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Dec 31, 2007 06:19 PM

Canteen in San Francisco – thumbs up

I just wanted to report on a great meal experience at Canteen in SF. It's a tiny spot tucked next to the lobby of a cheap hotel in a not-so-great neighbourhood. No points for great design or anything, but it's cozy and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The wine list is short and well-priced, with some eclectic selections. You get to choose from 4 appetizers and 4 mains. Meat, fish and vegetarian are all represented. I think there are 4 desserts too. I'm guessing they change the menu often, perhaps daily.

Anyway, I had poached squid to start, which was perfectly cooked and came on a bed of lentils. Delicious. My wife had an escarole and raw artichoke salad, Interesting textures. Generous portions. For my main coarse I had swordfish with paprika/tomato sauce smeared on top, and roasted vegetables below (including potatoes and cipollini onions). Great! My wife had a roasted mushroom vegetarian main. It was rich and meaty tasting. Dessert was a vanilla soufflé.

We like restaurants that are unpretentious but have great food, and we'll definitely return to Canteen in the future. Every city (every block!) deserves a spot like this.

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  1. Like you, I too was impressed by a restaurant that put food above everything else. I'm a frequent visitor.

    Just so you know, they do move things around daily. The vanilla souffle is always there (except on Tuesdays. see below).

    On Tuesdays, there is a set menu with no options. This also is always changing.

    There are also occasional "special" evenings focusing on a specific theme (e.g. all fish, all pork, etc.). These are usually announced on the menu or you can just ask them ahead of time for upcoming special events.

    1. Also, Johnny, technically that isn't such a bad neighborhood... It is not the Tenderloin which *is* a bad neighborhood and where Canteen exists, there are a number of charming shops, theaters, and other great restaurants (Fleur de Lys is not far away).

      18 Replies
      1. re: Carrie 218

        Also, it is no longer located in the lobby of a cheap hotel, but the lobby of an ugly dormitory for students at the ever-expanding Academy of Fine Arts. Luckily, this change hasn't affected the quality of the food at Canteen, which remains outstanding.

        1. re: mc2

          I was not aware it had moved. Exactly where is it now (address)? Is it open for breakfast at the new location?

          1. re: JimboG

            I've ben wondering when someone was going to either ask about or post the location. Soooo laid back Cali-ish style of posting. :-}.
            I'm assuming this is it.

            1. re: Tay

              Yes, that is it: 815 Sutter. Has not changed locations.

              1. re: Atomica

                Thank you. for a simple response I was starting to feel as though the rest of the Posters on this thread were in another dimension

                1. re: Atomica

                  Actually their web page says 817 Sutter.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    yes... I finally tracked it down and posted it

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Sorry. A typo. Tay, I don't think anyone was intentionally being obtuse. I would bear in mind that the "link to a place" thing often doesn't work, so that could be one reason the address didn't get posted sooner. Also, Canteen is a pretty popular topic on this board and has been discussed many, many times, so many of us might assume (wrongly) that most people know where it is.

                      1. re: Atomica

                        Also, it's pretty easy to just go to google and type in Canteen San Francisco restaurant, and figure out pretty quickly where it is. I think that a lot of people just assume that there's no need to post an address (other than a city), since the internet makes it easy for all of us to find addresses.

                        1. re: Fine

                          The first line of this post says that it's in San Francisco. I think that chowhound posters are responsible enough to figure out addresses on their own.

                          Back on topic, I had dinner at Canteen this holiday season, and my companions and I loved just about everything, but I was really blown away by the vanilla souffle, which sounded like it could be a boring dessert, but was just delicious.

                        2. re: Atomica

                          Thank you for your courtesy. Not a big deal. It was just a little strange to ask a direct question and not get a response. I'm on the East Coast, so I am not familiar with this restaurant
                          I agree that it's easy enough to Google and post which is what I did.. I thought it was rather odd that the OP gave a review but not a link or at least a street location. I'm from the East Coast so I'm not familiar with this restaurant. I guess I'm just used to other East Coasters who, for the most part,post links/locations with their reviews.

                          1. re: Tay

                            I'm going to add that I had breakfast at Canteen for the first time this past weekend--just me and my dad. It was a highlight of the holidays for me, and my dad was very impressed. I had eggs benedict, and that's probably among the very best Hollandaise in town. My dad's omelet was served with a lovely shaved fennel salad--something he would never normally eat but loved. We sat at the counter and the very skilled breakfast chef moved with incredible grace--fast but not hurried and no wasted movements. A lovely thing to watch.

                  2. re: JimboG

                    I believe it is the same as the old address but the building has changed owners.
                    mc2 is making how we say le petite plaisanterie.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Seems to me no one is, 'making with the address', lol!
                      I'm just assuming the site I posted is the correct one .
                      If it isn't will someone...ANYONE. please end the suspense
                      and post it?

                      1. re: wolfe

               I understand. I imagined that it could be ANYWHERE in the Academy's empire (not that all of it includes lobbies). I presume the breakfast situation has not changed, i.e. none anymore.

                        1. re: JimboG

                          Breakfast/brunch is available on weekends only. No longer during the week.

                      2. re: JimboG

                        Same location, but the rest of the building is no longer a hotel.

                        1. re: Missmoo

                          My apologies. I thought it was clear that the building was the same, only the owners had changed.

                  3. FYI...

                    817 Sutter St
                    San Francisco, CA 94109
                    (415) 928-8870

                    1. I'm a fan of Canteen as well. What I like about it is that everything is made by the chef himself, Dennis Leary. You can even see him behind the stove working away. (He's also very serious looking when he's at work.) The weekend brunches are insanely busy but the weeknight dinners are more paced because of the set dinner reservations setting. Oh yes, that's something people should always remember is that they have set seatings to pace the meals for the chef to cook. So reservations are only for 6, 7:30 and 9:15 p.m.


                      8 Replies
                      1. re: singleguychef

                        That's a really good point about the reservations. Also, they don't take reservations for weekend brunch.

                        1. re: singleguychef

                          Does Chef Leary sometimes do the breakfast? He was not there last weekend when I had breakfast there, but the chef working was very skilled. It was not insanely busy at 8:30-9:30 when I was there.

                          1. re: Atomica

                            I was there last weekend on Sunday and he was there. Granted, we go around 1pm, so maybe he comes in later. His sous chef is really wonderful, though.

                            1. re: meggie t

                              You are right. I was there Sunday and it was not Leary at 8:45 AM.

                            2. re: Atomica

                              I was there on a Saturday awhile back and he was there. That was 11:30 a.m. So maybe he does the main brunch crowd, and not the early early crowd.

                              1. re: singleguychef

                                How long are the waits around that time?

                                1. re: gemster

                                  I always assume a 20-25 minute wait. Sometimes it is less and sometimes a bit more. I don't think I have ever waited more than 1/2 hour. They really do a great job in getting the food out quickly. The only issue is if people straggle, which they tend not to do since they see people waiting.

                                  1. re: gemster

                                    yeah, I think if you get there early around 11:30 a.m. there's really no wait for a single at the bar. But you will have to wait for a table. But like meggie says, they try to turnover the tables pretty quickly. I didn't have to wait too long for my food.

                            3. link

                              817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109