Though her accent leaves no mistaking her French roots, Dominique Crenn has become inextricably linked to San Francisco. She arrived in the City by the Bay in the early ’90s, kickstarting her culinary career under the founding father of California cuisine, Jeremiah Tower. Since then, her adopted hometown has grown into a world culinary capital—a feat Crenn herself undoubtedly had something to do with. At her flagship Atelier Crenn, she has become the first woman in the United States to lead a restaurant to three Michelin stars; with Petit Crenn, she’s channeled her family’s cooking in Brittany; and at Bar Crenn, she has forged an ode to classic French gastronomy.
But Crenn isn’t just a culinary powerhouse; she’s also a champion of her city’s singular dining scene. “It’s definitely a city that has created spaces for people to create more personal restaurants,” says Crenn. “There are great farmers around, and the community is amazing. It’s a very inspiring place to be if you want to be a chef.” Here is a guide through her Bay Area favorites, from California classics to Michelin stars.
“Of course, I’m French, so I like my bread and my chocolate croissant. Amanda Michael has Jane, which is where I go to get my croissant or patisserie. She has a few locations. It’s delicious, all of it. I love what she does.”
“This is an amazing place where you can discover the soul of a chef. [Mourad Lahlou] is bringing to the table his Moroccan roots in ways that are a little more refined. The flavors are amazing, especially his chicken and couscous. I just feel so at home here.”
“This [Berkeley] restaurant is central to what the philosophy of California and San Francisco are all about—the idea of seasonality and knowing where your food comes from. Alice [Waters] draws on her time from France, but she brings an awareness that food is essential to the culture where you are living.”
“[Gayle Pirie] has created this very San Francisco restaurant in the Mission where it’s seasonal, farm-to-table, and fun—but then you can also watch old movies. I go there all the time and sit at the bar, but my favorite is brunch, when I get an omelet.”
“Husband and wife [Evan and Sarah Rich] came from fine dining before they opened this casual restaurant. I love his cooking, and she’s a great pastry chef. The menu changes all the time, but the flavors of anything they cook are so bold and beautiful.”
“When I moved to San Francisco in the ’90s, this was the first place where I felt I was in France. It’s an iconic place. It’s small, and the menu changes every day. I get the roast chicken, a bottle of rosé, and oysters.”
“The first time I ate Corey Lee’s food was at the French Laundry when he was chef de cuisine. I could taste the talent behind the food. What I love about Benu is he celebrates where he’s from—Korea—and he communicates that in a very special way.”