Gamine isn’t your usual Cow Hollow restaurant: there are no cocktails, shot specials, bouncers, or people on the verge of a sidewalk vomit session teetering outside on the curb. There are locals, families, dates, and people who have lived in San Francisco long enough to survive multiple earthquakes. Real ones.
Gamine is a place you go for authentic, traditional French eats served by - hold the phone - nice, friendly French people. I know. We didn’t think it existed either, but apparently they send all the nice ones to San Francisco. People in the ‘hood are very, very devoted to Gamine. We aren't as gung-ho as some, but it’s great in a pinch when you don't have a reservation or feel like waiting an hour and a half to yell across the table at your dinner companions at Tacolicious. There are a few dishes we are very pro (escargot, moules, steak, salmon) and but some are just OK - the sauteed sides, fish burger, duck salad, and sadly, the bread. But whatever you order, you'll feel like you’re in a local Paris cafe - even it isn’t a glamorous hotspot or the most incredible food you'll ever consume.
As noted, the service is awesome and easy going, and while the space is crowded and a bit loud, it mostly makes it seem more authentically French bistro. There's an affordable wine list (with healthy pours from that friendly staff) and you can BYO with a corkage fee too.
Bonus points: you can pretty much always grab a table with a short wait. Even though the money-suck that was Des Amis is gone, Union Street still has a French restaurant. Only Gamine is actually worthwhile, priced for the peoples and ready for a partie.
This is disappointing. Not that we are anti-bacon, but if you call it duck salad, give us duck. Not mountains of bacon and a few tiny slivers of duck. Weak.
Onion Soup Gratinee
Also known as “French onion soup,” this mostly serves as a cheese delivery device and we are A-ok with that. Soup is decent, cheese is wonderful. Good way to warm up on a foggy night.
Served in the traditional plate, these come six to an order in a buttery yet light, slightly spicy garlic sauce.
Get some for the table. These are thin, crispy, potato gifts from above.
These are lightly sauteed and a little peppery, not particularly good or noteworthy.
Mariniere and Louisette are our usuals - the first is standard, white wine and garlic - we’ve had mixed experiences with the broth quality, and the second has mushrooms and cream if you want to go richer. They are generous with the basic bread baskets so get your dip on.
Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad
This is another cheese delivery device that we are happy to consume. A lovely nugget of cheese rests on a nest of well-dressed arugula. Consume this.
Juicy delight with killer caramelized onions. Oh and frites. That’s all you need.
Served on an almost too hefty ciabatta bun with a hearty helping of frites. The chicken and beef hold their own, especially if you get highly involved in the cheese, avocado, egg toppings game. You only live once.
When in Rome and/or Cow Hollow, do as the locals do. Grilled fish has to make an appearance, and Gamine delivers well on this one. Leek fondue is a nice touch and they don’t overcook the fish.