A couple weeks ago, Michael Krasny of KQED's "Forum" interviewed Tanya Holland, owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, as his guest. http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R20141216.... Her responses to a couple of call-in questions about ingredients and sourcing seemed rather unfortunate. When one caller asked about shrimp and grits and where Hollard sources her grits (the caller was having difficulty locating stone-ground grits in retail markets), Holland said that actually, they use Albers, a conventional quick-grits store-brought brand. When another caller asked about sourcing from local farms given the tradition of southern/country cooking, Holland said that at the price point they have to charge out here, she actually just sources from wholesale vendors and not locally (read: Sysco, US Foods).
When you're 1) located in one of the relatively lower-rent districts in the Bay Area; 2) charging mid-upper teens for dishes that would price at $5-7 in the South; and 3) outside of the South, located in the most bountiful agricultural region for ingredients used in traditional southern cooking, and yet you still have to water down the cuisine to this extent, and you're getting multi-hour waits because comparatively speaking, you're still doing it better than others, that really drives home the sad state of certain regional American cuisine out here.
This also brings up a broader point - does the cost of doing business here in the Bay Area necessarily price out certain types of cuisine - namely, those that authentically and traditionally are priced for affordability yet are based on farm-fresh and labor-intensive processes?