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Johnston’s Saltbox is a Celebration of Local People & Local Produce Cooked with Love
Johnston’s Saltbox is a neighborhood restaurant, featuring a local rotating menu & wine list, highlighting the bay area’s finest produce and artisan product.
Hometown: Portstewart, Northern Ireland
Sean grew up on the North Atlantic Coast of Ireland. Before moving to San Francisco he worked much of his career in his family’s vibrant Irish pub, full of local characters. He brings that same love of community and warm Irish hospitality to Johnston’s Saltbox. Sean thrives on creating an atmosphere where locals gather and share a meal & a moment together.
He’s constantly impressed by the quality and variety of artisan products grown right here in the Bay Area. Johnston’s Saltbox is a celebration of those two loves: local people, local product.
Jennifer McAteer Johnston
Chef | Proprietor
Hometown: San Carlos, CA
Jennifer spent her career working with great chefs & mentors- Jeremiah Tower, Bradley Ogden, Pierre Koffmann, and Robert Cubberly.
Partnering all these years with local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen- witnessing them put so much love and care into their craft, Jennifer sees a Chef’s role as simple- to source great local product and cook it with care. She’s excited to bring these experiences and values back to her hometown of San Carlos.
The rooftop kitchen garden is a very tangible way we demonstrate our commitment to quality local ingredients. It’s coincidentally also a great place for their three teenage Johnston daughters to toil in the soil, and to feel a part of it all.
Maria G. | Yelp
We got there a few minutes before it opened. Lined up and immediately various people lined up behind us. Before the place opened there was a line of at least 10 people! Staff was welcoming and friendly. Loved the food! Will definitely be back
Vicki S. | Yelp
My favorite restaurant in San Carlos and San Carlos has a lot of great food options! They really perfect their dishes everytime so I’m always willing to try new things… and I’m never disappointed! Super fresh ingredients, unique dishes and flavor combinations.
I’ve been going here for years and the staff are super friendly and efficient! Highly recommend getting the fried chicken sandwich, they change the theme of it seasonally and every single one I’ve had has been delicious (which is probably all of them ) Best brunch ever!
Greg S | Yelp
Friends recommended this place for brunch and it was soooooo goooood. Plus’: + Dog friendly + Food was terrific. we just ordered a bunch of stuff and shared (don’t tell the CDC; ha ha) + Time: the food came out super-duper fast. + Staff: super friendly.
Multiple staff came by to check on us. + Parking on the street was easy (for Saturday brunch anyways) Negatives: – None Bottom Line: when we’re back in the area, we’ll be back.
Maria M. | Yelp
Checked out this place on a recommendation from a friend. So glad we did. Place got busy quick on a Friday evening, but we were early and got a table immediately. Staff were sincere and efficient, the outdoor seating was lovely.
The Nashville hot chicken was incredible. Originally from the south east US, and it it’s now easily in my top 5. We had the burger as well, which was also super good. Would def go again and recommend to friends.
Clarissa C. | Yelp
I love brunches that are hearty, well-seasoned but have a load of fresh veggies that don’t weigh you down. This is the place–and with plenty of nice shaded outdoor seating too!
Restaurant is a hybrid between casual and serviced. You pay/order at the outdoor counter and but someone is there to plan and seat you as you finish ordering. Outdoor seating is perfect for lunch, but there is also indoor as well with natural lighting.
Menu has something for everyone–though it’s on the $15-22 end for a brunch dish, they are generous with portions. And there are options that will please light salad-eaters as well as those looking for a filling breakfast or lunch. Summer Bacon Hash ($19): The bacon (which is more like rendered pork belly than thin strips) is what makes this dish! That with the swiss chard sopping up all that cayenne honey hollandaise. It’s a little on the sweet side with the corn, but I would totally get it again.
Chilaquiles ($18 + $5 avocado): My BF got this one and loved it! Normally he doesn’t get full but was super happy with the portion size here. He devoured the pork carnitas, eggs, and avocado. Well seasoned and not crazy heavy.
Overall, brunch was delicious! Price is higher than other brunch spots, but worth it imo because I love fresh veggies. They really pack in the flavor without skimping on portion. Would come back and check out their menu as they change it through the seasons.
Daphne M. | Yelp
I’ve had this place bookmarked FOREVER and I’m so glad to finally knock this off my brunch list. It’s located in San Carlos off a main downtown area.
Parking is available nearby and street parking so it wasn’t a hassle. We came by on a Saturday around 12 and made it at a good time since it was right before the crowd came in. You order at the window then get seated either indoor or outdoor.
I ordered the pork chilaquiles with jalapeños and the strawberry mimosa french toast. My boyfriend got the country fried breakfast. We also ordered the beach spritz and a hard cider.
The food came fairly quick and the chilaquiles were good but nothing crazy for that dish. My boyfriend’s country fried steak was sooo good, that gravy is one of the best gravy’s I’ve ever had and he agreed.
The star of the show was the strawberry mimosa French Toast, wow! It was such a unique flavor for a French Toast and it came with home made whipped cream, strawberries, and an orange and it was so refreshing and unique.
The service was also 10/10, our guy made small talk and explained that they have a revolving menu matching the seasons, so that was very cool to know. We sat outside and it’s such a cute and beautiful area to eat. We left very satisfied and I’d love to bring friends here for brunch or dinner next time!
Sophie L. | Yelp
Hidden gem in San Carlos! I was born and raised in Redwood Shores and so I am pretty familiar with the restaurants on Laurel.
This spot has been on my list for a while, but I would forget about it whenever I am on Laurel because its so far away from the main area on Laurel. This restaurant is on the far south end of Laurel, away from the main hub of restaurants ( Town, West , Park Bistro , farther down from Boba guys even).
The food and the service were both top notch, but what blew me away the most was the beautiful outdoor seating area they had hidden away in what looked to be a small cozy restaurant! It felt like as if I took a quick getaway and I was having brunch in Napa.
Even if you were to opt to sit outdoors, the indoor space is a lovely open space that lets all of the natural light fill up the restaurant! For food, the star of the show for me was their lavender scones with lemon curd! The scones were crisp on the edges, not dense nor dry and not overly crumbly, the lavender flavor was not too overpowering and it paired perfectly with the lemon curd. Loved these scones so much that I would come here just for this!
The strawberry mimosa and French Toast was a nice twist to a traditional French Toast and their grain bowl is perfect for a healthier option for brunch. For Sightglass coffee lovers, they are serving sightglass coffee here and offer french press as well!
For a family of 5, brunch here can get a bit pricey pretty quick, so we won’t be here every weekend, but we definitely will come by again for a treat yourself kind of weekend:)
Rita M. | Yelp
Delicious perfected dishes, unique recipes for every dish. The description of each dish is so much more than the sum of it’s parts. I love each and every starter, especially “gone shrimpin”. The autumn seasonal menu features an amazing wild striped bass, with a beautiful mixture of potatoes and fennel. 2 pigs, is a dish of pirogies with bacon & ham, in a heavenly bacon cream sauce. Flavors, beautiful outdoor space, great servers!
John H. | Yelp
My partner and I split a salad and the grilled brie sandwich. The sandwich was remarkable and the salad was very good. You knew it was going to be good though when you realize there is a line of people outside the restaurant before they open. If you are in San Carlos stop in and tell them John sent you. 😉
Dalia K. | Yelp
My new favorite place! Came for the first time today with girlfriends for brunch. This restaurant is so cute and the food is delicious. Super clean, modern and has a great and comfortable layout and seating. Staff were nice as well. Looking forward to more brunches and dinners.
Justin D | Yelp
Great food, a rotating seasonal menu, friendly staff, nice dining area (indoor and out). Somewhere that we return to over and over. Also, they did a great pivot during covid and served some of the best family style takeout meals of anywhere during that time.
Olga G | Yelp
Oh my good this brunch was so good. The fried chicken and French toast is served with the most delicious peach purée, and the prosciutto toast was so much more then I ever imagined. It was so light and fresh, with all the flavors complementing each other amazingly. Johnston’s salt box never disappoints. If you’re reading this please bring back your take on the huevos rancheros though with the pickled veggies, I’ve never had one anywhere else like it and now nothing compares.
Lin Z | Yelp
This place is PERFECT. It’s super artsy. The quality and creativity of their food is amazing. The ingredients are seasonal and very fresh. Also LOVE their interior/outdoor design, the serve ware, the vibe and the service.
Highly recommend the french toast with fried chicken. The texture of the French toast is almost like a mascarpone cheese pancake. It’s sooooooo soft and fluffy. And the sweetness from the cinnamon and the peach balanced really well with the savory.
The steak & eggs ratatouille is good as well. We also ordered the “wanna peach of me”, which is not showed in the picture. And it’s probably the BEST danish I’ve ever had. Can’t wait to be here again for dinner next time.
James P. | Yelp
One of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. The servers are very friendly and have been kind enough to give us free deserts on multiple occasions. The last time we were there, they were so kind as to give us a coconut mousse desert for free.
Their lemonade is excellent! The fried chicken sandwich here is top notch. I usually get it with the strawberry wedge salad which is also quite good. Try this restaurant if you haven’t already! I highly recommend it.
Johnnie R | Yelp
My favorite restaurant on the peninsula so far after living here a year and a half. A must if you want non-city experience. Amazing food, great staff , great value, fantastic staff. Will be an anchor restaurant for us going forward. Was so excited for the food forgot to take pictures till I was halfway done.
Steven W. | Yelp
This is by far one of the best places to eat on the peninsula, we are a little biased as well since this is less than a 10 minute walk from our house. Let’s start with drinks… every single cocktail on their menu is on point. The service is unique, but is efficient in a time where every business has had to reinvent their service model. The chicken sandwich is always an absolute must, we often order several entrees and eat family style here. Food quality is always consistent, definitely a must for your next night our.
Tony H. | Yelp
My wife and I stopped in for brunch at Johnson’s Saltbox for the first time on 7/17/21 around 11 AM. There was a line of about 20 people in front of us, but we were undeterred; this was a good call, as the line moved quickly and we were ordering within 10-15 minutes. (Note: this is an order-first, then sit kind of restaurant.)
The outdoor dining area was charming and spacious, perfect for the California summer. Our food arrived quickly, malasada and strawberry appetizer first and then the mains shortly thereafter. I ordered the carnitas, my wife ordered the hash. Everything was delicious and the portion sizes were just right. The malasada doughnuts were a highlight – how could they not be? – but it was all of a piece. Service was fast and efficient, but not impolite. We loved the food here and will be back again soon!
Sandy Y. | Yelp
Had heard about Johnston’s for a while from a few friends who lived in the area, and was so glad to finally able to try it. The outdoor eating area is just fabulous (and perfect given our current state). Hubby and I had the #hash and salmon scramble, both of which was delectable. Our son ordered the chicken tenders with a side of bacon, and couldn’t stop talking about the bacon. The entire family fought over the french toast we ordered for our daughter. Just a great dining experience! Hope to be back soon.
Brian S. | Yelp
We came here last night for dinner & I was wowed by everything. We sat outside on their padio & Francisco aka Pako was very friendly & attentive. The ribeye burger is a must with ttender marinaded patty, cheese, fresh tomatos, onions, pickles etc., & bacon. The bun is fresh & it is just the juiciest burger you nwill ever have. The fries are crispy & greaseless.
For dessert, the profiteral with toffee ice cream sandwiched in between two puff pastries is decadent. We shared some ceviche with succulent shrimp, perfect over the fresh tortilla chips.
Kudos to Francisco for getting an umbrella for our table which helped immensely with the hot weather. So, for some wonderful new American cuisine at reasonable prices in a friendly casual atmosphere, Johnston’s cannot be beat. Keep up the good work guys.
Michael A | Yelp
I had “This pasta is a-maize-ing!” which had bucatini, bacon, corn, cremini mushroom, leeks and greens, chili, white wine, poached garlic, pecorino, house ricotta, bread crumbs and it was indeed amazing! I loved the thick crispy bacon pieces.
My girlfriend had “ketofornia steak” which was marinated flank steak, snow peas, cremini mushroom, sautéed zucchini, marcona almond cauliflower rice, aromatic herbs, house kimchi, hot and sour glaze. It was also very good! Throw in a few cocktas and you’re good to go!
V C | Yelp
So so glad I finally got to give this place a try! We showed up around 11 on 5/30 (sunday)- there was a line but it moved fairly quickly (15 minutes). Can’t wait to return! Service: so friendly!
The hostess informed us about the wait and handed out menus, letting us know we could order at the window first and would be seated afterwards. Everyone was really courteous, especially the employee who ask me if my dog would like some water and brought out complimentary dog biscuits!
Food: amazing! We got the prosciutto toast and the wakey wakey. Portions are generous and the food had so much flavor. Loved the complexity of the prosciutto toast- it was creamy and sweet from the ricotta, salty from the prosciutto, rich with the avocado, and spicy from the Serrano chiles.
Price: fair for the quality and quantity. Brunch in the city would cost the same but portions would have been much smaller.
Ambiance: entirely outdoor seating due to covid, but loved the atmosphere! Very much reminded me of brunching in Southern California. Their patio lends very well for outdoor dining, as it is spacious and wraps around the back. Bring your fur baby!
Covid measures: all staff members were wearing masks, there were markers on the floor for standing in line to indicate 6 foot spacing, there was hand sanitizer on every table, menus were recycled, and pens were sanitized after every use. Felt very safe.
Takako S. | Yelp
It was 7:30pm on Saturday when we wanted Johnston’s Saltbox. I was pretty sure that this popular establishment wouldn’t have a table then, so we did a takeout.
I’m always excited to see their seasonal & unique menu items but I went with a rib eye burger which is one of my favorites. I also ordered a dessert item called “a ‘pear’fect match. The light sponge, tangy mousse, crunchy brittle, & creamy top were delicious. It took exactly 20 minutes for the food to be ready.
We walked home to the next block and ate freshly made food just like at the restaurant I hope their hours will extend for the summer.
Max F. | Yelp
Writing this review in thanks of the lovely Mother’s Day experience we had, where we ordered boxes of food to warm/prepare at home in advance and it was absolutely fabulous. Sadly we ripped into them without taking photographs but I will say everything was delicious, including the stone fruit tart, Nicoise salad, Vegetable quiche, housemaid egg brioche with smoked salmon spread, and we were able to enjoy the beautiful content across a couple days including the make at home muffin kit. portions were generous, carefully packed, and the homemade taste was unmistakable.
I even got a call from the owner himself to make sure that the house made chicken fritters we ordered for the kids were timed to be hot when picked up. Can’t beat that!
Isabelle V. | Yelp
I’ve gone here a handful of times over the last few years and the food is consistently delicious. The portions are pretty big which makes it much easier to justify the price of the entrees. The outdoor dining area they’ve created is awesome.
What stands out to me about this place the most is the service. The hostesses, bussers, cashier, & servers are always friendly and helpful. There are few places that stand out to me as having exceptional service, and this is definitely one of them. Shoutout to them!
Jess N. | Yelp
This review is long overdue. I am obsessed with this place! The food, the ambiance, and the staff are all amazing. I have introduced many of my friends and family to Johnston’s and they love it. Every dish I have tried has been so tasty and unique.
I also love that they change out their menu often to give you an array of dishes to choose from. I have not yet been here for dinner only lunch and brunch but it is on my to-do list!
Not only am I regular coming here at least a few times a month, but now my own Mom comes here with her friends to dine at least every other week, if not more! Johnston’s (or as I like to call it- Saltbox) we love you!
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