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Bruno's: The Delights of Chicken and Waffles

It happened like this: Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher started serving their version of Southern food from the kitchen of an Excelsior bar called Broken Record. But just as we were falling in love, they up and left us. The duo—who met at Boulevard and between them have worked at some of the city’s finest kitchens, including Range, Quince and Campton Place—packed up their knives and left for a tour of barbecue joints and regional restaurants throughout the South, beginning in Ostler’s hometown of Austin. Says Zacher, “I was struck by how great the barbecue was and how terrible the sides were. Loaves of Wonder bread, bland beans—just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s good. The Californian in me cringed.”

Pork ribs, coleslaw and buttermilk biscuits.

Armed with new knowlege, they decided to come back to the Bay Area bearing some culinary souvenirs from their trip, which they debuted in early November at their new home, Mission District bar Bruno’s. A dark-roux thickened gumbo, frito pie (a dish Zacher says inspires “fanatical devotion”), chicken and waffles and pulled pork sandwiches (served on homemade buns) all rotate on the menu, with lesser-known Southern specialties, such as the boudin sausage so beloved in parts of Louisiana, slated to debut in the coming weeks.

An affogato

Given that both Ostler and Zacher are trained as pastry chefs, it goes without saying that dessert should not be overlooked. Don’t skip out on “toffee crack”—matzo covered with toffee and a layer of dark chocolate—or the whoopie pies, two rounds of moist chocolate cake sandwiching a thick slather of marshmallow-y buttercream, or the bacon palmiers, the classic French puff-pastry-based cookie suffused with caramelized bacon. In fact, you won’t want to skip any of it. If you missed Ostler and Zacher at Broken Record, don’t make the same mistake twice.

Bruno's

2389 Mission St., 415-643-5200, brunossf.com