New chef in town: A review of the Amex Centurion Lounge in San Francisco

Feb 18, 2020

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Centurion Lounges have become incredibly popular over the years by offering travelers uniquely designed airport spaces. Curated menus list locally inspired foods and a wide choice of beverages.

The San Francisco outpost is no exception. It has some of the best beverage options in the entire portfolio. And now, with a new chef at the helm of the food program, you’ll want to show up hungry.

However, the SFO location is not my favorite Centurion Lounge overall. Read on to find out why.

In This Post

Location

The Centurion Lounge in San Francisco Airport (SFO) is in Terminal 3, adjacent to Gate F1/F2. This location is perfect for United flyers because it’s the airline’s Bay Area hub. You can also use the lounge without needing to re-clear security if you’re flying from the International Terminal G gates.

If you’re flying from another terminal, however, you can still access the lounge, but you’ll need to clear security again at your departure terminal.

The hard-to-miss entrance spans two levels and is adorned with familiar Amex branding and colors.

Access

The Amex Centurion Lounge at SFO is open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Customers can enter a Centurion Lounge by presenting The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee. See rates and fees), The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or The Centurion® Card. Visitors are entitled to bring two guests (or immediate family, if you carry a Centurion Card), and lap infants don’t count against the two-guest allotment.

The information for the Centurion Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Which card is right for you? Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum

Cardmembers with other versions of the Platinum card (i.e., Schwab, Ameriprise or international cards) also have access. Authorized users with Centurion or Platinum cards can also enter — you may add up to three authorized users to the personal Platinum card for a total of $175 per year (see rates and fees) — but those who have Platinum’s complimentary additional Gold card don’t have access. This is the best strategy if you need to get a family larger than three into the Centurion Lounge.

Related: How to get a family of 4 or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge

Platinum cardmembers only have access to Centurion lounges up to three hours before a departing flight. When connecting through the airport, Platinum cardmembers must have an onward boarding pass to enter the lounge.

RELATED: Maximizing benefits with the Amex Platinum card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express cardholders receive complimentary access to the Centurion Lounge when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on any American Express card issued in the U.S. You’ll be able to bring up to two guests for a fee of $50 each. But, Delta flies from Terminal 1, so it’s a trek if you want to visit the Centurion Lounge.

Layout

After entering the vestibule, take the stairs or elevator to the upper level where the lounge is located.

Once upstairs, you’re greeted with familiar Amex branding, as well as a glass wine cellar — an ode to the region’s many award-winning vineyards in nearby Napa and Sonoma.

The lounge is divided into three rooms, all connected by a long hallway.

The main relaxation area occupies the room to the right of the entrance. Here you’ll find plenty of seating, ranging from traditional lounge chairs to Amex’s signature built-in green wall seating.

There are some tables and couches as well.

Six individual recliners offer additional privacy. You’ll also find a long conference table with chairs for 10 people. Along the wall is an open business center with two iMac desktop computers and a printer.

Unlike other lounges, there are no partitions in the relaxation area. Though it feels airier, it also means that there’s less privacy.

The room you first encounter as you enter remained empty throughout my visit. There are about 10 seats around a TV, and more seating tucked behind the screen.

The two-top tables along the lounge perimeter turned out to be the best place to relax when it got crowded.

Food and beverages are served in the main room. There are plenty of tables arranged in two- and four-top configurations.

Unlike other Centurion Lounges, the bar in SFO has seating for only four people. As a solo traveler, I often enjoy sitting at the bar, but no barstool was available from 6 a.m. until my flight at 10 a.m.

The buffet is located at the end of this room but because of the layout, there’s not a ton of room for people to move around, which meant lines formed for the food.

There are two reserved seating areas for Centurion cardmembers — one dining table and a loveseat in the relaxation room.

When I visited early in the morning, the lounge got uncomfortably crowded. There weren’t enough seats for everyone, and some people were noticeably agitated. Fortunately, it got a bit quieter after the morning rush hour, but a steady stream of people continued to enter the lounge. Because of the open floor plan, conversations reverberated across the relaxation area. I was traveling with my AirPods Pro, so I didn’t have trouble zoning it all out.

Amenities

The SFO outpost doesn’t offer much in the way of amenities.

The lounge has one oversized shower stocked with L’Occitane products. It was kept clean, but wait times were long.

There’s a family room that remained empty throughout my visit, even though there were plenty of children in the lounge.

Amex could improve some basic amenities like adding more power outlets. Most seats don’t have them and the only outlets are built into the floor — not a great idea when passengers are rolling around their suitcases.

I had no trouble connecting to the password-protected Wi-Fi network. It was relatively fast at 20 Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload, but it could use a speed boost.

Food and beverage

Centurion Lounge culinary offerings are a big step up from your average domestic airport lounge. When I visited, the SFO location was serving food inspired by James Beard award-winning chef Daniel Patterson of Alta Group fame.

However, Amex just announced that Chef Ravi Kapur will join as executive chef at this location. Born in Hawaii and now chef at Liholiho Yacht Club and Louie’s Gen-Gen Room, he’s on the rise in the Bay Area.

He’ll bring some new dishes to the Centurion Lounge, including lentil curry mushroom soup, carrots with salsa verde, kimchi and tofu pork shoulder and cilantro yogurt chicken thighs.

Though I didn’t get the chance to try any of the new dishes, I was still impressed with the food I tried.

Continental breakfast (yogurt and a fruit bar) is available for the first 30 minutes of lounge opening. The full buffet comes out at 5:30 a.m. and offers a selection of standard fare, like French toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, quiche and porridge.

All-day fare is served beginning at 11 a.m. There was a salad bar, two soups (tomato and spiced lentil when I visited), honey-glazed chicken thighs, roasted broccolini, curried beluga lentils and crispy fingerling potatoes.

Unique to this location is a Napa Valley-inspired wine-tasting area with 18 wines to sample. You get a coupon from the bartender, but each coupon allows you to taste only five wines, so choose wisely.

If you’re not an oenophile, the bar also offers a full cocktail menu curated by Jim Meehan of Please Don’t Tell in New York City, as well as an assortment of bottled beers and local craft brews like Golden Road Mango Cart on tap.

Bar service begins with a limited menu at 6 a.m. and the full assortment of cocktails are served starting at 10:30 a.m.

If you prefer non-alcoholic libations, there’s a self-serve beverage area with a Franke coffee machine and flavored water near the entrance to the lounge.

Overall impression

Amex Centurion Lounges continue to impress. This San Francisco location has a top-notch beverage selection, highlighted by the unique wine-tasting area. Coupled with newly-redesigned celebrity chef-inspired food, this lounge offers one of the best gastronomic experiences across the network.

But it wasn’t all good news. Though the lounge is on the larger side, I didn’t love the relaxation areas. The main lounge area doesn’t have enough privacy, so overcrowding is really noticeable. It also fails to deliver some of the basics, like a reliable Wi-Fi connection and power outlets.

Overall, however, this is still a great lounge, especially with a drink in hand.

All photos by the author.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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