The French-iest Spots in the SF Bay Area
When I met my now-husband — a Parisian transplant living in San Francisco — I thought I'd found a rare gem: a Frenchman in America. Quelle chance! But through him, I discovered a ridiculous amount of French expats living in the Bay Area. There are literally thousands of them in SF alone, you just have to know where to look.
So, if you're a Francophile craving some Euro vibes, are looking to practice your French, or maybe just trying to find that 'rare bird' of a French husband (c'est possible!), here are my top spots in the SF Bay Area that capture the Frenchy vibe, and helped fuel my obsession with moving to Paris:
1) Ordinaire (Oakland) - Ordinaire feels like a gift from the French hipster wino gods. The vibe is oh-so bobo Parisian, and I love it. The name translates roughly to "everyday" (as in, casual everyday wine), though they specialize in less-than-ordinary and wonderfully funky "natural wines". Here, you'll see Oakland artsy types sipping wine on school desks-turned-bar-seats at all hours of the day (they open at noon), and the occasional French bartender or winemaker passing through.
2) Terroir Natural Wine Bar & Merchant (SF) — one of the pioneers of the Bay Area natural wine scene, Terroir is owned by a couple of Frenchies who have successfully imported the laid-back, come-drink-wine-at-any-time-of-day vibe. The space is dark, rustic, and comfy...like drinking wine in a living room that is way cooler than your own (complete with turntable). And the menu is simple: cheese, charcuterie, and wine. Lots of wine.
3) Le Comptoir (San Rafael) — Bustling European vibes with a long bar and big windows, red decor accents, and French-speaking servers. Le Comptoir ("the counter") is casual but sexy, and the menu is almost cliche in it's classic French-ness: moules mariniere, beef tartar, grilled duck breast and THE BEST burger (served with gruyere, bacon and carmelized onions on a brioche bun). Le burger... l’amour. Be sure to check out the epicerie (marketplace) next door, with products you can usually only find in France.
4) Marlowe (San Francisco) — A popular spot for business lunch meetings or, if you're me, day drinking rosé and pretending you're on vacation. Marlowe oozes Parisian charm, from the self-proclaimed "meat-centric" menu to the vintage tiled floors and cozy bistro tables. The Poulet "Vert" with a glass of white wine is lunchtime perfection.
5) Bar Crenn (San Francisco) — The much-anticipated sister restaurant to Atelier Crenn (from celeb chef and Michelin Guide darling, Dominique Crenn). They're going for the 1930s Paris salon atmosphere and I'd say they nailed it. Lots of tasteful bling and gilded antique furniture make this a fun place to sip something French and feel unabashedly fancy. Pro tip: you can reserve a bar stool online with a $35 deposit, which goes towards your tab. Too easy!
6) Amelie (San Francisco) - Any place with "bar a vin" in the title is a good start for chasing those francophile dreams. Chic, sultry, and packed with 'ready-to-mingle' types, Amelie has a reliably upbeat energy. From the wine-bottle light fixtures to giant cheese platters that come with a bottomless canvas sack of bread, it's a flirty spot for a ladies night or romantic tete a tete.
7) Vive La Tarte (San Francisco) - The croissants are on par with the best pastries in France. Crispy, buttery, decadent perfection — though they add some creative flair with flavors like Key Lime Pie and Peaches & Cream. A must-visit if you shun calorie-counting (like the French do).
8) Jaunita & Maude (Albany) - This is where my husband and I decided to move to France, and he likes to refer to the decision as the 'Jaunita & Maude Accord' (cute, non?). The moral of the story: I have my best ideas while drinking wine, and this is a charming venue for said drinking. The minimalist ambiance makes the space feel like a mid-century modern bistro, with tiny tables and pretty small plates. They may not be going for the French vibe, but they're nailing it nonetheless.
8) Brittany Crepes (Berkeley) – Not the hippest spot in terms of ambiance, but if you’re looking for authentic, Brittany-style galettes, this place is the real deal. The blue & white seaside-themed decor and Normandy hard cider sets the tone, and the crispy galettes filled with decadent ingredients like leek confit, brie, and runny egg are a simple masterpiece.
9) Maison Bleue (Berkeley) — I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite sunny Saturday morning spot to enjoy a cafe au lait and breakfast galette filled with scrambled egg, gruyere, and onion confit (all for under $10, mind you). Crepes are their mainstay, but they also bake fresh pastries and serve wine, beer and cider at any hour of the day. Now that's living la vie francaise!
Have a favorite French spot in the Bay Area? Do tell!