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.

Before the holidays, Brenda’s was the perfect setting for another gathering of my fellow food blogging diners – Edda of A Housewife’s Tale and Jo of Jo Boston is a Foodie.

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.

Brenda’s is still a popular brunch destination

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.

The beignet flight includes crawfish, apple, chocolate and plain versions.

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.

Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon

Hangtown Fry with crispy oysters and bacon and scallion scramble served with a biscuit

Tiny tin buckets gave the place a nautical theme

The counter seating now runs down the center of the room and is just as crowded with diners

The staff was efficient about updating the chalkboard wait list.

The special pork belly and grits had a tiny piece of pork belly nearly drowning in cheesy grits

Mural on the brick wall of the expanded side of Brenda’s

Egg and Bacon Tartine made of bacon, scrambled eggs, gruyere and a tomato-bacon relish

Inside the special Dungeness crab beignet

I loved the slogan on the back of this server’s shirt

7 Responses to Twice the Size. Just as Popular.

  1. Karen says:

    I like Brenda’s a lot too but sometimes their dishes lack a OH MY GOD, WOW factor – always good though. And I definitely agree with you on the frequent lack of texture in their dishes. I love grits and I love cheese but even I think that their cheesey grits has way too much cheese – I order mine plain nowadays and it’s great. My favorite is the crawfish beignets hands down.

    • Ben Ben says:

      Exactly, no WOW factor but decent. And I agree, the savory beignets seem to be the noteworthy items on the menu.

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    A beignet FLIGHT? OMG! They look huge, too. Well, if you’re gonna be known for one thing only, you could do far worse than beignets. 😉

  3. hungry dog says:

    I used to eat at Brenda’s semi-regularly when I worked near there but haven’t been back since I left that job a few years ago. I remember thinking it was good for a weekday lunch spot but not necessarily worth a long wait on the weekend for brunch. I have to say, the idea of pork belly and grits just might disabuse me of that notion, though…

    • Ben Ben says:

      The pork belly and grits sound good on paper, but it didn’t deliver. So I wouldn’t go back just for that. I agree, Brenda’s is a great weekday lunch if you’re in the area, and brunch is festive and fun because of the crowds but don’t bother waiting if the chalkboard list doesn’t seem to be moving fast.

  4. sandy says:

    Too bad, the pork belly looks like it would be crispy from your picture… sorry I missed this meal, I bet it was fun! I hope that with the expanded dining room they also were able to expand the tiny kitchen, which I remember having to squeeze through to get to the restroom.

    • Ben Ben says:

      Sandy, we missed you! … I did use the restroom and I don’t remember having to squeeze through a lot of people, so yeah, I think the expanded space helped with the kitchen situation.