Prelude at the Opera House - Lower Level

3.9
89 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.
What 89 People Are Saying
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Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
3.9based on recent ratings
3.8
food
4.1
service
4.0
ambience
3.3
value
Noise · Quiet
77% of people would recommend it to a friend
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LG
Austin
8 reviews
Dined on March 17, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Lovely place to relax and brunch with the family, friends, or a date before the ballet. Service is always excellent as is the food.

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s
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on March 17, 2019
Overall 3food 5service 1ambience 3

My friend and I eat in the café frequently when we attend the ballet. This last Sunday we ordered from the à la cart menu. We both ordered the scallops and rice dish. There was a tremendous delay in receiving one order and then another 20 minutes before the second one arrived. There was obviously some miscommunication between our server and the chef.Two complementary glasses of wine and one of the entrées was comped. That was much appreciated. However the actual dish was amazingly delicious and would’ve been enjoyed much more if they had rived in time.

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OT
1 review
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 3

Lovely experience to add to an evening of ballet!

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DB
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 3food 4service 2ambience 5

First of all, the convenience of dining in the same building as the performance overcomes the overpriced meal and slow service. And I would probably eat here again the next time I go to the SF Ballet. No need to frantically dash in the dark from place to place? Worth it.
That said $50 - well $48 really - for a buffet meal that doesn't include dessert seems chintzy. That said, the main courses and salads were delicious. But my companion and I are not big eaters. However the a la carte menu seemed to offer mostly side dishes and appetizers. I guess they want you to buy the buffet.
Service was polite but painfully slow. It took forever to find out that a drink I ordered was unavailable. My companion received her cocktail. By the time my second choice of cocktail was served, she was done and we were on to dinner. So much for before dinner drinks.
The ambiance though is exciting, the room is elegant and it is lovely to know that all the diners around you like you will be headed up the lovely stairs soon to watch the ballet.

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JN
1 review
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Our servers were very personable and the meal presentation was arranged so beautifully. A very special evening all around.

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OT
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 3food 2service 4ambience 5

New vendor this year is much less good than the old one. Fewer food choices & quality down. But the convenience of eating in the Opera House for a ballet performance is great.

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l
San Francisco
40 reviews
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 5ambience 5

We’ve enjoyed dining in the “Cafe at the Opera” now known as “Prelude at the Opera House” for many years, Bothell before the opera and the ballet. The buffet has always been excellent and a great value. Many times the Ala Carte menu has been satisfying as well. I am disturbed by a recent pricing change that charges for rolls when ordering a salad from the Ala Carte menu. If the issue is wasted food, then it seems more appropriate to ask diners if they would like dinner rolls rather than charging for them.

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G
San Francisco
11 reviews
Dined on March 16, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 3

Salmon and chicken were good, beef was tasty but not of good enough quality for the buffet price. We appreciated that not all the foods contained pepper. Vegetables were good and salads very good. Everything has become a little better - please, continue with improving your food items.

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KE
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on March 15, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Prelude has really stepped up their game! The food was much better this time. Of course the service is always impeccable. So nice that we can eat dinner before the ballet and then order dessert for intermission. Very comfortable and convenient. Much better than standing in line at the drink concession stands.

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RR
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on March 13, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 3ambience 4

The restaurant has the buffet menu online. Among the items on the menu is salmon. I have been told that salmon hasn't been available for a long time. They should either make salmon available or correct the buffet menu. I made this comment the last time I was at the restaurant, but no change has been made.

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OT
New Mexico
1 review
Dined on March 10, 2019
Overall 5food 4service 5ambience 5

Convenient dining with buffet or a la carte options. Good spot before a performance. Servers were very pleasant and friendly! Food is "ok", could have been better. Opera Cake is delicious!

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SF
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on March 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Special shout-out to server Rustee.

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DS
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on March 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Thank you! We always have such a nice experience at the Opera House Cafe. The chef does a great job in providing lots of tasty healthy items for the buffet. Thanks again!

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MR
1 review
Dined on March 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Excellent service! Our waiter and staff were very attentive and the food was delicious! A perfect start leading up to The Sleeping Beauty ballet!

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M
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on March 9, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Terrific food as always. Service was just a bit subpar from what we have come to expect . . . perhaps because the wait staff was slightly short-handed? In any event, a very pleasant experience! Thanks!

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TS
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on March 9, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It's not just the fascinating and varied cuisine that the new concessionaire provides at the Opera Cafe that keeps us coming back, but the staff (the wonderful Manager, the great servers and staff who keep the venue running smoothly) makes each evening there an event in itself.

We were there last Saturday and look forward dining there again this Friday.

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L
San Francisco
27 reviews
Dined on February 24, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

After reading the reviews I was hesitant to book a table but thought it would be nicer than racing through lunch elsewhere in order to be on time for our matinee performance. As it turned out we were pleasantly surprised. The service was excellent, our salads were very nice, and my granddaughter thoroughly enjoyed the brunch buffet. It was also quite nice to return to our table during both intermissions to finish our desserts! I think we might make it a regular tradition!

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CJ
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 24, 2019
Overall 2food 2service 4ambience 4

The salad I ordered came in two large lettuce leaves. It was terrible! However, the alternative was worse—overcooked buffet food at a very high cost.At least the cookies were good!

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IL
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on February 24, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 5ambience 5

The buffet was disappointing. There used to be (last several years), a fish or meat option other than breakfast foods and a wonderful array of interestingly prepared assorted vegetables. Now a few salads, a slightly dry ham carving station, fewer pastries, not even maple syrup for the French toast. I doubt I'll take the buffet again. The one vegetable option was dry and overdone.

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S
San Francisco
14 reviews
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 3

Dining at Prelude before the opera or ballet is the most convenient choice, especially during cold and rainy weather, and if you are time-constrained. The food is fine, and plenty of choices. But I wouldn't go there for the food, but rather for the convenience. And it is quiet so easy to have conversation.

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M
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Exquisite food, excellent service, wonderful ambiance and very convenient. For what more could one ask?

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NB
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 5ambience 5

The cauliflower and brussels sprouts and potatoes were not very good. The chicken was delicious as was the beef. The cod was not as good as the week before when it was superb.

The salads were good, the cheeses were unimaginative variety.

I’ll definitely be back but I hope someone takes a look at the menu and decides to improve it for us regulars.

Sincerely,

Nelson Barry

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D
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 5food 3service 5ambience 5

I would suggest that the new menu of the new company which is handling the menu add to the menu a few more choices on the menu that is not the major buffet . The major buffet is out of reach price wise for my family and friends although we have eaten many many times at the Cafe in the Opera House. $48 is way too high. There is no way to eat enough food for that cost that make sense. We are not talking about a long Italian coursed meal where people take hours to eat.

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FL
1 review
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

As a 30 yr. subscriber to the Ballet with my daughter and 2 nieces , I treated us to the Buffet for the first time. We had been treated once before about 15yrs. earlier.
The biggest benefit was not having to worry about getting reservations in Hayes valley and being on time for the performance.
The food was very good, varied and plentiful. We were able to enjoy dinner and each other’s company in a relaxed , easy to hear each other’s conversations, manner.
And there were more restrooms than we had ever seen, before we took the elevator to the incredible performance.
We may consider the salad only choice another time, since the Buffet and a bottle of wine did add up.
The waiter was attentive to our plate needs and helped to make the whole experience a “real night out on the town of beautiful San Francisco!”

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RK
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 23, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 1ambience 3

I don't like the new caterer as well as the previous one.

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KM
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on February 22, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Fabulous food and outstanding service! Great dinning experience. Thank you!

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N
San Francisco
24 reviews
Dined on February 21, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

It's best feature is its convenient location. The buffet menu is limited and grows more expensive each year, as do the wine and beer prices. The bread is very bland and uninteresting. However, within its limited range it serves its purpose well.

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f
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on February 20, 2019
Overall 3food 1service 3ambience 3

I've been going here for years because of the convenience. It's never been a great culinary experience, but it was 'fine'. Having said that, the quality seems to have deteriorated . And it's way overpriced to warrant the trip. The opera cake, however, was outstanding. Next time I'll just go for champagne and dessert.

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B
San Francisco
9 reviews
Dined on February 19, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

Just cannot beat the comfort and convenience of eating right at the Opera House before the performance. And the added perk of being able to return to your table during each intermission AND have food and/or drinks waiting for you when you arrive is just glorious!!

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D
San Francisco
24 reviews
Dined on February 19, 2019
Overall 2food 3service 2ambience 2

The food was slightly better than the last time we ate there this season. But this is an expensive choice for mediocre food. For some reason we were seated at the end of the restaurant, far from other diners, which felt odd. We are not inclined to return until food improves.

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FR
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on February 17, 2019
Overall 2food 1service 3ambience 3

Very disappointing. After years of enjoying a lovely crab salad and a soft roll, we arrived to find a totally different menu. They have changed caterers and I could not find anything That appealed to me. I ended up with the green goddess salad which arrived as 5 or 6 pieces of PLAIN butter lettuce, dressing on the side. There were 4 tiny pieces of avacado and two halves of mini tomatoes. They forgot to include the red onions and chopped cucumber which they brought later. Very expensive for a few leaves of lettuce. We had to order bread separately but it was ordinary French bread. The waiter said they’d received many complaints about the new menu. As much as we hate to break our 8 year tradition, we will not be going back.

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EW
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on February 16, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

So convenient if you are attending the opera or ballet. Tasty and well-prepared dishes at the buffet, limited in number but that was okay. Two creative and healthy salads, two entrees, two breads, meat carving station, a few basic fruits and cheeses that could be stepped up. Does not include dessert. You can preorder dessert to be ready at your same table for first intermission.

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D
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on February 16, 2019
Overall 3food 1service 5ambience 4

Food was very mixed. The main dish, roast beef, was not edible. It was a very poor cut of beef, which was not carved properly. It wasn't even marginal. The salads were very good, but the vegetables were over cooked. Side dishes were average.

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C
New England
35 reviews
Dined on February 16, 2019
Overall 3food 1service 3ambience 3

It is unfortunate that the new management can't get it just right. I have never seen a buffet where the fish and poultry is cut in to very small 1 inch nugget squares and then drowned in sauce that isn't really that tasty. The meat last time (a pork roast) was horribly grizzly and the board cutter had no idea what kind of meat he was cutting. This time at least he knew he was cutting prime rib, if you can call it that. It was horribly rare with little to no option for a more cooked cut (he didn't have the warmer where previously those requesting a less rare cut could have their sliced cooked a bit more on the spot) and what happed to the au'jus? Why just the horse radish. When asked, I got "we don't have any". What? the cookies, about 2 inches around, were all burnt. We thought, no problem, we will grab our favs from the bar but nope, those same burnt cookies were being sold there. Yes, I think we will be taking a break from this convenient location which is no longer worth the way too high price and perhaps we will venture off to another local restaurant.

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F
London
5 reviews
Dined on February 15, 2019
Overall 2food 1service 5ambience 2

Great service, terrible food. But great for convenience if you are going to the ballet or opera.

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f
San Francisco
23 reviews
Dined on February 15, 2019
Overall 1food 1service 2ambience 2

We have gone to the cafe at the Opera House for years, before many ballet performances. It has always been excellent and a good value for the quality and variety of dishes.
I believe it is now under new ownership, new chefs?, and new management.
The salad bar was very limited and very ordinary, which once was the highlight of the buffet. The main dishes, chicken, cod, and roast beef were also very ordinary and not very tasty. In fact,,this was perhaps the worst dinner I have had in a long time. The price of this rather limited and tasteless buffet was exorbitant!!...over $120 for two, without dessert, wine, coffee, or any beverage.

To make the experience even more unpleasant, when the waiter removed the first salad plate, he placed the dirty utensils back on the table! Certainly not an elegant dining experience for any price! After 40 years of patronizing the cafe, i will not return!

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M
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on February 14, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We had a delicious buffet meal. I tried a little bit of almost everything! Beef was a superbly cooked tenderloin and we also loved the chicken with kale and lentils. Creative choices. My husband had the fish and said it was moist and flavorful. Thank you for expanding the salad choices. Loved the Caesar salad and Yellow Beet salad. And to top all that, the salted caramel dessert was the best!

My normal diet is gluten free and I avoid lactose. There were plenty of wonderful dishes for those of us with special dietary challenges.

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KB
San Francisco
12 reviews
Dined on February 14, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 4ambience 4

I have eaten at this buffet many times during the last 15 years. It has recently changed ownership and I was concerned because the new reviews were mixed with some being quite negative. This time the food was similar to that previously but the cost had gone up to $48 without dessert and It was already overpriced at $36 . I have lived locally for 35 years and attended the ballet for over 10. The previous owners frequently offered a complementary bar drink with the buffet. I do not think this was well publicized but I/we received it almost all of the time and I am not a VIP.

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OT
San Francisco
30 reviews
Dined on February 13, 2019
Overall 3food 4service 4ambience 3

If you're going to the opera or ballet, Prelude is great for ease and convenience. The food is good, can even be excellent, but the a la carte menu is very limited. I wish they could expand that menu instead of having the big buffet.

Service is very good.

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EJ
New York Area
1 review
Dined on February 13, 2019
Overall 1food 1service 2ambience 1

The only reason we had pre-performance dinner here was because we were in the middle of the biggest rainstorm of the year. Both my wife and I had the buffet—didn’t want only a salad on such a wet and chilly night—and found the food at best edible. The cod was in a bland sauce and overcooked. The roasted potatoes were, well, roasted potatoes. The salads were tasty but we found only scraps on the serving table and no one was in hurry to bring a new batch. The prime rib was properly rare but cold.

Aside from the hostess, none of the service staff seemed particular attentive. The overall ambiance was institutional.

At $50 per person plus drinks the experience was an extremely poor value for the money.

Next time I hope we have decent weather.

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