The best steak frites in San Francisco

By Marcia Gagliardi

Monsieur Benjamin (photo: Eric Wolfinger)

Ah, steak frites—it’s one of those classic dishes that’s hard to pass up when you see it on a bistro menu, and when it’s done right, it can inspire a craving that demands you return for more—very soon. Ideally, you get a nice bavette/onglet/hanger steak—although you’ll also see rib eye and New York strip—with a rich sauce, like Bordelaise or maybe green peppercorn. Last, the frites need to be lightly crisp, hot, and just the right size to dab into your steak jus, sauce, and drippings. Here are seven SF spots that get it right. Bon appétit!

Monsieur Benjamin
One of the fancier steak frites in town can be found at this Hayes Valley restaurant. Monsieur Benjamin is really more like a high-end bistro—this is what happens when the chef-owner is Benu’s Corey Lee and the chef is Jason Berthold—so leave it to them to use a sauce with their steak frites you may not recognize: sauce choron, which is basically a tomato-spiked Béarnaise, and it’s magique (and a little fluffy too). The juicy rib eye also comes with herb jus, fresh watercress, and frites, and it’s basically perfect.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP

Café Claude
You know what goes really well with steak frites? A side of live jazz! Claude brings you both—assuming you stop in Thursday through Saturday, between 7 and 10 p.m. This busy downtown spot has been drawing people to its cute little alley since 1989, and their all-day menu is equally enjoyable inside for dinner or during lunch at an outdoor table (yay, it’s wind-protected). The all-day menu is full of French classics, and their decadent steak frites is a bavette steak topped with a big pat of bone marrow butter and Bordelaise sauce (made with red wine, shallot, and butter), along with a pile of their famed pommes frites on the side.
Neighborhood: MAP

Bluestem Brasserie
You’ll find an American spin on steak frites at this downtown brasserie, which is known for using quality, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. Their steak frites uses the coulotte cut (the top cap of New York steak), and it comes with Bordelaise sauce and beurre compose (compound butter, with herbs inside). The Kennebec fries are a bit thicker-cut than your usual Frenchie frites—all the better to dab up the sauce.
Neighborhood: Union Square MAP

Chez Maman
This San Francisco classic neighborhood bistro has been making Bay Area residents happy with their steak frites (and burger!) since 2002 on Potrero Hill, and they’ve since added a corner location in Hayes Valley as well. The dish here is either a grilled New York steak or sometimes a flatiron steak, with a green peppercorn sauce (in a little side ramekin, for ultimate French fry dipping) and perfectly sized frites with a dusting of herbs, which come with garlic aïoli. It’s a dependable place to get your frites fix—maybe not the finest in the city, but it’s priced right, which helps make it a local favorite.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP Neighborhood: Potrero Hill MAP

Café de la Presse
This downtown bistro is in the heart of the action, with tourists and business folks mingling at the large bar and among the many tables. Chef Laurent Manrique has recently started sourcing beef from Olivier’s Butchery in SF’s Dogpatch, so for dinner, all the steaks use sustainable beef, and are hand-selected and aged a minimum of 21 days. You’ll need to concoct your own steak frites (the menu is à la carte), so order a bavette with a side of sauce (you want Bordelaise, or au poivre, or Béarnaise?) plus a side of crisp French fries and you are set. C’est magnifique!
Neighborhood: Downtown MAP

Florio Bar & Café
This SF standby on Fillmore Street has been making guests happy with its steak frites for twenty years, and with one look at the cozy bistro interior, you’ll know it’s the kind of atmosphere where you’ll be happy to be able to enjoy steak frites (and a martini). Their version uses Akaushi Kobe coulotte steak, which comes sliced and served with classic Béarnaise sauce and frites, plus a side arugula salad to keep things fresh. (You can also call ahead and order it to go if you want to enjoy your steak frites in bed with Netflix.)
Neighborhood: Fillmore MAP

Park Tavern
This American-style bistro on Washington Square Park serves a variety of classic dishes (roast chicken, their famous burger)—and fortunately that list of classics includes steak frites, which, in the past, they called their “bar steak.” Being American-style, it makes sense chef Jennifer Puccio’s version is made with grilled New York steak, which comes with smoked Béarnaise sauce, but here’s where they dial things to eleven: The frites (which are more like steak fries, actually) are fried in beef fat (tallow). Unbelievable flavor. De rien. (You’re welcome.)
Neighborhood: North Beach MAP

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