Recently, Real Seafood has been featuring a 1 1/4-pound $19.95 Maine lobster special. That's a very good price, though it's a bit odd to see a six-foot-tall lobster pacing Main Street to promote the deal. Another recession-buster is their 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. happy hour menu (that's a loooong hour!), with raw oysters at a dollar a pop and steamed mussels (among other dishes) for $5.
Of the three establishments, Zingerman's Roadhouse is closest to my heart--a onetime Bill Knapp's diner transformed into an outpost of downtown funkiness. Outside, a landmark aluminum, teapot-shaped travel trailer serves the drive-up trade, an eye-popping neon sign stands above the roof line, corn is inter-cropped among the foundation shrubs, and mounds of oyster shells substitute for redwood bark mulch. Waiting patrons jam the narrow entrance foyer, and diners often overflow three dining rooms, the bar, and--weather permitting--a large, covered patio.
While the Roadhouse menu extends far beyond seafood, fish and shellfish play an unusually large role; a half-dozen fresh fish (usually with more adventuresome choices than the competition), several standards, and an attractive special or two. While it's only served sparingly over pasta, the San Francisco Cioppino Macaroni is cioppino as it ought to be but rarely is--even in San Francisco. Add the oyster bar with its selection of exotic species, a fine clam chowder with Neuske's bacon (what else?), and you have a first-rate American restaurant with wide choices for both meat and fish lovers.