A few weeks ago Jack and went to see Finding Neverland at the Orpheum Theatre. We are members of SHN, the theatrical production company in San Francisco that hosts professional national tours and pre-Broadway engagements of various plays and musicals (Hamilton starts this week!) We typically see these shows on Thursday nights, which means that our pre-show meals tend to be rushed at a restaurant near Civic Center or Union Square. However, for this show, I was able to exchange our tickets for a Saturday evening performance, giving us more time for a leisurely dinner at a restaurant further from the theater.
We opted to get dinner at Frances in the Castro, a few blocks from Mission Dolores Park. Frances was opened by chef Melissa Perello in 2009 and it has received numerous accolades in the years since, including a Michelin star from 2011-2013. The restaurant opened right around the time Jack and I were learning to appreciate seasonal, quality food by dining out at different restaurants around the city, and Frances quickly became one of our favorite spots in San Francisco. So, when we moved to the Castro neighborhood in 2014, we were thrilled to call Frances our “neighborhood joint.”
As far as restaurants go, Frances is pure class. The decor is elegant and minimal (I wish I could get my apartment to look like that!) The service is always professional and efficient, and I recognize a lot of the waiters as having worked there for years. The food is creative yet classic, made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and always tasty.
We started with a few of the “Bouchées” (French for “bites”). Since Frances opened, they have served the Bacon Beignets and Chickpea Fritters, and Jack and I always have a hard time deciding which one to order. They are both fried and delicious, so getting both feels a bit too gluttonous. This time we opted for the beignets: Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple chive crème fraîche. They were crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and packed full of flavor. I could have eaten ten more!
We also ordered the Smokey Poached Mt. Lassen Trout served with charred beet, crème fraîche, and mustard. This was another “Bouchée, ” so it was small in size. It was light and flavorful, a nice dish to accompany the rich beignets.
We shared the Linguini and Parmesan Brodo with fresh sausage, Castelvetrano olives, and broccoli rabe. This was the standout dish of the night: the homemade noodles were served steaming hot with salty olives (my favorite!), hearty sausage, and crisp broccoli rabe, with fresh grated cheese on top. It was a delicious bowl of comfort food.
Jack ordered the Five-Dot Ranch Bavette Steak with celeriac, broccolini, and miso oyster mushrooms for his entrée. The steak at Frances is always a hit. They often have a really flavorful cut of meat on the menu (bavette or hanger), which I much prefer to filet mignon. And they usually serve the steak with fairly traditional sides, usually some type of green vegetable, a starchy vegetable, and a simple pan sauce packed with umami. This is one of my favorite steaks in the city.
I opted for the Wild Striped Bass with Riso Nero Venere (black rice), shiitake, and cilantro ginger chimichurri for my entrée. The bass was cooked perfectly medium-rare, with nice crispy skin. I’m a sucker for any herby sauce like pesto or chimichurri, and this one paired well with the fish and veggies. And the spring-like presentation couldn’t have been more beautiful! What a delightful dish.
As if we didn’t have enough food, we ordered a side of the Roasted Cauliflower Tabbouleh with fried farro, feta, golden raisins, and Za’atar. This was another standout dish. It was insanely delicious. My tummy can’t handle too much cauliflower, so I had just a couple bites, but it was so tasty, I could have eaten the whole thing. The texture of the crispy cauliflower and fried farro, the pungent flavor of the feta and Za’atar spices, and the sweetness of the raisins – this dish was unique and a total winner.
Frances is famous for their Lumberjack Cake with Comice pear, Medjool date, coconut, and maple walnut ice cream. We’ve had the Lumberjack Cake on several occasions, so we opted for something different this time: Chocolate “Monkey Bread” with cocoa caramel, hazelnut, and praline ice cream. It was quite good, but a bit sweet for me – if you’ve read my other posts, you know that I typically don’t care for chocolate desserts in restaurants (they tend to be too rich for my taste). Next time I’ll try the Lunberjack Cake again – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Once again we were wowed by Frances. Everything we ordered was incredibly tasty, with a few dishes really knocking it out of the park. This restaurant is perfect for a special occasion, while still having an unpretentious, neighborhoody vibe. I’m eager to get back soon to have the Chickpea Fritters and Lumberjack Cake.
Frances: www.frances-sf.com Address: 3870 17th Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107 Phone: 415-621-3870 Hours: Tues-Thurs, Sun 5-10pm; Fri-Sat 5-10:30; closed Mondays. Corkage $25 (more if multiple bottles 750ml brought). No valet parking. Reservations via phone or OpenTable.