It wasn’t until the 4th day of my San Francisco trip, that I finally got a taste of something truly special. I’ll give you a hint. One of the two buildings pictured above is an absolute MUST when visiting San Francisco, and it doesn’t involve a talking chihuahua or burrito-filling injected using caulking guns.
Brenda’s French Soul Food was about 45 minutes of absolute bliss. It was located just a few blocks away from the huge city capitol building. Speaking of which, when I first drove by the capitol building I kept thinking to myself “Wow, I thought the state capitol was in Sacramento?” That is because the San Fran city government center dwarves SLC’s state capitol building. It was truly a spectacular building.
The dining room at Brenda’s wasn’t very big. I would say there was room for 40 to 50 people. There was a sign-in board at the entrance to the restaurant where you can write your name in chalk as you wait to be seated. I got there around 2 pm in the afternoon, and actually got a seat right away. You have to time your visit just right. The walls on one side were covered with a series of mirrors, while the wall opposite was decorated with a huge mural.
I was expecting a LOT from this place. This particular day was the last day of my San Francisco/San Jose conference I was attending, and I had really done my homework on Yelp and Urbanspoon to try to find the best places to eat in the city. I was NOT disappointed! The menu had a lot of Southern dishes and po’boys (Po’Boy is to the South, as a Grinder is to the North, both are basically a sub sandwich) I almost pulled the trigger on the banana’s foster french toast with this caramel syrup. While I was eating the gentleman to my right ordered it, and I swear based on the sounds he was making with his mouth, I would have thought he was giving birth or something and not just mearly eating lunch. I also almost went with the pulled pork sandwich which was on the specials board, but decided that was a dish that I could order anywhere here in SLC. I finally decided that I wanted to order the most unique dish I could find on the menu, so I went with a special they were having, the cheddar grits with pork belly. I’ve never had grits before, so I thought this was as good as time as ever to try.
Previously to this trip, the image that I most associated with grits, even though I’ve never tried them was the Beach Boys song “Sloop John B”, where a kid on a ship complains that someone eat all his grits and that he wanted to go home. I’m glad to say that after my experience with Brenda’s, this heavenly plate will be the new “grits” image forever engrained in my head. This was by far the best thing I tasted during my entire trip.
Grits are made of finely ground corn, and is normally eaten for breakfast. Grits has rich traditions in the South, which is why it was on the menu at Brenda’s French Soul Food. The plate consisted of a huge bowl of golden grits, topped with lots of melted cheddar cheese. There was a fried egg of to the side, as well as a little oasis of spicy salsa in the middle. The highlight of the plate was the thick cut of pork belly. Mixing the tender pork belly with a little salsa, and cheddar cheese grits was a spiritual experience. I looked around the Brenda’s dining room and counted about 4-5 other people also enjoying their plate of grits. Guys and Gals – this place was indeed “soul food”
I also ordered a side of red beans and rice, just because it’s one of my all-time favorite side dishes ranked right behind mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. Wouldn’t you know it, but Brenda’s also has a killer rice and beans dish as well?
This little white cauldron of delicious flavor only added to the glory that was Brenda’s. They have a main dish you can order as an entrée with all red beans and rice if you wish. I’ve seen pictures of it, and there are a couple of huge sausages going down the middle of the plate. This dish was seasoned just right with the green onion and bay leaf. The sausage was spectacular.
Of course I had to order desert as well, and Brenda’s is famous for their beignets, which is described as New Orleans’ favorite donut. (I believe this is what Tiana makes in The Princess and the Frog) Brenda has four different varieties; plain, chocolate, apple, and crawfish. If you can’t decide on just one, you can order a sample of each one.
The beignets were as described. It was the perfect end to the perfect meal. San Francisco is a spectacular city. It will take folks here in Salt Lake City about 10 hours going west on I-80 to get there. For $15 you can get on a fishing boat and check out the San Francisco Bay, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. Driving through Chinatown, down Lombard Street, taking a trolley ride, and walking through Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 were also so much fun. I would suggest doing all those things, but be sure to visit Brenda’s French Soul Food whatever you do. I still have a lot of places I would like to eat in San Francisco, but after one trip, Brenda’s is clearly on the top of the list.