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Brenda’s French Soul Food

Tasty Creole in the Tenderloin

Chef Brenda Buenviaje, a native of New Orleans and formerly of Sumi, Café Claude and Delessio’s Market and Bakery, has opened a small, friendly eatery with a menu that boasts crave-worthy items from Creole cooking’s famous lexicon. With a background in painting and art, Buenviaje’s artistic touch can be found within each tasteful breakfast and lunch item served to those Tenderloin locals with a yen for the flavors of the Crescent City.

As a visit to New Orleans is not a visit without trying a Café du Monde beignet, a visit to Brenda’s is not complete without a flight of beignets ($8) and an enormous cup of delicious hickory flavored café au lait ($3). Brenda’s beignets are delicate, light, scrumptiously warm, and filled with everything from Granny Smith Apples to molten Ghirardelli chocolate to Crawfish with cayenne, scallions and cheddar. There are also the classic beignets ($4), with their light dusting of powdered sugar; heaven when dunked in a sweet café au lait. But the crawfish version should not be missed -- filled with Cajun spices and plumb crawfish -- they are a savory meal unto themselves.

Brenda’s other menu choices are equally delectable, making breakfast decisions tough -- particularly before the caffeine settles in. We tried the Andouille and Cheddar Omelette ($9), an Egg and Bacon Tartine with buttery grits ($8), and one of Brenda’s specials --Housemade Granola Pancakes ($9) served with whopping topper of sweet whipped cream.

All portions were generous: the “Omelette” was the size of a baseball mitt; the Tartine, an open-faced sandwich on toasted French roll, was the size of a pitcher's bicep; and the nutty pancakes were as big as our plates and full of brown sugar and spices.

Surprisingly, our undisputable favorite came from the more lunch-oriented side of the menu -- the Croque Monsieur ($8). As a lover of all things cheesy and filled with béchamel sauce, this has to be one of the best Croque Monsieurs in the city. With baked ham, Gruyere, and a side of either crispy fries or cole slaw (we tried both -- the cole slaw was sweet and crunchy, and impossible to pass up), this was the grilled cheese sandwich by which all grilled cheese sets its standard, and perfect when eaten on a rainy afternoon.

A few weeks later, another visit was in order. This time we pushed ourselves beyond the Croque Monsieur and tried the Fried Oyster Poboy with a side of fries and a watermelon sweet tea. The oysters were deep fried to perfection in a corn batter and topped with a chipotle rémoulade, and the French roll was lightly grilled in butter. The sweet watermelon tea was garnished with slices of watermelon and tasted like a cross between an aqua fresca and a Southern sweet tea. Yum!

Reports from friends include happy comments like "impossibly decadent creamy grits," as well as "homemade biscuits to make a grown woman cry." Negative notes included mention of overpowering flavors in an order of crawfish beignets and an overly sweet, extremely cloying glass of watermelon tea -- and this came from a diehard Southern sweet tea drinker.

The atmosphere at Brenda’s is comfortable, clean and inviting. Unfortunately, on our first visit, a busy Saturday, our waitress was brusque and inattentive -- she tried to take our order when we had barely had a chance to look at the menu, didn’t offer any specials, and didn’t come back to check on us until it was time for our check. But this wasn’t the case with other staff members; on our second visit the staff was friendly and accommodating.

Brenda’s is truly serving up the sort of Louisiana cooking Bay Area residents have been waiting for. Should there be any real complaint about Brenda’s, it may be that breakfast and lunch service simply aren’t enough! While Saturday brunch is served weekly, Brenda’s really needs to do a Sunday brunch, and start dinner service -- this way, there’s the potential for one of Brenda’s beignets with every meal.


No Reservations.