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Apr 14, 2008 01:11 PM

Canteen: Still My Favorite Brunch

After all these years. I used to go more frequently when I lived and worked closer; now it's only an occasional treat.

Walking up there on Sunday morning, I passed insane lines at that minature pancake place and Dottie's True Blue. Actually, the Dottie's line was beyond insane, perhaps institutionalized; the people at the end looked like they'd wait 90 minutes or so. And only a couple of blocks away, superior brunch to be had with little wait.

I ordered the chupacabra, my go-to. Actually, I think the eggs benedict is the best standard dish on the menu, but usually I get the chupacabra, for health reasons, so that I can die of a heart attack at age 50 instead of 45. Dave got the blueberry french toast; he'll tell you more about that.

The chupacabra was excellent. Soft scrambled eggs, black beans, pulled pork, and chopped tomatillo.

A bite goes like this: rich/warm/soft, crunchy/cold/refreshing. Rinse. Repeat.

I want to make the line cook move into in my kitchen and cook it for me every day. I'll even install a nice hammock for him.

I had the chai, despite the 80 degree heat that reminded us of other places (Me: "I feel like I'm on Cape Cod." Dave: "I feel like I'm in Greece." Me: "Oh yeah? Well I feel like I'm in Shanghai."). I think the chai is mixed there, and it's excellent.

Passing the Dottie's line on the way out, we discussed telling the people at the end of the line that they should head up to Canteen, but didn't. Our mistake, their loss.

817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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  1. Lovely writing, thanks for the post.

    1. Boy, every time I read a review like this, it makes me really want to go there. I just can't seem to get past the fact that their website is so archaic. Why can't they at least give a sample brunch menu, instead of the Week 142 dinner menu???

      I don't get it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: chemchef

        I know; I know. It's quirky, which is part of the reason why I like it. I especially like to grab books off the shelf while my dining companion is taking a call or running to the restroom. This Sunday I read "Destructive and Useful Insects."

        If you go to this page and click "menu," the third page is a sample breakfast menu. After about 10-ish they substitute in a brunch menu with more lunch-type dishes:

        1. re: pane

          Thanks, pane! I hadn't seen that one before (only the one on menupages, which is just as bad as the one on Canteen's website). I'm pretty adventurous, but my husband prefers more traditional breakfast fare, so I just wanted to see if it was the type of place I could bring him to, or if I'm better off going alone.

          1. re: chemchef

            It's a place I feel comfortable sending conservative eaters (you can get a simple plate of eggs, toast and sausage or bacon); more adventurous types would see a lot of value in the quality of preparation on even the simplest dishes and can order more creative creations, like the chupacabra and the excellent fish dishes.

            1. re: pane

              awesome! thanks for the great report and all the additional info!

              1. re: chemchef

                My pleasure. That's what the 'hound is for.

                Go! Eat!

      2. Do they take reservations, do you know? For breakfast/brunch or for lunch or dinner for that matter. Thanks for the report!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ccbweb

          Reservations for dinner are a must; they are not taken for breakfast/brunch. Sometimes I've had to wait 30 minutes for a table, sometimes I waltz right in (like this Sunday).

        2. It's funny - I was in line at Dottie's on Sunday morning, got there at 8:45 thinking I might beat it but it was 45 minutes or so. Yes, the lines can be ridiculous and some of it is guidebook hyperbole, and yes, I love Canteen too. But I can't understand why the Dottie's-bashing - is it their fault they have huge lines for a small place? I think it's one of the best traditional breakfasts in the Bay Area, flat-out - the pancakes are spectacular, the home fries stellar, and the daily baked goods and specials are often superb. Canteen is great for a more intellectually stimulating and "foodie" brunch, but don't knock a good old American breakfast just because the place is packed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Deeg67

            I'm not bashing Dottie's. I like Canteen better.

            1. re: pane

              What's the miniature pancake place. BTW? You don't mean Sears, do you?

          2. I was at brunch with pane. I had the blueberry french toast, which I thought was good but not great. This was my third visit to Canteen - on both previous brunch visits I ordered the eggs benedict which are fantastic. I think they outshine both the french toast and the chupacabra. I think the sweet items (pancakes, french toast) might be better at Dottie's.

            That said, our meal was very good and for a brunch place that puts such care and thought into their food, it's very affordable. I think our total bill was under 25 dollars for 2 meals, a coffee for me and a chai for pane.

            I have only eaten at Dottie's twice, and I really liked it both times. However, when we left Canteen, the line there was quite short (maybe 6 people waiting) and the line at Dottie's was huge - at least 25 people waiting, if not more.

            I guess I don't think that any brunch is worth waiting that long for - the nice thing about Canteen is that if you arrive on Sunday before 10 you are usually OK, with little or no wait. It's also a more relaxed environent than Dottie's which can feel a bit hectic when it's busy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dave MP

              Well, they both come with free entertainment along with great food - at Canteen, you get to see (if you're lucky) Dennis doing his thing behind the counter. At Dottie's it's the tourists getting freaked out by the local residents.

              It's interesting that just down Sutter from Canteen, you have another boy wonder local chef (Ian Begg) working his breakfast mojo at Cafe Majestic. Anyone tried their breakfast fare?