Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Hog Island Larkspur, one of the most anticipated spring restaurant openings, is moving forward — if only for takeout and delivery. Larkspur is now the fifth location for the mini oyster empire, which also includes its Marshall farm (and picnic tables), Tony’s restaurant up the road, its Ferry Building bar, and its Napa Oxbow bar.
Sadly, nearly all are shuttered at the moment, as the company has swiftly transitioned to shellfish by the bag, meal kits, and mail order. But despite the awful timing, Hog Island has decided to open the new location. “We had already hired people, and we wanted to do something,” John Finger, president and CEO, tells Eater SF. “The takeout menu was something we wanted to do anyway, we were just hoping to open the restaurant first, and launch it in a month or two. But given the circumstances, instead of waiting, we’re now starting with that, and flipping the business on its head.”
On its farm, Hog Island grows nearly 3 million oysters a year, and harvests 60 to 70 thousand per week, which primarily go to their own restaurants. Right now, they’re only able to sell an estimated tenth of those. At the restaurants, the company had to lay off 250 hourly employees, while its leadership team is not taking salaries, and several managers voluntarily delayed salaries, Finger said.
“We have always covered health benefits, sick leave, and vacation for any employees who work 20 hours or more,” says Finger. “Right now, we’re just trying to do some amount of business, to see if we can generate enough sales to cover health insurance for a month or two.”
Hog Island in Larkspur Landing was intended to be a full-service restaurant, right at the foot of the ferry route, welcoming busy commuters and young families. BCV Architecture + Interiors transformed what was once a sandwich shop into a fresh 2,000 square feet, flowing from indoor to outdoor seating, with a big concrete counter, salvaged cypress and eucalyptus tables, and tiles and ceramics from local ceramics company Heath. Restaurant director Ben de Vries and chef Adam Pechal had already developed a full menu, which would have featured longtime favorites like the clam chowder and grilled cheese, but also fresh twists on seafood stew and protein-forward salads.
Now, with only takeout and delivery, Hog Island Larkspur is offering salads, clam chowder, grilled cheese, oyster po’boys, and shrimp linguine. They’ve also launched a mini retail market, which means oysters by the dozen, clams by the pound, and premium tinned tuna. Adapting to current times, they’re also doing meal kits and batch cocktails, which means for the first time ever, fans can get the legendary clam chowder and grilled cheese prepped out to cook at home, along with a big batch of Bloody Mary, or a bottle of the house sauvignon blanc. And there’s also kitchen tools and accessories for sale, like oyster knives and shucking gloves.
“We’ve never really done takeout and delivery,” says Finger. “Our menu wasn’t set up for it. Our stuff is so experiential. Eating oysters is a convivial experience.” One hopes that in family-friendly Marin there’s an appetite for oysters at home — and trying to imagine a San Francisco dining scene without these local treasures is truly unfathomable.
Hog Island Larkspur is now open for takeout and delivery, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Check out the menu and place orders through ChowNow.
Hog Island Farm in Marshall is open for to-go orders, Hog Island has a new stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, and the website is open for online orders. The Ferry Building bar, Napa bar, and Tony’s restaurant are temporarily closed. But things are changing quickly, so check the company’s website for the latest updates.