About South Park Cafe
For a brief time in the 1850's, South Park, a neighborhood south of Market Street, was a ritzy address in the rapidly growing city. Taking park developments in London as his model, an Englishman built a series of residential town houses around a grassy common. In the 1980s, lured by cheap rents, architects and designers discovered the charms of South Park, and restaurateurs were close behind. The area evoked the parks in French Villages. South Park Cafe itself, which seems like a slice of small-town France, set the Gallic flavor. In the last 20 years this unpretentious cafe with a serious kitchen has matured into one of the best little French restaurants in San Francisco.
From the California edition of Restaurant Magazine, June 2004:
After visiting Chez Panisse, French Laundry and Campton Place I had one last stop. A small restaurant called The South Park Cafe had been highly recommended by restaurant expert Adria Hagg. When I got there I could see why. On the wall was an old menu from La Pyramide. Here was a fine example of the way Californian food has evolved. The great chefs of California have all spend time in France and Italy and been thoroughly moved by the experience. They have brought their knowledge back with them and, coupled with the great local produce, have set about defining a new breed of cuisine. In Ward Little's case it's the closest you'll get to an authentic French bistro outside France.
Ward is a special breed of Californian chef. " I worked in France when I was young," he said. "I had a pushbike and a backpack and I worked my way across France and ended up at La Pyramide. Madame Point was still running the restaurant and I was hooked. I was working the seasons and kept getting jobs with chefs who were either ex-Point or ex-Guerard. It was amazing. My great influence is Point, but I am also very inspired by a chef named Andre Guillot.
"Back in San Francisco, the former White House Chef under the Kennedys got me the job at South Park. Cooking, I've discovered, is about family, romance and being with people. If you cook with some sincerity you address all those things."
California food is a great marriage of France, Italy and the produce that grows in abundance locally. But at its helm are chefs who have traveled, fallen in love and brought something home.
Owner Ward Little studied at the Culinary Institute at Contra Costa College under the legendary Ken Wolfe. In California he worked four years at French restaurants including Le Marquis in Lafayette and Miramonte in St. Helena. Afterwards he worked in France including a season at La Pyramide in 1983, at Jaqueline Fenix in Paris and with chef Jaques Chibois. Ward has been chef at South Park Cafe since 1993. He is an avid rock climber as well as a proud father of daughter Chloe.