Dinner at Frances in the Castro

Imagine if you will: It's Saturday, after 8 PM, and you don't have reservations anywhere. Normally, this would be cause enough to lock the door, pull out a tub of frosting and a spoon, watch infomercials and curse my luck-less life. Last night was different, though. And Frances was the new variable.

Rand got on Open Table and discovered that Frances, the much anticipated new restaurant in the Castro that we had both read about, had a 10 PM reservation available. I dropped my trusty frosting spoon and shouted, "Book it!!!" I waited for confirmation before wiping the cream cheese deliciousness from my formerly frowning mouth; there's no excuse for wasting napkins. Finally, after a few agonizing seconds, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and return the frosting to its hallowed spot in the pantry. We were in.

We arrived a few minutes before 10 and were greeted by a friendly host. He recognized my name and handed us a drink/wine list and also pointed out the curiously framed white board they use to list daily specials. We stepped to the side and checked out the wine list and the decor. Frances is small but cozy. We were both taken with the light fixtures over the counter seating. Very nice.

While we were waiting, a server came up to us with a couple of the restaurant's Market Shots. They consisted of huckleberry, white wine, kaffir lime and honey. They were really tasty and normally just $3. Ours were on the house. Thanks Frances!!

After about 10-15 minutes we were seated (a table was available earlier, but the host told us it was a cramped space, so we opted to wait a little longer). Seating at Frances is very cozy, almost European. They have chosen to utilize as much of the space as possible with many two-tops placed close together. Be prepared to meet your neighbors.

After swapping life stories with our new dinner neighbors, we began to peruse the menu. Since it was late, they were out of the beef dish (which was a little disappointing), but there was much more on the menu to try out. We decided to start with some squash frites, applewood smoked bacon beignets, and albondigas with salsa verde. The squash frites were great and the beignets were bacony and fluffy. I was a little disappointed in the albondigas, but I think that was mostly because the flavors didn't mesh with the other two dishes. Next, we had the gnocchi with duck confit. By far, this was my favorite dish of the evening and I can't recommend it enough. At the end of the night, I told the owner/chef that I wanted to bathe in the gnocchi because it was so delicious (I'm not sure exactly who it was but I really appreciated her walking around the dining room and talking to us). For an entree, we chose to share the cod dish. It was perfectly cooked and the flavors were spot on. Cod can be a little bland, but this was far from typical cod. The flavors were balanced and rich. I would have loved to try the beef dish, but this was a great second choice.

Add to this a carafe of the house wine (at $1 an ounce) and then we wrapped up the night with the Valrhona chocolate ganache tart with McEvoy Olive Oil ice cream and some Blue Bottle coffee (which was $4 and served in a Chemex carafe--easily 3 cups of coffee).

All in all, I loved it. We spent around $92 for two people, and I thought it was totally worth it. Thanks to the Frances staff for a terrific late night dinner (and I hope we didn't keep you there too long after closing!).


Gauss Jordan said…
Sounds like a stellar time. Restaurants like this are why I want to live a little closer to town. Of course that's downtown Austin in my case, but the principle still holds. :-)
toddx said…
Well, I'm sure you have some peace and quiet where you live which is a little hard to come by in SF. Still, I love living in the city.

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