The Best Public Secret North of San Francisco
If you’ve ever driven north on Route 1 from San Francisco, or west from Sonoma County, you know the beautiful and wild scenery along the drive. Sleepy towns and beachfront houses hiding behind thick California native trees. Gaps in the thick Eucalyptus groves expose glimpses of the Tomales Bay’s glassy water, broken only by a kayak or an aluminum fishing boat.
All of a sudden, in front of us on the beach side part of the road, are cars lined up without a break. We know now, we’re in Marshall, California, home of Hog Island Oyster Company.
The establishment started in 1983 when they planted their first oyster seed in Tomales Bay. With a five-acre lease to start, over the years Hog Island has grown a reputation as one of the premier sustainable shellfish producers, increased their acreage to 160 acres, and employ 100 people. Not only do they harvest oysters, but their production of 3.5 million shellfish also includes mussels and Manila clams.
Oysters come already shucked, or, for much less, you can buy a bag of oysters and rent the shucking glove and knife. Great for a first date or bringing out of town guests! Bring sausages, veggies, or whatever you like to Barbecue because there are grills there too — OH and it’s BYOB! Bring your own wine or beer to enjoy there, don’t forget glasses 🙂
Forget everything except your appetite? No worries, Hog Island sells baguettes, a selection of different cheeses, beer, wine, shucked, whole and barbecued oysters.
*Depending on the day of week, you may or may not need a reservation to shuck your own oysters and barbecue. The information and phone number are found at Hog Island.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we should have known better than to not reserve a table. In all honesty, Johannes, my dad and I were sitting around the table the night before, drinking until we thought of a good idea for a sunny Sunday afternoon. By the time we decided on Hog Island, it was after midnight. Hog Island is only open until 5.
There were, in fact, no tables for us. Bummer.
Here’s an alternative to when this happens, unless you are lucky enough to snag a table at Hog Island in Marshall…We picked up a bag of 50 oysters, purchased a shucking knife and glove, all for around $70 and headed 20 minutes over the hill to Dillon Beach. We found a free picnic table near a fire pit where some surfers had started a fire earlier in the morning to warm up after their session. They offered the fire to us to barbecue our oysters; so we shared oysters and the warmth of the fire when the sun dipped behind the clouds. When we had our fill of oysters and Anchor Steam, we headed home only to decide when we arrived that we had room for more, and enjoyed the rest of the bag.