Brenda’s Meat and Three the utmost in Southern cookin' 

Flavorful, gut-busting, unpretentious Southern dishes – such as a fried bologna sandwich – are irresistible at Brenda’s Meat and Three. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Flavorful, gut-busting, unpretentious Southern dishes – such as a fried bologna sandwich – are irresistible at Brenda’s Meat and Three.
Recently, I had the privilege of dining at Arnold’s, the vaunted Nashville country kitchen that specializes in meat and threes, Southern code for a protein and three “vegetables” including macaroni and cheese and stuffing. While devouring a mound of roast beef, I texted a Bay Area friend a photo with the caption “This would never fly at home.”

A few months later, while in line at dinner for a couple of counter seats at the new Brenda’s Meat and Three, I realized that I was completely wrong.

A few bites into a meatloaf flooded in savory gravy and smoked onions had me convinced that the food here tops anything that I’d had in the South, and at prices not too much higher. The meat itself was so tender that it was nearly impossible to get a cohesive forkful.

And the sides. Oh man the sides. Thankfully, the kitchen has done little to put a healthy, local spin on anything. A mound of green beans was doused with bits of pork and jus to the point that we joked the dish should be renamed “pork with a few green beans.”

Cauliflower gratin was rendered delightfully hefty by a bath of butter and breadcrumbs. A small vat of piping hot, cheese-laden grits was rich almost to the point of overkill. Almost. And carrots were glazed so sweet that they could have sufficed for dessert.

But then we would have missed out on the calas, described by our server as a treat popular in New Orleans before beignets rose to fame as the city’s signature sweet. A diner at the next stool likened these to fried rice pudding balls and I couldn’t have agreed more. Keeping with the menu’s theme, these things were heavy but decadent. Only an average fried chicken marred the meal. The crust lacked the juicy shatter of some of the great fried chicken in town. On its own, the bird was a bit bland too, but a spread of the accompanying hot pepper jam helped out.

At lunch, the dining room was a little less crammed and ceiling-high windows let in tons of light, even on a rainy day. The hum of ceiling fans and a jazzy soundtrack straight from Frenchmen street made it hard not to leisurely linger.

Downright exotic in this town, the fried bologna sandwich was a messy beaut anchored by a thick, grilled steak of Saags bologna amped up by a low-heat pimento cheese. A trio of bread and butter pickle coins added snap. Riding shotgun were a pile of fries that could have used an extra minute in the fryer as they were sadly limp.

Like those at the original Brenda’s French Soul Food in the Tenderloin, breakfasts here are honking big affairs that will weigh you down til noon. Loaded with shrimp and fried oysters, a fluffy, pancake style Delta scramble had me wishing that all egg dishes could somehow be combined with shellfish. It was perfect to split with a pal who traded me back a few of his dense sweet potato pancakes splashed with a butter pecan sauce that left us gut-bombed and all the better for it.

Similar to earlier post-meal experiences here, we waddled out onto the sidewalk too full to function, yet plotting our return. Nashville seemed a distant memory.

Brenda’s Meat and Three

Location: 919 Divisadero St. (near Golden Gate Avenue), S.F.

Contact: (415) 926-8657, www.brendasmeatandthree.com

Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except closed Tuesdays

Recommended dishes: Meatloaf ($16.50), shrimp hushpuppies ($8.50), fried bologna sandwich ($8.25), Delta Scramble ($13.75), sweet potato pancakes ($9.75)

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Not accepted

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Alex Hochman

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