French under $30

Gamine—all the gastronomie and a welcoming vibe
Who says French has to mean stiff and fancy? The red façade and cozy dining room of this Cow Hollow classic radiate warmth. Your best bet is weekend lunch, with a menu that offers favorites such as roasted chicken ($20), French onion soup ($9), and moules marinière ($16.50), not to mention a decadent, savory crêpe, stuffed with varied fillings ($12 to $15) or a sweet dessert crêpe ($9). For the perfect finishing touch, add a side of frites or haricots verts ($6) to any of these, and call it done.

Classics from a Michelin-starred chef at Monsieur Benjamin
Opened last summer by three-Michelin-star chef Corey Lee of Benu, this Hayes Valley eatery gets extra points for staying open extra late. Check out classic French starters like steak tartare ($18.50), foie gras with toast ($19), and pâté de Campagne ($14.50), and don’t miss the rarely seen blanquette de veau, veal stew in a white sauce ($28.50) that tastes just like maman’s.

Le Zinc—this petit wine bar works a stellar three-course lunch
French slang for “café,” “Zinc” refers to the pewter bar tops that were once common around Paris—and can be found this little jewel in Noe Valley. The three-course lunch menu is just $19 and offers a choice of starters like soup or salad, mains such as an omelet or mussels, and dessert. The extensive tapas is another contender, served between 3 pm and 5:30 pm, with nothing over $25.

A new lunch at Bon Marché Brasserie
The lucky dogs working in the Twitter building in Mid Market are about to get quite the boost in their desk lunch game. This week sees the opening of the much-anticipated Bon Marché Brasserie, a new full service restaurant by the folks behind AQ restaurant, serving lunch, happy hour, and dinner. The menu includes everything from assorted charcuterie (think duck rillete) to endive salads to French onion soups to croque-monsieur, all coming in around $10. And of course, you don’t have to work at Twitter to get in on it.

It’s time to check out Bistro Central Parc
Have you ever walked or driven past a restaurant so many times, always thinking to yourself that you should really check it out, but somehow still haven’t? If you live anywhere just north of the Panhandle, that spot is probably Bistro Central Parc. Tucked inconspicuously into the corner at Grove and Central Streets, this established neighborhood spot has been serving up classic French food—boeuf Bourgignon, moules marinières, escargots, and ratatouille—for years. Order a glass of red wine and have a solid French dinner that won’t leave you wondering where $300 went.

No Corkage Night at Zazie
This classic Cole Valley spot is well known and loved for its brunch, but you should really consider heading in for dinner. Skip the hours-long wait and enjoy entrées like sautéed chicken, trout meunière, and lemon ricotta ravioli—traditional French food with Zazie’s California comfort food twist. If you head in on a Tuesday, AKA “No Corkage Night,” bring a bottle of wine (or two) to open and enjoy sans fee.

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