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The San Francisco Crab Season

Dungeness Crab is San Francisco's most Iconic Culinary Specialty


The San Francisco Crab Season
Image Courtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association

Running roughly from November through June, Dungeness Crab season is San Francisco's biggest seafood season and quite a spectacle as crabbing boats flood the docks with a steady stream of the delicious crustacean. For visitors, crab season means that freshly caught Dungeness crab is on the menu at many of the city's restaurants and those who have never tried this flavorful, tender and surprisingly filling seafood delicacy are in for a treat. Foodies take note, as several important city festivals and events also revolve around crab season, making a trip to SF in the winter a festive culinary adventure.

San Francisco Crab Festivals

Crab festivals give you the chance to sample a variety of different Dungeness Crab based dishes in one go, and feature local restaurants putting out their best creations for the public.
  • The Fisherman's Wharf Crab Festival: Held every December right in the center of Fisherman's Wharf, this festival kicks off crab season every year. A dozen or more Wharf restaurants offer up Dungeness Crab based dishes to attendees free of charge with a paid admission ticket to the event.


  • The Union Square Crab Festival: Taking over entire Union Square on a Sunday in February, this festival also features a selection of Dungeness crab based dishes by the downtown areas best chefs. Guests purchase $5 tickets good for a single tasting at any restaurant booth and choose the dishes they wish to sample.

Where to Eat Dungeness Crab

Visitors will run into crab vendors along the waterfront of Fisherman's Wharf serving freshly boiled crab as well as specialties like crab cakes, but there are also many places in the city to dine on Dungeness crab in a more formal setting and with more culinary preparation.
  • Waterfront Restaurants: Most of San Francisco's waterfront restaurants specialize in seafood and even the ones that don't usually have a well prepared Dungeness crab on the menu during crab season. Check out my exclusive list of the Top Waterfront Restaurants in San Francisco.


  • Italian Restaurants: San Francisco's Italian cuisine is legendary and many of the city's top Italian eateries eagerly await crab season in order to roll out their best old world style crab recipes. Check out my exclusive list of the top Italian Restaurants in San Francisco.


  • Asian Restaurants: For exotic flavors and well priced Dungeness crab dishes nothing beats San Francisco's many Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese and other Asian restaurants. Try roaming Chinatown for deals on freshly caught Dungeness crab as they sell it live and fresh at many Stockton Street markets, explore downtown's Little Saigon or take a trip out to Clement Street in the Richmond District for a real selection of Pan-Asian eateries.


How to Eat a Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crabs are big, much larger then the little blue crabs that East Coasters are used to and they pack much more meat. The best way to eat a Dungeness crab is to crack the legs open at the joints and scoop out the meat from there.

The body is also cracked and brocken in half and the meat picked out with a fork or a special crab pick. This can be a messy affair and many restaurants supply bibs to their guests.

More About Dungeness Crab and Crab Season in San Francisco

Although Dungeness crab season runs through June, most of the Bay Area's catch is actually completed by the end of the year, after that crabs continue to pour into the city's restuarants and markets from further up the west coast - all the way to Alaska!

Crabbing is a popular winter past-time throughout the Pacific Northwest but crabbers must wait until the official start of the season, which is based on tests of the species annual condition made by government agencies before they begin catching crabs.

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