The American Express Centurion Lounge SFO: An Inside Look

For years now, we've been waiting patiently, watching intently as brand-new, posh, elegant, state-of the-art airport lounges sprout like mushrooms across major airports worldwide. As Northern California, San Francisco Bay Area residents, the luxurious signature flagship lounge that we've all been clamoring for has finally landed at San Francisco International Airport. Following the auspicious ribbon cutting on the morning of November 6th, 2014, the 8,200 sq ft American Express Centurion Lounge SFO has officially opened their transparent blue doors for business. To commemorate this marvelous occasion, we've decided to break out our American Express cards to give you a sneak preview of what you can expect behind those frosted glass doors.

Getting There: The Build Up

Located near the far-western corner of Boarding Area F, the Centurion Lounge is readily accessible for passengers traveling on United Airlines, as well as those who are flying out of the International Terminal's G gates. If you're flying out of SFO from another terminal, you'll also be able to access this lounge; however, it may not be as convenient as you would like.

The Grand Entrance

Once you reach the Apple Store-like glass box at the end of the terminal, you'll immediately notice the platinum-hued, carefully carved words "The Centurion". These words are faithfully etched into the glass paneling alongside the stylized portrait of the centurion. The clear, transparent glass captures the ideals of one of the world's most cosmopolitan hubs. The clean cut, spotless wooden paneling blanket the walls and ground floor, giving the spacious, open entryway an earthy, natural feel and proudly representing the timeless, mighty redwood trees of the Marin Headlands. The great wall of freshly-scented, fragrant, natural living greenery is a sight to behold. Unlike the typical large, compact blue doors that guard the entryway to other Centurion Lounges across the nation, the SFO location adamantly keeps glass doors at the front, with a shade of blue deriving from special lighting effects.

As you make your way in, there will be a staircase to your left, the winding, final path on your journey to the top. You may also opt for the highly efficient, modern elevator straight ahead, but for dramatic effect, the staircase would be ideal. Upon reaching the top, you'll be met by a glass enclosed, perfectly presented wall of wine. High-end, award-winning Napa Valley wine, to be exact, made from hand-picked grapes from the most exquisite, lush vineyards around.

Casually turn your way to the right, and you'll face the front desk straight ahead. While the surrounding area is relatively dimly lit, the plain backdrop behind the counter glows brightly, prominently displaying the "American Express" brand name. With this effect, your entry is made to feel just a bit more epic, and comfortable and cozy at the same time.

Qualifications For Entry

This lounge, much like its brothers from the Centurion line, was specifically designed by American Express for the benefit of their premium customers. Therefore, it is no surprise that this lounge is exclusively available to American Express cardholders. Guests with the elite, top-flight Centurion and Platinum Charge cards will be allowed to enter for free, along with two guests.

It's The Inside That Counts

A name like the "Centurion Lounge" naturally creates high expectations, and with the abundance of high-quality amenities on-hand, it's clear that American Express has risen to the challenge. After you check-in with the friendly front desk staff, make sure to visit the dining and bar areas that are directly facing the check-in desk. Walking straight past the front desk, you'll find your oasis of tranquility, peace, and calm in the chaise lounge area. Directly behind and past the front desk is the main lounge area, where you will also find the glass-enclosed family room and the business area with the internet terminals.

The Centerpiece

To start off, we'll briefly take a look at the main seating area. If you're already familiar with the Centurion Lounge concept, you'll feel right at home here. You'll find, to your relief, chic, stylish, and modern furniture, with all the right coloring. Shades of black, white, grey, red-orange, and lime green envelope the atmosphere. You'll find this quirky coloring scheme decorating not only the minimalist sofas and cafe tables, but the comfortable lounge chairs hugging the walls and the soft pillows. You'll find plenty of available seating along with charging stations to make sure that all of your gadgets remain well-powered. This is perfect when you're looking to upload photos, ratings, and reviews for this lounge into LoungeBuddy.

The lights that illuminate the lounge are well-placed and well-thought out - not too imposing or powerful. A good way to describe them would be orbs of light, neatly enclosed within a spherical, globe-shaped bird's nest.

Off to the side, you'll find the glass-enclosed children's playroom, the perfect setting to keep your children occupied with fun toys and an advanced gaming system. For children who are especially gifted at pattern recognition, the back wall may be a intriguing diversion, with its smorgasbord of patterns in the form of shapes and colors.

Also in the main room, you'll find several additional Centurion trademarks: wall displays with vintage luggage and classic books, as well as the communal, single slab wooden work table with rustic old-world charm. Similar to Plaza Premium Lounge and their chandeliers, these are some of the defining features that acknowledge that you are, in fact, in the Centurion Lounge. Bathrooms and a private shower are also available for your convenience.

The Naptime Nook

The Centurion Lounge has gone out of its way to honor local legends, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the portraits of the two of the more prominent and iconic Hollywood stars of our time: the late Robin Williams, one of the leaders of San Francisco's comedy renaissance, and Oakland-native Clint Eastwood, an enduring cultural icon of masculinity. You'll find Robin Williams' portrait in the relaxation area just above three flattened beige lounge chairs with red pillows. These, by the way, are ideal if you want to take a quick nap to recharge your batteries.

Getting Down To Business

Speaking of local legends, perhaps the most iconic is Apple founder Steve Jobs. You'll find his portrait hanging in the Macintosh business center, with brand new internet terminals and a printer.

Deluxe Dining

To celebrate and commemorate the rich culinary traditions of the San Francisco Bay Area, American Express has brought on board three of the most prominent food and beverage experts to source the wines, signature cocktails, and gourmet foods. We'll discuss the beverages later, but first, let's get started with the rich culinary wonders on hand.

The lounge's restaurant will offer sit down as well as self-serve options throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, afternoon snack - you name it. Here's a sample of some of the appetizers, entrees, and desserts that head chef Daniel Patterson has brought to this lounge (subject to change):

  • Grilled Chicken with Shaved Fennel, Tomato and Herbs
  • Zucchini and Burrata Salad with Watercress and Crouton
  • Braised Tofu with Seaweed and Side of Brown Rice
  • Eggplant Miso Soup with Shiso and Sesame
  • Roasted Cauliflower with Almond, Brown Butter, and Meyer Lemon
  • Little Gem Lettuce with Fennel, Radishes, Charred Avocado, and Green Goddess Dressing
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Buckle

The World of Wine

Upon entering the lounge, the receptionist at the front will present you with a ticket containing a scannable bar code. Be sure to hold on to this token, as you'll find it helpful when you go looking for your fix of the Bay Area's top wineries. Each of these tickets is good for five one-ounce pours from the WineEmotion dispenser system. In order to gain access to your complimentary glasses of wine, simply scan your barcode to activate the machine. Then, push the button to dispense your choice of wine straight from the bottle to your glass in seconds flat.

The all-star Napa Valley roster on hand was personally selected by Anthony Giglio, who also goes by Wine Wise Guy. As the wine director of the Centurion Lounge and one of the world's foremost experts on wine, Giglio's commentary has been featured in a plethora of notable publications, including Food and Wine magazine.

The Spiritual Realm (and Beer)

To end our journey on a high note in high spirits, let's move on over to the full bar, where you'll have the chance to imbibe in local beers and locally inspired cocktails. Enjoy beer that you won't find at many other lounges, freshly supplied by San Francisco's own Anchor Steam, Chico's Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and 21st Amendment Brewery, which is based in the famous South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco.

The cocktails are locally inspired and designed by the renowned French bulldog whisperer and master of mixography himself, Jim Meehan. Meehan, a consultant for all of the Centurion Lounges, is the expert bartender who achieved his fame at New York's legendary PDT. Here's a sample of some of the cocktails that you'll be able to order:

  • Basil Gin Fizz - St George Botanivore Gin, St. George Aqua Perfecta Basil Eau-de-Vie, lime juice, sparkling wine.
  • Frisco - Anchor's Old Portrero whiskey, Benedictine
  • Pineapple Express - Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka, Vya Dry Vermouth, Anchor Hophead Vodka, Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup

Final Remarks

All in all, we're confident that you'll come away impressed, astonished even, with the Centurion Lounge at SFO. We cannot emphasize how excellent the food and beverages on hand are; these offerings combine to create one of the most impressive lounges that we've encountered. If you're looking for an excellent airport lounge that provides incredible value, a tremendous breadth of amenities, Michelin standard culinary delights, award-winning Napa Valley wines, cocktails from one of the world's premier mixologists, and last, but not least, a lounge that symbolizes and personifies one of the world's most prosperous and cosmopolitan regions, look no further than the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco International Airport.

American Express Centurion Lounge SFO Recap

Location: Terminal 3, Boarding Area F, Near Gate F1.

Accessibility: Readily accessible for United passengers and those flying from G gates of International Terminal.

Daily Hours Of Operation: 5AM to 11PM

Highlights: Premium gourmet food offerings by Daniel Patterson, hand crafted cocktails by Jim Meehan, local Napa Valley wines personally selected by Anthony Giglio

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