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Carolyn Tillie

[SF] Brenda's Soul Food

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One of the stalwart breakfast restaurants in the city is Brenda’s Soul Food, known for producing “French Soul Food.” Mostly, in my mind, they specialize in down south, Cajun-inspired cuisine. Only open for breakfast and lunch, I have enjoyed many savory dishes like cheese-laden shrimp-and-grits, andouille omelets, and spicy gumbo. Their house-made biscuits are huge, flaky, and served with a housemade jam in seasonal flavors.

Just like any New Orleans inspired restaurant, Brenda’s offers beignets. But these are not your classic Café du Monde beignets. Brenda’s makes larger, 3″ across pillows of fried dough. While they offer the classic, sugar-dusted plain beignets, what gathers the lines outside Brenda’s are three stuffed beignets — two sweet ones filled with Ghiradelli chocolate and Granny Smith apples with cinnamon honey butter and a spicy, savory version stuffed with seasoned crawfish spiked with cayenne, cheddar cheese, and scallions.

It is possible to order a sampler of all four flavors, but know that the one savory beignet is dusted with cayenne while all three are topped with powdered sugar so there is a little intermixing of sweet with hot. On my last visit, I ordered the savory crawfish beignets and was sadly disappointed. The dough is heavy and thick and gummy. The interior filling is delightful and I would be more than happy to eat a bowl of the redolently rich and heady seafood is so gooey and good, but to get to it, you have to eat through so much chewy, partly raw dough.

A good friend was visiting from New York when I suggested Brenda’s and especially touted the beignets. Instead of the entire sampling, we opted for just the crawfish platter which went back to the kitchen mostly uneaten. We cut them open to reveal the interior and enjoyed scooping out the delectable filling, but the dough was so heavy and chewy. Surprisingly, even sending some back uneaten did not illicit a response from server or the kitchen on how inedible they were. So sad for so much potential considering that everything else they serve is so exceptional. I love Brenda’s for an enticing breakfast for brunch. I’m just sorry what should be a signature dish is so mediocre.

Pictures on Fried Dough Ho.

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Another thank you! You seem to be reporting on all of the places I have on my "to eat at" list for my trip next month. Since I am traveling with my 3 kids I was planning on ordering a variety of dishes so we could all share. The beignet sampler was on my list, do you find the sweet ones thick and gummy as well?

Do you (or anyone else) have any other recommendations from the breakfast menu?


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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The fact that their beignets have gotten so heavy and laden depresses the crap out of me. But don't let that dissuade you from having breakfast there.

For a sweet tooth, they do an amazing French Toast with a toasted pecan sauce and all the tables always have fresh house-made jam on the tables; so far, I have tasted strawberry, apricot, and peach jams. I've also heard good things about the pancakes, but I've never tried them.

Usually when I go, I want something spicy so I have had their po-boys, gumbo, shrimp-and-grits, and sometimes just a simple andouille omelet.

Just don't bother with the beignets (even the sweet ones).

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