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Le Croque-off

rworange Jan 19, 2009 01:01 PM

A few months ago I started a Croque Monsieur crawl because I wanted to see what made a good one.

A little way through, I switched to the Croque Madame because I thought it would add another layer of interest … how the egg was handled.

Due to the richness of a croque … egg … butter … sauce …cheese … I needed to pace myself or run the risk of croque-ing.

The crawl continues. I figured I’d post once I made it to Bouchon, guessing they would make a good version. Well, yes … but … so far no one has been perfect. I have no favorite yet.

There are components of each that would go into making my perfect croque … the ham from either Post Meridian or Cafe Saint Honore, the egg from Le Garage, the oozy cheese and the nicely browned béchamel from Rendez-vous Café, the bread and lightness from Bouchon.

If I had to choose one, it might be Rendez-vous in Albany of all places. It was the best whole rather than the components … good value, oozy cheese, lots of grilled ham, the béchamel nicely browned and a little salad to make a complete lunch. It wasn’t the fanciest but it was satisfying and nicely made.

Anyway, I haven’t had a croque in SF yet. I’m hoping to get some suggestions for greatness there … or anywhere. I wasn’t going to include Cafe Saint Honore’s but after reading about the sandwich, it qualifies.

Croque monsieur and variations

Here’s what I’ve tried to date in no particular order

Le Croque-off un: Yountville – Bouchon

Le Croque-off deux: Sausalito – Le Garage

Le Croque-off trios: Albany – Rendezvous Café

Le Croque-off quatre: - Post Meridian

Cafe Saint Honore

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  1. uhockey RE: rworange Jan 19, 2009 01:33 PM

    Very cool idea, will follow along.

    1. anyhow RE: rworange Jan 19, 2009 02:09 PM

      If your crawl gets to Los Gatos, I suggest Fleur de Cocoa.


      Please keep us updated.

      1. Scott M RE: rworange Jan 19, 2009 04:36 PM

        SF corque: Cafe de la Presse

        1 Reply
        1. re: Scott M
          Splendid Wine Snob RE: Scott M Oct 20, 2009 10:26 AM

          The croque monsieur and madame my partner and I had at Cafe de la Presse this past July were both exceptionally executed.


        2. Glencora RE: rworange Jan 19, 2009 07:52 PM

          I assume you're going to La Note?

          1. j
            Jeff RE: rworange Jan 20, 2009 12:33 PM

            In SF, I recall enjoying the croque at Cafe Claude.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jeff
              sugartoof RE: Jeff Feb 25, 2009 01:14 AM

              Yup, that's probably the best I've had in the city. Went back and it was more like eating a mushy ham sandwich, so I guess there are off days with it. There are a couple other interesting sounding french places within the area, like Cafe Bastille.

              Chez Maman, and Chez Papa might be worth a try if you're a fan of their places.

            2. mmerino RE: rworange Jan 20, 2009 01:12 PM

              I had one a few months back at Local Kitchen and Wine. It was the best I have ever eaten, even compared to ones I 'et in France. The bread held up without being too crunchy or dry, the cheese was magically fluffy but super rich, the egg, gorgeous. I loved it. The sample menu says Serrano ham but when I had it it was regular. Try it and let me know.

              Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant
              330 1st Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

              1 Reply
              1. re: mmerino
                Cicely RE: mmerino Jan 21, 2009 09:15 AM

                I just had the croque at Local last weekend. It was good, although I don't remember the presence of bechamel. Bread was quite light. The addition of an egg makes it a croque madame, which I didn't do. I'm not sure about the ham... sorry for the lack of detail, but our service was (nice but) atrociously incompetent... one guy at our table had to order coffee three times before it arrived, and about 1/2 hour elapsed between the time the first entree hit the table (roasted crab special) and the arrival of my croque monsieur. So I was really, really hungry! And the CM came without its assigned side of fries, which took another 20 minutes to materialize. It was a weekend lunch, but not crowded at all... plenty of staff floating around. However, I enjoyed a weekend lunch there on another occasion, without the service snafus.

                Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant
                330 1st Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

              2. p
                peterme RE: rworange Jan 24, 2009 06:03 PM

                I can't say I'm a croque aficionado, but we've got two places in South Park that serve them, the South Park Cafe and Butler and the Chef. I prefer Butler's -- very rich and tasty. It can be a bit much for lunch, so I only eat it occasionally. But always love it when I do.

                Butler & the Chef Bistro
                155 S Park St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                South Park Cafe
                108 South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107

                1. rworange RE: rworange Jan 31, 2009 08:53 AM

                  Another day another croque ... I declare Chloe's the winner to date ... perfect

                  Le Croque-off cinq: Santa Rosa – Chloe's French Café … We have a winner

                  1. e
                    ernie in berkeley RE: rworange Feb 8, 2009 01:02 PM

                    Eccolo has changed their recipe. What was once basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich is now a true croque monsieur with lots of bechamel and the cheese on top instead of inside. It's quite good, but...twelve bucks.

                    1. s
                      sydthekyd RE: rworange Feb 9, 2009 09:58 AM

                      Have you tried it at Absinthe in SF?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sydthekyd
                        rworange RE: sydthekyd Feb 9, 2009 10:51 PM

                        So far, only what is in the list. I'll keep Absinthe in mind. Thanks. Never have been there.

                      2. i
                        IlanaW RE: rworange Feb 24, 2009 11:12 AM

                        Hi RW!

                        You sound as if you have almost reached your goal of "Croque-ing out." May I suggest for your next "trail" "Hachis Parmentier."
                        (POTATO PUREE , SAUTEED GROUND BEEF AND CHEESE CASSEROLE). They do a nice one at Cafe Bastille (Belden Alley). Basically, it's like a French version of Shepherd's Pie, only with cheese on top (nicely browned and crispy, please). Like your "croques," it is a common and quintessential French dish and found in many places. I will be interested to hear your results. The envelope, please...


                        1. uhockey RE: rworange Feb 24, 2009 01:12 PM

                          On my trip to SF I tried the Croque at Bouchon, Boulangerie, and The Butler and the Chef. While all 3 were good, I'd give the nod to the Butler....truly a fantastic representation. I'll be writing reviews of all 3 places eventually, but even without egg (Monsieur at Butler vs. Madame at Bouchon) it was more rich in flavor yet equally light in texture.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: uhockey
                            rworange RE: uhockey Mar 3, 2009 06:51 PM

                            I already thanked you for this tip in another thread

                            The croque at the Butler and the Chef just puts all of these to shame. It is in a totally different class. It is going to be hard for anyone to beat this. Best croque ... Butler ... no contest ... absolutely no contest.

                            1. re: rworange
                              uhockey RE: rworange Mar 4, 2009 12:51 AM

                              Glad I know SOMETHING about dining. :-)

                              1. re: rworange
                                peterme RE: rworange Mar 4, 2009 12:05 PM

                                So, you know, I feel just a little better about myself, I mentioned Butler and The Chef (though not with such a fulsome description) in my comment to this thread on January 24.
                                Just sayin'.

                                1. re: peterme
                                  rworange RE: peterme Mar 4, 2009 08:03 PM

                                  Ah, I knew someone else mentioned it. I have been keeping all the suggestions on my to-try list. Local Kitchen moved lower in the list because the chef left sometime after it was suggested .

                                  1. re: rworange
                                    uhockey RE: rworange Apr 12, 2009 04:40 PM

                                    Any new Croque's RWO?

                                    1. re: uhockey
                                      rworange RE: uhockey Apr 12, 2009 05:32 PM

                                      Taking time off for Easter.Too much ham and eggs this month.

                            2. c
                              cakebaker RE: rworange Apr 26, 2009 09:35 PM

                              The best croque I've found so far is at Zazie on Cole st. in the City.

                              941 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cakebaker
                                stanbee RE: cakebaker Apr 27, 2009 01:34 AM

                                Had a great one for brunch at Just for You, Dogpatch, SF.

                              2. pamf RE: rworange Oct 19, 2009 10:08 PM

                                Just bumping this thread because I sampled a great one at Gamine today.

                                I didn't even order it, I had their burger, which is great as well.

                                My generous dining companion had the croque and I was lucky enough to get a bite.

                                It is my perfect example of what I am lookiing for in a Croque Monsieur. Great bread, creamy bechamel and crispy cheese on top.

                                I've been disappointed at a few places where the croque was just a grilled cheese. I can't wait to go back for one of my own.

                                The burger was quite good too. We also shared the warm frissee salad with duck confit (and bacon0. Everything was delicious.

                                In the middle of lunch the rain started (a downpour) and the staff was nice enough to walk out and find us a cab.

                                Lovely little bistro. I wish I lived nearby because I would be here all the time,

                                1. dhoffman1421 RE: rworange Oct 20, 2009 02:52 PM

                                  My SIL had the Crooque Madame at Artisan Bistro in Lafayette. The whole meal was fabulous, everyone enjoyed it.

                                  1. rworange RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 09:50 AM

                                    It has been awhile since I’ve taken up the croque crawl, inadvertently re-starting at La Bedaine. I was looking for financiers. There were only meringues and I wanted to try something new … voila… Le croque

                                    Here’s the current list in one place .

                                    Le Croque-off un: Yountville – Bouchon

                                    Le Croque-off deux: Sausalito – Le Garage

                                    Le Croque-off trios: Albany – Rendezvous Café

                                    Le Croque-off quatre: - Post Meridian

                                    Le Croque-off cinq: Santa Rosa – Chloe's French Café … We have a winner

                                    The Butler and the Chef – six (possible change to restaurant due to expansion)

                                    Le Croque-off sept (7) Berkeley - La Bedaine

                                    Cafe Saint Honore (closed)

                                    Places where someone in this thread mentioned and recommend the croque. They are on my list to try.

                                    Absinthe, SF
                                    Artisan Bistro in Lafayette
                                    Cafe Claude. SF
                                    Cafe de la Presse, SF
                                    Fleur de Cocoa, Los Gatos
                                    Just for You, Dogpatch, SF
                                    Gamine, SF
                                    La Note, SF
                                    Local Kitchen, SF
                                    South Park Café, SF
                                    Zazie on Cole, SF

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: rworange
                                      SteveG RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 09:56 AM

                                      I responded somewhere else, but the Croque at Fleur de Cocoa was on soggy bread with sub-par ham. I think the bechamel was poured over the top and wasn't browned or anything. Probably the worst of around 10 versions I've had in my life.

                                      I really like the version at Arlequin To Go, next to Absinthe on Hayes street. It also has a nice back yard garden if you feel like eating outdoors.

                                      1. re: rworange
                                        uhockey RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 10:14 AM

                                        I just posed the Butler version as one of my 10 favorite tastes of SF in 2009. :-)

                                        1. re: uhockey
                                          rworange RE: uhockey Jan 12, 2010 11:11 AM

                                          I saw that. Glad you did. I meant to put it on mine but forgot. I'm a bit apprehensive though. I guess you may have seen my post with an inquiry that there may be changes at Butler. Their website is under construction with an announcement that they are opening new locations and are looking for investors. That just gives me ... brrrrr. I hope all will be well. Butler has had its ups and downs over the years and I never would have re-tried it and fell in love with it until your post about the croque

                                          1. re: rworange
                                            roster RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 11:23 AM

                                            I'll have to try a few on this list.
                                            The Boulange de Polk, Cole (Bay Bread) people do a decent job I thought.
                                            I have had the one at Tartine, which I did not find as rich and velvety, although I like the pickled carrots they serve with it at Tartine.

                                            1. re: rworange
                                              sugartoof RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 11:54 AM

                                              I looked them up on the web after your first review, and they had the goofy incomplete website even then. It put me off too, but somehow fit the open kitchen. I was actually surprised the place was as finished/refined as it was, considering.

                                              I'm a huge Croque fan but I think I would make the quiche a priority there instead.
                                              My croque was over creamed, to the point of a mushy custard, and the cheese was more like a layer off souffle. I don't normally want to eat a croque with fork and knife, but maybe that's the authentic way. It's a fine trade off from feeling like you're being tricked into eating a ham sandwich.

                                              1. re: rworange
                                                uhockey RE: rworange Jan 12, 2010 12:01 PM

                                                Glad to have found it - I haven't had a great croque since I was in San Franciso.

                                          2. s
                                            stanbee RE: rworange Jan 19, 2010 10:28 PM

                                            Try the Monsieur at "Just for You". Dogpatch SF.

                                            1. o
                                              oaktowngirl RE: rworange Jan 20, 2010 03:28 PM

                                              Lukas Taproom in Oakland has a brunch special of a Croque Madame that I was very happy with. Acme pain de mie, ham, gruyere with bechamel and two eggs on top. (They also have a Reuben Benedict that we are afraid to try.)

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