Tonight I ate w/ three others at Farmer Browns - it was my first visit. Overall, I thought it was good but not great. Some things were better than others.
I liked the space more than I thought - it was dark and a bit loud, but also warm and spacious. Service was also very friendly and professional.
Water (w/ cucumber) was served in glass carafes. We started w/ complimentary mini cornbread muffins - served w/ a slightly jalapeno flavored butter. Good, but nothing to write home about.
We shared one appetizer - shrimp cakes. I thought these were just OK, though other people at the table really enjoyed them. They were deep fried (as opposed to pan fried) and reminded me a bit of fish sticks. They didn't taste particularly like shrimp. They were served w/ two sauces that overlapped each other on the plate: one tasted like Russian dressing (ketsup and mayo) and the other was spicy (horseradish and/or chili?). Not that interesting, but fine.
The four of us ordered 4 different main dishes.
1 person had the fried chicken w/ macaroni and cheese and collard greens. I didn't taste any of this.
2nd person had pulled pork sandwich. The pulled pork was nice and tender, but had a flavor that I couldn't quite identify and didn't quite like. Almost reminded me of 5-spice or some other sweet spice (nutmeg?). This was served with BBQ sauce and chips, which I did not try.
3rd person had Jambalaya, which I tasted and thought was very good. Good flavor, nice presentation, generous portion. I was a bit jealous I didn't have his plate. He paid an extra 5 dollars to include andouille sausage (which was a bit dear for just one sausage) but I bet it made the dish better.
I had the fried catfish, which was a disappointment. The piece of catfish itself was big and tender inside, but the outside crust was bland and under-salted. I was wishing for a dipping sauce, but there wasn't one. Since the crust was bland and there was no dipping sauce, the swampy catfish flavor wasn't as masked as I wished it would be. My plate had 3 sides: the fried okra were bad. Way under-salted, basically flavorless. I could have been eating fried cardboard and it would have tasted exactly the same. Candied yams were pretty decent - nothing special, and not particularly pretty presentation, but flavor was fine. The sauteed green vegetable (not sure what kind of vegetable it was - southern greens I think?) was really excellent! By far the best thing on my plate, and maybe better than the Jambalaya. Good balance of acidity (lemon?) and garlic and some other flavors I couldn't quite identify. But I really think this one sidedish redeemed the entire restaurant for me.
We opted to skip dessert, though the menu looked pretty decent. Overall, I thought this restaurant was better than some of its competition (Sauce in Hayes Valley comes to mind) but still not fantastic. This seems like a great place to go for drinks (nice cocktail menu) and some appetizers for sharing with friends. Or maybe an order of Jambalaya and a side of southern greens.
25 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102