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.
For nearly 80 years, Gemmell's Garden Centre has fortified and ornamented lawns with plants, garden decor, and accessories. Undernourished noses can feast on the fruits of Gemmell's 24 lush greenhouses, where more than 48 combinations of colourful, fragrant Victorian hanging baskets ($39.95) originate. Customers can conceal a lawn’s bald spots with photosynthesizing toupees such as vegetable plants, including more than 30 varieties of plump tomatoes ($1.99–$4.29). Trees and shrubs ($10+), meanwhile, lavish lawns with a leafy canopy in the summer and shelter for hibernating garden gnomes in the winter. The nursery’s friendly, knowledgeable staff provides helpful advice on gardening and landscape design, gladly assisting customers in selecting plants for filling flower beds, pots, or piñatas.
Simply Fondue's intimate, chandelier-lit dining room plays host to tabletop pots that bubble with warm imported cheeses, oils, and broths. The restaurant's cheese fondues from Switzerland, the Mediterranean, and England allow diners to taste the world's flavors without having to lick every country's flag. The eatery also simmers traditional canola and broth fondue using individual "fondue grills," which sear each morsel for lighter munching. For each entree, chefs pair simmering helpings with platters of meat, seafood, or veggies, all of which can be altered upon request.
Many meals conclude with chocolate fondue, which features an impressive coterie of sweets such as pound cake, triple-chunk brownies, peanut-butter balls, and fresh pineapple chunks plucked from the hats of local conga dancers. The dining experience stays casual throughout with plush red booths and upholstered bar stools set against textured stone walls.
Executive Chef Eddy Rocq, educated at the Mederic Culinary School of Paris, now serves up French sandwiches and sweets at Rocq Café. His macarons, a variety of light French sandwich cookie, have been featured in Oprah's O magazine and added to the shelves of the Laguna Niguel Whole Foods and Tustin Whole Foods. He sells hundreds of these airy treats each week, in flavors such as fruit, chocolate, and moon rock. He changes up the lunch menu every week to keep fresh flavors in the spotlight, often showcasing panini and croissant sandwiches, quiches, and homemade soups.
Not long after beginning their relationship, Fabrison?s co-owners Fabrice and Alison?from Marseilles, France and Columbus, Ohio, respectively?traveled to Europe together, seeking a change of scenery. Inspired by the warm hospitality of European caf?s, they returned home to open their own cozy shop, combining their first names to form its distinctive moniker.
Crepes are the specialty at Fabrison?s, with customers perusing a menu of sweet, savory, and breakfast iterations of the traditional French food. The La Galette combines ham, mushrooms, and spinach with a fried egg, whereas the L?Isabelle keeps its ingredients as simple as Count von Count?s locker combination, mingling sugar, butter, and a topping of powdered sugar. Patrons can begin their mornings with a spot of espresso and Fabrice?s Breakfast Crepe, filled with sausage, bacon, and spicy harissa sauce. Rounding out the menu is a selection of patisserie-style desserts and pastries.
The couple?s friends and family helped them plan their caf??s look, with Fabrice?s mother sending over photos and swatches from European cafes, which influenced its bright palette of crimson, gold, and washed turquoise. Alison?s mother sewed the gingham curtains on the windows, and artist Derek Little created the vivid painting on the front window. Fabrison?s also shares French culture with the community through regular evening events that include crepe-cooking classes, French movie nights, French speaking classes, and French kissing workshops.
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.