Credit: Courtesy of Palisociety

Channel “Emily in San Diego” at These 9 French Cafes and Restaurants

It’s a French Affair Complete With Spritzes, Pâtés and Croques

San Diego is one of our favorite seaside cities and, believe it or not, it’s home to some of the best French restaurants in all of SoCal. We love French food because they are always paying homage to the fromage, and we can’t get enough of all the cheesy details. Here, you can play “Emily in Paris” without having to uproot your life—and keep enjoying that perfect San Diego weather! From croque monsieurs to crème brulées, the French know how to wine and dine the right way. So, read on—we’ll have you saying oui oui to these nine French restaurants romancing San Diego in no time. Bon appetit!

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Little Frenchie

Best French Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Blue Bridge Hospitality

Little Frenchie on Coronado Island is a replica of those oh-so-charming neighborhood bistros Paris is famous for. This Michelin-recognized spot is serving up a bougie brunch and even better dinner to those looking to get their French fix. Highlights of the brunch menu include their rotating cronut and cruffin of the month, savory buckwheat crepes, and croques three ways. Do as the French do and definitely get yourself a spritz to savor alongside your picture-perfect plate. Their dinner menu is equally as enchanting. You can’t go wrong with the steak frites, le burger with raclette cheese or the classic beef bourguignon. Each entree is paired with a wine suggestion for those who want to imbibe to the point where they might actually believe they are in France. Always start with the cheese board, which features a daily selection of artisan, imported cheeses and all the proper accouterments. This is not the place to skimp on dessert, either.

Location: Coronado

 

Saint James French Diner 

Best French Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Courtesy of Palisociety

Do you want to feel like an extra in the movie “Ratatouille?” Look no further than Saint James French Diner. This cozy but uber-cool bar and restaurant is as Instagrammable as it is appetizing. It just has a vibe, and we’re not sure if it’s the checkerboard floors, the bulb lighting or the wrap-around bar that would make anyone want to order a negroni…sbagliato…with prosecco—but it’s just doing it all right, from the finishes to the food. Be cool, get the burger (which is half-priced during happy hour 3-6 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday). They also do a great brunch on the weekends. There’s not a ton of seating, and it would be fun to get a group together to sip Penicillins here. Note: This spot is located inside the Pali Hotel.

Location: Gaslamp Quarter

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Wormwood

Credit: Megan Burgess

Another authentic European pit stop is Wormwood in North Park. You know they are doing French food justice when you can’t pronounce half of the items on the menu. With an epic outdoor seating area (pssst, ask about their secret garden), this place will convince you you’re really in Paris—or it could just be their selection of absinthes speaking. If you’re a tartare girlie, don’t miss the Wagyu version on their appetizer menu and definitely make someone order the cacio e pepe. Enjoy live jazz music on Wednesdays and Sundays from 6-8 p.m.!

Location: North Park

 

The Smoking Goat

The Smoking Goat -
Credit: Haley Hill

Let’s bring in some French fusion options, shall we? The Smoking Goat is doing classic French cuisine with a modern California twist. Something they don’t mess around with though is their French onion soup, which is as perfect an appetizer as ever. Their dishes are refined, and their flavors are big. The decor is industrial and eclectic, making it a fun spot to mix and mingle. Everyone seems to order the mussels, and if there’s ever a time to become a duck person, now is it. Griddle banana bread for dessert. That’s all you need to know.

Location: North Park

 

Jeune et Jolie

Credit: Kambria Fischer

Carlsbad’s Jeune et Jolie earned a highly coveted Michelin Star in 2023, putting it on the map among the most excellent restaurants in the US. The interior is feminine and sleek, and the food is bold and badass. A four-course tasting will run you $105 per person with the option to do a wine pairing for an additional $75 or $95. I mean, if the Michelin Star didn’t sell you, maybe the croque madame topped with caviar will. Yeah, the drinks are divine too. Everything is picture-perfect, from the pinkish velvet booths to the photo-friendly bathrooms.

Location: Carlsbad

 

Café Madeleine

Best French Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Vince DiNatale

This place is old-school Parisian. With locations in North and South Park, Café Madeleine is inspired by the many sidewalk cafes in France with its signature red entry. They are serving up breakfast and lunch only and specialize in sweet and savory crepes made to order with only the freshest premium ingredients. If you are in the mood for something heartier, check out their sandwich or panini menu to up your carb count. This is a prime spot to catch up with a friend or even do a little solo people-watching with a seat in one of their outdoor dining sections.

Location: South Park and North Park

 

Wolfie’s Carousel Bar

Credit: James Tran

It doesn’t get any more Instagram-worthy than Wolfie’s. You’ve probably seen it on your feed: It’s the one with the real, working rotating carousel bar. This place is fun with a capital F. Grab your girls because this is a place they will l-o-v-e. Once you’re done taking photos, belly up to the carousel bar and get a round of drinks. If you are still in your Barbie era, opt for the La Vie en Rose, which has real edible sparkles mixed in. When it comes to food, they have all the French favorites but get yourself a baguette with maison butter and flakey Maldon salt to mull it all over. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the escargots—we dare you! And always finish with the sundae with extra sprinkles.

Location: Little Italy

 

La Clochette

Credit: La Clochette

Okay, finally, a place that can give us our carb and caffeine fix all in one spot. La Clochette in Pacific Beach is serving up fresh coffee and pastries with a French twist. Get your latte any way you like it—just make sure you get some sort of croissant to dip in it. The beignets can rival anything from the French Quarter (we know, we know–—those are fighting words), and the more savory options like their beet salad or SoCal tartine will knock your socks off. We love the indoor-outdoor vibe of this place, and it’s the ideal spot to post up and get a little work done.

Location: Pacific Beach

 

Chez Loma

White tablecloths. Bread basket. A rustic-looking single rose in a simple glass. It’s uncomplicated in the best way. We’re talking about Chez Loma on Coronado Island. They don’t need to be over-the-top with their decor, because the food speaks for itself. You’ll feel like you are dining in a family member’s home at this San Diego staple, which has been in business for over 36 years. Only open for dinner, they offer everything from pâté to filet, but we really like the way they do their poulet de grillé (grilled chicken), which is served with herbed butter, a Madeira mushroom sauce and whipped potatoes. Frills are fun sometimes, but fabulous food beats frills any day of the week.

Location: Coronado

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Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.

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