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Cafe de La Presse
352 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108
Cuisine: French bistro , open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Pluses: atmosphere, authenticity
, open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Minuses: Service is painfully slow and brusque
Service is painfully slow and brusque
Prices: $ 6-12 for sandwiches, lunch only;
$ 6-12 for sandwiches, lunch only;$ 8-12 for appetizers; $ 19-23 for entrees; $ 7 desserts
You could sit in the window, enjoying a coffee and the bistro air, and you would never know you weren’t in France if it wasn’t for the China Town gates across the street. It is the perfect respite from the bustling crowds of Union square. Grab one of the international magazines from the rack and while away your day; it may take that long for your food to arrive.
What seems charming during the day can be aggravating at night. Both the menu and the décor model classical French bistros. In this they offer charm, but there are too many missteps along the way. While I enjoyed gazing around the attractive room with its black and white tiles, rich woods, and burnished metals, I could do without the large flat screen TV that so obnoxiously dominated the dining room and was running fashion advertisements ad nauseum. Maybe this is an effort to distract patrons from the eternal wait before food actually arrives.
When your food finally arrives, you can be reasonably confident of a good meal assuming, 1. you didn’t order the scallops, and 2. they brought the right food, which doesn’t always happen. Salade aux petits lardoons features frisée salad with poached egg and bacon. The still warm yolk bursts and delicately cloaks the slightly bitter greens, and is cut by the sharp Dijon vinaigrette. Tart flambée, a sort of Alsatian pizza, is wildly popular in Alsace and nearly impossible to find here, despite its obvious attributes. At Café de La Presse it takes the form of a miniature thin crust pizza, crispy on the bottom and glazed with a thin layer of crème fraiche before being topped with sautéed onions and bacon. It is kind of like a stripped down, manly version of quiche. Boueff Bourguignon consists of tender chunks of beef, mushrooms, and more of that bacon stewed together in a rich red wine sauce. Macaroni gratin comes on the side, the French version of Mac and Cheese. Unbelievable rich, loaded with gruyere, this is the Hungry-Man dinner of France. Less successful was the aforementioned scallops. Flaccid scallops sat on top of an onion and pepper fondue that tasted like ketchup and the British staple of Heinz baked beans tossed together with sautéed peppers.
Café de La Presse tries to deliver authenticity and atmosphere. It could work if only they could actually deliver. My order for black decaf coffee came with cream and sugar, but no coffee.