Canteen: fabulous French cuisine in a tiny diner in San Francisco

As reluctant as I was to write this week about Cento, a tiny cafe in San Francisco that serves very good coffee and until now, known only to those who live and work in SOMA, I am even more hesitant to reveal one of my favorite places to eat French food in San Francisco — Canteen in the Tenderloin neighborhood below Nob Hill. Canteen has been going strong for many years now and it has remained consistently good.

Canteen is a very small diner with a long counter and three tables that fit no more than four people. Maximum capacity of the space seems to be about 20. That means it’s difficult to get a reservation. Owner Dennis Leary, former chef at Rubicon, makes the most delicious French dishes. He does a prix fixe menu every Tuesday night, but if you can’t make it for dinner, there’s always lunch (Wednesday through Friday) and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Recently, I had dinner with friends, one of whom was celebrating his birthday, and the theme of the prix fixe menu was Normandy. You can imagine what came out of the kitchen, but what I remember most was a velouté made with fish which was simply divine.

  • Vibe: simple, tiny unpretentious diner.
  • Pros: prix fixe menu on Tuesday nights is the best value for money in SF if you like French food.
  • Cons: difficult to get a reservation; he does two seatings which means you and your guests need to arrive on time if you reserve for the first seating.

817 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
+1 415 928 8870

Canteen on Urbanspoon

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.