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San Francisco's Best-Kept Dining Secret: the Prix Fixe

Eat in style without breaking the bank at these four fixed-price winners.

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  • Trestle San Francisco interior, image
    Photo caption
    Trestle, in downtown San Francisco, serves only prix fixe menus.
  • South Park Cafe San Francisco, image
    Photo caption
    The French bistro spirit and the affordable fixed price menu are alive and well at South Park Cafe.
  • Cotogna San Francisco pizza, image
    Photo caption
    The wood-fired oven at Cotogna turns out pizzas such as this one topped with sausage, fennel, and fior di latte mozzarella.

 

As the cost of an entree in San Francisco seems to creep ever upward, we searched out the city’s best prix fixe menus priced under $40. Area code is 415.

  • Trestle When it opens in April in a former Hunanese restaurant in Jackson Square, newcomer Trestle’s tiny kitchen will turn out thoughtful three-course menus for $35 every night of the week. Given the season, chefs might draw from French, Asian, Italian, or new American traditions, offering two choices per course, plus the option to add a dish with handmade pasta for $10 more. 531 Jackson St., 772-0922, trestlesf.com.
  • Le P’tit Laurent This corner space a block and a half from the Glen Park BART station brims with joie de vivre. Toulouse-Lautrec prints, Lillet posters, and berets adorn the walls, and the hosts hug regulars hello. But you needn’t be a local to opt for the $28 “neighborhood menu,” served Sunday through Thursday with soup or salad to start, entrees such as braised lamb shank or seafood ragoût of salmon, bass, and mussels in tomato broth, and a choice of desserts that might include crème brûlée and rich, eggy pain perdu with caramel ice cream. 699 Chenery St., 334-3235, leptitlaurent.net.
  • Cotogna It can be tough to nab a table at this Jackson Square standout with a glowing wood-fired oven that warms the dining room. But the restaurant saves the bar seats for walk-ins and offers a $28 three-course menu Monday through Saturday. The prezzo fisso, as it’s called, often starts with a fresh salad or bruschetta, followed by one of chef Michael Tusk’s signature pastas (think beet tortelloni or tagliatelle alla Bolognese) and a twist on a simple dessert—chocolate pudding in a glass jar, or Meyer lemon cake with citrus cream. 490 Pacific Ave., 775-8508, cotognasf.com.
  • South Park Cafe Named for the tidy, tucked-away green it faces, this quiet French kitchen in SOMA offers three courses for $39 Tuesday through Saturday. The most popular dish might be the pig salad—pork shoulder slow cooked in duck fat, frisée, and sliced apples in mustard vinaigrette—and other classic bistro fare includes celery root rémoulade and mains such as black lentil stew and boudin noir. 108 South Park St., 495-7275, southparkcafe.com.

Photography by Julia Spiess and Frank Schott (South Park Cafe); and courtesy of Cotogna and Trestle

 

This article was first published in March 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.