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Café de Paris
819 C Street, Downtown

For starters, Faiz (or Frank, as he's known) looks the epitome of the legendary French cook. Jutting jaw, well-wiped apron, hands on hips outside his little place on C. Plus he knows French cooking. Before he came to San Diego to be with his sister, he used to run Lord's, a French restaurant in an old mansion -- in Aleppo, Syria, the ancient crossroads between East and West. There, the French long held sway, and their cooking left its mark. Your advantage: His location on C Street, where the city kinda hiccups, between downtown and City College. He can't charge Gaslamp prices here, even though his cooking is well up to Gaslamp standards. Try his filet au poivre, sole meunierè, or French onion soup. Of course he's realistic, too, so he does a great (and cheap) soup-and-salad special most days and breakfast offerings such as his jumbo croissant sandwich. How do you know he's the real thing? His coffee. It is French roast, and, unlike at Starbucks, it comes in fine china.

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