Today's Groupon sends your taste buds across the Atlantic to the South of France aboard a restaurant-ship. For just $10, you get $25 worth of food and drink at one of the best French restaurants in the Bay Area: La Provence, located at 1001 Guerrero St. in the Mission District.
When owner Richard Righton and Executive Chef Wendi Mentink opened Bidwell Street Bistro, they wanted to stay true to the definition of bistro by creating an intimate yet unpretentious spot. To perfect the bistro vibe, they drenched the walls in a shade of deep cream, stacked bottles of wine behind the granite-topped bar, and added a shady patio where jazz music entertains guests on Thursdays. Wendi designed a menu that ranges from sandwiches and Angus burgers served with pommes frites to market-fresh fish and new york strip steaks smothered in garlic butter. To complement meals, they filled the wine list with a sizeable array of French and Californian bottles.
Their efforts paid off. In 2011, Bidwell Street Bistro was voted second favorite overall restaurant and most romantic restaurant by the readers of Style. The spot also won the 2012 Best French award from CityVoter and a Best Smile award from a confused yearbook committee.
Chef Vincent Paul Alexander adorns time-tested Californian fare with Francophile flourishes to fashion a menu of refined dishes. Escargot baked in garlic herb butter and topped with crisp filo dough ($8) rev appetite engines, launching taste buds down a roast pork tenderloin road paved with sweet almond polenta, applewood bacon, and port wine demi glace ($21). Chocolate-dipped strawberries accompany house specialties, providing dulcet encouragement like a high-five from Julia Child. The tender beef wellington's delicate ecosystem is stuffed with foie gras butter and cloaked in a canopy of wild mushroom duxelles, puff pastry, and truffle madeira sauce ($34). Fresh ginger encrusts the exterior of delicately seared ahi tuna, which relaxes on a hammock of baby greens and horseradish mashed potatoes while sipping a garnish of soy lime vinaigrette ($29) and soliciting grateful postcards to Atlantis.
Although his menus showcase elevated French cuisine, Bistro Michel's Chef Scott strives to retain the classic neighborhood appeal of traditional French bistros. Whether he's crafting crab-cake benedict, the risotto of the day, or his simple grab-and-go sandwiches, he prepares fresh local ingredients with French techniques. Paired with a wide selection of wines, these simple dishes fill the dining room's white-clothed tables alongside plates of fresh oysters and mussels from the raw bar. One writer from Norcal magazine heralds the friendly staff's willingness to educate guests about each dish on the menu and praises the artisan cheese plate as "out of this world."
Bistro Michel is so dedicated to French culture that it often hosts French language lessons, allowing patrons to finally speak to soup spoons in their native tongue. The restaurant also sometimes moonlights as an art gallery, featuring local artists' sketches and paintings.
Though Crepe Escape stays open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., the café never stops serving breakfast. Chefs blend gourmet ingredients to concoct unique takes on classic morning-time eats, such as the crab cake Florentine version of eggs benedict or stacks of waffles topped with fruit a dollop of whipped cream. Egg-based crepes sate sweet and savory teeth with a bevy of filling options from strawberries to curried chicken. For those who adhere to a strict breakfast regimen of one grapefruit and one boiled marshmallow, the café also dishes up light salads, sandwiches, and pastas. Crepe Escape's espresso bar and wine list provide drinks that pair pleasantly with any dish or time of day.