Cafe at the Opera - Lower Level

3.4
90 reviews
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$31 to $50
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Contemporary American
A night at the opera or ballet is an elegant event, deserving of a remarkable culinary experience. Our gorgeous setting offers an ideal environment for pre-performance or intermission dining at the War Memorial & Performing Arts Center.
We are located on the lower level of the War Memorial Opera House. Our menu is offered in buffet and à la carte format, keeping performance start time at the forefront for all visitors.
Dining Style
Casual Elegant
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Cuisines
Contemporary American, Continental
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Hours of operation
Open 2 hours prior to all evening and Sunday Matinee performances only.
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Phone number
(415) 861-8150
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Smart Casual
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Executive chef
Aaron Zimmer
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Catering
Host your next event at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, and Patina Catering will create an unforgettable experience for you and your guests. A variety of breathtaking historic venues in the Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall and the Veteran"s Building perfectly complement Patina Catering's unrivaled cuisine and impeccable service. Perfect for weddings, galas, corporate parties and pre- and post-performance events, this is San Francisco's premier choice for events of all sizes.
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Cross street
Franklin St. & McAllister St.
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Parking details
Parking is available in several lots in the surrounding area. Please call lots for current hours and rates.

Performing Arts Garage

*Patrons dining in the Opera House may enter through the North Carriage entrance of the Opera House (adjacent to the War Memorial courtyard) up to two hours prior to curtain.
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Public transit
For transit directions, visit 511.org or call 511.
Additional
Bar/Lounge, Beer, Cocktails, Full Bar, Non-Smoking, Wheelchair Access, Wine
What 90 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
3.4based on recent ratings
3.2
food
3.6
service
3.6
ambience
2.8
value
Noise · Moderate
64% of people would recommend it to a friend
5
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R
San Francisco
138 reviews
Dined on November 4, 2018
Overall 3food 4service 3ambience 3

The key reason to go to this place is the extreme convenience. But the food was very good. Service was a little slow (hard to find a waiter for a good 15 minutes after we were seated, many dishes slow to refill), but they were busy. I appreciate what they do, and enjoy it.

I think the restaurant should impose a mandatory 25% tip. The normal standard for tipping does not work in a place that only does one seating.

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CR
1 review
Dined on November 4, 2018
Overall 1food 1service 2ambience 1

The food has deteriorated in quality from the previous concessionaire

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n
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on November 4, 2018
Overall 2food 2service 2ambience 3

Very overpriced for a buffet which had limited selections and no vegetarian entrees. What was there was fine but very limited for the high price. It is convenient for opera goers, and disabled access is excellent.,

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N
San Francisco
20 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

It can't be beat for convenience. The service is always friendly and personal. We don't care for the new menu as much as the previous one. And the prices keep inching up. Charging $13 for a small glass of house wine is high, even for San Francisco. The charge of $3 for 5 tiny pieces of ordinary bread in outrageous. Come on folks, this San Francisco.

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NF
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 31, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 3

I was very disappointed with the offerings from this new food provider. The food was good, but boring. The previous provider had more variety and exciting, usual salads along with standard salads. The bread had more variety and wasn't as dry. The carved meat was also dry and less tasty than before. There was no cheese for a nice after dinner tasting. The price went up, the variety went down. This was my sixth trip to this restaurant. I won't be back.

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C
San Francisco
6 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 2

Although we had made a reservation well in advance, we were extremely disappointed with our table. It was in the passage between the bar and dining room. The server did make a change for us. The convenience of dining at the Opera House was overshadowed by the high price for tasty but uninspired food.

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I
San Francisco
17 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It was perfect for a special occasion before the opera. So convenient.

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PC
1 review
Dined on October 28, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

I've been going to the Opera Cafe for 15 years. We have made our visits a family tradition. My children now 20 and 17 have been introduced to the Arts, fine dining service, and have expanded their culinary tastes. The food, for a pre-performance meal is delicious. We are always on time too! Attending the Opera and Ballet at
The War Memorial Opera House is an indelible gift and a lifetime treasure. The Cafe an essential part of our experience.

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g
San Francisco
6 reviews
Dined on October 28, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

First time i’ve tried the cafe since change in caterer. Miss some of my old favorites, but the market salad was fresh and tasty. A roll would have been appreciated.
Rustee continues to be a real favorite, makes me feel welcome and want to come back and sit in her section again!

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AG
1 review
Dined on October 28, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

Very convenient for before or after a show. I enjoyed the food and expected the breakfast buffet to be pricey ($38 per person no beverages included). Unfortunately I ordered coffee that was not included. Didn’t mind paying extra, but $13 for ONE cup of ordinary coffee is simply a rip off. No one should be charged that much. Ruined an otherwise enjoyable experience.

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TB
1 review
Dined on October 27, 2018
Overall 3food 4service 2ambience 4

The waiter was polite but his service was sketchy. I don’t think he was properly trained. The food was good and the venue convenient for the evening performance.

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SD
1 review
Dined on October 27, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 1

Soggy salad. Raw salmon & lamb. Chicken good. Dry Brussels sprouts. Tables too close together. Solicitous but barely competent server. Not nearly as nice as 5-6 years ago

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AM
1 review
Dined on October 25, 2018
Overall 4food 3service 5ambience 5

It use to have more food variety with more fruits available.

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p
Tahoe
14 reviews
Dined on October 25, 2018
Overall 2food 3service 3ambience 3

Even though my friends and I have enjoyed the Cafe at the Opera Lower Level several times and have been pleased with everything, unfortunately our visit on October 24th to the North Box Cafe at the Opera House was a disappointment. We had a reservation and our table was in a rather drafty spot and we asked to be moved. We were rather curtly told by the hostess that all the tables were reserved and most were reserved for groups of 4 patrons. After asking several times we were re-seated at the far end of the seating area. Over the course of the hour we noted that not even half of the tables were occupied, and NONE of the tables that were set and reserved for parties of four actually had four guests. Most tables only had 2 people seated at them.
When were were asked if we'd like bread we gladly said yes. We were shocked when our bill came and we were charge $6 for two small plates with 4 two-inch diameter slices of french bread! We have never been charged extra for bread in a San Francisco restaurant, and it was not noted on the menu and the waiter did not inform us of the fee. The dessert was rather tiny and definitely not worth the $10 charge.When we received our check it did not include a breakdown with tax added to the subtotal. All prices appeared to include the tax. This again was not indicated on the menu. The suggested tip was based on the total bill, rather that the subtotal without tax which is the norm. We calculated our tip on the subtotal as it is not standard to pay tip on tax. We figured that since most of the patrons are older senior citizens this must be a way to get hopefully unsuspecting or well-off and unaware people to pay more. Our total bill was $89 for two salads, two glasses of wine, two cups of coffee, one dessert, and the two plates of bread. Not a good value for meal. We really felt that overall the communication was poor, the new billing structure is deceitful, and it gives the impression that the Opera House is gouging customers!

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V
San Francisco
6 reviews
Dined on October 25, 2018
Overall 2food 2service 2ambience 2

Menu the sane daily week after week after week Service poor - has to ask for water refill. salad dry with dab of dressing on big lettuce chunk - desserts subpar - cakes dry .

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OT
San Francisco
48 reviews
Dined on October 25, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Is a great way to start your Opera evening!!!! And perfect for intermission dessert and champagne.

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V
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on October 24, 2018
Overall 4food 2service 5ambience 4

Hoping the cuisine will improve. Meats are always vercooked. Vegetables not very interesting. Mashed potatoes very bland!!

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f
San Francisco
38 reviews
Dined on October 24, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 4

Food was lukewarm. Buffet was overpriced!!!
I would not recommend the buffet. Maybe the a la carte items.

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D
Sacramento
1 review
Dined on October 21, 2018
Overall 2food 2service 4ambience 4

The buffet food was mediocre. Service however was very good - efficient and courteous. The only good thing was that it was a convenient place to dine before the opera.

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P
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on October 21, 2018
Overall 1food 1service 5ambience 4

We used to love eating here, and did so very regularly over many years. After three meals this fall I am sad to report the current caterer is a disaster. It is terribly overpriced and the food is mediocre at best. I miss the days when the buffet had many different wonderful fresh salads and vegetable combinations, the meat and fish were high quality, and there were decent a la carte selections. The waitstaff has always been lovely to us, but there is little they can do if the food is inadequate.

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S
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 21, 2018
Overall 5food 3service 3ambience 5

the food was mediocre. It has gone from great to worse over the years

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D
San Francisco
11 reviews
Dined on October 21, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 3

I was surprised that I enjoyed dining at the SF Opera Cafe - Lower Level. The buffet was good and each of the offered items were tasty. This is very convenient if you are attending the opera, in fact, unless you have a ticket, you can’t get in.

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CL
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 21, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 3

We appreciate this dining facility as a convenient place before the opera. We wish dinner would start at 5 PM rather than 5:30 so that we might attend the 6:35 pre-opera talk. Only one hour to eat, talk and have a pleasant relaxing pre-opera meal just isn’t enough time!

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NP
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 20, 2018
Overall 3food 2service 5ambience 3

The new caterer is still no where as good as the previous caterer. The food is not as creative, there is still no cheese and fruit course to end the meal. I’m not sure I will keep going and I have been going for years

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M
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on October 20, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 4

Spendy! Very spendy but it made of a lovely evening with the opera. delicious well prepared buffet meal and small but good wine list. They will keep your table available for dessert during the intermission and if you order a full bottle but don't want to finish it at once they will oald that for you as well. Excellent service!.

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b
Seattle
4 reviews
Dined on October 18, 2018
Overall 2food 2service 1ambience 3

The food was adequate. But our server was hostile. She made an error and brought the wrong wine. Very irritated with me. Every time I asked a question about the menu, she was condescending and verging on rude. Almost impossible to get her attention. It was busy, but not so busy that she was overwhelmed. Just did not care, was my impression.

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KE
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on October 17, 2018
Overall 5food 4service 5ambience 4

Pleasant solution to pre opera dinner. Food a la carte menu good.

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m
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on October 17, 2018
Overall 1food 1service 3ambience 4

The food was poorer than in previous management. Dry, overcooked or undercooked. A very poor value for the money. Nothing is included, not even bread. I was embarrassed as the host. MY guests were potential major donors for the opera. Simply have to improve. I noticed a very small crowd.

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BW
San Francisco
36 reviews
Dined on October 12, 2018
Overall 1food 1service 1ambience 2

another VERY disappointing evening at the Cafe under new management. The variety of food was, as previously this season, limited in comparison to prior years. This time the carver never had an adequate quantity of lamb to serve more than a sliver to an individual. The salmon was over steamed. The other courses were mediocre. Again, cheese and dessert were ala carte and way over priced. Bar service took up to 20 minutes. After being told that one could not use the same credit card twice between dinner snd intermission or between intermisdions, the card number was used fraudulently the next day. Perhaps it was coincidence, but Opera Cafe was the only place that card had been used in days. Servers at cafe at dinner have gone from pleading for business during intermission, to being intrusive. Convenience is the only atteibute of this year’s cafe that I can recommend

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W
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on October 7, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Rusty is the best waitress! The food from the new vendor is fine.

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j
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on October 4, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 5

The food was MUCH improved since my last dining experience, as was the service better. The duck confit was excellent.

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OH
San Francisco
14 reviews
Dined on September 30, 2018
Overall 2food 1service 5ambience 4

Over the years, I have dined at the Cafe at the Opera dozens of times, primarily because of the excellent buffet and the convenience for opera or ballet performances. Unfortunately late this summer I was told that the contract for the food service at the buffet had been changed. That was very obvious in that the selection of entrees, especially salads, had been severely reduced, both in the variety available and in the quality of the salads that were offered [no orzo salads, no chopped salads, no seafood salads]. In addition, the buffet salad bar used to include a variety of cheeses and crackers. If you want cheese now, you must buy the cheese plate. Even the selection of great San Francisco breads is gone. These are just a few examples of how the quality of this buffet has declined with this new contract. Finally, even the best dessert that used to be on the menu--the opera cake--has been discontinued [at the Opera House, of all places!]. No longer a good value in this buffet. Not recommended.

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C
San Francisco
10 reviews
Dined on September 29, 2018
Overall 5food 2service 4ambience 4

Always dine at the buffet on opera night, but the food is a tired menu!

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SM
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on September 29, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 3

Best way to have dinner before the opera. Good food, a bit pricey, service was okay. Love being able to arrange to have dessert or drinks waiting at intermission.

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HA
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on September 29, 2018
Overall 2food 1service 2ambience 3

There is a new caterer at the Cafe and the food is a disappointment to say the least. We wanted a light meal before the opera and ordered off the menu, rather than choosing the buffet. The green goddess dressing had no flavor, the beef poke was a minuscule portion and totally unacceptable; the lemon tart with peaches should have been at least tasty but wasn't at all. Waitress service was cursory at best. The best part of the experience was the pleasant maitre d' and the bus boy.

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FL
San Francisco
9 reviews
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 3

This cafe is extremely convenient for opera goers and it's wonderful to have your table held throughout the performance and your pre-orders ready at each intermission.

The new catering company has changed the menu. If you are hungry the only real option is the $48 buffet, which does not include dessert. It's good for a buffet but $48? There are reasonably priced a la carte salads but they seem less substantial than the previous menu - lots of lettuce but not a lot else.

I'm not sure what we will do next time.

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b
San Francisco
17 reviews
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 3

Nice cafe. conveniently locatef. fair service. mediocre menue. way overpriced.

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BW
San Francisco
37 reviews
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 2food 2service 1ambience 2

Prior to this year, the lower level Cafe at the Opera was good value and good food. It is definitely not a good value anymore. The buffet has been substantially restricted and is monotonous week to week. The salad selection is grilled romaine or mixed greens. There is one carved meat instead of two. Thankfully the salmon is still there and not overcooked or steamed. I think there is a chicken and pasta dish. There is one starch instead of a choice of two. There are two vegetables still--brussels and green beans. There is no cheese or dessert. Fruit is very limited. These must be ordered ala carte in addition to the $48 or $49 buffet. The service people who have always been dependably good now have much larger table stations and cannot serve as they had. Bar service is slow. Dinner, no dessert or cheese, and a glass of wine for two plus tip is now $150 or more.

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j
1 review
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 5food 4service 4ambience 5

Good alacarte dish reasonably priced. White wine very good. Did not have buffet: too expensive and too much food. It looked good though.

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TB
Portland
1 review
Dined on September 28, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 5

Despite negative comparisons we had seen to the previous catering company at the Opera, we had a very enjoyable meal. The food was fresh and high quality, melt in your mouth baked salmon, chicken cacciatore, and thin but succulent slices of roast beef at the carving station. Service was fast and we had plenty of time for dessert before the Opera. We were provided a relatively private table and the noise level was not too high. It was fun to soak up the opera atmosphere over dinner.

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