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French bistro builds on casual traditions
By Greg Sabin
No restaurant around Sacramento is quite like Franquette, the French-inspired bistro in West Sac’s Bridge District. Combining French dishes, coffee and wine with a California casualness, this year-old business fills missing pieces in the local culinary scene.
But first a question. Where have all the French restaurants gone? Look around and you need one hand to count the places focused on Gallic gastronomy. Arden-Arcade’s Plan B Restaurant is a standout with its insanely good mussels. A few others might come to mind.
But since the closure of Café Rolle in 2019, and given the popularity and trendiness of foods from previously overlooked cuisines, French cooking isn’t having a moment.
As I wrote last year, Sacramento has seen an uptick in wine bars. Midtown’s Good News Wine is an exceptional example. But rarely do wine bars create an elegant kitchen menu that’s equal to the wine list.
So, when the team behind East Sacramento’s Canon opened a French bistro and wine bar in West Sacramento, I headed across the river. After all, Canon rates praise from Michelin’s Bib Gourmand for quality and reasonable prices.
Franquette accomplishes many tasks. The French cooking is off the charts, the marriage of wine, coffee and food a three-way tie for perfection. A casual outpost open daily, Franquette serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The ambition on display is unique.
Chef Elena Winks produces impressive cookery in a comically small space. Her kitchen, tucked behind the wine bar in view of patrons, is a fantasy of cheese, butter, pastry, slow simmering and flavor-packing.
Mornings are where she shows her baker skills, turning out small batches of chocolate croissants, seasonal galettes and a gorgeous walnut croissant. Each dish is paired with expertly pulled coffees.
Lunch and dinner share the same menu, owing to Winks’ lack of space. Classic French fare such as sandwich au jambon, a simple bonding of ham and cheese melted into indulgence on an Acme Bread baguette, work alongside beef bourguignon and beef tartare.
My favorite small plate is the boulettes de canard, duck meatballs. Three plump meatballs sit in a silky orange sauce, each topped with chives and orange zest. These juicy orbs playfully reinterpret the classic duck a l’orange for an unfussy dish. The plain presentation belies a talented hand in the kitchen.
Similarly, the warm frisee and lardons look humble in the bowl, but punch way above their weight in flavor. Frisee is not what I’d call pretty. Basically, it’s the salad equivalent of a tumbleweed. Yet Franquette’s bowl of frisee, topped with lardon, poached egg and vinaigrette might be the best thing you can eat alongside a glass of dry rosé.
The vibe is pure casual. Seating can be haphazard and ordering is mostly at the counter. But the Franquette team went for a modern, almost industrial, feel. No fake Parisian trappings of zinc countertops and belle epoque décor.
Located on a corner, surrounded by West Sacramento’s Bridge District apartments, Franquette is the proper neighborhood bistro for this rising neighborhood. It’s simple appearance and seven-day-a-week spirit make it accessible and unpretentious, words most millennials would not attach to French eateries.
Franquette is at 965 Bridge St., No. 100, West Sacramento; hellofranquette.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.