There’s no shortage of great seafood restaurants in San Francisco – it’s a city encircled by water – but you can’t overlook one that claims to have the best crab cioppino in the city. Found at Sotto Mare, it’s a glorious dish to be sure, hearty in portion (it’s enough for two), with just the right amount of spice. You know you’re in for a decadently generous treat when, as an adult, your meal comes with a bib.
As impressive as the seafood here is (and it is), Sotto Mare is the kind of restaurant you come to in part for the ambience. Every available sliver of wall space is taken up with pictures, signs, memorabilia. There’s a chef figurine proudly lording over the space. And mismatched candelabras that cast a warm glow. Here, diners can perch at the bar, or slide into the little four-tops; it’s a narrow space that always seems to be full.
And why not? In addition to the rightly-famous cioppino (which incidentally has plenty more seafood in it than just crab), there are oysters on the half shell, grilled Rex Sole (with a choice of Bordelaise or Mediterranean sauce), linguine with clams, and old school classics like the blue cheese wedge and shrimp cocktail. Here, fish and fresh vegetables reign supreme. And though there’s a decent drinks list, with a selection of wines and beer, you won’t find coffee or dessert on the menu. But if you’ve attempted the cioppino it’s doubtful even a double espresso would revive you. Just ask to have the leftovers wrapped, and enjoy the whole Sotto Mare experience at home the next day.