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How awful/decent is John's Grill in Union Square? [San Francisco]

If pressed to choose between mediocre hotel food (chicken Marsala and baked pasta kind of thing) or John's Grill, what would you choose? I am realizing the dearth of options around US is a serious problem, so I think those might be my choices. Any input would be very appreciated.

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  1. depends - john's grill is a little overpriced, but not terrible (the crab louie is quite good). however, the ambience is like few other places in sf, which should make it worth it over a hotel

    1 Reply
    1. re: vulber

      And I think theomordha makes a very good point: a business lunch is a different animal altogether than just going for a 'regular' lunch with friends. I've done plenty of both and it's true, what I'd pick for a good business "working" lunch is often not what I'd pick to have a good/great personal lunch.

    2. A fan of John's who was plugging it on here a few years ago was unable to name one dish worth ordering.

      There are all kinds of restaurants within a block or two of John's: Asijen Ramen, all the other places in the Westfield mall, several cheap Thai places, Puccini & Pinetti, Kuleto's, Hana Zen, Amber India, Bluestem, Tropisueño ... If you're willing to walk a few blocks, on the other side of Union Square there's Cafe Claude, Claudine, Gitanes, all the places on Belden ...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I just had lunch there, my first time ever. I have always avoided the place due to the reputation as a bit of a tourist trap with many better alternatives nearby.

        I ordered to the stuffed sole (dungeness crap, small bay shrimp) in lemon butter sauce AKA "The Lamplighter" and it was surprisingly good. It was well-seasoned, the crab was fresh, the shrimp were decent. Lovely little side of snap peas with a couple of carrots, good sourdough, all washed down with a Sierra Nevada. Count me as a happy customer.

        The one down point was not really the restaurant's fault: the only other patron at the bar insisted on having a 20-minute phone call with his wife about some sort of lamp installation. Every detail of the lamp was covered in great detail at top volume... what is wrong with people? Argh. This never would have happened at Tadich, I'm sure!

      2. Are you thinking of John's Grill for a work lunch?
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847549

        If so, may be E&O, Grand Cafe or Amber (upscale Indian buffet).

        5 Replies
        1. re: ceekskat

          Yes, it is for a work lunch. We really don't have much time, so it can't be too far from the meeting site (Marriot). I'll look into your suggestions, thanks.

          1. re: adamandeve

            Which Marriott? Fourth and Mission or Sutter and Powell? Assuming Fourth and Mission, Tropisueño, Amber India, Bluestem, Chez Papa, Lark Creek Steak, and B Restaurant are as close or closer than John's and take reservations.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Yeah, 4th and Mission. Thanks- i'll look into these options.

          2. re: ceekskat

            I think E&O may be closed now for their $1 million remodel. Not sure, though.

            1. re: Atomica

              Wow. Just looked at the website, looks like they close May 28th.

          3. Bluestem Brasserie is right beside the Marriott, on Yerba Buena Lane where it joins Market St. We had dinner there and if you make a reservation (request a booth, they're very comfy!) through OpenTable, should be no problem (lunch downtown is much busier than dinner downtown, just about everywhere).

            We liked:
            - The charcuterie, although servings are very small. Very high quality and delicious, though.
            - Beet soup was good, but new ExecChef Josh Lucas (was the chef du cuisine) likes to use a lot of creme fraiche, which my spouse doesn't like.
            - Roast chicken with fried spinach (new addition by Lucas) was terrific. Deep fried Bloomsdale spinach, like deep-fried kale, are the green veggie version of potato chips.
            - Merguez sausages although not spicy enough; very nice garnishes of eggplant salad and seasoned Greek yoghurt (starter, but I had it as my entree).
            - Coffee pot du creme was a touch sweet, but good with their excellent coffee

            Did not care for:
            - roasted marrow with breadcrumbs. Identical to 1833/Monterey version, and I didn't care for either one. Give me Bistro Jeanty's classic roasted marrow with real marrow-based Bordelaise any day!
            - spinach-nettle raviolo. This was just bland vegetarian. Lovely ingredients, but no excitement.

            Dining room is 2-story, very nice inside (reminds me of Prospect/SF). Service was excellent.

            Fifth Floor is my choice in the area if you're going for dinner, but they aren't open for lunch.

            1. i work with some serious old fogie archtiects and engineers that used to LOVE having lunches there when our company would foot the bill. I think the ambience is awesome and always loved going if someone else was paying. The group i went with always ordered two dishes, and almost never veereed from those, and they were always consistently good: the lambchops and the lamplighter.

              i was part of the sam spade lamb chop team, and loved them and still crave them (baked potato, sliced tomato and veg.) The rest of my fellow compatriots always went for the lamplighter or the seafood canneloni.

              I had the jack lalane salad once and only once as it stank. i hate bay shrimp and it was loaded with those little suckers...

              However, if you want something less kitschy and more delicious, youa re really not in a bad neighborhood for business lunches: Nordstrom Bistro Cafe has delicious food and big banquettes, Straits in the Westfield is good and quiet enough to talk work. two more options for your to consider with the other recs.

              OOPS and now i just realized this is a really old post and doens't matter anymore, so ignore me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jupiter

                Sorry, that's my fault. I totally bumped it because I didn't think my little lunch review was worth creating a whole new thread and wanted to respond to the "not one good dish" comment.

                Usually with you on the Bay Shrimp, but they were actually pretty good in the lamplighter.

              2. I am realizing the dearth of options around US is a serious problem

                -----------

                Huh? Maybe "around the US" but there is no dearth of options in SF.

                3 Replies
                1. re: PeterL

                  I took the OP to mean around us, as in around his office, as he was looking for a work lunch.

                  I'm happy to have up-to-date reports on this place as I will admit to some curiosity about it as a fairly frequent visitor who stays in the Union Square area and walks by it a fair bit. Could be fun for a night when we don't feel like venturing too far.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    The reason I finally went in for lunch was because I was watching a San Jose Sharks game and Comcast SportsNet has these ads where they focus on numbers and then relate them to Bay Area sports. John's Grill is in one of those ads (#63) and it piqued my interest.

                    So there you have it, I pick my dining spots based on commercials shown during local sporting events.

                  2. I kind of like John's. Never had a bad meal there, never had a great one, but then I wouldn't expect to. To me it is a place to have a few pops and a quiet relaxed dinner.

                    1. I work for a large company on Union Square, and have for years. For a business lunch it cannot be beat. Service is quick and efficient and I have never in the hundreds of times dining at lunch had an awful dish. Great, remarkable, really special, no not that either.

                      I love the Jack LaLanne salad. During Dungeness season it is remarkable. The rest of the year is very good. The burger and fries are always dependable. The chops are consistent.

                      The whole ambience is worth the trip and the meal. I like it because it is a dependable, consistent business lunch where we really are eating as a function of business. Those who are looking for a fine dining experience and think that a business lunch should be the same are confused in my opinion.

                      I would pick Tadich over John's for dinner every day. Given all the places to walk to from John's, and their relative inconsistencies, I trust John's much more than the others. I have eaten at all of them. All have their moments but lack the consistency.

                      1. If it's good enough for Sam Spade....

                        Haven't been there in years, but if I wanted a good martini and a good steak and money were no object, I'd definitely chose John's over a random hotel restaurant.

                        Union Square may not have much per se, but San Francisco is a very compact city, and there is an embaressment of riches within easy walking or Muni distance.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tardigrade

                          "Dearth of options around Union Square" is nonsense. There are lots of restaurants in that area suitable for a work lunch. In the immediate area of John's, there's Lark Creek Steak, Kuleto's, and Bluestem.

                          If you want a good steak, go someplace where people don't regularly complain that theirs were overcooked, undercooked, cold, or a different cut than they ordered.