My sister is no stranger to the Bay Area, having visited me dozens of times now. Each time, I’d insist we try Brenda’s French Soul Food — and, without fail, we’d run out of hours in the day. Well, no longer. This past month, I made sure that she tried one of San Francisco’s very favorite restaurants.
Brenda’s weekend brunch is absolutely worth the trouble it takes to get a seat. Yes, you’ll have to trek through the grimy, grungy Tenderloin district. It goes without saying that you’ll need to queue up for a bit (though, it should be said, the wait always looks deceptively longer than it really is). One dish, however, will dissipate all your hangriness, as it did my sister’s. Behold: the crawfish beignet. You’ll definitely want to click through the post to see what happens when one bursts open.
Brenda’s takes an already fantastic concept (spice-dusted, deep-fried dough) and stuffs it with a creamy, cheesy, spicy filling of crawfish, scallions, cayenne and cheddar. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tried, and I can’t imagine anyone else would do it better. While you might be tempted to OD on doughnuts, one is the magic number — enough to leave you perfectly satisfied. My sister, who I regularly parade around food destinations, ranked this her favorite dish in all of San Francisco yet.
We also tried the “BFC,” or buttermilk fried chicken combination, involving a seriously crispy-yet-tender breast and wing and expertly cooked fries. I’d been disappointed by the cream biscuit on prior visits (having found it on the dry side), so I was happy to find that this one was unbelievably fluffy and rich. The plate also comes with a ramekin of super-tart watermelon slaw, which should most definitely be used as garnish and not consumed on its own.
We ordered the special, jambalaya, which came loaded with chicken andouille sausage and morsels of chicken. This is an excellent share-able dish, doing the heavy-lifting when it comes to filling tummies. The mustard-dressed green salad on the side balanced out the sauce-laden, flavor-packed rice perfectly.
One of the most popular dishes, the shrimp and grits, comes loaded with plump sauteed seafood and spicy tomato-bacon gravy. Eat it while it’s hot (before that cheddar congeals) for ideal textural enjoyment. While the grits are solidly good, it was the least coveted of all the offerings on the table. Jay and I agreed that The Front Porch‘s version has Brenda’s beat… but, then again, I’m only here for those crawfish beignets. Those flavorbombs are insurance that my sister finds her way back to Brenda’s whenever she’s in San Francisco.
Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102