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Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits at 1300's Gospel Brunch

While I may outwardly display all the trappings of a jaded city-dweller, I'm actually a native Southerner, and sometimes I miss being home. Sure, there aren't many concerts or plays to see, and the questions about my life in our fair city (a.k.a. Godless Heathenville) can get oppressive, but no one out here has nailed BBQ yet, nor do they share my passion for cornbread. So when I was invited to attend the new gospel brunch at 1300 on Fillmore, complete with Southern-inspired menu, I jumped at the chance. A hearty dose of spiritual music and mimosas would be a sure bet for curing my homesickness.

The down-home flavors at 1300 definitely lived up to my expectations. The gospel brunch is a prix-fixe menu: $39 purchases an entree, dessert, bottomless mimosas or juice, and coffee or tea. We started with a stellar bread basket, filled with chive biscuits, mini-scones, and of course, my beloved cornbread. Sadly, the cornbread was the loser of the trio, with a dry, mealy texture, but the chive biscuits were so good that even my dining companion (a notorious hater of all things onion) was licking up the crumbs. The red pepper jam served alongside the bread made a nice sweet-and-spicy blend, particularly with the scones.

For entrees, I chose the barbecued shrimp and grits, while my fellow-traveler went with the ribeye burger with blue cheese. The shrimp were delicious and tender, and the grits nicely creamy; I particularly enjoyed the piquant chips of fried garlic that peppered the dish. The burger was juicy and perfectly cooked, but we both found the blue cheese to be overwhelming, considering the high quality of the meat. Both of our desserts, a key-lime meringue tarte and a souffle-like apple cobbler, were tasty, and the waitstaff was diligent about refilling our bottomless "pommosas" (made with pomegranate liqueur and a splash of 7-Up in place of the usual OJ).

As for the soul-saving portion of the menu, I'm not sure I had the most representative experience. The usual house band, Future Perfect, is apparently more of a traditional gospel group, but they were taking a week off on Sunday; the replacement band, a trio of Oakland youth called Next in Line, was praise-oriented, but decidedly more contemporary. Chris, 17, and Christianna, 11, sang their hearts out with a program of contemporary-Christian pop songs, including a Whitney Houston number and "I Believe I Can Fly," but their canned accompaniment (two men manning a sound board and a keyboard-synthesizer) made the earnest performances feel a little too "American Idol." The audience put on a game face for the praise-rap contributions of Chris and emcee A.J., also 17, but their hands-in-the-air exhortations felt a little out-of-place in an upscale restaurant.

Overall, I think the 1300 on Fillmore brunch is a good deal, especially if you take advantage of the bottomless-drink portion of the proceedings. The food is genuinely tasty, and fulfilled some of my longing for home on a sunny Sunday; we left in a good mood that even the specter of praise-and-worship rap couldn't break.

1300 on Fillmore's gospel brunch is held every Sunday, with seatings at 11 am and 1 pm. The prix-fixe brunch is $39, and items can also be ordered a la carte. The restaurant is located at 1300 Fillmore St., and their phone is (415) 771-7100.