Couleur Café


Scene: Tuesday night, 7pm. Your sh*t is hungry. Work sucked. Your frig only has olives and ketchup and, like, one egg. (One egg, so annoying.) You've had enough of the Chinese-Thai-Indian tribunal with their meals and deals on the pastel pieces of paper piled up in your kitchen drawer. You don't want to spend a lot of dough. And dag, parking is such an ordeal in this town, there are some nights you're just not up for the battle.

So I'm here to tell you there is an easygoing little place where you can find a simple dinner for under $20, you'll be greeted warmly, and you'll find parking right out front. I'm talking Doris freaking Day, my friend.

Vector yourself in to ~COULEUR CAFÉ~, the latest addition to the Jocelyn Bulow empire (Chez Papa, Chez Maman, La Suite, Baraka). It's at the base of Potrero Hill, off 16th Street where the monster Gold's Gym is located, and is right next door to Sally's in the mini-mall. And hey, there's your parking spot! Hi!

The open space has burgundy walls, dim lighting and is très casual. I'm not too stoked on the flat-panel TV on one wall, but I guess they occasionally play French movies on it, which is somewhat redeeming. Just no Jerry Lewis, merci. My banquette seat also had a nice vibration going for about 45 seconds, but I am not sure that's meant to be a feature. Heh. Friends were chatting at the bar, couples were tucked into their corner tables, and there were also a few starter families dining with their tykes, asking things like "So you wanna go home now and have a Tofutti?" Oh, SF.

So, about that dinner. Remember, this is not destination dining. This is "I don't want to cook tonight" dining. For a starter, there is some tasty merguez sausage ($7) that you can dunk into some harissa (love that stuff) and a good Dijon. My friend unfortunately discovered a couple tiny bone shards in his sausage, but that's the purveyor's fault, not the restaurant. Easy with the trimming, François. The warm frisée salad ($8.50) was pretty "meh"--it was somewhat soggy, its poached egg needed to be cooked a smidge more, and the vinaigrette was lacking in the verve department; all entirely fixable.

They also have burgers, some fish dishes (salmon, ahi), salads, and crêpes like the angioplasty-inducing crêpe Savoyarde ($9.50) with béchamel, tomato and prosciutto, or wicked quesadillas like a Beastmaster version made with duck confit, Gruyère and onions ($13). Oh, and crème fraîche. Thanks. You should consider hightailing it across the street to Gold's after that one.

My friend, who is one fit mofo, could afford to indulge in the somewhat unconventional pasta carbonara ($10), which included thick ribbons of tagliatelle doused in a creamy sauce made with bacon, white wine and too much parsley for my taste, but the winning touch was the just-right runny egg resting on top, under a cloud of parmesan cheese. See you on the Stairmaster. For, like, nine hours. There are 7-8 different kinds of pastas, including tomato and meatballs, which smelled pretty good on a neighboring diner's plate. I didn't ask for a bite. That would be rude.

But here's the top reason why I'll be returning: the chicken ($12.50). Now, I normally do not go for "the chicken." Unless I'm at Zuni. Duh. But man, this chicken hits the mark. Bwok! It takes a spin on a rotisserie, so it's sporting a perfect crackly skin, and comes with a jus that the pile of fries are happily soaking in like it's Palmolive.

Desserts included some Euro bistro classics like crème caramel, or an affogato (espresso poured over ice cream). A few bonuses: they serve an affordable brunch on the weekend, and you can enjoy it (and lunch) outside in the sun. The music was also good, a French-ified mix of some Motown, funk, soul and jazzy tracks. Serge Gainsbourg would have dug it. (That's a wink to those of you who "get" the restaurant's name.)

Couleur Café
300 De Haro St.
at 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103


Apps $4-$13.50
Entrées $9-$16
Desserts $5-$7

Mon-Fri 11am-11pm
Sat-Sun 10:30am-11pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-4pm

This place is now closed.

300 De Haro St. San Francisco
(at 16th St.)