It’s a well known fact that San Francisco has amazing food.
It’s a well known fact amongst my friends that I love following food blogs and local sites to find out about the newest and best restaurants in San Francisco.
So it was no surprise that I had a lot of restaurants on my bucket list.
This meant that I ate absolutely amazing food my last couple months in SF. Thank you to my friends and family who accompanied me to these restaurants, I hope you enjoyed them too (I’m pretty sure you did). To avoid writing a multiple page food post, or turning my blog into a restaurant review site, I’m just going to pick two highlights to add to my bucket list section here. When people ask me about the restaurants that I went to they usually want my top choices anyway, so here they are: Rich Table and Frances.
Just by chance, I ate at both of these restaurants with the same friend in the same weekend. After dinner Sunday we did a plate by plate breakdown to try to decide which one we liked more. I’ll give you those results at the end.
Rich Table has been in the news constantly since it opened. It’s one of those places that is known to have a crazy wait but is entirely worth it. So imagine my surprise when on a Friday night at 7:30, me and two friends decided to just walk in and see what happened, and were seated at the corner of the bar within 5 minutes. Personally I love sitting at the bar, and the corner was perfect for a group of three.
We started with the bread – seriously amazing, and I’m not one to usually eat the bread at a big dinner and I wanted more – then the sardine chips and porcini doughnuts with raclette sauce. The sardine chips are pretty famous, and honestly, they’re strange. There is actually a sardine in a chip. But the porcini doughnuts might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Savory and warm and airy, they were so satisfying and the sauce was a perfect complement.
We had a main of pasta with a side of asparagus and one more thing that I can’t remember, I just remember that the bartender told us we might need one more dish and by the end of the meal we decided that wasn’t necessary and we could’ve just stuck with the pasta and asparagus. But the asparagus was fantastic. Our friend had the steak which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. We washed all this down with cocktails and wine.
Everything was well done and the flavors worked so well together, but it definitely lives up to its name – it is rich food. We stumbled out so full but happy, knowing that we had experienced a San Francisco gem of a restaurant. Impressive and tasty, I recommend you go.
I was shocked to hear that some people don’t know Frances. It has consistently been named among the top restaurants in the city on lists like Eater’s 38 Essential SF Restaurants and Bauer’s Top 100 in the Chronicle. It is also known for being incredibly hard to get into. Now that I’ve eaten there I understand and appreciate why – the wait here is due to an intimate size and unrushed experience, which were part of the reason we loved dining here so much.
We booked a reservation about a month out on a Sunday at 5:30. We were there until 8. Located in a small space on 17th Street, Frances has a neighborhood feel about it. It is the perfect place to pass an evening catching up with a friend over a carafe of wine. Oh the wine deal – house red or white (the red was great), you’re charged by the amount you drink, which is measured on the carafe. It has to be one of the most reasonable wine deals I’ve ever had at a nice dinner.
Again we ordered small plates over a few courses. Josey Baker bread, yes please. (I swear that’s not normally me but these restaurants just have such good bread!) Applewood smoked bacon beignets – how could you possibly not order that? They were very rich, and good, but had the unfortunate timing of being paired with and completely overshadowed by the duck liver mousse. I have never ordered duck liver mousse before but for some reason this seemed like the place to get it. Definitely the right decision. Like the porcini doughnuts at Rich Table, the duck liver mousse was the highlight of Frances and one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Smooth and flavorful, we were eating it by itself after we ran out of the crostini it came with.
We had another pasta, squid ink this time. Usually squid ink pasta is a favorite and this one was good, but it fell short in comparison to the rest of this round: an incredible, perfectly cooked steak and side of seasoned carrots. Finishing out the meal, we didn’t mean to get dessert until we saw them pour chocolate sauce over one at the table next to us. We just had to. And it was another highlight.
After all of that, we again left satisfied and stuffed. I didn’t move from the couch for a while after this meal, but every bite was worth it. It is no wonder that a reservation at Frances is so hard to come by. It had the feel of a San Francisco staple that will only continue to impress its visitors with its food and its atmosphere.
As I promised, dish by dish comparison:
- Bread – this is really hard, but the edge went to Rich Table
- Porcini doughnuts vs Beignets – definitely Rich Table’s doughnuts
- Sardine chips vs Duck liver mousse – hands down Frances’ mousse
- Grilled asparagus vs Carrots – this was a close one, but the edge went to Rich Table’s asparagus (although full disclosure I like asparagus more in general)
- Pasta main vs Squid ink pasta – I think we called this a draw: both good dishes, neither the best dish of the night
- Dish I forgot vs Steak – duh, Frances’ steak
- Bonus to Frances for dessert
In the end they come out pretty even, which is why I recommend both. When doing this breakdown, my friend and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but we both wanted to give the edge to Frances. The environment combined with the solidly delicious food made us want to go back, as soon as we could possibly fit more food in our stomachs.
(Some people may have noticed that Frances was not on my bucket list snapshot above. It was originally on the list, but since I had already planned this dinner with a friend I took it off before I shared the spreadsheet so people wouldn’t sign up for something that was already figured out. This is why it still counts as being on the bucket list.)