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Where to Get a Clam Chowder Bread Bowl in San Francisco

Updated on May 30, 2010

San Francisco is known worldwidefor its delicious clam chowder bread bowls, and most people know that the Fisherman’sWharf area is the place to go to get them, but where specifically should you goto get the best-tasting bowl for your buck?  Well, that depends on the type of clam chowder and the typeof dining experience that you’re looking for.  Whether you want to enjoy this treat within an upscaledining atmosphere offering views of the bay or amongst street performers downat the corner, there is a place for you. You just have to know what you wantand then you can figure out where to go.


            Forthose who are looking to get a traditional sourdough bread bowl with a bit oftourist information on the side, Boudin’s Bakery is the place to go.  Boudin’s is known historically forbeing the first maker of the famous bread bowls that are now central to SanFrancisco’s culinary culture. Their unique style of bread bowl is made from a fusion of French baking styleswith traditional sourdough starter. It was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century and remains astasty today as it was reputed to be then. The Boudin Bread Factory is located right near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Insiders know that there are twoways to get a bread bowl at Boudin’s. Most travelers find themselves enjoying the sit-down restaurant on thesecond floor of the bread factory. On crowded days, a wait at this spot will include free admission ticketsto the bread museum also housed there. The museum provides interesting historical information about SanFrancisco, excellent bread tasting opportunities and a view of Alcatraz sittingin the bay.

However, locals know that if a clamchowder bread bowl is all the food your heart desire then it makes more senseto pay the $3 museum admission tour, take the tour and forego the restaurant.  That’s because the sit-down version of the clam chowder bread bowl costs nearly $14.   This doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on tastingthat famous sourdough.  Locateddownstairs in the same building is a Boudin’s Bakery-Café which offers the verysame clam chowder in a bread bowl for less than half the sit-down price.

You can’t miss this spot if you’rewaking around near Fisherman’s Wharf. Not only is it a big building with a hugesign but you’ll find that there is a noticeable sourdough smell emanating fromit. That’s because they blow it out into the street in front of the building toentice you in. Also in front of the building you can watch the workers craftingsourdough bread into interesting shapes. It’s a fun tourist experience to checkout at least once while you’re in San Francisco regardless of whether or notyou go there to get a bread bowl.


As far as picking up an inexpensivebread bowl goes, the most well-known spot is Pier 39.  Travelers can stop at any number of little stands to gettheir clam chowder to go, sitting down on curbs or benches with their food towatch the street performers and caricature artists sell their skills.  Alternatively, they can take the bowlwith them over to where the sea lions are barking and enjoying the SanFrancisco waters.  However, if youwant more than just the experience of Pier 39, if what you’re really lookingfor is the best clam chowder bread bowl in the city, there’s a specific Pier 39place to go get that bowl; Chowders.

Chowders sits among the bustling walkwaysof the Pier 39 shopping center.  Thissit-down diner-style restaurant is easy on the pocketbook.  Even better than that, it offers twodifferent types of clam chowder; the traditional white chowder and the less-traditionalred chowder.  Red clam chowder is oftenonly found on the East Coast but San Francisco visitors will find that thisspecial treat is done up right out here in the West. Plus this place has cheekyfree postcards that you can send back home.

Pier 41/Fisherman’sWharf

For those people who aren’t lookingfor a sit-down dining spot, the other Pier 39 vendors are suitable but there’sa better option just down the street. At Pier 41, right along Taylor Street, visitors can find a row ofvendors lined up to sell seafood straight out of carts on the streets.  There’s not a bad batch in the bunchand the average cost is less than $5 for a bowl. If you get over there anddecide that you want to sit down at a restaurant then any restaurant over herewill provide you with clam chowder in a bread bowl among other items on themenu. While you’re here, take a minute to stop at Musee Mechanique, an oldarcade museum with free entry that is a fun little tourist attraction.


Of course, some people find that the bustling tourist activity of the pier areas is just a bit tooover-stimulating for them.  Forthose people who are looking to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere while stillgetting a great bowl of clam chowder, the place to go is Rogue’s.  This Brewery, located in the famousNorth Beach neighborhood is off-the-beaten path enough that the ambience isrelaxed even though it’s in the mist of tourist hot spots. Travelers may gohere but it’s also loved by locals. And the clam chowder is some of the best in the city.  The slightly thinned broth iscomplimented with flavorful chunks of bacon to offer a unique twist to thenormal taste of clam chowder.  Thischowder isn’t served in a bread bowl, but it’s complimented perfectly with theHazelnut Ale Bread made with the brewery’s own brew.

Whether you are the type oftraveler who wears a fanny pack and carries a map or the kind who desperatelywants to avoid being labeled a tourist, there is a place in San Francisco whereyou can go to enjoy the city’s most delicious treat.


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  • Nare Anthony profile image

    Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago


  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    As a clam chowder enthusiast (living in Massachusetts, it goes with the territory, or is somewhere in the genes), thank you from the east coast!