Brenda's French Soul Food
When I was a young lad moving to this fair city a few years back, I did what any right-minded eating enthusiast does: I looked at menus. Lots of menus. Instead of assessing access to public transit and amateur alcoholic kickball leagues, I planned my restaurant game. What could I get here that I couldn’t find anywhere else?
Yes, I am a nerd.
But this story has a point. And that point is that Brenda’s had one of the best looking menus around. Broiled oysters. Four flavors of beignets. The self-anointed best fried chicken in town. I was probably more excited to visit this New Orleans-SF mashup than anywhere else in the city.
But the big talk raised the big question—would Brenda’s live up to the hype? The answer may be unsatisfying.
Today, having been a number of times, I can confirm that the beignets are indeed awesome. The fried chicken is solid. Other items have been a mixed bag (shame on you, Hangtown Fry). Brenda’s also draws the kind of brunch line that has gained the ability to feed off of its own existence, like a metastasizing disease that can only be cured with delicious, sugary carbohydrates.
That was a bit melodramatic. But yeah, the wait can be long (see Mama’s, Plow). Brenda’s serves some pretty tasty stuff. But it ain’t worth burning hours off your life.
- Plain. The dough is a bit thicker than a classic beignet, probably to stand up to fillings, which doesn’t work that well in the plain.
Chocolate. If you have Augustus Gloop in your DNA, move this to #1.
Apple. Basically a spherical apple pie. What’s more American than that?
Crawfish. Completely insane—crawfish chowder-y goo wrapped in dough, heavily dusted in cayenne. It’s also the best thing on the menu.
The classic SF dish (an oyster omelette) ends up weirdly slimy. Not very appetizing. Also the biscuit lacks that absurd moist interior that can only come from a few pounds of butter in the recipe.
Not particularly inspired, which is sad since we saw an awesome video of Brenda herself making a bananas foster version. Is that on the menu? Do I have to know the password? I MUST HAVE IT.
Shrimp & Grits
A solid execution of the classic, but we’ll stand by Waffle House’s grits over these. Better value, too.
These are topped with some oddities (e.g. parmesan, voodoo BBQ sauce). Are they better than, say, oysters? No.
For the newbies, that’s the “best fried chicken.” This exemplifies the expectations problem at Brenda’s. The chicken is pretty damn good. Why did you have to go get us thinking it’s the best? It’s not. But definitely good enough to order.