Crème Brûlée (credit: Thinkstock)
For many restaurant patrons, the best way to punctuate an evening of good conversation and dining is to enjoy a delicious dessert. Among the most enduring and most popular treats in San Francisco and beyond is crème brûlée. Traditionally made with just a few simple ingredients, this classic French dessert features a thick custard base that’s topped with caramelized sugar and typically served at room temperature. Although there are several outstanding places across the City by the Bay for crème brûlée, here are just 5 of the very best.
7 Claude Lane
San Francisco, Ca 94108
If one were to choose just one San Francisco neighborhood for crème brûlée, it would likely be Belden Place, known as the city’s French Quarter. One of the most popular spots in this historic neighborhood for this classic French dessert is Cafe Claude, a hidden gem named after the two-block alley it lies along. Evoking the images of a vintage French bistro, Cafe Claude offers a wealth of reasonably priced entrees, a nice selection of fine wines and cocktails, along with a very modest dessert menu. However, its highly praised crème brûlée, made with Tahitian vanilla is so wonderfully distinctive, it was succinctly described by one recent visitor as “sinful” and by several others as absolutely delicious and one of a kind.
126 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
When translated into English, Chapeau is the French word for hat. But by merely adding an exclamation point at the end, the word brings on a completely new meaning, as in “hats off!” or as this French bistro says “wow!”. Completely living up to its moniker, Chapeau! is a consistent expression of approval when raving about its inventive menu, which includes its widely adored Tahitienne Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée. Since owners Phillippe and Ellen Gardelle opened Chapeau! in 1996, many past customers have routinely praised the upscale bistro’s dessert, saying its delightful crème brûlée was the best they’ve ever had and a must-try.
40 Belden Place
San Francisco, CA 94104
Plouf is far more acclaimed for its French seafood, particularly for serving some of the finest shellfish dishes in San Francisco. However, its delectable vanilla bean crème brûlée is nearly as popular and even the most scrupulous customers have said it’s superb. Just a short stroll from Cafe Claude, Plouf is located on Belden Place, easily the most prominent street in San Francisco’s French Quarter. Named after the French word that describes the sound when a stone is dropped into water, Plouf is led by chef and San Francisco native Mark Papedis, whose passion for local seafood started at an early age and has led to a long and rewarding career.
Restaurant Gary Danko
800 N. Point St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
It should come as no surprise that one of the best spots in San Francisco for crème brûlée can be found at one of its best and most illustrious restaurants. Led by James Beard award winning chef Gary Danko, his namesake restaurant features an extraordinary tasting menu, award-winning wine collection and a splendid dessert menu that includes the very popular Trio of Crème Brûlée with Assorted Cookies. Said to be an excellent way to top off the evening, this lavishly created dessert consists of three distinct flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry or bourbon. Michelin-starred for several years and one of just one of two Relais & Château restaurants in the city, Restaurant Gary Danko is located in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, just one block west of historic Ghirardelli Square.
941 Cole St.
San Francisco, CA
Zazie is a acclaimed neighborhood French bistro that specializes in traditional cuisines of Southern France. Named after the lead character from a popular 1950s French novel, Zazie is as universally praised for its entrees as it is for its gratifying dessert menu. Among the signature treats from Les Desserts is the Decadent Vanilla Crème Brulée, which has been described in multiple ways, such as “heavenly”, “phenomenal” and “just perfect”. Led by former San Francisco Entrepreneur of the Year Jennifer Piallat, Zazie is located just a few blocks from the southeastern border of Golden Gate Park and just south of Haight-Ashbury.