Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brenda's French Soul Food

Brenda’s French Soul Food is a Creole diner in the Civic Center area of downtown San Francisco serving rich, flavorful food with French style and New Orleans soul. Chef-owner and New Orleans native Brenda Buenviaje serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner with flavors that are at once bold and nuanced, uncomplicated and refined, gourmet and down-home. On the menu you will find some traditional French and Creole fare as well as a few unique items like their signature stuffed beignets (fried doughnuts) and Sweet Watermelon Tea.

It was our last day in San Francisco and we planned to check out the SFMOMA and see my favorite artist, Cindy Sherman, whose exhibition was currently on display.  It was much sunnier this morning, and Keith quickly looked up a place for breakfast.  He found one walking distance from our hotel, so off we went.  We actually had to walk through some of the dirtiest and vile sections of the city, kind of shocking for California standards.  I will not describe in detail since this is a blog about food, but just be warned.  Nevertheless, we found Brenda's with a large crowd of hipsters waiting outside and I immediately thought I was in an episode of Portlandia.  We figured out the drill quickly, as you had to go inside and write your name and number in your party on the chalkboard and then wait outside (up to 1 hour) to be called.  If you or your whole party is not there when you are called, you will be skipped.  A few people knew the wait would be long, so their MO was to put their name down and then run across the street to another cafe to grab a coffee and muffin to go, and then come back to Brenda's and nosh on their "pre-breakfast" outside. Crazy! Is the food at Brenda's really that good?

Skepticism aside, we waited it out and about 45 minutes later were called.  The restaurant inside was a little on the small side with the room split in half, but tall ceilings and windows let in plenty of bright light.  A large mural was painted on the wall to look like a vintage advertisement with a large crawfish on it, which gave the place some character.  Since we had plenty of time to look at the menu, we immediately ordered the chocolate beignets to start with a cup of hot tea each.  The beignets come 3 per order, or you can get a sampler of 4 for a little more money.  Flavors included plain, chocolate, sweet potato, and crawfish.  They were huge and more than enough to share.  The dough was so light and perfectly crispy and warm, and the Ghirardelli chocolate inside was decadent and slightly melted.

I also ordered the French sounding Egg & Bacon Tartine that was not the best choice. I was expecting a tartlet or frittata type dish, rather this was an open-faced sandwich with a side of potato hash. The bacon was thickly cut, but the eggs were plain and I did not care for the cheese and sweet tomato relish on top. Keith ordered the Fried Chicken Eggs Benedict that photographed nicely, but was deceiving to the eye. The sauce, the chicken, and even the eggs were all cold. Strange since the egg was still runny, but the temperature was cold on the tongue.  The biscuit it came on was good, but everything else was a little disappointing.  Perhaps we just ordered the wrong things.  I noticed others around us ordered different items such as a regular omelette as well as more Creole classics such as Shrimp & Grits.  At least the beignets were amazing and totally made up for our long wait.  In addition, service is very quick once you are seated inside.  They certainly know how to turn around the tables and get the crowds through.

Total Rating: 3.48
Food: 3.5, Price: 4, Service: 3, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 1

What I ate:
Chocolate Beignets
with molten Ghirardelli chocolate

Egg & Bacon Tartine
bacon, scrambled eggs, gruyère & tomato-bacon relish on toasted French roll
served with potato hash

Plus Keith ate:
Fried Chicken Eggs Benedict
two poached eggs on cream biscuits with Creole hollandaise
served with potato hash

  
Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon

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