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Jul 15, 2012 04:00 PM

Low key & affordable French bistro in SF Bay area similar to Cafe Presse in Seattle?

Hey all,

So I've looked around but no luck so far, and yes I am new to the area still. i am enjoying discovering SF!! Now for my quest:

I would really like to find a low key French/European style bistro (open to East and South Bay as well), just a simple menu with good coffee, glass of wine or pastis, a croque madame, simple frites, a few entrees preferably with seafood/veg options, maybe just a dessert or two? Nothing to break the bank, as I am looking for a place to hang out at often!

When I lived in Seattle I was a regular at Cafe Presse (on Cap Hill), smaller venue with big screens showing soccer games on weekends, and the menu wasn't large at all. For me, it's more of an ambiance thing, I would like to find a place to go for drinks and something small to eat, have a meeting with someone, or just be able to read a newspaper while having a simple brunch on my own during the weekend.

Any suggestions for a transplant?

Much appreciated, and keep up the excellent posts!!


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    1. re: GH1618

      Thank you GH, forgot to mention I'd avoid the DT, FD areas as it's difficult to chill out with all those tourists :) But their menu is wonderful.

    2. Gamine might fit the bill for you. Small, cozy, value-priced, Gallic ambience but with friendlier staff.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thank you Melanie - this one sounds great! It's a challenge to find cozy but not too fancy, and laid back is my preferred venue. Will definitely check it out!

        1. re: craigseattle

          Another is Baker Street Bistro, which you might overlook due to the non-French name. You'll find many posts over the last decade if you search. And if you're driving, it's not as hard to find a parking space near the Presidio.

          Edited to add: Chouchou

          A few years ago 'hounds were scouring the City hunting for the best croque madame/monsieur, maybe you'll revive that search.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Great idea! For anyone else who's looking for the same info, this is the link

            let me know if it's the right one - appreciate it Melanie :)

            1. re: craigseattle

              Yep, that's a good one, plus the link to another thread provided, and there are others, I believe. That gives you a good overview of many of the City's casual French cafes/bistros.

      2. I love Le Zinc in Noe Valley. I've never been there for dinner, but I've dropped in randomly during the day and always have a good experience. It's definitely comfortable and laid-back, but I think the service is great. They also have a back patio, but I've never been out there since I have a corner table I love.

        1. In the east bay, the place i think that's the closest to what you're looking for is Le Bateau Ivre on Telegraph in Berkeley.

          In San Francisco I used to think of Le Charm being like what you described. I haven't been there in years though and they might have raised their prices as they've gradually become more popular.

          1 Reply
          1. re: calumin

            I love le Charm and think that they have the best bistro food in the Bay Area (and risotto to die for despite the dish being vegetarian). That being said, at least weekend dinners are busy and full and not a place to read a newspaper.

          2. Coffee, drinks, croque-madame, hang out, read the paper, sounds more like a cafe than a bistro.

            Rouge et Blanc on Grant is good for that. Great people watching. Cafe de le Presse next door, too, though sometimes it's so full you can't get a seat.

            Cafe Bastille is a major hangout for French expats. Food could be better.