I'd heard a lot of hype about Brenda's French Soul, reading about it in the Chronicle as well as in a few guidebooks. Being a New Orleans-ophile and having a serious culinary hard-on for beignets, creole food and great chicory coffee, I gladly waited the 75 minutes outside while the waitresses flipped the handful of tables inside this miniscule restaurant. When our name was finally called from the waiting list clipboard, I practically skipped to our table.
We started with the beignet flight and cafe au lait. The flight is one each of the crayfish, chocolate, apple and plain beignets. Each was delicious, but the beignets were tough, as if they had been prepped in advanced and the outside of the beignets were allowed to dry in the heat of the kitchen. Indeed, when I went to the back to use the restroom I could see trays of beignets cut and stuffed, ready to be fried. My other complaint was the liberal dusting of creole seasoning used to coat the crayfish beignet got all over the sweet beignets, making an odd combination of apple, chocolate and paprika. The cafe au lait was delicious.
My main was the special of the day, shrimp and cheddar grits. When it came out, the aroma was mouth watering, but when I started to tuck in I realized I had a problem. The entire dish was sitting in a huge puddle of red oil/grease. I don't know if it was fat from the broiled cheese grits or from the sauteed shrimp, but there was about 1/2 a cup of oil coating every shrimp and the surface of the grits. I tried scooting the grits out of the way and tipping the bowl to let the fat collect, but it was too late, every bite was oily and stomach-turning. I can't eat a lot of fat without getting sick to my stomach, and with 3-4 bites of the admittedly creamy and delicious grits and snappy, fresh shrimp I was nauseated and had to stop eating, spending the rest of my meal sipping water while my friend dug into his breakfast (egg tartin with tomato chutney and home frieds, which he enjoyed).
Our meal came to $46 for two, splitting the beignet flight, the grits (10,50), the egg tartin and a single pancake (also tough, but delicious). Both of us walked away with a tummy ache and disappointment for waiting so long for a mediocre meal.
Brenda's French Soul Food
652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102