Best French Bistros in San Francisco

Tre chic
July 25, 2016
by Zagat Staff

Parisian-inspired picks with an extra bit of charm.

Bistro · Inner Richmond · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.5

Known for emerging from the kitchen to "greet his guests" , chef Philippe Gardelle demonstrates "equal parts charm and culinary skill" at this "welcoming" Inner Richmond "date spot" , serving "classic French bistro fare" in all its "bold, savory and creamy" "perfection" alongside "wonderful regional wines" ; most consider it a "great value" (the early-bird special in particular is "a steal" ), leaving the "cramped" conditions as the sole drawback.
French · The Castro · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.4

Channeling a "French bistro in Paris" , this "charming" place in the Castro offers "excellently prepared, beautifully plated" fare complemented by a "thoughtfully chosen, varied wine selection" ; despite the "closet" -size dimensions, the "amiable" service makes it "ideal for dates."
Fringale Restaurant
French · Mission Bay · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.4

Each "lovingly prepared" dish is "better than the one before" at this "classic" Gallic-Basque bistro in Mission Bay "that will delight even the pickiest" diner with its "bang for the price" and "fantastic" wine list; "snugly placed" tables in "small" quarters are trumped by "gracious" "French-speaking" staffers who enhance the "welcoming" vibe.
Mathilde French Bistro
French · SoMa · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.4

"A jewel tucked in SoMa" , this date-friendly bistro (formerly Le Charm) renders "superb" traditional French fare with Californian twists in a warm, European-style setting with a covered patio area; given the "reasonable" prices ( "especially the prix fixe" ), it's gained a following as a "neighborhood go-to."
Monsieur Benjamin
French · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

This Hayes Valley "hot spot" from Benu’s Corey Lee shows "huge attention to detail" in its "exceptional" updates of French bistro dishes, complemented by an "excellent wine list" and "wonderful service" in a "modern" , open-kitchen setting; true, it can be "pricey" , "packed" and "noisy" , but it's "perfect before the symphony, ballet or opera" – as long as you "book ahead."
French · Downtown · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.2

This "romantic" Downtown Cal-French is "what every cafe aspires to be" , offering "imaginative" fare in an "intimate" , bi-level setting that’s ideal for "good conversation" ; an "attentive" staff adds to the "delightful" experience, while late hours (till 1 AM Tuesday–Saturday) keep this "neighborhood gem" popular with night owls.
Bistro Aix
French · Marina District · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.2

This Marina "mainstay" is beloved as a "hidden gem" whose "delicious" Cal-Provençal fare (including a "mean burger" ) and "on-point" wines are served by a "helpful" crew in "rustic" surrounds; it's a "fave" for a "romantic date or small group of friends" , though some "prefer the back room where the decibel level's lower."
Le P'tit Laurent
French · Glen Park · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.2

"Big things" come in "little packages" at this Glen Park bistro "find" where "skilled" host-owner Laurent and his "capable staff" deliver "excellent" classic French fare and a "nice selection of wine" in a "tiny-triangle" of a setting; fans also say you "can't beat" the frequently changing prix fixe menu during the week.