Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Luques Restaurant and Bar

Have you ever heard of, or even noticed, Luques Restaurant and Bar in San Francisco?  Probably not, as I certainly hadn't.

Luques Restaurant and Bar is the restaurant inside of the Chancellor Hotel near Union Square.  I had zero expectations about it being any good, but they had a whopping $5 credit on LevelUp, so I went to check it out, for breakfast one day, back when I was using LevelUp as an inspiration to try new places.

Luques looks like pretty much any generic hotel restaurant, with fairly shabby furniture and clientele.  It was filled with tourists having breakfast while chatting excitedly about their plans to go to Fisherman's Wharf.  The menu contains farro porridge, and literally every table around me asked the server what farro was.  Clearly not a place that that locals go.

Yet ... it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  I returned several other times, and on all visits, service was very friendly, efficient, and polite.  And the food ... really not bad.

Luques is certainly is not a destination restaurant, but if you are in the neighborhood and want a simple breakfast, it really isn't bad, and I'd return.
2 Eggs Over Medium.  $4.
On my first visit to Luques, I was on my way to a chocolate tasting, so I figured I should get some protein in my system before gorging on chocolate.  But I also didn't want to fill up on breakfast food.  So, I went for the most simple protein source: eggs.  Eggs are available any way, and I went for my favorite preparation, over-medium.

Now ... over-medium is a hard ask, I know this.  When I order over-medium, I usually get eggs that are basically over-easy and far runnier than I want, or else they are cooked all the way through, resulting in hard nasty eggs.  I want something right in the middle, with the yolks set but perhaps a little bit runny, and the whites not tough but actually cooked.  At IHOP, the last place I ordered eggs this way, one set came out way under cooked, and another came out way over cooked.  No where has ever really gotten this right in recent memory.

But ... Luques delivered!  The eggs were cooked pretty much exactly as I'd like.  One yolk was slightly runny, the other just barely firm.  The whites were fully cooked, had some nice crispness going on, but weren't tough.  Probably the best execution of over-medium eggs I've ever had.

They also weren't oily, like the IHOP ones.

Amusing, the eggs were served with a random little garnish of an orange slice.  I used it to end my meal on a sweet note, but I'm not really sure if I was intended to eat it or not.  Ketchup and hot sauce were offered on the side.

The eggs were served piping hot, clearly delivered to me within moments of coming off the grill, points for the staff.

Clearly, these were just eggs, but they were done pretty much perfectly, and I'd gladly get them again.  $4 was a fine price.
Short Stack of Buttermilk Pancakes.  $5.25.
On my next visit, I decided to go for a full meal, since they impressed me with the eggs.  I picked a classic: pancakes.

They were decent pancakes.  Very large size, slightly fluffy, crispy on the outside.  They had a decent tang from buttermilk, and were dusted with powdered sugar.  Fairly generic, but clearly freshly made to order, and like the eggs, delivered to my table hot and fresh.  The kitchen and serving staff really do get food out quickly.

Also like the eggs, they came with a slice of orange on the side.  I didn't eat it this time, it didn't look all that fresh.  There were also two foil wrapped packets of butter on the plate.  This was striking to me, as I haven't been anywhere where my butter came in packets in a long time.  I appreciated that the butter was not on the pancakes already, so I could add as much as I wanted, unlike IHOP, where my pancakes came swimming in scoops of butter.

The pitcher of syrup was the only disappointment.  It was clearly not real, and tasted like nothing but corn syrup.  You may recall that I am from New Hampshire, and that my godfather makes his own maple syrup, so I was raised on the real stuff, and generally don't care for fake syrup, but this was worse than usual.  Since I didn't want the syrup, but still wanted something to enhance the pancakes, I tried out the jams on the table.  There was an assortment of standard Smuckers: strawberry, grape, orange marmalade, again in little packets.  I haven't had any of those in ages either, since my mom makes her own jams, and we never had namebrand stuff.  As you can imagine, I didn't like them at all either.

Overall, the pancakes were a good execution of a standard pancake, but they needed better accompaniments   Luques does offer a pancake special that had nuts (I think walnuts? pecans?) and bananas, which looked much better, but was not available as a short stack, and I didn't want a full stack.

I wouldn't get these again, but $5.25 was a fine price.
Homefries.  $4.
So this is random.  One day, I was craving potatoes, particularly, something like homefries or hashbrowns.  It was morning, I was near Union Square running errands, and since everything else I'd tried from Luques had been fairly successful, I decided to try out their homefries.

I got them togo since I literally just wanted the homefries and felt silly ordering them to sit down in the restaurant.  They came boxed up, garnished with a mint leaf, and yet another slice of orange, buried under the potatoes.  They really have to get over these garnishes!  They also included ketchup packets in the box.

The homefries were totally and completely unremarkable.  Chunks of potato, skin on, decently cooked (not too mushy, not undercooked).  There was some seasoning, but not very pronounced.  A few bits of onion mixed in.  Not anything special, and they didn't satisfy my craving.

$4 for side of homefries seemed about right, but I wouldn't get these again.

[ Not Pictured ]
Decaf Coffee.  $1.90.

On the visits where I dined in, I also ordered coffee, decaf.  It was not bad.  It wasn't amazing, but it was very inoffensive and better than most random restaurant coffee.

Interestingly, on the tables in the restaurant, they only have sugar, Equal, and Sweet'N Low available as sweeteners, but in the lobby, where they have coffee for hotel guests, they have Splenda too.  I watched a server come replenish the sugars in the restaurant, and the basket she was filling from had Splenda, but she didn't add it to any of the tables.  So strange.  I prefer Splenda.

In the lobby area, they also have milk, half and half, and soy milk to add to the coffee.  I was really impressed with that setup, particularly because even a lot of cafes don't have soy milk readily available.  They also had a large variety of quality teas, and both togo cups and real mugs.  And .... they also had assorted cookies!  Being a cookie monster and coffee lover, if I needed a hotel in San Francisco, these little perks would go a long way for me.  I did think it was interesting that the coffee/tea were complimentary in the lobby, but not in the restaurant.  I wonder how hotel guests dining in the restaurant feel about that, given that they could walk outside the restaurant door and get coffee for free.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie

A staff member saw me eyeing the cookies (I was just doing research, while waiting for my togo order, honestly!), and told me I was welcome to one.  Score!  It was fairly generic, but a nice soft style with a buttery taste.  It was loaded up with dried cranberries, slightly tart.  A nice hotel perk for sure.
Luques Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon
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