French Market Grille, a charming sister restaurant to downtown San Diego's Hexagone, celebrates the rich culinary heritage of France with an elegant spread of braised meats, local market vegetables, Mediterranean seafood, and tasty French and Californian wines. The impressive bill of fare treats guests to bistro lunches of salad niçoise and eggplant sandwiches, dinners of roasted rack of lamb and coq au vin, and desserts of crème brulée and apple tarte tatin. It also delights with its bouillabaisse—a fish stew that the San Diego Union Tribune once called “too perfect to pass up.”
Guests sip Beaujolais amid the flowers and sunshine of the brick-walled patio or curl up to the interior's crackling fireplace for a romantic dinner date or even more romantic business lunch.
The WineSellar and Brasserie brings together a bold bistro bill of fare to accompany its versatile vino cellar. Atop white tablecloths, artfully arranged plates of contemporary French lunch and dinner offerings rest, ready for oral adoption. Palate patrons may initiate noshing with The WineSellar's tuna tartare coupled with avocado, dijon-mustard-seed quenelle, and a mascarpone chantilly ($15) or by sipping on the butternut-squash soup ($9 for a bowl), harvested from the rare butter-seed bush and squashed with French tennis racquets.
Though it’s firmly planted in San Diego soil, Gourmet on 5th mimics the epicurean traiteur shops that pepper European roadsides. The store empowers its visitors to eat healthy, and at the same time helps them do so without having to dawdle over a hot stove or buy out a local vegetable farm. Brimming with French influence, Gourmet on 5th’s blackboard menu changes seasonally. It features full meals, including lamb shanks, duck confit, and coq au vin. But the store also has nutritious bites for on-the-move munchers, such as crepes and signature sandwiches, along with energizing drinks, such as espresso concoctions and exotic teas.
Hexagone takes its name from France's distinctive six-sided shape, celebrating its equally distinctive cuisine with a menu that seamlessly blends treasured traditions with contemporary influences. Diners dig their forks into tender beef bourguignon and sirloin, Muscovy duck, and seabass draped in rich bearnaise sauce and vegetable ragout. Appetizers and bistro lunches whet palates with morsels of mushroom ravioli, salad nicoise, escargot, and mussels mariniere elegantly plated with leafy garnish.
Fine French and Californian wines pair with any meal. The décor cultivates a refined atmosphere, with its linen-clad tables, sheer, flowing drapes that allow sunlight to filter through, and walls clad in French black-light posters.
Whether diners are hungry for lunch or craving some sweets, La Crepe Fraiche is ready to make them happy. The cafe's crepes come in two varieties: savory (ham and cheese, apple sausage) and sweet (chocolate ganache, strawberries and whipped cream). The bakery also makes a mean cupcake in flavors such as mocha and oreo. As if all that weren't enough of a treat, they even serve organic frozen yogurt topped with house-made vanilla whipped cream.
Under the Southern French tutelage of head chef and owner Philippe Verpiand, risottos dance around seared duck, roasted fish, and veal on the menu. Inaugurate a gourmet dinner with savory pommes frites in truffle oil and Parmesan ($6) or seared duck foie gras with pineapple and red-bell-pepper chutney ($19). (Verpiand's foie gras, a cold variety made by poaching, won a prestigious cooking competition in 2005.) The San Diego Union-Tribune recommends Cavaillon's risotto ($21 for English peas, beech mushrooms, and asparagus; $26 for seared scallops, red beet, and pickled butternut squash), which is "quite rich, but then those amazing flavors entice you to take another taste." Other tastes include pan-roasted beef tenderloin in a red-wine demi-glace with crisp potatoes fondant ($29) and roasted Atlantic salmon served with peppers confit, gnocchi, and a broth of herbs ($22). Afterward, douse taste buds in decadent desserts, such as a $7 trio de crème brûlée.