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Where else can I sit at the counter and watch the magic?

We thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the counter at Commis last night and watching the chefs do their cheffing. Now we want to do the same elsewhere. Does any other restaurant offer such a great view of the kitchen?

3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. You could go to Canteen and sit at the counter as Canteen's kitchen is almost as small as Commis'. Most restaurants have a much larger kitchen than Commis so you don't get to see quite as much. At A16 you can watch the pizza guy and the meats getting cooked (two different stations) if you sit at the counter. We did that a few weeks ago.

    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

    1. Wood Tavern in Oakland on College Avenue has a couple of cozy stools with a view. Great food, too!

      Wood Tavern
      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

        1. Brandy Ho's on Columbus. If you sit at the counter just to the right of the pass, you get to see the wok cooks in action (pretty intense), and as an added bonus you can check out everyone's finished dishes waiting to be picked up at the pass, only a couple of feet away..

          Brandy Ho's Hunan Food
          217 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133

          1. You can sit at the counter and watch the wok show at Henry's Hunan on Sacramento St. (between Montgomery & Kearny).

            I also recommend sitting at the counter at Joe's of Westlake in Daly City (John Daly Blvd.). Watching the cooks work the sautee pans is quite a show.

            4 Replies
            1. re: DavidT

              Forgot about Joe's. Apart from the cooking show, with that 1000+-degree charbroiler, what I find interesting there is how the expediter (or whatever you call him) shuffles the orders around and calls them out to the cooks at the proper time, so that a table's completed order is synchronized. I bet that's not easy.

              1. re: DavidT

                There's really nothing more showy than experienced short order cooks during the breakfast rush.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Pork Shop Cafe, Haight and Ashbury for example.

                2. re: DavidT

                  The Corte Madera Joe's also has a great counter ton watch the action from.

                  2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                3. brown sugar kitchen in oakland has counter seating in front of the kitchen.

                  Brown Sugar Kitchen
                  2534 Mandela Pkwy, Oakland, CA 94607

                  1. In Manhattan, I always enjoyed watching Anthony Mangieri making pizzas at Una Pizza Napoletana. I would pick a table up front. It's not the same as sitting at the bar at Commis but it is pretty cool. I understand you can do the same thing at his new shop on 11th Street/Howard.

                    Similarly, Tony Gemignani up in North Beach (Tony's Pizza Napoletana) has his wood-fired oven set up in the back dining area. Tony is an interesting guy. He's also a multi-tasker so you can walk over and chat with him while he's working.

                    It's always a pleasure to see passionate folk demonstrating their talents.

                    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                    Una Pizza Napoletana
                    200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: steve h.

                      The oven at UPN is a fair distrance from the closest tables. You can see plenty, but you're not on top of the action as at Commis and other places mentioned here.

                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: steve h.

                          I thought it was one of the better Neapolitan-style pies around here. Flavorful crust, top-quality toppings.

                    2. The counter at Plum in Oakland is right in front of the kitchen.

                      2214 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                      1. Yamo is fun - not just for the excitement of the cooking and entirely open kitchen, but because of the amazing study in efficiency of three people working in a kitchen smaller than most people's home kitchens churning out cheap delicious food to long lines of people.

                        3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. The classic Marin Joe's in Corte Madera, which dates back to the 1950's, is as authentic an incarnation of the beloved Joe's Genre as you will find. They have a long counter where you can sit and watch all the flipping and stirring going on right in front of your nose. If you're a regular, or an attractive young woman, they'll probably strike up a conversation with you.

                          Marin Joe's
                          1585 Casa Buena Dr, Corte Madera, CA 94925

                          1. Your post brought back memories of my father taking me for quick lunches or dinners
                            at Economy in Oakland Chinatown - probably 45 years ago - that's where I learned how to
                            stir fry :). When they would get busy it was the wife hollering out orders and the husband
                            and other shiinsan making magic at 4 different woks - always wondered what he had in that
                            old oil can, the one that looked like it came straight from an old garage - my Dad would always
                            say that's the secret ingredient!

                            1. There's a pair of counter seats (IMO the best in the house) at Betty's Oceanview Diner in Berkeley, right at the plating station. You can watch the flattop, the egg station and more from those seats. Like a ballet in action, 5 feet from your nose. At 8:30 on a Sunday morning, you can't beat it. Wonderful. The food's very good, too.

                              1. Dottie's has about 6 seats at the counter where your can watch a magician work his magic! Great food too!

                                1. As others noted, these set-ups are hardly limited to San Francisco proper. I've seen several notable ones around the Bay Area. Two that come to mind right away are at the unusual eclectic Calafia in Palo Alto (Ayers, Google's famous former chef) at T&C center, ECR at Embarcadero -- I could also add Howie's Artisan Pizza, Howard Bulka's post-Marché enterprise in the same complex, if you like watching offbeat pizzas made; and Paradiso in San Leandro, a very comfortable restaurant with local following in a quiet neighborhood accessible via 880, in between the Oakland-Berkeley and South-Bay population centers

                                  Paradiso Restaurant
                                  685 Bancroft Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577

                                  855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA

                                  Howie's Artisan Pizza
                                  855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                  1. At Commonwealth, you can see everything.

                                    1. Nopa has a counter

                                      And across the street is Bar Crudo for raw seafood and chowder with a nice long bar

                                      Saison supposedly has a nice open kitchen although I heard the counter seats are for the chef's menu which is pricey.

                                      Bar Crudo
                                      655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                      560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                      2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

                                      1. Thank you all. What a great list to tackle!

                                        1. Corso in Berkeley has about 4 bar seats where you can see everything happening. It was definitely cool seeing my whole fried rabbit being made!

                                          Trattoria La Siciliana has an open kitchen, but no bar seats so if you happen to grab the tables nearest to the kitchen everything is in plain view. Gotta love that unlimited bread and garlic/olive oil dip!

                                          Trattoria La Siciliana
                                          2993 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                          1788 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                          1. Ah one of my favorite pursuits!

                                            Wakuriya in San Mateo is, as far as I know, the only place where you can watch kaiseki cuisine being prepared in front of you.

                                            The two leftmost seats at the bar at Bourbon Steak (ex-Michael Mina) were pretty good for seeing both expo as well as a couple of the hot stations. (Bleacher seats used to be across the street at Lefty O'Douls...but I think they made the windows opaque?)

                                            At Sons and Daughters there are two tables with view of the kitchen...although they're a little on the low side for seeing plate ups.

                                            Rotisserie and Wine's leftmost bank of seats at the bar all the way to the curve gives you a good view of one of the prep areas.

                                            Ubuntu's communal table has a couple of seats at the end for good kitchen viewing

                                            Counter Seats at Wayfare Tavern (although most use this to watch TyFlo...not so much the hot line)

                                            Tacolicious has counter seats in front of the line as does Tacubaya

                                            There's the kitchen table at Benu...

                                            Blue Plate's counter seats put you in front of garde manger, and it's tiny enough to see everything else.

                                            Sumika in Los Altos has counter seats that give you a nice view of the grill.

                                            There's always sushi bars, various diners, burger joints and taquerias.

                                            And then of course there's Benihana....

                                            Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                                            1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                                            Blue Plate
                                            3218 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                            236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

                                            1788 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                            115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA

                                            2031 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                            Wayfare Tavern
                                            558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                            22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Renn

                                              Kitchen table at Benu? Any details on that? That's the first I've heard of that.

                                              22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                              1. re: AnonymousWaitress

                                                It's a table for two right in the kitchen up against the window...that's all I know.

                                            2. Cotogna, near Jackson Square, has a wood-fired oven with a bar-like setup in front of the pyro that can accommodate maybe six. I prefer to sit at the real bar on the far right where I can watch all the fire action and chat with a seriously good bartender. The food is wonderful here.

                                              490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                              1. Ella's, Presidio and California, has a counter from which you can watch the kitchen action.

                                                1. Boulevard's! My husband, a chowhound-by-marriage, just did this! He texted me, blow by blow! I think you can actually reserve seats at their counter on opentable.

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