Monday, January 27, 2014

Soul Food City: Po' Boys, Catfish and Grits From A New Tenderloin Soul-in-the-wall

Remember the storefront restaurant on Eddy at Leavenworth that served maybe Tunisian, maybe Yucatecan, or maybe both kinds of food?  Gone is the split personality; it has undergone a makeover and now serves just one kind of food -- Southern soul food.

I came across Soul Food City when a "Grand Opening" Banner was being hung a couple of weeks ago and when no foodie media reports were forthcoming (so much for my theory that a restaurant doesn't really exist until it gets its first Yelp review) I decide to take one for the team myself.

The postage stamp-sized boîte that is now Soul Food City has a fresh, modern fast food chic look with a red and gray storefront, a jazz mural adorning one wall inside, a counter and a couple of tables and colorful bar stool-type seats. Another table outside provided a modicum of sidewalk seating, but it's clear that Soul Food City is geared for mostly takeaway business. Its menu features po' boys (Cajun shrimp, Catfish, Fried Chicken and "Cali Veggie"), all of which come with fries and range from $7 to $10; and plates ranging from $8.50-$12.50 (Shrimp, Salmon Croquettes, and Georgia Crunchy Catfish, all over grits, and Roasted, Fried or BBQ Chicken with choice of two sides). All plates also come with cornbread. There is also a "TL Special" for $6.50, consisting of two pieces of catfish or fried chicken with red beans, rice and cornbread. Sides, in addition to those mentioned, include collard greens, cabbage, mac'n cheese and fried house pickles. All sides are $5. Taxes are included in all prices.

Fearing the calories that would come with a mountain of grits I would be tempted to eat all of. I chose a shrimp po' boy. (It came with a mountain of fries, but I am less easily tempted by those.)  Described as "Louisiana style fried shrimp with Cajun sauce on a French roll," it included 10 medium-sized shrimp seasoned and coated with what appeared to be corn meal atop a spicy "slaw" of sorts in a warm, crunchy roll akin to a banh mi roll. The shrimp appeared fresh and had a snap to them, but were dry and seemed a little bland for all the coating on them. They would have benefited from a splash of a hot sauce of some sort, though only ketchup was readily available. All in all, it was a solid, filling sandwich.

The fries followed Geezer's Law, which states "Everything that comes with fries comes with more fries than one should be eating at a single seating" and Soul Food City's were no exception.  For me, with my pre-McDonald's French fry schooling they were undersized and under-cooked, but they probably would be perfectly fine for less ancient diners than me.  I ate just enough of the fries to leave Soul Food City sort of comatose.

Next time I visit Soul Food City I'll do penance the day before and after and go for something over grits with cornbread, and a side of fried pickles, please.

Where noshed: Soul Food Ciy, 403 Eddy Street at Leavenworth Street, San Francisco.