721 Ninth Avenue, East Village
It may yet be years before Paris opens its first San Diego-style restaurant (though it has apparently availed itself of California cuisine in food truck form). While French gastronomy might be missing out on the many ways avocado shall be compared to a summer's day, we, like every major city, have our fair share of French bistros, each offering wine (of course), cheese plate (naturellelment) and some take on a poached egg and frisée salad.
One of San Diego's most beloved French spots goes by the name Café Chloe. What man hasn't tried to impress some sophistication-loving date over the years with a visit to the East Village to enjoy Chloe's romantic Francophile décor and a shared crème brûlée? It's the kind of place where steak with side of fries is magically transformed to the classier-sounding Steak Frites, and Chloe manages to accomplish this feat with only a soupçon of snootiness.
Of course, one of the key elements of French café life is outdoor seating, typically arranged facing outward to watch the world go by. Unfortunately, there's little happening at the corner of 9th and G Street, so the chairs of Café Chloe's outdoor tables face each other, and all the great people watching happens within the patio boundaries while cars whiz by en route to the highway 94 onramp.
This turns out to be preferable when the date you're trying to impress has four legs and a wagging tail. At first, I was surprised Chloe welcomes dogs, but that's mostly because I had failed to notice the two hound statues standing guard at the restaurant's entrance. Its shaded, partially fenced, outdoor setting makes it a comfortable sit for both humans and canines, and they make a water bowl available, which in dining terms really makes a dog feel welcome (I checked, it wasn't Evian).
Open daily for brunch, I settled in late morning after a dog park run and got my bistro salad with chunks of pancetta and giant brioche croutons to embellish the poached eggs and frisée. I'm not sure I've ever encountered any other dish with frisée (also known as curly endive, or chicory). I'm not sure whether I'd want to. But for some reason salad is what's for breakfast in France, and the combination of stalky greens and runny yolk seems to work, especially if supplemented by pancakes topped by tart cherry syrup.
It also pairs well with the stylish- yet-friendly brunch crowd, many of whom accept, even appreciate, having a dog around. I suppose it helps that, unlike Paris, most dog owners in San Diego are considerate enough to curb our pets.