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FORBES ISLAND RESTAURANT
Surprising Underwater Dining on San Francisco Bay


Fobes Island at Pier 39 on the bay photoVisitors to San Francisco have long been familiar with the islands of San Francisco Bay, Treasure Island where the Bay Bridge transforms to the iconic four suspension towers and the former naval base has been turned into high value real estate. Buena Vista Island which retains the original name of San Francisco and, of course, the most famous island of San Francisco Bay - Alcatraz. Yet, only the “in-the-know” visitors have discovered Forbes Island - the underwater secret of the bay.

Forbes Island Foating Restaurant underwater dining room photoForbes Thor Kiddoo came to San Francisco in 1959 after a stint in the Coast Guard. A carpenter and engineer, he developed a business constructing houseboats in Sausalito. Then, inspired by Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and the movie version of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, Forbes Kiddoo built himself an underwater home, complete with potholes for watching the fish swim past and underwater diving hatch, and a grand bedroom suite fit for a captain of his own private world. Above the water was only a island of rocks. In the 90’s Forbes added a 40 foot lighthouse and a white picket fence. The authorities didn’t particular approve of a personal island parked in the bay – a hazard to navigation, so a motor was added. Then, came an invitation from Pier 39.

Forbes Island Lighthouse deck photoToday, Forbes Island is one of the most unique restaurants you’ll find in San Francisco, and indeed the world. A floating island restaurant docked somewhat inconspicuously in a corner of the pier basin across from the crowding barking seals of Pier 39, recognized by its lighthouse and palm trees rising above the pier with Alcatraz beyond in the bay, Forbes Island is actually reached by its own shuttle barge. Diners and visitors to the restaurant and bar board the ferry craft at its dock on Pier 39, next to the Blue and Gold Line tour boast, below the Eagle Café. A two minute ride provides a journey to the surprising little world of Forbes Island. Before dinner or drinks explore the island - climb the 55 circular steps up into the lighthouse for a view of the San Francisco waterfront and the operating marine lighthouse fresnel lamp lent by the Coast Guard.Forbes Island Shuttle crew photo Then, go below into the rich and surprising large feeling under-deck romantic hideaway world of the restaurant of rich nautical wood in a half-timber style which Captain Nemo would approve. The menu of Forbes Island Restaurant is strait forward Californian steak & seafood continental cuisine, a bit on the pricey side. Enjoy a drink at the bar and test your nautical trivia knowledge. Hint – look for the Titanic buoy and spot what's wrong about it. Try for a seat by the portholes. The bay waters can be a little murky, but a seal may pass, hungrily eyeing your Halibut filet. Ask for a tour to see the diving hatch where Nemo’s diving suit waits for the next underwater adventure. With the visionary Mr. Forbes no longer resident, the original ornate captain's cabin suite has been turned into the ladies lounge. For the claustrophobic, there is an above-water dining room and tables on deck for a casual beer and sunset bay view (at least when the fog is not rolling in).

San Francisco Warf View photoThe Forbes Island Restaurant is popular for private and corporate events, but mostly a secret to visiting tourists who pack the more visible wharf restaurants like Scomas and the Franciscan (see Franciscan Crab Restaurant). Not generally a locals hangout for San Franciscans, who stay away from the touristy wharf - except when entertaining out of town guests. Open Wednesdays to Sundays from 5 pm, reservations aren’t necessary, you can often just show up at the Pier 39 shuttle dock and ring the phone if the shuttle is away, but it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure the the restaurant isn't closed for a private party.
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Forbes Island Restaurant


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