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Food & Drink

Best Cheap French 

Baker Street Bistro

2953 Baker (at Lombard), 931-1475,

San Franciscans have enjoyed the pleasures of French cuisine ever since the Poodle Dog opened at Grant and Washington in 1849, offering five courses of Gallic comestibles for 15 cents, but few of the Poodle's successors have followed its wallet-friendly example. The Baker Street Bistro, a cozy boîte at the edge of the Presidio, is a throwback to those palate-pleasing, low-overhead glory days. Chef Jacques Manuara cooks delicious examples of old-country fare remarkable for their affordability: garlicky escargots with shiitake mushrooms for $7.50; braised Sonoma rabbit with a dreamy sauce Dijon at $12.50; smoky, juicy rack of lamb with ratatouille, $16.50; a silky crème caramel for a mere $3.50. Daily specials are usually under $11, and most of the cellar's bottles are in the reasonable $25-to-$35 range, but the bistro's best bargain is the nightly prix fixe of soup, entree, salad, and dessert for $14.50. Haute cuisine has never been so embraceable.

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