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Soul Food in the Bay Area?


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Enough of all this Mexican Food in Northern California talk… good or bad, at least you can find it.

What I want to know is where is all the soul food??

I’m from Texas. My girl’s from Texas. Early last week we got the hankering for some okra, fried up right, with greens and cornbread, maybe some fried catfish with a cornmeal crust. Soul Food. Southern Cooking. You know what I’m talking about.

Too lazy to break out the deep fryer, we did a web search for our kind of eats (searching most of the Bay Area) and came up with a few hits. Calling around yielded mostly disconnected numbers. We found two places open that we’d try over successive days.

The first place that we went to was the Blue Chalk Café in Palo Alto. It looked promising. PaloAlto.net described it as: “down-home southern cooking”. Maybe that was true eat one point, but on this day the only thing “southern” on their menu was the bread pudding, and even that wasn't like mama would've made it. I ate a medium-rare thinly sliced steak on a fresh crusty roll, bathed in the most wonderful tangy blue-cheese and horseradish sauce. Good eats, no doubt, but not quite what we were looking for.

Next on the list was a little place called House of Soul Food, found in an industrial area on Lafayette Street in Santa Clara, not far from the runways of San Jose Airport. This was more like it, a menu full of things like fried okra, mac & cheese, collards, black-eyed peas, fried catfish, fried chicken, fried whatever… good stuff, to be sure. It's a little mom-n-pop place, ten tables, mostly empty. My only complaint is that they didn't have fresh iced tea, just soda-fountain tea. Still, it was good, and I'll be back.

So, apart from the House of Soulfood, where else can a transplanted southerner find down-home eats in the Bay Area?

Please help.

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Well in the City the go-to place is Powell's Place on Hayes at Octavia. Their fried chicken is seriously good, and they make a mean smothered pork chop, too. I've also heard good things about their fried catfish.

The usual sides -- black-eyed peas, greens, grits etc. -- are all handled in competent downhome style. I don't think I've seen okra there, but it's been a while. Oh, and they definitely have fresh-brewed iced tea.

Service and atmosphere are decidedly non-fancy.

Powell's Place

511 Hayes St.

(Hayes @ Octavia)

San Francisco, CA 94102

phone: 415.863.1404

Cheers,

Squeat

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Yeah, I have heard good things about Powell's Place. My friend loves their ribs.

I used to like James & James Rib's & Thangs but frankly, it's not the best place in retrospect. I think I liked it because of the name. They had an okay sweet potato pie though.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I haven't eaten at Powell's yet, but I sometimes do yoga at a studio next door to them--and let me tell you, it's hard to concentrate on your breathing in a 6 p.m. class with the smell of that fried chicken wafting through the air.

The reason I haven't eaten there is because every time I'm in Hayes Valley, it's to do yoga, and I feel sheepish about going and eating fried chicken right after a yoga class. It doesn't seem very yogic, you know?

That said, I second the suggestion of looking in Oakland. I think there are some classic chicken & waffles places, and plenty of regular soul-food spots.

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I've called upon my field agent to bring you what little data there is on soul food in SF. Some are hybrids, like soul food/Chinese. Oakland as a whole has more to offer. One name that came up there was Pearlie's.

In SF, there's Mariposa Cafeteria at 1599 Tennessee (at 3rd) NOT strictly soul food but had the best and biggest helping of roast pork ever from there. It's a daily special along with stuff like oxtails, bbq'd chicken and beef stew. No fried chicken, alas. Wednesday is roast pork day.

My field agent says there's a soul food/Thai place on 3rd St. but can't remember the name. She's going over there anyway so she's going to look out for it. I'll let you know what I find out.

Apparently there's a place called Mozell's on 3rd St. that has decent food but my coworker said she wouldn't send a novice to that place cause they're mean. It's her neighborhood so she would know.

Powell's is okay and certainly a friendly place. Also, Brothers-in-law bbq on Divisadero is good.

Ingrid

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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The reason I haven't eaten there is because every time I'm in Hayes Valley, it's to do yoga, and I feel sheepish about going and eating fried chicken right after a yoga class. It doesn't seem very yogic, you know?

I believe the practice of doing yoga and then eating fried chicken is known as "the middle way." :biggrin:

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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I heard some of the places in Oakland, like Flint's, are going downhill. I know that one place in Berkeley off San Pablo and University kind of sucks. Pearlie's I haven't done. What say you?

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Well, the recommendation was from my field agent (co-worker) who prides herself on her ability to consume our favorite three food groups (sugar, salt, and grease). She said she's heard good things about Pearlie's recently. She was right-on about Mariposa Cafeteria but take it with a grain of (seasoning) salt!

Ingrid

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Terry's Southern Style Fish & BBq, 1700 Hampton way Santa Rosa 707 526 9090. Call for directions as there kinda hard to find unless you have been there. If you happen to be in the North Bay.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Well, about a block from Blue Chalk is Nola. They call themselves contemporary Southern. I would say upscale cajun/creole. It's not cheap but I've never had a bad meal there. I love their jalapeno cornbread most of all though. We go there a couple times a year (when we're living in Cali) because my husband is crazy about their jambalaya. He's a big chilehead.

Funny you mention Blue Chalk because the one time I ate dinner there several years ago it was a very southern menu, including blue corn hush puppies and collard greens. They must have drifted away from the southern focus even moreso. For us it was a place to play darts and shuffleboard and drink beer. :biggrin:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Terry's Southern Style Fish & BBq, 1700 Hampton way Santa Rosa 707 526 9090. Call for directions as there kinda hard to find unless you have been there. If you happen to be in the North Bay

I have to say I was fairly disappointed in the fried chicken the day I tried Terry's. It was a bit after the normal lunch time and the chicken seemed to have waited for me since the beginning of lunch service.

Chewy chicken aside, the owner sat with us for nearly a half hour as we talked of long ago days all of us experienced living in the south.

I am glad to see someone else obviously has had a good meal there. I'll make it a point of giving them another chance.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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Well in the City the go-to place is Powell's Place on Hayes at Octavia. Their fried chicken is seriously good, and they make a mean smothered pork chop, too. I've also heard good things about their fried catfish.

Better hurry if you want to go to Powell's -- they will serve their last crispy wing on Easter Sunday!

Hedonia

Eating, drinking and living the good life in San Francisco

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Well in the City the go-to place is Powell's Place on Hayes at Octavia. Their fried chicken is seriously good, and they make a mean smothered pork chop, too. I've also heard good things about their fried catfish.

Better hurry if you want to go to Powell's -- they will serve their last crispy wing on Easter Sunday!

Dang! Another one bites the dust. The article does offer some hope though:

[Powell] expects to reopen this summer in a larger, yet more affordable space in the Fillmore District

I really, really hope that works out for him.

Thanks for the heads-up,

Squeat

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I have had the ribs and Powells and thought the sauce was very good, the ribs good but fatty. I don't really like those overcooked sides that comes with soul food, so I can't really say about that. Ditto the fried chix, I can't bring myself to order that in a restaurant, so I only eat it when I make it.

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