Food & Drink

The Definitive Guide to Eating the Best Southern Food in SF

Published On 03/09/2015 Published On 03/09/2015
Courtesy of Brenda's Meat and Three

Serving up all of the things you love about the South (Beignets! Muffulettas! Gumbo! Biscuits! Fried pickles! Fried chicken!), minus all of the things you don't (why am I sticky everywhere??????), here are the 17 best spots to get red state eats in the 7x7.



Ferry Building
What you're getting: The muffuletta
Leave it to pig whisperer Chris Cosentino to do the muff' proud in the Ferry Building. No, really, leave it to him.

Courtesy of The Boxing Room

Boxing Room

Hayes Valley
What you're getting: Smoked chicken & andouille gumbo, crawfish étouffée
This should be obvious, but what might not be is that, thanks to its new-ish full liquor license, Boxing Room also now has legit Sazeracs and Hurricanes to wash down that gumbo/étouffée.

Brenda's French Soul Food

Brenda's French Soul Food

What you're getting: Beignet flight
Why choose between a savory crawfish beignet and one bursting with molten Ghirardelli chocolate ganache when you can have... both (+ one more)?

Flickr/Phil Dokas

Brenda's Meat & Three

What you're getting: Kickass Meatloaf and Three, fried bologna sandwich
Because you can’t eat beignets EVERY day (wait... why can't you do that?), head over to Brenda’s new spot focused on the Southern custom of “meat and three" -- an attempt at a balanced meal with vegetables in theory to compensate for the pound of correctly named “Kickass Meatloaf” you’re eating. Also worth your ordering attention: the fried bologna sandwich. You don’t get three sides with it but it is smothered in pimento cheese. That usually counts as a veggie in Mississippi, right?

Devil's Teeth Baking Company

Outer Sunset
What you're getting: Sweet potato pecan pie
It's like a regular pecan pie, if a regular pecan pie had smooth, earthy notes of sweet taters puree mingling with the sticky, gooey pecans. So... better.

Elit Cafe

Elite Café

Lower Pacific Heights
What you're getting: Meetinghouse Biscuits, jambalaya
Whether with a smear of butter or as the base for a brunch eggs Benedict, SF’s elite biscuits are, yes, at Elite Café. Our advice: do some Fillmore shopping, have a happy hour Sazerac with some biscuits, then polish off some jambalaya.

The Front Porch

Bernal Heights
What you're getting: The Stoner Stack, fried pickles
Basically, combine everything on this list and you’ve got the Stoner Stack (fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, and sausage gravy on a biscuit). Just make sure you get a side of fried pickles. Talk about addictive.

Flickr/jennifer yin

Hard Knox Cafe

Outer Richmond, Dogpatch
What you're getting: Oxtails, fried pork chops
Get some hearty meats, headlined by oxtails and fried smothered pork chop (and no doubt some of the city’s best fried chicken), and sides of collard greens with a dash of vinegar. Welcome to Hard Knox.

Courtesy of Hard Water

Hard Water

What you're getting: Spicy Nashville-style fried chicken
There’s fried chicken. There’s spicy fried chicken. Then there’s what the good folks in Nashville like: hot chicken. Lip tingling, sweat-inducing, turn-down-for-what fried chicken. Let’s just say you’ll need a drink to soften the blow, which should be easy to find because, oh, hey, you’re at the city’s best bourbon bar.

Joe Starkey/Thrillist

Hops & Hominy

Union Square/FiDi
What you're getting: Country fried steak
Make a beeline for this perennially underrated spot's country fried steak, known elsewhere as the always awkward sounding “chicken fried” steak. Here, the steak gets a pool of chorizo-laced gravy to sit in as you ponder why this can’t just be called steak fried steak. Do also note the burger here should be on your “must-try” list. No, it’s not fried but there is a fried egg involved.

King Kobbler

Lower Haight/NoPa
What you're getting: Peach cobbler
You’ll usually find His Majesty King Kobbler (a converted Enforcer vehicle) in the NoPa-Lower Haight neck of the woods (check @norris_pj on Twitter to be sure), and when you find HMKK, you'll also find this fine cobbler filling a Styrofoam cup, for a ripe old $5.

Little Skillet

Little Skillet

What you're getting: Chicken & waffles (and lots of maple syrup)
This life-changing duo is brought together in an alley in SOMA and. It's. Magical.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Memphis Minnie's

Lower Haight
What you're getting: Memphis sweet smoked pork
Memphis’ 'cue is of the unsung, under-loved BBQ genre different from big sauce-slathered Kansas City and Texas, or bitter vinegar-based North Carolina. But oh, what the dry rub does with the Memphis-style pork, served as a sandwich or by the pound.

Park Tavern

North Beach
What you're getting: Smoked deviled eggs
Every table gets the fabled Marlowe burger and those incomparable fries. But diners also know to start with one or five of Park Tavern's deviled eggs, given the sexy-smoky-spicy jalapeño and bacon treatment. It’s not unheard of for these to become a meal, because, well, we've heard of it. Those in the EXTRA know also occasionally add one of these puppies to the Marlowe burger. Definitely a strong move.

1300 on Fillmore

1300 on Fillmore

Western Addition
What you're getting: Shrimp & grits
1300 on Fillmore’s shrimp aren’t quite as alien-sized as you'll find in the actual South, but they explode with the same mega-seafaring notes, nestled on top of the buttery grits that're given a little high note from the Worcestershire sauce.

Courtesy of Town Hall

Town Hall

What you're getting: Pimento cheese, jalapeño cornbread 
Town Hall is easily the most refined quasi-Southern table in town and the only one where you'll find next-level jalapeño cornbread and pimento cheese, which you shouldn't not combine.

Wayfare Tavern

What you're getting: Organic fried chicken
Surprisingly, the top fried bird in SF is at the buttoned-up domain of celebrity chef Tyler Florence, where his buttermilk brine recipe does absolutely wonderful things to your clucker. Pair this with the burger and whoa. Life is good.

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Trevor Felch is a restaurants writer for SF Weekly and a contributing editor for Vino 24/7. Follow him on Twitter @TrevorFelch.

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1. Boccalone Salumeria 1 Ferry Building, #21, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Embarcadero)

Leave it to pig whisperer Chris Cosentino to do pork proud in the Ferry Building -- enjoy all manor of cured meats at this spot with the catchiest slogan of any butcher -- "tasty salted pig parts".

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2. Boxing Room 399 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

This Hayes Valley gem, situated in the back of a spacious former 19th-century Standard Shirts Factory, will satisfy all your Creole cravings with classics like oysters, hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas, and po’boys. The theme carries over to the cocktail menu, where New Orleans favorites like the Milk Punch or Ramos Gin Fizz can help you pretend you're actually in the Big Easy and don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

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3. Brenda's French Soul Food 652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Polk)

Two words: crawfish beignets. We could stop there convinced you’d still check out the brunch at this Tenderloin soul food eatery, but we’ll go on. Get the beignet flight, so you can also sample the classic, chocolate, and Granny Smith apple varieties. The massive menu has more than just fried treats, though. You can chow down on Creole-style favorites like gumbo, shrimp and grits, and andouille omelettes. The brunch wait can be long, but we promise it's worth it -- especially after you try a Creole Bloody.

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4. Brenda's Meat & Three 919 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Western Addition)

This Western Addition diner is Brenda Buenviaje's follow-up to her Tenderloin gem, Brenda's French Soul Food. The spot is more casual and more Southern than the original, but equally crowded for weekend brunch and dinner. The hallmark of the menu is the namesake meat & three, where you choose one meat (fried chicken, meatloaf, BBQ beef brisket, to name a few) and three down-home sides (potato bacon hash, collard greens, glazed yams). The spicy, peppery, and crispy fried chicken is near addictive, as is the veggie po' boy.

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5. Devil's Teeth Baking Company 3876 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Outer Sunset)

The breakfast sandwich at this Outer Sunset cafe and bakery is legendary -- a fluffy homemade buttermilk biscuit is topped with two fresh scrambled eggs, cheddar, pepper jack, avocado, lemon-garlic aioli, and applewood-smoked bacon, creating one of the finest handheld breakfast experiences you'll find anywhere. Of course, don't sleep on killer lunch options like a textbook BLT or a vibrant chicken curry, plus all manner of sweets and pastries to be washed down with Bicycle coffee.

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6. Elite Cafe 2049 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

Nestled into Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, the handsome, wood-laden Elite Cafe is beloved for its New Orleans-inspired brunch and dinner menus, which feature dishes like breakfast biscuits with fried ham, chicken jambalaya with squash and turnips, crawfish etouffee, and duck gumbo. Make sure you save room for the bacchus, a giant bananas foster sundae with crème fraiche ice cream, chocolate pearls, toasted coconut, and walnuts. In addition to Creole classics, there are exceptional cocktail standbys like a Hurricane, a Sazerac, and (of course) Bloody Marys at brunch.

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7. The Front Porch 65A 29th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (Bernal Heights)

Southern food served with "Mission Hospitality" -- The Front Porch's cozy name is well earned with actual rocking chair-supported outdoor dining and classic dishes like shrimp + grits, fried chicken, and gumbo filled with chicken, sausage & okra.

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8. Hard Knox Cafe 2448 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121 (The Richmond)

Get some hearty meats, headlined by oxtails and fried smothered pork chop (and no doubt some of the city’s best fried chicken), and sides of collard greens with a dash of vinegar. Welcome to Hard Knox.

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9. Hard Water Pier 3, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Embarcadero)

When you step into this gorgeous Embarcadero bar, you’ll be greeted by a massive wall of every kind of whiskey imaginable. The space may be small, but you’ll be blown away by the selection of hard-to-find bourbons. Sip flights of the rare stuff (ranging from $22 to $125) as you chow down on New Orleans-inspired cuisine, like plates of crispy fried chicken, oysters, pimento cheese dip, and hush puppies.

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10. Hops & Hominy 1 Tillman Place, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Union Square)

Tucked away in a hidden alleyway just off Union Square, this underrated Southern spot churns out crisp, juicy country fried steak, homey chicken & dumplings, and tomato-brandy sauced shrimp & grits. In case you couldn't tell by the name, you'll also find a strong beer selection on their eight rotating taps, though if hops aren't your thing you could always opt for a cocktail like the Smoked Bacon Manhattan.

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11. Little Skillet 360 Ritch St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Soma)

Little Skillet fully operates out of 330 Ritch's kitchen, and is run by the same dudes that opened Farmer Brown. It's a minuscule, alley-bound to-go window that sells crazy-good soul food (including some of SF proper's best chicken & waffles), as well as great brew.

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12. Memphis Minnie's BBQ 576 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Lower Haight)

Memphis Minnie's is a 1950s' styled BBQ joint that slings eats slow-cooked meats, Southern-style. Minnie's meats pass the taste test by using white oak logs (no gas, no electricity!). This spot has everything from ribs to pulled pork to some killer wings. Meats here can come slathered in savory sauces, so you might need a bib-- we won't judge!

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13. Park Tavern 1652 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

If you're looking for a restaurant in North Beach packed with San Franciscans of all neighborhoods, head to Park Tavern. This upscale spot is homey and bustling, and the food is part Southern comfort, part English pub. Every table gets the famed lamb-and-beef Marlowe burger and a starter of smoky deviled eggs, but those in the know will get an extra order of eggs to put on their burger. Park Tavern is also a bonafide brunch hotspot with the best Bloody Marys and a menu filled with griddled goods (pancakes and more pancakes) and savory eggs. And that burger.

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14. 1300 1300 Fillmore, San Francisco, 94115 (Fillmore)

Paying homage to the 40s-era Fillmore Jazz District, 1300's decked out with wood paneling, leather club chairs and b&w photos of neighborhood legends that'll make you pine for a time you never knew existed.

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15. Town Hall 342 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Barbecue goes upscale at this elegant restaurant in SoMa. Housed in an old style warehouse building, Town Hall specializes in modern takes on traditional Southern fare -- think fried oysters, cornbread, grits, and brisket. The dining room's exposed brick and high ceilings amp up the class factor. Whiskey and bourbon cocktails ( like the Velveteen Rabbit with Kentucky Straight, Amontillado Sherry, and Coconut Syrup) are a must.

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16. Wayfare Tavern 558 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

Wayfare Tavern, owned by Tyler Florence and helmed by Executive Chef/Michelin Star-earner Joey Elenterio, feels like a private club/gastropub with its extensive dark wood and leather finishes. It's known for its “ridiculously good fried chicken,” but be sure to taste other seasonal menu must-haves, such as the baked macaroni and cheese, the burger, and the deviled eggs. Pro tip: make a reservation to sit upstairs, where it's a bit quieter.



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