Brenda’s French Soul Food Review; Best Southern Brunch in San Francisco


I’m not the biggest proponent of French cuisine. In fact, I make it very well known that I don’t really care much for it all at. I am, ironically as this may seem, a huge fan of Southern soul food like Cajun and Creole, which have heavy influences of French cuisine in its roots. When I think of French cuisine, I automatically assume it will put a serious dent in my wallet and be overly pretentious, a lose-lose situation in my book. Brenda’s French Soul Food is the exact opposite – quality, hearty, and mouth-wateringly delicous French-inspired Southern cuisine that won’t break the bank and will leave your soul pleased.

Brenda’s French Soul Food is nestled in the heart of Civic Center, right next to the great American staple that is a combo Kentucky Fried (Grilled?) Chicken & Taco Bell and just down the street from Civic Center Plaza in Downtown. It’s a small restaurant, with maybe a dozen or so tables and a counter, so don’t be shy to say hi to your neighbors and ask them how much they are enjoying their food. The down to earth ambiance of Brenda’s really does bring out that Southern hospitality, and the food just puts everyone in a good mood.

We went to Brenda’s on a late Sunday morning, after thinking long and hard about where we wanted to do brunch. Many of us have been wanting to go here for quite some time, so we decided that would be the day. With our stomachs growling we hopped in the car and drove to downtown and saw a huge crowd of people standing outside.

“Good thing that’s not where we’re going!” someone said from the backseat.
“Fuck.” chimed in another.
“What?” he asked.
“That’s Brenda’s.” she said under their breath.

I like to judge a restaurant by the people eating there. If they look like they are enjoying their meals, that’s enough of a good sign for me. In this case, if there are dozens of people waiting outside for brunch on a Sunday morning when there are literally dozens of other fine restaurants within walking distance of there, that tells me that the food must be worth the wait. And wait we did, for almost two hours. Next time we’ll know to show up earlier, newbie mistake.

We got seated and took a look at the menu, but by this point we already had plenty of time to decide what we wanted. What we didn’t have was fried chicken and grits, for that you should head to The Front Porch in the Mission. We all wanted to try the beignets, so we ordered the Beignet Flight which included one of each – Plain, Apple, Chocolate, and Crawfish. The Plain, Apple, and Chocolate Beignets are dusted generously with powdered sugar and the Crawfish Beignets are made with with cayenne, scallions and cheddar. The best ones by far were the Plain and Crawfish flavors. The very savory Crawfish was seasoned heavily and the flavors just melt in your mouth. I wasn’t expecting it to be so good, but I could easily eat a whole order of these after trying it for the first time. The Apple and Ghirardelli Chocolate flavors were good, but they were slightly too sweet for me to enjoy all at once. I would deifnitely order them for dessert, but I think having them first was just too much sweetness to start off the meal.

Rey got the blueberry French toast, which was had a nice consistency to it, and the fresh blueberry sauce was velvety and sweet. On a previous Sunday brunch outing, Rey ordered the French toast from Bagdad Cafe in the Castro and the one from Brenda’s put it to shame, though the one from Bagdad was pretty good in its own right.

Anne and Alyssa were in an egg and sausage mood, so they ordered the Andouille and Cheddar Omelette which is made with Andouille sausage, cheddar, mushrooms, scallion, and sauce piquant, which is a tomato-based stew. This was also very good, and it was a huge portion. They came with a side of potato hash, which was actually one of my favorites of everything on the table. They are made with onions, very well seasoned, not too salty, and have just the right amount of crispiness right around the edges.

I went with the Catfish Po’Boy and fries to add a little lunch flavor to the mix, since by the time we got seated it was around lunchtime. The fried catfish is served on a buttered and toasted French roll, and is topped with a chipotle rémoulade, which was tangy and spicy. It had a ton of flavor for a relatively simple sandwich, but the chipotle rémoulade had a lot to do with that. The fries were really good! Only because they tasted just like McDonald’s fries. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I’ll leave it up to you. I also ordered a biscuit, which was not a biscuit but a BISCUIT. These things are humongous, flaky, moist, buttery, and absolutely scrumptious. I washed it all down with a cold glass of Watermelon Sweet Tea, which wasn’t too sweet and had a subtle watermelon aftertaste that went perfect with my meal.

After enjoying our very hearty meal, we were all so incredibly stuffed that we didn’t do anything else we set out to do that day. The food coma was beginning to set in, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Brenda’s does everything right, from the friendly service to the affordable prices. Nothing on the menu is over $10, which is rare these days, especially for such quality food. My only gripe may be the fact that they are only open for Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch, which makes it difficult for most people to enjoy the food during the week. The weekends get absolutely packed as you saw, so arrive early, put your name on the list, and head to the liquour store around the corner and make some mimosas for you and your friends to please your mind before you please your soul.

Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St
San FranciscoCA 94102
(415) 345-8100

Thanks for the photos, Rey!

Also check out:
The Front Porch in the Mission
Bagdad Cafe in the Castro; 24 Hour Weekend Eats
A Great Non-Profit: Curry Without Worry


2 Responses to “Brenda’s French Soul Food Review; Best Southern Brunch in San Francisco”

  1. Ah…I love Brenda’s! It’s one of the few places near my office that I really like. The catfish po boy is awesome. Nice review.

  2. 2 rey

    mMmmmmMmm Brenda’s!! i wish i had a beignet infront of me!!

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