps not intentional, Obama was following a sustainability trend — eating at restaurants committed to supporting ocean-friendly fishing practices championed by foodies and oceanographers alike.
Bay Area restaurants aren’t required by law to source sustainable seafood, but those that do are making a commitment to environmental responsibility when it comes time to plan their menus. While this has long been the practice at fine-dining restaurants and established seafood venues, more casual restaurants are also increasingly embracing sustainability when they purchase seafood, with some creating whole menus around it.
If you’re eager to eat responsibly (and are getting hungry for some fabulous seafood!), here are seven Bay Area restaurants that are vocal about their commitment to being ocean friendly, follow sustainable seafood guidelines, and are listed as restaurant partners on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website, the standard for businesses dedicated to healthy oceans.
Various locations in San Francisco, Marin, East Bay and South Bay
This restaurant serves up bowls and seasonal dishes loaded with flavor and healthy, colorful ingredients, plus Hawaiian poke and sushi rolls. A favorite is the specialty tacos with choice of seafood (or meat); order them with a side of sweet potato fries. Although Pacific Catch currently meets Seafood Watch’s guidelines, over the next year there are plans to update the menu to incorporate even more sustainable seafood options.
Woodhouse Fish Co.
This local seafood house offers a wide range of yummy entrees, ranging from artichokes stuffed with Dungeness crab to squid ink linguini and whole roasted Idaho trout. Woodhouse also features a good selection of appetizers, salads and sandwiches.
Executive chef Matthew Dolan champions sustainable seafood; he has even authored a cookbook and is a regular speaker on the topic. Don’t miss the skillet cod appetizer and the tacos made with locally caught fish and served family style.
Recognized by the California Legislature Assembly with a Sustainable North Bay Award for its commitment to protecting wild fish populations and for supporting local fisherman, Fish, in Sausalito, is a waterfront restaurant that deeply prides itself on being sustainable. The user-fresh selection ranges from crab rolls to fish tacos to a knockout Louie salad.
Cindy Pawlcyn’s iconic Napa restaurant, celebrating 35 years in business, is a Seafood Watch partner; in fact, Pawlcyn was tapped several years ago to revamp the waterfront restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Signature items at Mustards include the “ever-popular seafood tostada” (that’s the actual name) and a daily rotating fresh fish dish.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
Locations in San Francisco and Napa
These Marshall-based marine-biologists-turned-water-farmers harvest oysters, mussels and clams in Tomales Bay and have evolved to become one of the biggest producers of sustainable shellfish in the Bay Area. It’s a lovely drive out to Hog Island’s farm in Marshall, where you can enjoy the goods straight from the on-site oyster bar, or visit one of Hog Island’s restaurant outposts at the San Francisco Ferry Building or Oxbow Public Market in Napa. The company is a Certified B Corporation recognized for its commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
As long as you are willing to trek down to Fisherman’s Wharf and brave the throngs of tourists, this seafood house, which has been around since 1965, is about as classic San Francisco as it gets. With dedicated career wait staff, generous portions, an extensive menu and tables overlooking the water, it’s a complete seafood dining experience. Local fisherman roll up to the restaurant’s pier on a daily basis with their catches, which are in turn served up to patrons. Truly the catch of the day.
For more help ordering, buying, and preparing sustainably sourced seafood, check out this simple guide to making responsible seafood choices.
Donna Berry Glass is the editor of the Bay Area Better Letter, and the online editor at Marin Magazine. When she’s not writing and editing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin County, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles and tackling her never-ending list of DIY home and garden projects. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and SF CASA, which provides court-appointed advocates for foster youth.