Restaurant Review: Shrimp and Grits @ Brenda’s French Soul Food, San Francisco

Could it get any more Southern?

Earlier this week, I had planned to visit Brenda’s French Soul Food for a bowl of grillades and grits, having recently emailed a friend about a memorable version of this dish that I once tasted at Cafe Degas in New Orleans. That email awakened a latent craving, and naturally, I thought of Brenda’s as the best and only choice for authentic Cajun cuisine in the Bay Area. Fast forward to yesterday: I left Napa shortly after the morning rush hour, and 50 miles later, I was standing on Polk Street, waiting for a table outside Brenda’s tiny 40-seat dining room. Although the sun was shining, the San Francisco air was chilly that morning, with a stiff breeze channeling through the streets and alleyways — the perfect day for a hot, starchy bowl of grits.

The wait at Brenda’s brings some anticipation, as one might expect. As folks exited the restaurant (each group of diners looking fully content, by the way), the door would bellow out this warm, deliciously fragrant kitchen aroma. It was such a tease for those of us waiting outside, and everyone inside the restaurant looked quite smug with their generous portions of breakfast, brunch and lunch. It was only during my wait outside that I decided to order the shrimp and grits, having noticed the daily specials written on Breanda’s sidewalk sandwich board. Although it presented a slight change in plans from my intended grillades and grits, the shrimp were prepared in a tomato-bacon gravy, which I absolutely had to try.

After fifteen minutes, my name was called, and I was in. I ordered a watermelon iced tea, the crawfish beignets, and of course, a bowl of shrimp and grits. The house-made watermelon iced tea is just one example of how Brenda’s is able to nail all of the smaller details. It’s just barely sweet, and the watermelon flavor comes through nicely on the finish. It’s a thoughtful alternative to regular iced tea (also offered), and for me, the sign of truly native Southern palate. The food, of course, is what really packs them in (and makes them wait). You’ll read plenty about the crawfish beignets online: I enjoyed them, but will request a side of remoulade next time, just because I think that would be even tastier. As for the main event, the shrimp and grits were profoundly good, decadent but not over-the-top with the cheese, with a red gravy that delivered on its potential.

2 comments to Restaurant Review: Shrimp and Grits @ Brenda’s French Soul Food, San Francisco

  • Kopcha

    Is there a newsletter or format to sign up for email each month. Can’t find it on your website.
    Thank you

  • ThirstyReader

    Since you asked, I added a subscription button in the left sidebar. Thanks for reading!

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