Hog Island Oyster Company – Happy Hour Hell
First let me say that I LOVE Hog Island Oysters. I have eaten here many times with fabulous results. There is nothing like slurping down a dozen shiny globs of mollusk with a nice glass of bubbly and Hog Island has some of the BEST oysters around! They are grown right up the coast and are yummy! I have been to the restaurant at the Ferry Building in San Francisco as well as the Oxbow Market location in Napa. All amazing.
However, this is different from Happy Hour. On an average afternoon around 5pm, the restaurant is only 1/3 full however on Monday and Thursday’s from 5 – 7pm, the wee establishment at the Ferry Building turns into the 9th Ring of Hell. Why? Half price oysters. Most of these beauties are $2 each so paying $12 for a dozen instead of $24 is a lure. It was for me and I WANTED OYSTERS!
So I made a plan. Last Monday I left work 5 minutes early, hurried over to the Ferry Building, got there at 5pm and… there were about 20 people already in line. I put my single name on a sign in sheet and waited. However the restaurant is pretty small with about 40 seats inside and another 20-35 seats outside depending on how many people are at a table. After 3 names had been called, the rest of us were informed that it would be at least 40-50 minutes before more seats became available. I usually catch the 5:20pm ferry back to Larkspur and I just couldn’t gamble that I would be seated and able to catch the 5;55pm ferry. I decided to bail and re-form a cunning plan.
Well on Thursday, my bosses were leaving and told me I could leave early. 4:35pm! I practically ran to the Ferry Building where I was sure I would be feasting on oyster goodness like the Walrus from the Alice in Wonderland poem. It was more like I had fallen down the rabbit hole. Now don’t get me wrong, getting there at 4:48 instead of 5:00 helped a great deal with the waiting list. There were only 5 people ahead of me though one turned out to be a party of 10. Great.
I see two empty seats at the front counter but I figure there is a party of 2 that will get it. I check the list. A party of 3 and party of 4 ahead of me. Why don’t they sit me there? Then at 5pm a regular just walks in and the waitstaff seat him in one of those seats. He wasn’t on the waiting list. Why don’t I make a fuss. He’s blind. As in blind with a dog blind. If I complain I am immediately on the short list for Hell. HOWEVER, there is still a seat between him and a business man on the corner. There are no other single dinners, ummmm why are they not sitting me there? Are they afraid I will go blind sitting next to the blind guy? News flash: sitting next to someone doesn’t who can’t see doesn’t make you blind. What makes you blind is something you would never do in a public place unless you wanted to be arrested.
It’s 5:10pm and I flag over a waiter, remark about the mad house around us (around 40 people currently waiting) and ask if there is any reason why I can’t have the seat I have been staring at for the past 20 minutes? He looks at the list, glances around for the hostess who has been MIA for the past 10 minutes and tells me to take it. I do. At 5:15 I get myself seated, wave off the waiter who is trying to give me bread. He looks at me like I am smoking dope. I don’t need the tons of bread carbs – I just want oysters.
When my waitress shows up I tell her I want a dozen of the sweet waters and a glass of bubbles. Simple. After 5 minutes I get my champagne and my oysters. They are yummy but something is wrong… my oysters are dry. Not dry like all dried out but dry as in bereft of the liquor or “oyster juice” for want of a better word. I look up at the shuckers. DUDES!!!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING???!!!!!!!
They are opening a bunch of oysters in advance so it will be easier to fill the orders coming in BUT they are trying to be fast and they are SPILLING THE LIQUOR ALL OVER HELL AND GONE!!! This really annoys me. Sure, I am getting my oysters half price but does that mean they have to let their standards slip over the cliff of expediency? I was disappointed. No matter the price, I should expect to get the same excellent service no matter when I am dining.
I pay at 5:33pm and am off by 5:35 to catch the 5:55 ferry back to Larkspur. The Bottom Line:
Wait time – 27 minutes
Actual time at counter – 18 minutes
Up side – 1/2 price quality oysters
Down side – 9th Ring of Hell crowds, hellish waits, tight quarters, incorrectly prepared oysters
Is saving $12 on a dozen oysters worth the aggravation? I say no. My advice, pay the extra money and go on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday after work. Relax, don’t rush, bring friends, have fun. I guarantee the savings to your psyche will be worth it AND you will get your oysters properly presented.