For anyone who could use a comforting cassoulet right about now, get ready for a heart wrench: Baker Street Bistro is closing permanently in Cow Hollow. The sweet bistro has been in the neighborhood for three decades, serving up bone-satisfying onion soup gratinée and boeuf Bourguignon, as well as brunch Benedicts and croques, all in a warm and welcoming space. But the husband-and-husband owners say that given the pandemic, they need to turn their full attention to Maison Danel, their sparkling new patisserie on Polk Street.
“We are absolutely heartbroken,” chef-owner Danel de Betelu said in a statement. “We tried holding on as long as we could, but it is time to face reality and the financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19. We will miss most: our faithful guests, many of whom have become dear friends over the years.”
Baker Street Bistro was tucked away on a quiet block on the border of the Presidio, which was part of its charm, but may have posed a visibility challenge as the city shut down. It’s just one of several French restaurants to sweep out this year, starting with fine dining institution La Folie even before the pandemic, and most recently, Jeanne D’Arc medieval-themed bistro. Additionally, Cafe Jacqueline, the soufflé legend, is still temporarily closed, while its octogenarian owner recovers from a health scare, and Petit Crenn just temporarily closed, reallocating the kitchen to serve meals for the community.
French fine dining, brasseries, and bistros all tend to rely on indoor dining as an integral part of the experience, with lots of courses and lingering around the table. Co-owner David de Betelu tells Eater SF that their classic dishes and rich sauces were never intended for takeout, and they would have had to completely reinvent the business. “It’s not necessarily just French restaurants, but classic restaurants that focus on indoor dining are vulnerable right now,” he says. “When it comes to takeout, it’s easier to think of curry before steak frites.”
They also feared that outdoor dining would disappoint their longtime regulars, who loved that snug warm dining room. “Weather wise, close to the ocean, it’s unpredictable. Our clientele has expectations of comfort. They would have to wear a parka to sit outside.” Even with heat lamps, and extra glasses of wine, it was hard to picture.
While the closing of Baker Street Bistro is sad news for longtime fans of this neighborhood gem, bien sur, some of their favorite menu items can be found at the owners’ new patisserie. “We will ensure that the spirit of French hospitality and joie-de-vivre lives on at Maison Danel,” says de Betelu. Specifically, that means the Benedicts and croques are available for takeout and delivery (pret-a-manger), and the boeuf Bourguignon and cassoulet are ready to heat and eat (pret-a-chauffer), along with the array of croissants, macarons, and other pastries.
It might not be quite the same as settling into a bay window with an old friend, ordering a bottle of wine and a platter of steak frites, but cassoulet to go is some comfort, perhaps.
Updated August 5, 2020: This story was updated shortly after publication, to add a few additional details from co-owner David de Betelu.