Let me tell you why I love Pier 23. The food is decent, the cocktails are mediocre, and the service can be sporadic. Ok, those are not reasons I love Pier 23, but I keep going because it’s such a cool place despite all these things.
Pier 23 is one of those places in a big city that feels like is has history. It’s got an old-fashioned, super casual vibe to it, but it’s popping with patrons young and old, so it still feels alive and fun. It’s small and oddly-placed along the vast waterfront full of cavernous, mysterious pier buildings — a welcoming oasis along this often inaccessible-seeming stretch.
A couple things that are a bit more tangible: outdoor bay-side seating, both in the open air and under a tent-like, clear-walled enclosure. I generally opt for the latter since it’s almost always breezy out there, but it’s nice to have both options. Another feature: live music. In the indoor bar area that I would generally describe as a dive bar, they often have musical guests that really round out the feel of the whole place. Last time I was there, they had a rad blues band with a rockin’ piano player. I was smiling and tapping my foot even before we walked in the door.
The food is hit and miss, but as long as you’re not expecting gourmet, you’ll be fine. The baked parmesan oysters ($10 for 3) were actually pretty dang good, and I recall enjoying the tuna poke tostada ($12) quite a bit in the past. The pricing is a bit higher than I would expect, but this is primo territory, tourist and otherwise, so I wouldn’t really expect anything less. Plus, I’m actually happy to pay a bit more for seafood dishes… cheap shrimp always scares me.
If you’re heading down the Embarcadero and looking for a place to greet you with a smile, a cold beer, and amazing views of our beautiful bay, stop in to Pier 23 and soak up the San Francisco charm.