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Dining alone, Fri night in Union Sq

meuri Feb 21, 2008 12:43 PM

Bostonian who will be in the city for a night. Sounds lonely, but that's how attending conferences are. Any recommendations for places within walking distance from Sutter/Powell (less than 20 minutes)? How lone-diner friendly are places like Scala's, Cafe Claude, and Canteen (or any other places I should consider)? I'm not a wine drinker (!) so great wine selection isn't a factor. I'm not looking for a crazy singles scene, just a excellent meal to enjoy by myself.

btw, it doesn't have to be european/american cuisine (that just seems to be the kinds of places in Union Square). If there are suggestions, I'd also appreciate bahn mi, pho, HK-style congee/noodle or ramen places with the same walking distance criteria.

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  1. Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2008 01:09 PM

    Canteen's hard to beat for a solo diner.

    Perbacco.

    Cafe Claude's nice but the food's not exciting.

    1. JasmineG Feb 21, 2008 01:33 PM

      Canteen is ideal for a single diner. Bar Crudo would be great too.

      1. o
        Otts Feb 21, 2008 01:48 PM

        A quiet little spot with a French accent is Anjou Restaurant at 44 Campton Place. It is about a blokc from Union Square.

        1. hill food Feb 21, 2008 02:28 PM

          order in delivery from BKK Thai and watch a bad movie on PPV. If they're still up to par it'll be there before you hang up the phone.

          1. f
            foodiemonster Feb 21, 2008 04:28 PM

            I highly recommend Westfield Mall. Go to the food court at the basement.
            You can order food that is served on real china, flatware, wine serve in glass , beer and you can also pick up some food from the supermarket besides the food court. there are so many seats. after dinner you can either shop or go to the movie ; all under one roof.

            4 Replies
            1. re: foodiemonster
              foodiesf Feb 21, 2008 04:35 PM

              I hope the OP doesn't go to the mall. Sure, it's all under one roof. And, yes, it's better than your average mall food court. But it's a mall. And it's mall food. And you're surrounded by mall chaos. In the mall basement no less! Why would someone go to a mall basement when they're in one of the best restaurant cities in the country, if not the world?

              OP, you are in the heart of the city in Union Square. You can walk to dozens of excellent "only in San Francisco" restaurants from your location. These include Michael Mina, Canteen, Perbacco, Plouf, Tadich Grill, Aqua, Anjou...the list goes on and on. If you are willing to take a short cab ride, you have literally hundreds of options available to you...without resorting to the mediocre chains in the mall. Please...Just Say No to the mall!

              1. re: foodiesf
                susancinsf Feb 21, 2008 07:33 PM

                I tend to agree for the most part...and I think Canteen is an excellent choice, and look forward to OPs report. However, for others considering similar options, the one exception a solo diner might want to consider at Westfield Mall is Lark Creek Steak: the counter seats have a great view of the open kitchen and are great for a solo diner (especially if the solo diner is on an expense account).

                By the way, the domed roof at Westfield adds a bit of local character and is worth a peek.

                -----
                Lark Creek Steak
                845 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              2. re: foodiemonster
                Robert Lauriston Feb 21, 2008 06:05 PM

                Westfield Mall could be in any big city in the world. Some of the chains are local and there have been reports of some good food but there are few places with less local character. Even Pier 39 at least has a view of the area.

                1. re: foodiemonster
                  m
                  marinrain Feb 21, 2008 07:53 PM

                  Downstairs is Out the Door which is a version of Slanted Door -- good and usually not too crowded

                2. meuri Feb 21, 2008 05:59 PM

                  Thanks, guys. I secured a reservation at Canteen for the earliest seating (9 pm Boston time - can I survive?). Looking forward to it!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: meuri
                    jupiter Feb 21, 2008 07:21 PM

                    please let us know how the meal went.
                    i left work one day in a huff of bad mood and walked up to canteen and sat at the counter by myself and before long i had had one of the more memorable lunches in a long time. It helped that the place is crazy tiny and you have no choice but to get to know the person sitting next to you. And everyone is just to damn happy because the food is so yum.
                    make sure you have a glass of wine, it puts a strange spin on everything to be sitting at what looks like Sealy's lunch spot eating something that is a far cry from the spa luncheonette fair.

                    (yes, i grew up on the brookline/allston line)

                    have fun!

                  2. meuri Feb 22, 2008 07:26 PM

                    I had one of the most memorable meals in a long time tonight - thanks to you SF chowhounders! I was the only solo diner at the 6 pm seating, so the two friendly waitress invited me to pick either end seat of the bar. Obviously I picked the bar stool closest to the kitchen, and got to enjoy the melted butter scent that perfumed the air while watching owner Dennis Leary cook alongside his two other chefs. Here's what I enjoyed (they let me keep a copy of the menu):

                    Appetizer: Lamb's Tongue Viniagrette with raw artichokes and endives. The viniagrette was somewhat overpowering. The artichoke and endives added some nice crunch to the salad, and the lamb's tongue was incredibly tender. I didn't get much flavor from the vegetables or the tongue, but it's probably because the viniagrette was so aggressive. Very intersting salad for its textural contrasts.

                    other appetizers I spied coming out of the kitchen: the sweet onion soup (a creamed soup topped with fresh shrimp) and the poached squid salad (with lentils, bell pepper, hot chili and breadcrumbs) looked tempting.

                    Entree: Chocroute Garni (confit duck leg, with cabbage, white beans, quince). One of the best duck confit I've had (although I can't think of a better one right now). Crispy salty skin, tender meat that pulled away from the bone easily, with very little unrendered fat. Perfectly complemented by the creamy stewed white beans and sweet crunchy red cabbage. I made sure to get some quince preserves with every bite, to tie it all together.

                    Other entree that perked my interest: Roasted Cauliflower with Brik ,capers, raisins and paprika sauce. Really gorgeous presentation, with the Brik floating on top of the golden cauliflower pile like a giant shrimp chip.

                    Dessert: Vanilla Souffle, topped with creme anglaise. I originally picked the buttermilk Panna Cotta (I love this stuff - flan, custard, creme brulee, oh yeah) until I overheard one of the waitresses telling another patron that the vanilla souffle is the signature dessert. So I changed my order. And I'm glad I did. Entered a dream state on this one. Light, fluffy, flecks of vanilla bean in each spoonful, and not too eggy for a souffle. Even better than the bread pudding souffle with whisky sauce at Commander's Palace in New Orleans.

                    To be honest, I wasn't sure what I was expecting at Canteen after looking up this place on citysearch, but chowhounders have been my most reliable allies in all things edible, so I went with my gut and made a reservation here. I called Canteen around 2 pm PST on Thursday and left a message asking for a Friday reservation. They called me back the same day around 7 pm PST (in the middle of their dinner rush!) and gave the reservation to me. The atmosphere was hip, noisy, and fun, even solo. I never felt rushed or uncomfortable, and enjoyed every bit of my meal. I am looking forward to my next visit here.

                    note: I did stop by the Westfield Mall and the lower floor restaurant area looked like the one in Water Tower Place in Chicago - more upscale dining variety than a food court, but it still felt like a mall setting. I think it provides some viable options for the solo diner, though.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: meuri
                      susancinsf Feb 22, 2008 07:43 PM

                      Thanks so much for the detailed report! It is always good to hear back, especially when someone really enjoys their meal!

                      -----
                      Canteen
                      817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1. re: meuri
                        hill food Feb 25, 2008 12:22 AM

                        this is what I miss about SF - it's really hard to find a bad meal, people ask for recs and all I can really say is just close your eyes and point.

                        1. re: hill food
                          foodiesf Feb 25, 2008 05:16 AM

                          Well...to be fair, OP didn't really "close her eyes and point." Someone made an excellent recommendation -- Canteen -- and she went. I understand your point, however. There are a lot of excellent restaurants here. That is correct. But there are lots of bad restaurants, too. If you want to avoid those, you have to do your homework.

                          1. re: hill food
                            Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2008 08:03 AM

                            Close your eyes and point around Union Square, and chances are you'll get a mediocre, overpriced meal.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              hill food Feb 25, 2008 02:07 PM

                              ok, yes one should do some homework, but in all the years there I can really only think of a couple of true stinkers.

                          2. re: meuri
                            m
                            mrs bacon Feb 25, 2008 01:41 PM

                            So glad you had a great experience at Canteen and that the 'hounds led you there instead of the mall! It's the kind of cooking I love -- very personal, and filled with soul. It's really one of the bright spots near Union Square, which is full of crap like the Cheesecake Factory and the like.

                            I'm going to Sydney soon, and wish the Australia board was as hopping as this one.

                            1. re: mrs bacon
                              rworange Feb 25, 2008 10:31 PM

                              There are some good posters on the Australian board. You can lead the way and post about your finds big and small on the board.

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