You haven’t truly lived in San Francisco until you have had the pleasure of leaving Brenda’s French Soul Food uncomfortably full. I’m talking ‘leggings only — no way I’m returning to work today — food coma’ type of full. And so it goes, when my coworker, who graciously took it upon himself to sponsor “SF Eat Week” during my last fleeting moments as a resident of San Francisco, got wind of the fact that I had not yet had this classic Bay Area experience, we promptly left work at 10 am to do just that. (They couldn’t fire me anyway, right? I already gave my notice!)
This place is known for being packed on weekends, but I was pleasantly surprised when we walked right in on a Thursday morning. Which makes total sense in hindsight, because most people are at work during that time. My coworker was a Brenda’s veteran, so for the most part, I gave him the reigns when ordering. He’s a total foodie and we had worked and dined together for so long that I trusted his palate, which is a huge honor in my book and a responsibility you should not take lightly, if I ever give you such accolades.
Brenda’s is a unique mix of Southern comfort food, creole, and French. This combination is so unique it could definitely have been a total flop, but it is pulled off seamlessly and has become a huge success in the SF Foodie culture.
Disclosure: Before I tell you everything we ordered, I should warn you — do not try this at home. The following memoir reflects the dining experience of two seasoned professionals, who eat, sleep, and breathe food for a living. The sheer quantity of food that was placed on a table for two is not for the faint of heart. I should also preface that there is zero nutritional benefits to any of the food mentioned below. Zero.
I digress, we started off with the Sweet Watermelon House Iced Tea. I’ve also heard good things about the Guava Mimosa special, but considering it was a Thursday and I was still tossing around the idea of returning to work, I figured I should hold off. The iced tea was delicious and definitely helped cleanse the palate between all the different flavors that were about to disrupt my taste buds.
Moving right along, we ordered the Beignet Flight to get us started. Because everybody needs an appetizer for breakfast, am I right?! The flight comes with 4 flavors: Plain, Chocolate, Granny Smith Apple, and Crawfish. The first three are dusted with powdered sugar, and when I say dusted, I really mean dumped with powdered sugar. (No complaints though – it was on point.) The Crawfish Beignet is topped with cayenne and scallions and is definitely the savory outlier on a plate full of sweets. I loved all of them, but the crawfish ran away with it for me. A deep-fried doughnut, cheesy crawfish goodness coupled with a spicy kick… I was definitely warming up to this place.
Our next course was the Hangtown Fry. Oyster, bacon, and scallion scramble. To be honest, it was more like an omelet than a scramble (also okay with this minor discrepancy). I think this was the first time I had seafood in a scramble and/or omelet, and it is opening all sorts of doors in the creative side of my brain. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before, but it is genius! Not only was it seafood, but it was OYSTERS. Not your typical “salmon bagel” to incorporate seafood into breakfast, but OYSTERS, people. I mean c’mon! Brilliant.
Grand Finale: We finished off the meal with Shrimp and Grits. HOLY WOW. This was by far my favorite moment of the meal and quite possibly eternity. A house favorite for good reason, the bowl of cheddar grits with sauteed shrimp and tomato-bacon gravy was the perfect blend of southern comfort and creole that totally hit the spot. I’m not usually a grits fan, but this had me reevaluating all of my previous taste preferences and also living location (I’m coming for ya, New Orleans).
God Bless You, Brenda. You brought a renewed light into my life and I am forever grateful. Next time I’m in San Francisco, my first stop is your other location: Brenda’s Meat and Three. Reserve a table now.
Also, for those who were wondering – I did, in fact, return to work that day. Employee of the Year, over here.