Brenda’s restaurant seems to be a popular spot to gather, as demonstrated by the countless groups of people who come for its popular brunch.
I’ve eaten at this spot bordering the Tenderloin and the Civic Center, but this was before it doubled in size when it expanded to the space next door (and also started dinner service). Walking in and spending time waiting (they don’t take reservations), I surveyed the larger spot, which had a wall of framed mirrors on the old side and a New Orleans-inspired mural on the brick wall on the other side.
The counter seating, once facing a mirrored wall, is still there, but now runs down the center of the space. And despite the larger space, there’s still a wait.
When we finally sat down and ordered our brunch dishes, it seemed like our table had been invaded by beignets, the Louisiana doughnut. Because I try not to eat a lot of deep fried foods, these were mostly for Edda and Jo. I just watched as they dug into the beignet flight ($9.50), which offered up a plain beignet and three filled ones with crawfish, chocolate and Granny Smith apple.
I tried a bit of the crawfish, which had a flavorful filling with all the recognizable Creole spices, and the beignet had a crispy edge. Even after trying the flight, Edda and Jo couldn’t resist ordering one of the special seasonal beignet – filled with Dungeness crab.
Besides the huge beignets, the main dishes are also just as large, which I suspect is one of the main reasons Brenda’s is such a popular brunch destination. That’s because I wouldn’t say the dishes were amazing, albeit solid.
Take, for example, my special of pork belly grits. Similar to shrimp and grits, the dish swaps out the shrimp with a piece of pork belly. Unfortunately, I felt my pork belly was drowning in the cheesy grits, which nearly took over the bowl. I also wished the pork belly had a crispy skin to contrast the mushy texture throughout.
Edda also lacked any crispiness in her Hangtown Fry ($11), which was supposed to have crispy oysters. She said her oysters weren’t crispy at all, although she did enjoy the scramble of bacon and scallion served with biscuit (which Jo loved so much she ordered a biscuit to take home to her hubby).
Jo’s Egg and Bacon Tartine ($9.50) was an open-face sandwich made of toasted French roll topped with bacon, scrambled eggs, gruyere and a tomato-bacon relish.
Although Brenda’s size has doubled, the food continues to be like how it was since opening in 2007, which is solid soul food in large portions that may not be refined but is definitely comforting.
Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
Brenda’s French Soul Food, 652 Polk St. (at Eddy), San Francisco. PH: 415.345.8100. Open Mon.–Tue., 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Wed.–Sat., 8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.–8 p.m. No reservations, major credit cards accepted. frenchsoulfood.com
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