Brunch in the Tenderloin

Pdho and I met with JC and CW for brunch on Sunday at Brenda’s French Soul Food in the middle of Tenderloin. I’ve kind of started to notice that there is a fair number of brunch places with some raving reviews in the Tenderloin like Dottie’s True Blue Cafe and Farmer Brown, and at least for Dottie’s and Brenda’s, these places have lines out the door all the time. I’m sure given the somewhat sketchy reputation, the rent is probably really affordable so it would ideal for restaurants, but at the same time you don’t want to be hanging out in that part of town once the sun goes down the city. Haha!!!

Anyways, we ended up waiting about an hour for a table in the tiny but cozy dining room that probably seats about 30 people across a few tables, a handful of half-booths and a counter. It’s a pretty small place, but it has a homey and simple feel to the place. I think it does have a slight Southern feel because of the coziness alone. We examined the menu posted outside and the specials on the chalkboard during our wait and we were ready to order the moment the waitress seated us.

We started off with the Beignet Flight to share amongst the four us. It was 1 of each of the 4 beignets on the menu, the plain traditional one, and 3 specialty ones filled with molten Ghiradelli chocolate, Granny Smith Apple with cinnamon honey butter, and Crawfish cayenne, scallions, and cheddar cheese. Interestingly enough, I was expecting to like the Ghiradelli chocolate one the least, because I’m not a big fan of chocolate, but I think it came in second just behind the crawfish one. I’m a savory-loving person, so I would naturally prefer the crawfish one and I did. The only thing that put me off just a bit was the slightly too heavy dusting of cayenne on top of the beignet. It was a tad bit spicy. In stark contrast, the chocolate was so thick and sweet, but it went really well with the thick breadiness of the beignet. The apple one was okay, but probably my least favorite of the four. The beignet itself was pretty well done and is probably the best I’ve had outside of the ones at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

I ordered the Shrimp and Cheesy Grits which was served with a bacon & tomato relish on top. Not only did I think this dish was the prettiest in terms of color contrasts and presentation, it was an absolutely delicious tasting dish. The shrimps were a good size and the relish added some rich flavor to the shrimps. In fact, the relish even enhanced the cheesy grits which were pretty flavorful in their own right. All together, it was the best dish in my opinion and had a nice balance of saucy goodness from the relish-covered shrimp to the creamy richness of the grits. It was heavy but pretty gosh darn worth it.

Pdho ordered the Shrimp and Goat Cheese Omelette which came with a side of grits and a big buttery biscuit. I have to say that I didn’t care too much for his omelette mainly because of the goat cheese. Although I have found myself taking a liking to more cheeses than I would have expected in a lot of dishes lately, I could not take the taste of Goat cheese. I think it has a distinct gamey flavor which tends to overpower every other ingredient in the dish… and that is basically what happened when I took a bite of his omelette. Blah! I couldn’t taste anything else, not even the bacon tomato relish which Pdho and CW both had on their omelettes and really complimented as well. The grits were a plainer version of mine as they weren’t topped with cheddar cheese, so although it was good, I did prefer mine more. Ironic, isn’t it? I actually like the cheesier version. The biscuit was great though. So buttery and fluffy and probably full of fat and lard. Yum!

CW ordered the Egg & Bacon Tartine which was a scrambled egg omelette topped with the deliciously yummy tomato bacon relish and served over slices of bacon and a toasted French roll. This was good. The toasted bread really added a nice texture to the eggs.

JC ordered one of the specials, the Hangtown Fry Oyster & Bacon Scramble. What is very consistent in all the egg dishes, is whether it’s called an omelette or scramble, it manages to be a thick and fluffy chunk of egginess. Although I was a little unsure of how the oyster was going to taste in an egg omelette, I was pleasantly surprised. Admittedly, the flavor of the oyster was probably a little more subtle given the way it was prepared, but I actually liked it that way.

A lot of the reviewers on Yelp complained about the wait being extremely long and commenting that the food was not worth the wait. I would have to disagree with those few dissenters as I thought the food was pretty darn special. True, there is a wait, but I can’t say it was terribly annoying. Maybe it was because I wasn’t as hungry when we first got there. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. The food is a bit heavy though, so I left feeling very satisfied but absolutely stuffed until the dinner later that evening… and I probably could have skipped dinner given how much I had for lunch. I highly recommend the place for brunch, but I suggest going there being very prepared to wait and ready to eat. The food is tasty and sure to send your cholesterol up a few points.

Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St (between Eddy St & Turk St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

PAFO Ratings for Brenda’s French Soul Food:
Price 3 stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars

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