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Lamb chop at Piperade Piperade

12 Elegant French Destinations in San Francisco

From cozy bistros and brasseries to soigné fine dining

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San Francisco may be known for its meaty Mission-style burritos and plump soup dumplings, but for those craving butter, only French will do. There are plenty of restaurants putting those classic French techniques to work in the kitchen, but there aren’t as many that can emphatically, unabashedly call themselves French.

These restaurants are truly elegant examples of the genre, putting out classic dishes and modern updates with savoir-faire. From classic white tablecloths and multi-course menus to bustling bistros and brasseries, here’s where to find the hallmarks of the cuisine, the decadent confits and sauces, the regions off the beaten path.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Piperade

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Don’t pass by Piperade, located on a quiet block near Levi’s Plaza. Chef Gerald Hirigoyen brought Basque cooking to the bay, with his warm and welcoming restaurant. He grew up near Biarritz, located in the town of Bayonne and home of the famous ham. Try his childhood comforts reimagined with a fresh twist, like peppers stuffed with goat cheese, calamari a la plancha, and whole roasted fish in vinaigrette.

Piperade

Cafe Jacqueline

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On a quiet block of Grant up in North Beach, Cafe Jacqueline is a charming cafe that has mastered the art of lofty soufflés. Each serves at least two people, with savory options like gruyere, leek, crab, and lobster, and sweet endings such as chocolate, lemon, and bien sur, Grand Marnier. Chef-owner Jacqueline Margulis, now in her 80s, is still in the kitchen and personally whipping the whites.

Restaurant Jeanne D’Arc

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It doesn’t get more over-the-top French than this restaurant in the Cornell Hotel de France, an establishment Claude and Micheline Lambert have owned and operated since the late ’60s. The bistro is named for the patron saint of the owners’ French hometown, Orleans, and dishes like braised rabbit and desserts like Grand Marnier soufflé channel rustic French cooking. The dining room, replete with gallic artifacts, should (but doesn’t) require a passport.

Trou Normand

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Trou Normand cleaves straight to the meatiest part of the menu, leveraging whole-animal butchery for their housemade charcuterie. Whet your palate between courses on Armagnac, Cognac, and calvados. Pork and apples seem to appeal to a downtown clientele, especially when you take in the sweeping ceilings, leather banquettes, and cheeky lady above the bar.

Trou Normand

ONE65 San Francisco

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ONE65 is nearly as multi-layered as a croissant at its ground floor patisserie. Above that is a bistro level, serving French-inspired California cuisine, above that is a swanky cocktail lounge, called Elements. Another floor up is a fine-dining prix-fixe restaurant with French cheese carts and modern twists called O’ by Claude Le Tohic. Le Tohic, who partnered on the project with the team behind Alexander’s Steakhouse, won a James Beard Award for his work at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. And for a taste of Robuchon’s famed potatoes, look no further than chef de cuisine Jennifer Dewasha’s rendition at the bistro level.

Chapeau!

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“Hats off” to this beloved bistro, which is still charming regulars after over 20 years. It’s worth venturing out to the avenues to indulge in classics like the salmon trio, smoked duck salad, lamb cassoulet, and profiteroles drowned in ganache.

Kristyn H/Yelp

Monsieur Benjamin

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Monsieur Benjamin has ushered a new wave of French restaurants in the past few years. The snappy black-and-white bistro drops unapologetically rich dishes, like oeufs mayonnaise, crispy frog legs, bone marrow, and seafood sausage. Make no mistake, this is a Corey Lee restaurant, and it’s only deceptively casual. Stocks and sauces are slow simmered, aprons starched, herbs arranged with tweezers, and everything is impeccable.

Monsieur Benjamin

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

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It’s not just the opera crowd that pushes into Absinthe, still dazzling after 20 years. Step into the warm and welcoming brasserie, and belly up to the bar for craft cocktails and a croque. Or make a reservation and sit down to griddled country paté, steak tartare, French onion soup gratinée, and coq au vin.

Absinthe

Petit Crenn

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Dominique Crenn’s Hayes Valley restaurant evokes a specific sense of place, inspired by memories of the chef’s native Brittany, and the rustic cooking of her mother and grandmother. She pulls straight from the sea, from the opening oysters and gougères to the wood-fire fish tinged with smoke. The seven course prix fixe may not sound casual, but it’s definitely personal.

Petit Crenn

L'Ardoise

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Tucked away in Duboce triangle, this sliver of a bistro is named after the chalkboard on the sidewalk, calling out the daily specials. Chef and owner Thierry Clement grew up near Sancerre, and stays close to the classics. Go when you’re craving comforting coq au vin or steak frites, or want to get cozy with a date.

L’Ardoise

Zazie is best known for brunch in the sunny back patio, with every type of eggs Benedict overflowing with hollandaise. But dinner is an unexpected pleasure, with generous portions, affordably priced. Inspired by the peasant food of Provence, dig into garden tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, and crispy duck legs and thick pork chops. Longtime owner Jennifer Bennett recently sold the restaurant, but fortunately, she’s handing over the keys to her existing team.

A wooden table of French food on decorative plates Zazie

Le P'tit Laurent

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Cassoulet, baked brie, escargots, and more classics have occupied a charming home in Glen Park at Laurent Legendre’s neighborhood bistro since 2007. Venetian plaster walls covered in vintage French advertisements, a pressed tin ceiling, and attentive, old school service completes the transportive atmosphere.

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Piperade

Piperade

Don’t pass by Piperade, located on a quiet block near Levi’s Plaza. Chef Gerald Hirigoyen brought Basque cooking to the bay, with his warm and welcoming restaurant. He grew up near Biarritz, located in the town of Bayonne and home of the famous ham. Try his childhood comforts reimagined with a fresh twist, like peppers stuffed with goat cheese, calamari a la plancha, and whole roasted fish in vinaigrette.

Piperade

Cafe Jacqueline

On a quiet block of Grant up in North Beach, Cafe Jacqueline is a charming cafe that has mastered the art of lofty soufflés. Each serves at least two people, with savory options like gruyere, leek, crab, and lobster, and sweet endings such as chocolate, lemon, and bien sur, Grand Marnier. Chef-owner Jacqueline Margulis, now in her 80s, is still in the kitchen and personally whipping the whites.

Restaurant Jeanne D’Arc

It doesn’t get more over-the-top French than this restaurant in the Cornell Hotel de France, an establishment Claude and Micheline Lambert have owned and operated since the late ’60s. The bistro is named for the patron saint of the owners’ French hometown, Orleans, and dishes like braised rabbit and desserts like Grand Marnier soufflé channel rustic French cooking. The dining room, replete with gallic artifacts, should (but doesn’t) require a passport.

Trou Normand

Trou Normand

Trou Normand cleaves straight to the meatiest part of the menu, leveraging whole-animal butchery for their housemade charcuterie. Whet your palate between courses on Armagnac, Cognac, and calvados. Pork and apples seem to appeal to a downtown clientele, especially when you take in the sweeping ceilings, leather banquettes, and cheeky lady above the bar.

Trou Normand

ONE65 San Francisco

ONE65 is nearly as multi-layered as a croissant at its ground floor patisserie. Above that is a bistro level, serving French-inspired California cuisine, above that is a swanky cocktail lounge, called Elements. Another floor up is a fine-dining prix-fixe restaurant with French cheese carts and modern twists called O’ by Claude Le Tohic. Le Tohic, who partnered on the project with the team behind Alexander’s Steakhouse, won a James Beard Award for his work at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. And for a taste of Robuchon’s famed potatoes, look no further than chef de cuisine Jennifer Dewasha’s rendition at the bistro level.

Chapeau!

Kristyn H/Yelp

“Hats off” to this beloved bistro, which is still charming regulars after over 20 years. It’s worth venturing out to the avenues to indulge in classics like the salmon trio, smoked duck salad, lamb cassoulet, and profiteroles drowned in ganache.

Kristyn H/Yelp

Monsieur Benjamin

Monsieur Benjamin

Monsieur Benjamin has ushered a new wave of French restaurants in the past few years. The snappy black-and-white bistro drops unapologetically rich dishes, like oeufs mayonnaise, crispy frog legs, bone marrow, and seafood sausage. Make no mistake, this is a Corey Lee restaurant, and it’s only deceptively casual. Stocks and sauces are slow simmered, aprons starched, herbs arranged with tweezers, and everything is impeccable.

Monsieur Benjamin

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Absinthe

It’s not just the opera crowd that pushes into Absinthe, still dazzling after 20 years. Step into the warm and welcoming brasserie, and belly up to the bar for craft cocktails and a croque. Or make a reservation and sit down to griddled country paté, steak tartare, French onion soup gratinée, and coq au vin.

Absinthe

Petit Crenn

Petit Crenn

Dominique Crenn’s Hayes Valley restaurant evokes a specific sense of place, inspired by memories of the chef’s native Brittany, and the rustic cooking of her mother and grandmother. She pulls straight from the sea, from the opening oysters and gougères to the wood-fire fish tinged with smoke. The seven course prix fixe may not sound casual, but it’s definitely personal.

Petit Crenn

L'Ardoise

L’Ardoise

Tucked away in Duboce triangle, this sliver of a bistro is named after the chalkboard on the sidewalk, calling out the daily specials. Chef and owner Thierry Clement grew up near Sancerre, and stays close to the classics. Go when you’re craving comforting coq au vin or steak frites, or want to get cozy with a date.

L’Ardoise

Zazie

A wooden table of French food on decorative plates Zazie

Zazie is best known for brunch in the sunny back patio, with every type of eggs Benedict overflowing with hollandaise. But dinner is an unexpected pleasure, with generous portions, affordably priced. Inspired by the peasant food of Provence, dig into garden tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, and crispy duck legs and thick pork chops. Longtime owner Jennifer Bennett recently sold the restaurant, but fortunately, she’s handing over the keys to her existing team.

A wooden table of French food on decorative plates Zazie

Le P'tit Laurent

Cassoulet, baked brie, escargots, and more classics have occupied a charming home in Glen Park at Laurent Legendre’s neighborhood bistro since 2007. Venetian plaster walls covered in vintage French advertisements, a pressed tin ceiling, and attentive, old school service completes the transportive atmosphere.

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