Things to understand about Canteen
I've been seing chatter about this restaurant for so long and excited that we were finally able to visit this mid-week evening. I wasn't sure what to expect and felt that some explanation on this board would have been helpful. I should add that we went for dinner and I have yet to experience breakfast or lunch.
Canteen is a 19 seat diner style restaurant. 2 booths of 2, 2 of 4
and 7 seats at the bar. That's it......no larger groups, no squeezing in, no upgrades from the counter to table. There's just very little wiggle room. If you are looking for an intimate dining experience, choose another spot. This is a breakfast/lunch place turned dinner house with excellently prepared food but not much atmosphere for the $$.
They have 3 seatings per night. 6, 8 and 10. I saw many a diner come to the door mid-seating only to be sadly but politely turned away.
There are only 5 staffers.....2 Chef's, 2 waitstaff, 1 dishwasher.......they all work their butts off!! Efficient and courteous. They know their menu well.It was amazing watching them go through the cycle of a meal (from apps to deserts)for the whole room knowing that they have to start it all over again in a 1/2 hour.
The menu is small and changes daily so it's hard to categorize the offerings. I wondered why there were not listings of "had to have" entrees on this board. They obviously go with what's seasonal and fresh and what suits their fancy for the evening. There were 4 apps (including 1 soup and 1 salad), 4 entrees ( 1 vegi, 1 fish, 1 veal and 1 duck), and 4 deserts (1 souffle, 1 fruit based, 1 choc. and 1 cheescake).I have no idea if this is the norm but it seemed that it was planned to be well rounded. There is a chance, however, since the menu is so small, that you could come on a particular evening and not find something that suits your fancy.
We chose to try many things on the menu to share......something we like to do most evenings to experience the menu without getting too much food. From soup to nuts the food was well displayed and prepared. We sat at the counter with a menu in front of us to make sure we knew what each dish being prepared was. Every ingredient was "prep-ed" immediately before compiling the dish. Everything was fresh and colorful. We enjoyed watching the chefs do their "ballet" in their very tight space.
This was an excellent, fun and quick dining experience but if we had wanted more of an "evening out", it would not qualify. I can't wait to try it out again to see how he handles different menus.
I'm so glad for Chowhound or we never would have known about this quiet little gem.
PS Where's the best place to park in the area?? Yikes!
Architecturally, Canteen is a hotel coffee shop.
Your post makes it sound like people are being rushed in and out in half an hour. The dinners I've had there have been leisurely three- or four-course affairs, like anyplace else in that price range. Despite the eccentric environment, it's actually a pretty intimate-feeling place if you're in one of the booths.
The place's future is somewhat uncertain since the hotel's been sold to the Academy of Art for student housing.
re: Robert Lauriston
I guess I did feel a bit rushed but the idea had not occurred to me until I read your response. I wrote the review within an hour after the meal and I guess impressions i didn't realize I had came through.
When we sat down, my husband's first impression was that he felt like we were in Bubba's Diner in San Anselmo. The counter and "quilted" stainless steel walls reminded me of the east coast Diner atmopshere.
I did say that the next seating would begin in a half an hour indicating that our time there was 1 1/2 hours which I guess is pretty average.
We ordered a soup, a salad, an appetizer, an entree and a desert to share. They were served as a 3 course meal instead of 4 which would have stretched the meal out. The waitstaff was incredibly efficient and polite when we had their attention but we did feel the need to "flag them down" when we needed something even though we were sitting right in front of them. Maybe their sense of "speed" gave us a rushed impression too???
The wine list was small but we did enjoy our choice. They did not have sparkling water nor decaf esspresso which would have encouraged us to linger longer.
We definitely enjoyed our visit and hopefully gave that impression but I believe most negative reviews on this board were from people who were expecting a different type of dining exerience. I thought it would help for people to have a better idea what it is.
I hope we will have the opportunity to go to Canteen or another incarnation of a Dennis Leary restaurant again. He definitely has talent.
re: Lori SF
That would suck - Sebby & I went to Canteen this (late) morning for brunch for the first time, and we both agreed it was excellent. Her bene was everything a bene should be - airy, ever so slightly lemon'y, and very velvety (read: buttery), with toothy, smoky, and thicker than average ham.
My dish, whose name I forget, was an inventive and delectable concoction of rice, eggs, smoked fish, curry, and raisins - wow! I want this dish every weekend morning! I've no idea if it was a chef's creation or something I just haven't heard of (the name was vaguely British Isles).
Good coffee, hardly any wait, busy, but attentive service - there's really nothing I would change about this place, except that I can't walk there.
I've had breakfast at Canteen twice, and its been great both times. Last time had a smoked salmon and fennel omlette. I don't normally order omlettes, but I'm a sucker for salmon and fennel, and it was great. I'll be back next time i'm in the city (I live five hours north, in Eureka). Hope the rumour of its closing is mistaken.
I ate there recently at the counter, when the friendly-but-forthright diner next to me directly asked the waiter about the restaurant's status. The answer to that question is... "Maybe."
The hotel next door has indeed been sold to the art school across the street, and it sounded like the grievances mostly belong to the restaurant, not the school. So it didn't sound like they were being forced out or anything like that. If the restaurant can work out some issues when the lease is up, then Bob's your uncle and the restaurant will continue.
Their primary issue is the bathroom situation. Walking through a hotel to reach the bathroom is not the same as wading through the bedrooms of young artschool kids. And indeed, from what I saw walking to the bathroom, it looked like it already is a dorm, although there weren't any loud young hipsters hanging out in hallways or anything like that.
So, no one's being forcibly removed or anything like that. Personally, I didn't mind walking through a dorm (in a way, it almost makes the restaurant seem homier), but I don't really see how they can resolve this issue. I don't see why the school should have much interest in resolving the issue either; they can always find new tenants -- perhaps one catered to young students, which Canteen is plainly not.
Also, regarding the seating times, when I ate, the seating times were 6.00, 7.30, and 9.15. I dunno if it changes from night to night, but definitely make a reservation; I wouldn't even try to get in without one.