In a throwback to a (mostly) bygone era of Woolworth’s, City Counter plans to bring style back to the downtown lunch counter. It’s located in the heart of Financial District in the Art Deco-era Standard Oil building, sandwiched neatly between a coffee shop (Blue Bottle) and a cocktail bar (The Treasury) at 115 Sansome St.
Founder Harper Matheson says the whole idea is to create an oasis for people with only 15 minutes to spend on lunch, with a focus on hospitality. After years of living in NYC, earning an MBA at NYU and working with restaurants like Brooklyn’s Char No. 4, Matheson found herself constantly rushing about, but finding respite at one of the city’s many luncheonettes. When she returned to SF, that experience seemed to be nonexistent. Inspired by her experience, the restaurant will offer a classic lunch counter experience where diners can perch on stools while eating on the counter, or sit in small booths along the windows looking onto Sansome St.
Ordering will be counter service, wherein guests will place an order with a cashier up front then choose a seat and wait for a runner to bring out their order. The entire menu, developed by chef Sean Thomas of Blue Plate, is designed for quickness, either for dining in or taking out on the fly.
As for the menu, there will be seven to ten sandwiches, four to five salads, and a bunch of “snacky sides,” all in the style of New American cuisine and priced from $9-$14 per item. That means influences from all over, like a roast beef sandwich with pimento cheese, or pastrami-braised smoked beets (a vegetarian take on the flavors). There will also be a nostalgic item on the menu called the “Grammy Sammy,” a version of Thomas’ busy grandmother’s standard snack: a piece of meat and cheese on a slice of folded bread (but upgraded). Beer and wine will also be on the menu.
The space is under construction, designed by architect Nickie Huang who is also a partner in the project. It’s all modern Art Deco with white tiles, stylish globe lighting, and updated brass details. Details extend from plates with the restaurant’s monogram to the coffee cups. There’ll also be a big hot pink neon sign out front from artist Shawna Peterson to guide the way.
Right now the space is under construction, with May projected for launch. At opening, hours will be Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., with breakfast in the works. Stay tuned for more details on the menu, and space.