photo credit: Julia Chen
Chez Maman West
Chez Maman is one of several French restaurants in Hayes Valley, but it stands out for its extra cozy feel. This spot is dimly lit, has vintage posters hanging on the walls, and the tables are packed in alongside big windows. There’s also a bar that seems practically built for rainy nights when you just want to order a huge pile of fries and a glass of wine and eat alone. And on top of it all, the tiny corner spot also has great food.
The focus here is on hearty dishes that you’ll inexplicably crave after a terrible day or a week filled with one too many sad desk salads. The placemat-sized menu covers everything from steak frites and savory crepes to steaming pots of mussels. Each dish is super comforting—like the roast chicken with a generous helping of creamy mashed potatoes or the french onion soup that’s loaded with what seems like half a wheel of bubbly, melty gruyere. None of the food is pretentious, or comes across like it’s trying too hard, and that’s exactly what keeps us coming back.
The warm energy in this small space makes you feel like you’re at an intimate dinner party, but with way more wine and less conversation about bathroom renovations—which is why the dining room is pretty much always full. Chez Maman is also walk-ins only, so you may have to wait for a table when you do swing by. But once you sit down and a basket of sliced baguette hits your table, you’ll be in for a night at the coziest French restaurant in Hayes Valley.
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French Onion Soup
This soup is loaded with croutons, onions, and a very appropriate amount of gruyere, and ordering one is the best way to start off a meal. Definitely have this on your table.
Warm Goat Cheese Salad
It’s hard to go wrong with fried cheese. The goat cheese in this arugula salad is golden-brown and crispy, and perfect for smearing into every bite.
Half Roasted Organic Chicken
Beautifully-cooked chicken arrives on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a little piece of lemon confit. It’s enough for two people to share, but you’ll probably want it all to yourself.
The menu suggests getting this with a side of fries, a piece of advice we always follow. The mussels land on the table in a still-sizzling black pot and drenched in a lemon-y white wine and garlic sauce you should soak up with your fries.