I thought I'd post a review of Canteen on a day when Leary wasn't cooking, and on a day when service actually turned out to be completely unchaotic and perfect. Just to let people know that the restaurant isn't always a madhouse.
Even without Leary, the staff whipped out an admirable breakfast. Despite rumors that this places becomes a madhouse at lunch and dinner, the two times I've eaten there have been quiet and civilized. Benefits of going on weekdays, I suppose.
The eggs benedict are phenomenal. Soft, moist egg whites surrounding a gooey dark golden yolk. No anemic daisy yellow egg yolks here. The yolks were almost as orange as a tangerine, and had a richness about them that was almost as satisfying as real meat. The hollandaise sauce was a dream. Fresh, smooth, rich without being thick or gloppy, and ever so slightly tangy. Whoever invented this sauce deserves a shrine.
This dish blows the WashBag out of the water and gives Mama (of Mama's on Washington Square) a run for her money. At $10, it's also several dollars cheaper than benedict at either of those North Beach establishments. Next time, I'm going to ask for a half order with a big cup of coffee. I always forget that a lot of restaurants are willing to sell half orders of food, which are the perfect size for me and bring reasonably priced food down to the level of cheap eats.
My server today was incredibly nice (and beautiful). She chatted with me about Dick Cheny's moron-osity, I heard her giving very good activities advice to some tourists sitting behind me, she lent the phone to some New Yorkers who were stranded here because of the storm, and she let some people stay for breakfast even though they showed up five minutes after closing. We talked about food in general and some of the various dishes Leary's trying out, so it was a fun way to spend an hour. She was the perfect diner waitress because she had the ability to maintain a warm, casual, unrushed demeanor while being efficient with service. She also had the waitress's sixth sense: knowing which customers want to talk and which ones just want to read the paper. It's not a fancy restaurant, but it was the first time in a long time that I've been thoroughly impressed by a server.