Experience San Francisco’s Best French Bistro’s

Spending some time visiting San Francisco is a treat for anyone, with a city steeped in history, ethnic diversity, culture and more that is reflected in it’s restaurants. This isn’t the local town where you can run down to the local shopping center and grab a burger and fries at Macs, and you shouldn’t anyway. In this town, you have a choice of some of the finest restaurants in the world, and most offer fresh seafood from the sea, meats and poultry from organic farms and the like.

However, maybe you are on a fairly tight budget or maybe diet, or looking for a lunch or dinner choice with a different outlook, price and atmosphere? Today in many of our towns we are seeing the increase in the local “Bistro”, serving coffees, wines, fresh made soups and sandwiches and so much more. The atmosphere can be busy or peaceful, and usually filled with people hiding in their iPhones or Macs.

Just something special about relaxing for a coffee or glass of wine and café food in a great bits.

Just something special about relaxing for a coffee or glass of wine and café food in a great bits.



The thing is, you can have choices of sitting at bars, high stools at café tables, benches, and sometimes on a sofa or cushion. These cafes are relaxing as they should be, warm from the outside to the inside where you are always greeted, and you can feel the weight of the world come off your back. Sometimes you can find a good bistro right around the corner from that hotel of yours where you got the excellent rates.


Lets take a look at a few of the more popular French Bistro’s in Greater San Francisco hopefully give you some idea’s for your next visit.


L’ardoise Bistro is a delightfully warm environment located on Noe Street at the corner of Henry in downtown. They post their menu on a black chalkboard, which by the way is whet L’ardoise means in French. The owner Chef Clement was born in the French Alps and from early years in his fathers butcher shop, to perfecting his art in Paris, he opened the bistro in 2008.

Enjoying someones company (or not?) in a Bistro can be quite romantic.

Enjoying someones company (or not?) in a Bistro can be quite romantic.



The bistro offers you an excellent wine list to enjoy with your appetizers and or entrée, and the choices are just delightful. You can start with a bowl of fresh soup for $6, gourmet appetizers for under $12 and if you’re still hungry, how about Duck Leg Confit for $20? There’s more choices on the board, and you can surly enjoy your lunch or dinner for a great deal less than what you could run up elsewhere.

And nothing beats the atmosphere.


The next bistro we will look at is The Butler and the Chef Bistro located on South Park Street in San Francisco. Here’s a Bistro where I know you can satisfy you hunger without putting a hurt on your wallet. To begin with, they offer their Baguette Sandwiches with soup or salad for $15. Now these aren’t simple sandwiches, with choices like French Country pork paté, Duck rillettes, Wood smoked Salmon and French brie, taste buds will dance.

Fresh Organic Buckwheat Crêpes are under $18, with choices like Salmon, Prawns, ham and more and hot sandwiches offered at $14. Their breakfast menu will surly make you believe you are in Paris, and the pastry menu will confirm it. They also serve some outstanding Belgium beers, European wines by the glass or bottle, and if you want to get something from the menu for a picnic or back in your room, there’s take out too.

Isn't this "your sign"?

Isn’t this “your sign”?



Chez Maman-Potrero Bistro is the next on our list, offering choices in food that customers rave about. They are located on 18th Street neat the Missouri and Connecticut St. This is a small but truly a French restaurant, with nothing reminding you that you are in America. You may find a line and have a wait, maybe 10-15 minutes to get a seat, but it’s well worth the wait. The French Cuisine is nice and cozy, and perfect for a couple looking to enjoy their evening.


You can choose to sit at the bar or a table, while you study the menu over a glass of French wine. Fresh seafood is absolutely superb here, especially the garlic mussels. From the excellent French onion soup, to Fettuccini (I know, Italian in a French restaurant, but so very good), everything is warm, creamy and delicious.

As you scan the menu you’ll find that almost everything on it is $15 or less, with few exceptions. Even if you’re thinking of a burger, they have you’re back because they have one, and it comes with fries or salad for $11.

Finally lets look inside the South Park Café located at 108 South Park, downtown San Francisco. This café is one of those that if you were walking along the sidewalk and looked inside, chances are you would enter even for a glass of wine or cup of Joe. It’s warm, it’s pleasant looking and it looks like a bistro. As are most of the best California chefs Chef Ward Little did his time in France, ending up in the famous restaurant La Pyramide. The menu hangs on the wall here, and this food is on the same caliber, or better.

Many of our best chef's get their classical training in this town.

Many of our best chef’s get their classical training in this town.


There’s a limited lunch menu, served between 11:30 and 2:30, offering sups and sandwiches, from basic ham and cheese to Pork confit, for under $12. Soups and salads, and of course seafood, and nothing that will break the bank, and surly you would pay more at a fast food burger joint.

The dinner menu is the bomb! Appetizers including scallop pate and crab, “Pig Salad” (highly recommended”, saffron grilled sardines and more, all under $12.

You’ll be looking at Entrées under $30, including rack of lamb, homemade blood sausage, roast duck and other delicious competitors. For downtown San Francisco, eating this good, in a classically trained French Chef’s restaurant, could never happen at these prices, but it does.

Try the plate of linguini & fresh clams with a bottle of crisp Pinot Grigio, and see where the evening takes you?

Try the plate of linguini & fresh clams with a bottle of crisp Pinot Grigio, and see where the evening takes you?



These are only a few of the many Bistros’ in San Francisco, and we looked at the French Bistros. If one of these doesn’t get your attention, be sure to ask around, and you’ll surly get recommendations from locals. After all, it can and will save you in the process.


Gary’s Suggestions.

Take public transportations in San Francisco as much as possible, because driving is the pits!

Book your hotel as early as you can, and get your best rates on an excellent website

like http://www.cheaphotels.com. I do.



About storiesbygary

I am a Freelance Writer / Photographer, writing travel related articles for international magazines, blogs and websites and my own published books.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Budget Travel, Budget Vacation, California, cheap hotel, cheap vacation, family, restaurants, San Francisco, seafood, travel, travel with dogs, Travel With Gary, Uncategorized, Vacation, wine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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