Show Offs: 7 Tableside Cart Services in SF

Show Offs: 7 Tableside Cart Services in SF


While many restaurants keep shifting into a more-casual vibe (to wit: less tablecloths, more communal tables), it’s nice to see that some fine-dining displays of bravado and flair remain. One timeless example? The tableside cart. Here are seven places that offer great tableside shows of service, a reminder that a skilled server with some culinary tricks up their jacketed sleeve never goes out of style... or fails to entertain.

(One quick note: we really looove a good cheese cart, like what you’ll experience at Acquerello, Quince, and Gary Danko, but we wanted to focus on more unique offerings for this piece.)

Gaspar Brasserie

Pay a visit to this new downtown brasserie for one of the better tableside shows in town: the Café Brulot, a flaming coffee cocktail that originated in New Orleans (at Arnaud’s). You’ll be treated to an elaborate preparation of boozy coffee, which involves a long ribbon of clove-studded orange peel (that will spark and crackle!), and enough flambé action that it will get the attention of the entire restaurant. At $28 for two, it's the perfect nightcap. 185 Sutter (at Montgomery) 


Want to watch your server make one of the best steak tartares in the city? Of course you do, because when you see it up close, you'll learn how they use sriracha instead of Tabasco here. Also of note? The fanciful spritz of Cognac. Heaven. The high-quality New York steak (hand cut, sometimes with a little Kobe) is a big part of the magic. Come summer, the tartare gets prepared in the kitchen so Bix can swap in their tableside tomato service instead, slicing and serving a caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes with housemade mozzarella. 56 Gold (at Sansome)

House of Prime Rib

You can’t get any more classic than the (heavily-dressed) spinning salad here, complete with iceberg lettuce, a Thousand Island-like house dressing, beets, hard-boiled egg, croutons, and one hell of a presentation. (It’s also one of the crispest, coldest salads you’ll have.) It’s all in preparation for when the stainless steel, zeppelin-like prime rib cart wheels up (the main event!), which is another spectacle in and of itself. 1906 Van Ness (at Washington)

Campton Place

You like Champagne? Well, just wait for the Gueridon cart to pull up to your table as soon as you settle in for dinner in Campton Place’s elegant dining room—it’s almost impossible to resist. Current offerings by the glass include Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon (2003) for $55 to Henriot Souverain Brut NV for $21. Also worth nothing: whenever a customer orders a bottle of red wine that is over 10 years of age, they also decant it tableside. 340 Stockton (at Sutter)

Bourbon Steak

Brown spirit lovers will be especially captivated with the tableside flight of three Hudson whiskies here, which is a bit reminiscent of a Japanese whisky ceremony. A Bordeaux glass is treated with a preparation of torched fruit, herbs, and/or syrups designed to season and smoke the glass before the whiskey is poured in it. Buckle up for the show for $35 per person. 335 Powell (at Post)


Come January, it’s time for Poggio to wheel out the bollito misto cart. This Italian-made (and very traditional) cart makes its rounds at the restaurant every year for a few weeks, serving a variety of meats, including oxtail, brisket, and cotechino sausage. All the meats are simmered in a rich broth and carved tableside, along with a selection of sauces. Mark your calendar. 801 Bridgeway Blvd., Sausalito

Marin Joe’s Restaurant

And since we’ve crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, how could we not mention the fabulous Caesar salad prepared tableside here? It’s garlicky, peppery, and full of Parmesan cheese (and raw egg, just like it should be). They’ll also load on as much anchovy as you can handle. It’s like you slipped back in time here; be prepared for some fun banter with the career waiters in their ties and black vests. 1585 Casa Buena Dr., Corte Madera.

Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.

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