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The best French restaurants in San Francisco

From classic Parisian-style cafés to temples of gastronomy, we round up the best French restaurants in the city

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Premshree Pillai
Moelleux au Chocolat at Café Claude

French restaurants

Jardinière

This beautiful, whimsically designed restaurant (it's meant to resemble an overturned champagne glass) is one of the best high-dollar special-occasion establishments in the city. Located a short walk from Davies Symphony Hall and the Opera House, it delivers a menu as opulent as the decor. Chef Traci Des Jardins continues to seek out the best local ingredients for a menu that features caviar, oysters, black truffles, duck breast confit, diver scallops, and bacon-wrapped rabbit. For an extra-special occasion, spring for the prix fixe menu with wine pairings—and the cheese course. The wine list includes an extensive selection of champagne and sparkling wines.

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Hayes Valley

La Folie

This is one of the few truly French restaurants that has never bowed to the whims of fashion. For 26 years, Chef Roland Passot has enjoyed a passionate following. Opt for the five- or seven-course tasting menus and you'll understand why: meticulously prepared updated classics such as frog legs with trumpet mushroom ragout and butter-poached lobster with carrot sauce. The Provençal decor and attentive staff add to the charm of this delightfully haute but not at all haughty establishment. The adjoining Green Room is a good option for intimate dining.

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Russian Hill

Café Claude

Café Claude is a perfect reincarnation of a Parisan boité set in a petite downtown alleyway with outdoor seating. The vision comes complete with live jazz and French café music, classic dishes such as niçoise salad, steak tartare, trout almondine, and duck confit, and just the right amount of l'attitude.

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Downtown

Butler & the Chef

This très French café on the corner of the little green oasis of South Park is always crowded with locals who queue for the fresh-made breakfast pastries, croque monsieurs, charcuterie and crępes. Tuck into pain au chocolat or sip a Pernod while chatting with Pierre, the amiable owner.

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SoMa

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