Restaurants & Bars

Soul Food Chowdown at the Hard Knox Cafe - LONG

tom in sf | Aug 30, 200402:23 PM    

Met with three other hounds on Sunday for a Soul Food lunch at the Hard Knox Cafe on 3rd (near 22nd) in SF. Yimster, Windy and Eric and I shared four plates and came away full, and happy to return. Each main dish (on the lunch menu) comes with two sides and hot corn muffins. Yimster ordered from the breakfast menu.

I had a brainwave and asked if each would do a write-up of their dish and email it to me so I could compile the comments. That worked.

From Eric:
I ordered the catfish po-boy w/o tomatoes. The succulent, lightly battered and fried catfish fillet came on a white bread bun with some shredded lettuce and a dollop of mayonnaise. I added a bit if crystal pepper sauce for some zing. The combination was surprisingly simple and scrumptious. Despite my promise to not eat them, I promptly finished off the pile of cross-cut French fries. All in all a good order.

From Windy:
I had the oxtails, at $10 the most expensive item on the menu. It was an enormous plate. Three vertebrae with tender, tendon-y meat. I got the greens and mashed potatoes as my sides. The oxtails were delicious; I'm no expert on them, but I am fond of all kinds of bones. I wasn't as crazy about the gravy, but I don't usually like gravy and would probably get them on the side next time. The greens were tender; I prefer the extra vinegar Memphis Minnie's uses on them. My favorite dish was the bite of catfish po-boy that I snared, plus a crispy bite of hash browns.

The Arnold Palmer (half iced tea and half lemonade) was a novelty to me; my grandmother makes a similar Snapple like drink that's very popular in my family. I couldn't help wishing it had a kick of bourbon--this seems like something a bartender at a golf club dreamed up. Tony's a great host (totaling up 4 separate checks without us asking), and it's a comfortable spot to waste a few hours. The decor is downscale in an artful way. I'd go back without hesitation.

Worth noting that 3rd street is even more dug up than the last time I drove by and looks like the MUNI line will be finished in a few years. Hard Knox is probably pleasanter on Sunday as a result.

From Yimster:
The chicken fried steak was tender and cooked just right for my taste. In fact it was so tender that I had to get used to it. I have had some many bad versions of this dish it' s not funny. Most are a lot tougher.

The hash browns were brown on both sides without being burnt. I will be back with my two sons later. I would have liked a cream gravy better but you can not have everything.

From me:
I went for the BBQ Ribs. Three giant, pretty meaty pork ribs, nicely charred with a sweet, mild sauce. Meat was tender and the BBQ sauce was delish (would have liked more and will get it on the side next time).

Had the slightly lumpy mashers with gravy, yum!, and the corn (the pre-frozen style which is great with lots of S&P). The table also shared three orders of fresh corn muffins with butter. Reminded me of Jiffy brand. They came hot to the table with individually wrapped butter pats. Big cup o’joe (and we’re talkin’ a good 12 oz. cup of the strong stuff).

Got to taste Eric’s po-boy. Yummy. The juices ran down my hand. Crispy catfish and bun, Nicely seasoned with mayo and lettuce. Snagged a crinkle-cut, too, for old time’s sake. Had a small bite of Yimster’s CFS, but I had the whole thing three days ago. Took half of it home. CFS, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn are at the top of my list of comfort-food-reminds-me-of-home.

Tony was his usual charming self, being attentive when necessary and hanging back so we could just enjoy. He let us know what’s on the stove. He had Gumbo cooking and would have gladly given us orders to go, but it wasn’t quite ready (he insisted that it sit overnight first anyway). As Windy said, Tony thought ahead to split the bill four ways, which was pretty nice of him.

Disappointed that the other half of the hounds couldn’t make it. Next time. All in all, though, I believe Hard Knox has three new converts. Check the place out. He’s open M-F 11-9 PM, closed on Saturdays and serves breakfast all day on Sundays 11-5 PM.

Hard Knox Cafe
Authentic Soul Food
2526 3rd Street

Sample menu items:

3-pc. Fried Chicken $7
Cajun Meatloaf $9
Turkey Wings $9
Catfish (blackened or fried) $9
Smothered Pork Chops, Chicken or Steak $8-$9

Sandwiches ($5.50-$6.45): Hamburger,Louisiana Hot Link, Shrimp or Catfish Po-boy, Philly Cheese Steak, Grilled Chicken

Sides: yams, corn, collard greens, string beans, mac and cheese, blackeye peas and rice, red beans and rice, potato salad

You can get two pork chops and eggs with grits or hashbrowns and toast for $6.95

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