SFO: Brenda’s French Soul Food
Posted by Degan on September 14th, 2011
Would you wait 2 hours for breakfast? I didn’t think I would – I’ve never been to Anton’s and only go to Stepho’s late at night – but after our San Francisco cocktail tour the promise of a Cajun hangover brunch (combined with a little incredulity that it would actually be 2 hours) seemed possible. So we got up as early as we could muster (11) and set out through the Tenderloin, past many coffee shops (this will be important later) and arrived at the highly recommended Brenda’s French Soul Food.
“That’s not so bad,” I said when I saw a handful of people standing outside the heavily scaffold-ed restaurant but when I went inside to write our names on the board, I realized how incredibly tiny it was and how many times the entire place was going to have to turn over before I could have a caesar. “We need coffee,” was my next plan of attack but it didn’t seem prudent to leave and so we waited. And waited. And waited.I eavesdropped on everyone’s conversations, I memorized the entire block, down to the pattern in the sidewalk, I pushed my face up against the glass several times. I thought by the time I got around to writing this post, the splendidness of the meal would have overshadowed the memory of waiting, but let it be known – we were there for a LONG time.
Right at the point where I was going to collapse from coffee withdrawal we realized that we could get mugs of their community coffee with chicory so that kept me going for a little while. Maybe next time I’ll try ordering a beignet to go.
And then finally the cheery host (how cheerful and pleasant everyone was through this experience is a testament to good food) called our name. We had already read the specials board and the menu so we didn’t waste any time in plunking down our previously acquired mugs and sorting out more coffee and a couple of Bloody Marys with Cajun spices and pickled okra.
The food followed not long after. We ordered the highly acclaimed beignet sampler – original, chocolate, apple and crawfish.I’ve never properly had a beignet before (although they aren’t that much different than a donut) and so I thought I might overdose but man were they good. The original was tasty – basically sweet fried dough with icing sugar – and the crawfish was spectacular. Coated red with cayenne pepper and filled with more of the same, but scallions and cheddar. Mmmmm! I could have had 3 of those. Chocolate was way too over the top for my liking and the apple, cinnamon, honey butter combo was interesting but didn’t touch the other two.
Then came our breakfast. I had the Hangtown Fry; crispy oysters with bacon & scallion scramble with grits and a cream biscuit on the side. This was also the first time I have had grits and I couldn’t get enough of them. Creamy and silky like a corn flavoured cream of wheat, they were perfectly soothing and filling. Matt has traveled a lot in the Southern US and described them as “watery, gritty dishwater with chewy chunks of corn in it” which makes me wonder if I’ll ever chance it again, but if you’re at Brenda’s make sure you have the grits.
The rest of my meal was tasty and interesting. I love cayenne and there was plenty of that to go around but the thing I keep learning about myself is that I do not like cooked oysters. Leave me alone with a plate of raw ones and they won’t stick around long but heat does something distasteful to them in my opinion and even the addition of bacon and eggs didn’t make me come around. Never mind that i was ridiculously full at this point.
Matt ordered the Andouille sausage and cheddar omelet (also with grits which surprised me, given his description) with mushrooms, scallions and salsa. It was incredible but I don’t think he finished his either. I wish we could have ordered even more dishes and taken them home.