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Brenda's Meat & Three

We don't know much about Brenda, but can say this with confidence — she loves her some fried food. Fried chicken, fried bologna, fried oysters, fried hushpuppies...there are few creatures on earth or plants in the soil that are safe from Brenda's breading and frying process. Luckily enough, we're open to the charms of a nice basket of vegetable oil. But the essential question in any fryolating endeavor is: does the oil enhance the food, or does the food merely taste like oil?

In the case of this casual, breakfasty/lunchy offshoot of Brenda's original, the ingredients shine through. The first taste of the first bite of hushpuppy is pure oil, but a tiny bit deeper is a delicious ball of cornmeal that is so close to liquid that it approximates cookie dough. The fried chicken is strong, and while it appears to have been downgraded from "Best Fried Chicken" to "Brenda's Fried Chicken," you still want it on your table. The bologna...hoo, boy, that bologna. That's our top pick. The slice is thick, and the fry is light. Bologna this good could replace burgers someday.

What's the atmosphere like? A lot like the other Brenda's — a slightly upscale lunch-counter vibe. It's low key, fairly inexpensive, and easy to wander into (for now). We haven't even tried the breakfast items, but, given Brenda's brunch proclivities, we assume it's pretty strong.

And what is "meat & three," you might be wondering? Well, thanks to our eight-month sojourn in Birmingham, Alabama, we can answer with confidence. It's a portion of meat, with three (mostly) vegetable sides. By now you know that most of the sides are not very healthy, despite being nominally fiber-based. But that's okay. It might be the lack of lines, or the focus on delicious fatty Southern meat options, or the breezy Divisadero location, but Brenda's second major operation hits the sweet spot for us better than her first.

Food Rundown

Hushpuppies

So money. These were meant to be shared by two people, but we housed them solo. No regrets.

Fried Bologna

F*ck. This is the vanguard of the bologna revolution. Jump on board.

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork isn't easy to do well without a full-fledged smoker and all that, but this is an excellent facsimile.

Fried Chicken

Strong. You won't be upset about it.

Fried Oysters

Tastes like breading, like almost every fried oyster.

Sides

Not going to tell you where to go with these, you have to listen to your gut. They're all one notch above average, but just one.

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