5 San Francisco Spots To Get A Taste Of The South

July 29, 2011 10:32 AM

Southern food isn’t just food, it’s religion. Nowhere else, outside of San Francisco of course, do home chefs take their food, and by association their culture, more seriously. The nuances between the regions are documented and matter deeply to the natives. Don’t confuse your South Carolina grits with your Cajun jambalaya (not that you would, you’re better than that). All that pride leads to some excellent cooking. But if you can’t get down South, you can get a taste of great Southern cuisine here in San Francisco. Whether you have a deep and abiding love of all things Southern or you just happened to catch an episode of Treme and now want to try some of the food they so lovingly discuss, here are a few places to get you started until you can make a pilgrimage below the Mason Dixon line.

Hard Knox
2526 Third St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Hard Knox 3rd Street

2448 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94121
Hard Knox Clement

Hard Knox is serving up Southern comfort food at 2 locations in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, with affordable prices. This is stick to your ribs, down home cooking. Hard Knox is not the place to go if you are looking for a salad. Sure, they have one on the menu, but that’s not why you are there. You are there to get crispy, delicious fried chicken. Or smothered pork chops. You are there for the traditional Southern sides like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and black-eyed peas with rice. This is the stuff you would find at any good Sunday supper throughout the South.

1300 on Fillmore
1300 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
1300 Fillmore

A fantastic lounge in the historic Fillmore District, 1300 is an upscale twist on the classic Southern fare. Start off by ordering yourself a perfectly made sazerac, the official drink of New Orleans. Then taste the amazing flavors of the fried green tomato salad or go with the low country favorite of shrimp and grits. The fried chicken is excellent here. Just about every restaurant on this list is doing fried chicken a Southern grandma would be proud to claim as her own, and 1300 is no exception. For something a little different, the maple syrup braised short ribs with horseradish-chive mashed potatoes will leave you both stuffed and wanting more. Cap it all off with warm beignets and chocolate sauce or apple bead pudding. If you’re just popping in to enjoy the lounge, small plates including lamb sliders or the same maple braised short ribs served in slider-form are available. It’s a chance to taste filling Southern food in smaller portions, accompanied by pitch perfect cocktails.

The Front Porch
65 29th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
The Front Porch

You had me at tin-pressed ceilings, Abita on tap, and Hank Williams Jr playing in the background. (Note: all of these restaurants have Abita, a Louisiana brew, and it is delicious in all of its varieties. Give it a try.) The blue crab fritters, combining two staples of the South, gulf seafood and frying everything, are ridiculously good. Back to that frying everything: you’ll have to resist coming back daily to eat the fried pickles. Get the bucket of fried chicken for the table with a side of decadent macaroni and cheese or go slightly lighter with the grilled fish over jambalaya. Eating at The Front Porch, with the checkers boards and rocking chairs out front is like being invited into a very hip Southern home.

The Boxing Room
399 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
The Boxing Room

I was anxiously awaiting the opening of The Boxing Room in the space formerly occupied by Citizen Cake. And waiting. And waiting. Finally! The Boxing Room is open. And it did not disappoint. There are fresh oysters served up gloriously on trays with ice. The fried alligator with rémoulade was delicious, perfectly crisp and still with that fresh-water gator taste (gator is really good, do not be afraid to try it). Both the crawfish etouffee, full of plump crawfish tails, and the smoked chicken and andouille gumbo were fantastic, rich with flavors and the right amount of spice and heat. It was like being right back in New Orleans without the oppressive humidity. The po’boy was stuff with fried shrimp, dressed the way it is down south, served on the right kind of airy bread. Washing it all down with one of the several beers on tap (I always go with Abita) made for a perfect meal.

Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Brenda’s French Soul Food

Putting Brenda’s on a list may seem like the epitome of stating the obvious but this place is so good it bears repeating. It also pretty recently expanded its space and added dinner to its repertoire, as well as now serving beer and wine. If you are headed there for the more famous breakfast or brunch, the beignets flight is of course the place to start. They range from savory (crawfish) to sweet (apple). Saying corn maque choux is about one of the best things ever, but it is also very tasty. Try it in the creole veggie omelette. If popping in for lunch, you can’t go wrong with the po’boy, filled with shrimp, oysters, or catfish. Dinner at Brenda’s has opened up a whole entire new world, starting with oysters served several different, amazing ways and concluding with either the finger licking good ribs or the catfish allemands. Again, the fried chicken is delicious and Brenda’s biscuit makes it that much better. Complete your meal with that Louisiana favorite: Community coffee with chickoree.

Lisa Tennenbaum is a third generation native with a love hate relationship with San Francisco, as she detests wearing a hoodie in the summer. You can follow her comments about that conflict, as well as much shouting about most sports, on Twitter @LSUcaligrl. She is also a newly minted lawyer looking to make her way in the world today with everything she’s got.

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