Everyone from New York knows where oysters come from: Blue Ribbon, Jacks Oyster Bar, Aqua Grill or one of another dozen-or-so delicious (and well lit) Manhattan restaurants.
Imagine my surprise then when I discovered incredibly delicious, creamy and succulent oysters in the San Francisco Bay Area! Last week friends suggested we head out of “the city” about an hour for some of the “best oysters in the world.” An hour seemed like a bit of a journey for an oyster, but “the best in world” sounded compelling and San Franciscans think nothing of jumping in their cars and heading off on an adventure.
So we packed-up and headed north on a windy and picturesque road (i.e. painfully slow with no place to stop for coffee) towards Tomales Bay. At first I was quite taken with the bay’s beautiful views, fresh air, sailboats and kayaks lazily floating on the clear water – until I learned how the bay was formed.
Funny story, but it seems that the bay is actually right above (this is my favorite part…) The San Andreas Fault! As a visual reference, imagine the bay as the space between your thumb and the rest of your hand on a right-handed mitten, except that your thumb is being steadily sheared off due to constant seismic activity!!!
And my new friends, all brain-washed San Franciscans, find nothing troubling about this! Luckily, it was about this time that we arrived at our destination, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, and my attention was quickly diverted. I was expecting some sort of quaint restaurant. Sure, the decoration would be trite and the service obscenely friendly, but at least it would resemble a restaurant.
Oh no my friend…
You see, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company is really no more than a parking lot on the side of the road peppered with picnic tables and barbecue grills. Instead of waitresses, white wine and linen table cloths – they yank a giant bag of oysters out of the ocean (50 for $41) and hand them to you with a mimeographed pamphlet.
This place is evidently self service!?!? And searing your own Kobe beef at a Japanese barbecue restaurant just doesn’t prepare you adequately for six-hours of oyster shucking. Note: for those of you new to the craft “shucking” evidently means “banging futilely”).
But if you’re in that “self service” kind of mood and aren’t afraid of being swept out to sea with the next tremor, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company is admittedly a lovely (and delicious) way to spend an afternoon. As long as it’s not too foggy of course.
Tomales Bay Oyster Company. 15479 Highway One, Marshall, CA 94940, Phone: (415) 663-1242. Open 8am – 6pm daily.