West Sacramento’s fledgling Bridge District got a major dose of street cred with the recent opening of Franquette, a contemporary French café from the owners of Canon.
It’s an open-all-day, drop-in-for-a-glass-of-wine kind of place inspired by the cafés of Paris. But it’s not a Disneyland version of a French café—“no checkerboard floor, no berets or bistro aprons,” says Brad Cecchi, one of the owners.
Originally, the developer of the Bridge District had a coffee-oriented business in mind for the space, but Cecchi (who co-owns East Sac’s Canon with Clay Nutting) had other ideas. The Michelin-anointed chef had spent time in Europe and felt that Sacramento needed a European-style place where people could go for coffee and pastry in the morning, lunch at midday, wine in the afternoon and dinner in the evening. For the French, Cecchi explains, that sort of place is “their everything.”
He partnered with two Canon colleagues, Jack and Elena Winks, who met and fell in love while working in Paris—Jack as a bartender, Elena as a chef. Together, the three of them came up with the concept for Franquette: casual, simple, modern and focused on local ingredients, with just a few exceptions such as French wines and cheeses.
At breakfast, you can order a freshly baked croissant, porridge, salmon tartine or mushroom galette, along with an espresso or a bol de chocolat—creamy hot chocolate served with a decadent slice of toasted, buttered brioche for dipping. At lunch, the choices are similarly limited: one soup, four salads, quiche and a jambon sandwich on a baguette. Dinner offers slightly more options, including oysters on the half shell, duck meatballs and boeuf bourguignon.
Elena Winks, Franquette’s chef, designed the menu with Cecchi’s input. The goal was to come up with simple dishes that could be easily executed in the already-built-out kitchen. No dish has more than two or three “touches”—chef-speak for components such as sauces and garnishes. By comparison, Canon’s complex dishes typically have 10 or 11 touches.
The frisée salad—a traditional salade Lyonnaise served at both lunch and dinner—is instructive. A tangle of feathery, curly greens served with a softly poached egg, crispy lardons and warm Dijon vinaigrette, it is both basic and magnificent. Winks remembers the transformative moment she ate frisée with lardons at an inexpensive restaurant in Paris’ 10th arrondissement. “It was not particularly attractive,” she recalls. “But OMG. It was a saucy salad, almost like a soup. So flavorful. With a perfectly poached egg, crispy but fatty bacon and acidic dressing. It’s hard to get right. It’s not the most beautiful salad, but it’s a classic.” For Franquette, Winks re-created that salad without any twists or tricks. “It’s already perfect,” she says. “You don’t need to put a spin on it.”
Raised between the United States and Germany by an American father and a German mother, Winks was inspired by the foods she ate growing up. A dish called, simply, Poached Potatoes is a version of an Alsatian cabbageand-potato concoction that her family used to make. She poaches local Bintje potatoes in butter along with purple cabbage, which tints the sauce a lovely pink, and serves them with apple-fennel sauerkraut. Winks describes her cooking style as emotional, nostalgic and feminine. “I make food I like to eat,” she says. “I was always more of a home-cook style of chef.” It’s grandma food—or in this case, grandmère food.
Winks got pregnant with her first child during the pandemic, and she was on maternity leave until he was almost a year old. When she returned to work, it was to open one of Sacramento’s hottest new restaurants. Only 27, she seems to be taking it all in stride. “I try really hard to do what sounds good in my head and hope people like it,” Winks says.
965 Bridge St., West Sacramento