Bistro Central Parc occupies a sunny corner on a largely non-commercial stretch of NOPA, at Central and Grove. So quiet, in fact, that you may
start to doubt your sense of direction -- that is, until you see the
restaurant's bold, vaguely familiar black and white striped awning (it
looks exactly like the ones at every Ambiance boutique in the city). But
here, in this context, it feels a little like Paris.
The awning covers a smattering of round bistro tables outside, protected
by a thick curtain of plastic. But even with the sun shining San
Francisco isn't suited for outdoor dining this time of year, so only one
woman sits out there, warming up with a mug of coffee and a book.
humming of chatter fills the air, while casually dressed, smiling wait
staff bus mimosas and Benedicts to unadorned wooden tables. The space is
bright and simple. Light pours in through rectangular windows, and
there's one poster on the wall: a cartoon depiction from an old French
movie very unlike the dramatic, floor-to-ceiling vintage booze posters
popular in other brasseries. The term "unpretentious" gets thrown around
in the dining scene, but Bistro Central Parc keeps fake flowers in the
The effect is homey and endearing and, in a way, so is the food.
It's true bistro fare, from the escargots ($9.50) to the Steak Frites
($19.50), staples of the brunch and dinner menus. The brunch menu is
divided into oeufs (eggs), déjeuner (lunch) and specialtiés de la
maison, all classic preparations with reasonable price tags.
primarily of wine and coffee. Mimosas, predictably, are popular at
brunch, as is basic black coffee, served in a mug printed with the
restaurant's name but that otherwise looks just like one you'd have in
your cupboard. The cappuccino ($3) is a treat, loaded with thick foam
and dusted on top with sweetened cocoa powder, which is torched to
caramelize it before serving. The house squeezed orange juice ($5) is
chefs don't skimp on ingredients. The Eggs Florentine ($12.50) offers a
perfectly poached egg and sautéed spinach over English muffins, all
doused with plenty of Hollandaise.
fillings to choose from: spinach, swiss cheese, mushrooms, grilled
onions, ham and smoked salmon. And oddly, chorizo -- a house daily
special that's out of its element on this menu. The omelets are
satisfying, loaded with veggies and mild, stringy cheese. Potatoes and greens come alongside all of the egg dishes, served almost
naked -- the potatoes, roasted, and the greens, lightly dressed with a
shallot vinaigrette. It's a far cry from the deep fried hash browns with
heavy, in-your-face seasonings prized at so many other brunches. Leave
it to the French to let a potato just be a potato.
($9), especially since the restaurant cannot be faulted for us burning
our tongues on the impossibly savory (and hot) broth. Silky onions,
soaked bread and delicate herbs star in this dish -- along with the
thick layer of broiled cheese on top, of course.
instead of the crusty type, making for a soft and gentle sandwich. Ham,
béchamel and more Swiss cheese fill the middle, while a sunny-side up
egg sits on top. Naturally it's rich, as Croques usually are, but the
bistro continues its trend of seasoning with a light hand here.
flavorful and not too sweet (until drizzled with syrup). The restaurant
offers pure maple syrup for an additional $1.50, and it's worth the
splurge. A dollop of creme fraiche comes on the plate, along with a pile
of fresh fruit, which includes not just boring melon but strawberries,
On a Sunday, the after church crowd steps in to look for a table,
and parties of two and four are seated immediately. The bar is
unoccupied aside from a ponytailed man scribbling on a notepad in
between bites of his Croque Monsieur. Some are in sweatpants, some in
demure dresses and flats, but they all look comfortable -- the true sign
of a neighborhood gem.
In a sense, Bistro Central Parc is similar to so many cafes in
Paris. It may not be the place you gush to your friends about the next
day, but it's the one you return to time and time again.