Dennis Leary’s Canteen – A San Francisco Institution Closing –



I have written a lot about restaurants and have kept that mainly in the Yelpsphere.  But with the recently announced closing of Canteen I had to write a brief article.  Dennis Leary is easily San Francisco’s best kept secret and most under-rated chef.  I have come to adore Canteen from the very first time I set foot in this small and intimate restaurant.

There are four booths and a counter to eat California fresh new American cuisine.  The books on the wall next to each booth give that great personal touch and Leary was very successful to present his personal touch, and brand.  The art of the restaurant is always perplexing to both guest and owner.  Bringing the right combination of space, service, concept and overall feel is baffling to most restaurant owners.  Often the soul is what was once there and evades after the “great idea” is no longer new or great.

Boston reared Dennis Leary is a chef’s chef, über low key and a sense of exactingness in his cooking style.  I have talked with him a bit and he is quietly inquisitive.  

Dennis’s had completed a renovation in the past couple of years taking away the gorgeous lime green counter I absolutely adored.  His restaurants business cards were of the same colour.  There is a mood, an emotional extension that comes from such simple yet perfectly spirited touches.

While Dennis has a mini restaurant empire–The Sentinel, Golden West, House of Shields and the upcoming opening of Cafe Terminus and Trocadero Club promise Leary’s golden touch and I am awake with anticipation.  But I cannot help feel that Canteen is a very personal and private restaurant–though of course it is open to anyone.  While I love many San Francisco restaurants few have the same feel of Canteen; a throwback time to San Francisco in mid-Century– a feel for a restaurant concept that didn’t exist before or will exist in the near future.  For me Canteen was a hidden restaurant, off the beaten track, approachable, honest, serving stellar food in an environment where I could hear my dinner guest without the aide of a megaphone or the use of mega loud power talking to be heard.   I want an intimate space, personal, and Canteen always felt like I was eating in Leary’s bonafide and true home kitchen.

I could only hazard a guess but this is something that perhaps Leary will look back and say what a great experience Canteen was.  There is no doubt that San Francisco is a tough restaurant town–the leasable space is tight, small and hard to find, acquire and maintain.  Also, the economics require a certain number of tables and turnover to make any sense.

I do enjoy a dining adventure where there are cavernous interiors, jelly fish lighting elements, and other standout features but sometimes I want simple, clean, elemental yet creative styles to capture and captivate.  Some times I just want to eat and not be entertained.

I look forward to one more meal at Canteen and of course to Dennis’ new concepts opening soon.



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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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One Response to Dennis Leary’s Canteen – A San Francisco Institution Closing –

  1. Sorry I never had the pleasure!

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