Chef Melissa Perello Reopens Frances in San Francisco’s Castro District

James Beard Foundation Award-nominated chef Melissa Perello and team, including director of operations Robert Wright, chef de cuisine Jordan Wittrock and wine director Iris Rowlee, announce the re-opening of Frances restaurant (3870 17th Street) in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District. Originally opened in December 2009, Frances is named after Perello’s grandmother who inspired her love of cooking and hospitality and returns after a series of pop-up dinners called FXMP throughout the 18-month temporary pandemic-induced closure. 

“We’ve been eager to get the doors open again and welcome back guests for quite some time, so this is a celebratory moment,” says Perello. “I’m especially proud of the menu and experience our team has created. I’m also eager to share the work of our collaborators who did such a beautiful job renovating the interior. I’ll always have a special attachment to Frances and being able to bring the space to life again feels incredibly good.”

Frances re-opens with expanded outdoor parklet seating for 28 guests and refreshed interiors in the 32-seat dining room and six-seat bar. Under the direction of chef/owner Perello and chef de cuisine Jordan Wittrock, Frances offers a family-style menu of eight to 10 dishes that changes weekly and highlights ingredients responsibly sourced from the team’s diverse network of California and Bay Area farmers, ranchers, seafood purveyors and artisans, including Medium Farm in Healdsburg; Kibo Farm in Sonoma County; Tenbrink Farm in Fairfield; and Water 2 Table and The Japanese Pantry in San Francisco, to name a few. Wine Director Iris Rowlee’s beverage program features a carefully curated selection of California, New and Old World wines, low-ABV cocktails and some treasured, small producers.

The family-style menu reflects Frances’ signature style, celebrating the agricultural bounty of Northern California with straightforward preparations that allow the ingredients to shine. Composed of eight to 10 dishes designed to share, Wittrock’s menu will change weekly while representing the collective effort and inspiration of Perello’s leadership. Frances will also offer a limited a la carte menu at the bar for walk-ins, featuring some of the restaurant’s dishes that have been staples since opening, including Panisse Frites and the Lumberjack Cake.

A summer menu and wine pairings at Frances could include:

heirloom TOMATO, black chestnut worcestershire, tellicherry beef ‘jerky’

HEN OF THE WOODS fritto, green goddess

hog island OYSTER, mezcal mignonette, cucumber & lime

2019 Tatomer RIESLING ‘Vandenberg’ Santa Barbara County, California

creamed corn CAMPANELLE, sweet summer peppers, parmesan         

grilled ZUCCHINI, tomato, fines herbes, shinjuku                         

2021 Scribe PINOT NOIR Rosé ‘The Empress’ Sonoma Valley, California

olivier’s PORK LOIN, eggplant, green farro, salsa verde

blistered POLE BEANS, guanciale, chili XO               

2019 Borgogno NEBBIOLO D’ALBA ‘The Truffle Hunters’ Piedmont, Italy

grilled STONE FRUITS, almond oat streusel, crème fraîche ice cream

NV Duc de Romet PM/PN ‘Brut Prestige’ Champagne, France

“I am excited to be a part of a restaurant that is so important to the neighborhood and to me personally,” says Wittrock. “Frances has always been a place I enjoyed going to with my wife for special occasions or just for a good meal. Chef Melissa is someone I’ve always looked up to, so being able to work with her and the team on this project has been amazing and humbling.”

A Court of Masters Certified Sommelier, Rowlee collaborates with Wittrock as she creates the optional wine pairings for each weekly menu, ensuring they elevate the dining experience and reflect the expressions of the season. Curious and education-oriented, Rowlee’s wine list focuses on producers from California, Austria, France, Germany and Italy while representing and celebrating Grower Producer Champagne, Burgundy, Barolo, Riesling, Gruner as well as more off-the-beaten-path regions and varieties as well as local collaborations, including RYME 'Las Brisas' Pinot Noir from Megan and Ryan Glaab. Rowlee hand-selects producers with great intention for Frances’ small cocktail program; for example, she showcases female-owned producers and all-natural ingredients in the house cocktail, Negroni Sbagliato.

Like she does at sister restaurant Octavia, Rowlee will routinely focus on a different wine theme – including regions, locations, grape varietals – to engage and educate both staff and guests at Frances. Having recently returned from her honeymoon in Italy, Rowlee is currently focused on sharing the discoveries and stories of the wines and families behind them with whom she met during her travels in the region of Campania, including La Sibilla's Piedirosso and Cenatiempo's Biancolella.

Frances’ guests and regulars will also recognize the return of Market Shots, a cheeky aperitif to start the meal, featuring rotating local, seasonal produce juiced and spiked with low-ABV wine, bitters, and vermouths. And a small and highly curated off-menu, reserve wine list and thoughtful after-dinner offerings, such as Madeira, Barolo Chinato and Fred Jerbis' Vermut 25, complement the beverage program.

Architect Seth Boor created the refreshed interiors, adding a soft juxtaposition of light and dark tones with subtle pops of color augmented by Frances’ natural light and warm atmosphere. The intimate dining room blends refined elegance and comfort with a mix of rich colors, including natural woods, and bold textures, providing a sophisticated and welcoming stage for the menu and dishes to shine. Laurie Furber of Elsie Green curated vintage décor and muralist and decorative painter Caroline Lizarraga created a deep toned Ombre wall throughout the dining room. Ceramics are provided by Sarah Kersten, with florals by The Petaler and graphic design by r.vH Design.

Frances is available for private events, accommodating parties up to 30 seated or 55 standing. The heated, outdoor parklets are available for private events up to 16 guests, and offer a semi-al fresco dining experience in the open air while providing warmth and cover from the elements.

Frances, located at 3870 17th Street @ Pond Street, San Francisco, CA 94114, offers indoor and parklet dinner service Wednesday – Saturday, from 5:00 – 9:15p.m. Frances dedicates the six seats at the bar and counter for walk-in guests.

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