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
Courtesy of The Boxing Room
Brenda's French Soul Food
Flickr/Phil Dokas
Elit Cafe
Flickr/jennifer yin
Courtesy of Hard Water
Joe Starkey/Thrillist
Little Skillet
Flickr/Thomas Hawk
1300 on Fillmore
Courtesy of Town Hall
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1. Boccalone Salumeria 1 Ferry Building, #21, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.