A huge sigh of relief passed through San Francisco following the results of this past election. And what better way to celebrate than with a quintessentially American dish: Grits. A simple, yet versatile food, grits make a perfect morning pairing with sunny-side up eggs, can be transformed into a hearty, cheesy dish, or pair perfectly with shrimp for a Creole-style meal. With cold weather rushing upon us, grits are just the thing to warm you up.
1. Brenda’s French Soul Food: Shrimp & Grits, Grillades & Grits
The long line outside for brunch at Brenda’s is well worth the wait: Chicken, sausage, & okra gumbo, oyster and crawfish, beignets, and, of course, grits are what meet you on the other side. Try their traditional sautéed shrimp with cheddar grits doused with spicy tomato-bacon gravy. For something heartier, their grillades (beef cutlets braised in spicy creole gravy) served with grits and two eggs any style, and biscuit or toast will certainly fill you up. Or if you’re in the mood for a more traditional brunch, order your omelet or eggs benedict with a side of buttery grits.
2. The Broken Record: Spicy Crawfish and Cheesy Bacon Grits
This dive bar in the Excelsior may not scream “gourmet” from the outside, but head past the bar to the back– you'll encounter some of the best Southern fare and bar food in San Francisco. Their grits, made with “Low Country lobster” are cheap and satisfying. The Cajun aroma and spiciness of the grits are balanced by the creamy cheese, crispy bacon, and plump crawfish.
3. The Elite Café: New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp and Cheese grits, Two Eggs Any Style and Sourdough Toast
The Elite Café isn’t messing around with this brunch dish. Not only do you get the creamy, cheesy grits with shrimp (a meal in itself), but they also fry or scramble up two eggs on the side. The true standout of this dish is the shrimp itself, which gains extra flavor points from the barbecue. But if something else on the menu calls your name, be sure to order up a side of their cheesy grits to make it complete.
Elite Cafe's grits, photo via Foodspotting
4. 1300 on Fillmore: Barbecue Shrimp N’ Creamy Grits
For dinner, order an appetizer size of their barbecue shrimp with creamy (not cheesy) grits. Enjoy with their complimentary cornbread and follow with baked oysters, fried chicken, or house cured pork chop. Or, check out their Gospel Brunch on Sundays. For a $6 cover, you can listen to live music while sipping a Bloody Mary and lounging over your shrimp and grits.
5. The Front Porch: Spicy Shrimp N’ Grits
Stepping into this small neighborhood restaurant is like entering an intimate Southern home. Come with friends and enjoy the food family style (like their bucket of fried chicken), or simply sit down with a Sazerac and an order of their spicy shrimp and grits, packed with wild gulf shrimp, garlic, shallots, bacon, and mushroom truffle ragout.
6. Farmerbrown: Shrimp & Grits
Whether you come in for all-you-can-eat brunch (yes, $20 buys you an unlimited brunch buffet with waffles, fried catfish, fried chicken, eggs, and more) or a comforting dinner, Farmerbrown has some of the best grits in the city. Make sure you wait for a hot, cheesy batch at the buffet, and pair it with bacon, eggs, sausage, and mushroom gravy for your very own breakfast feast. On top of everything, you get to eat while listening to live jazz and sipping on bottomless mimosas. They swtich it up for dinner, spicing up their Shrimp & Grits with Cajun seasoning, shrimp butter, and sweet, juicy cherry tomato salsa.
7. Hops and Hominy: Shrimp & Grits
In Union Square, a neighborhood overwrought with overpriced food, Hops and Hominy, is a breath of fresh air. Their shrimp and grits is definitely one menu item not to be missed. Cheese-dense yet fluffy grits are topped with a few plump shrimps, crab, and a rich brandy sauce. Be sure to pair your meal with one of their signature, meaty cocktails, such as the Smoked Bacon Old Fashioned or Pork Chops and Apple Sauce (bacon infused Bulleit, house made sour, and apple Schnapps).