Two rotating tables of hounds arrived tonight for happy hour at farmerbrown. The place was slammed in part due to great reviews in last Sunday's Chron and today's Examiner. The servers seemed a little overwhelmed, but food didn't really suffer.
Drinks are half price until 7. Among us, we tried the hibiscus blossom (delicious), watermelon margarita, fresh ginger beer, and whatever the peach drink was.
We shared fries, greens, seafood gumbo, fried chicken, trout with green beans, pulled pork sandwich, cornbread stuffing, and mac and cheese. The mini corn muffins and biscuits with pepper jam also filled the table.
And for dessert, bourbon pecan pie and strawberry rhubarb pie.
Servings were large, and prices are reasonable. The check for the last group came to $20 each including tip and no one left hungry.
My personal favorites were the fried chicken, French fries, the first order of greens, and amazing pecan pie with fresh whipped cream and strawberries that had an almost chocolate-y texture. (I don't care much for pecan pie as a rule.) I was impressed with both the quality of ingredients and care given to their preparation; nothing was overcooked, and most dishes were generously spiced. Blue Bottle coffee was muddy, though, and cocktails were more innovative than memorable, or strong.
We did have to vacate one table (given to us as a walk in) and wait at the bar for a later one (which had been reserved). And given that we were sharing everything, it would have made sense to stagger the dishes rather than trying to fit them all on the table at once. But service was helpful and attentive. Music is on the loud side and only grew louder.
We were also the only table with a little girl. Given the instant popularity of farmerbrown, this might be a good place to go with a smaller party until the buzz dies down. They do serve late, and there were plenty of tables free by the time we left. All in all, very good food, and fun to meet a few hounds.
>The chicken was deep-fried (pan-fried chicken is apparently unknown in these parts)<
It's not unknown, but certainly rare, and people around here don't seem to care one way or the other. I grew up in Missouri with chicken fried in a cast-iron pan and don't bother to eat the deep fried version which I find a poor imitation of the real thing. That means I very rarely eat fried chicken, so I'm glad it's not my favorite food.
Here's a place reputed to serve very good cast-iron pan-fried chicken. I haven't been there.
House of Soul
1526 Solano Ave
Great report, DCA. From the reports I've been reading, I expected it to be Cal-Southern rather than authentic. So if you go there with those expectations ...
I'm wondering if you would consider to do a separate post about your experiences with Southern food in the Bay Area ... good or bad.
Jodie's os a little breakfast/lunch spot in Berkeley that pan fries chicken. However, you have to make sure to ask to get it fried to order. Sometimes Jodie fries it up and keeps it hot on towels in the oven, especially when he is busy.
House of Soul in Vallejo pan fries the fried chicken. I haven't been there yet but it gets some positive posts.
Angela's just opened in Berkeley. Haven't been there yet, but I'm getting California vibes about it. Don't know how they fry their chicken, but it is Louisiana-inspired cuisine.
Prompted by the reviews on Farmer Brown to date, my friend and I BARTed from the East Bay to have dinner there Tuesday nite. We are both from the deep South so we were hopefully anticipating good, if not great, Southern food. As we walked up to the restaurant, we at first thought it was closed as the windows are completely covered in simple white cloth. We then realized that the obvious intent was to completely separate the rather seamy outside locals and environs from the restaurant's intended upscale clientele. The feel of the place is clearly geared to young, urban, clubby types as, appropriately, were most of the drinkers and diners. We arrived about 6:00 and were seated right away. At first the place was just very noisy, but later on we found ourselves literally shouting to each other across our small two top table as the music quickly became and then remained extremely loud.
Our dinners were fried chicken, macaroni, greens, and peach cobbler for dessert. We expected to be rewarded by some well prepared Southern dishes but were surprized and sorely disappointed. We expected white meat chicken but received mostly dark. Our server was clearly unhappy about correcting the problem and did not seem to understand that she should have asked our preference as both types were available, if we did not state so at the outset-just as one would order a rare steak. The chicken was deep-fried (pan-fried chicken is apparently unknown in these parts) and crispy but rather dry, the macaroni was the cream sauce type-a bit dry, mushy, and not at all exciting, the greens were, well, odd-not much flavor except for a bit of hot, and the peach cobbler arrived lukewarm on the outside, fridge cold in the middle, and soggy in the crust. By the preparation, it appeared that the peach cobbler mix was refrigerated, dished and heated on order, and the crust-two or three very small rounds of pastry-was added at the last minute. On the plus side, the peaches in the mix were clearly fresh.
The service was OK at best but it was clear that the service staff is young and not much experienced (or none) in the restaurant world. The place clearly had too many (and too often rather clueless) service staff running around for its size-a common practice with new restaurants. Hire big and cheap, then cull fast. When I requested vinegar for my greens (I correctly assumed they did not stock pepper sauce) from one of the running around staff, the young woman exhibited clear consternation and hesitation, but then ran valiently on in search of my request anyway. The vinegar finally arrived toward the end of our meal. Literally as soon as our dinner dishes were removed, a young man ran to our table, placed two dessert forks from his dessert fork tray in front of us, and then ran off. We were not sure if this meant we should expect a new round of something or an automatic dessert of some kind to arrive next or that we were expected to order dessert.
We most probably will not return to Farmer Brown's.
Sorry this was so different from your expectations.
The service issues aren't surprising--they've been slammed since all the reviews and it's a casual place, not filled with a lot of formally trained waitstaff. And as many reviews have indicated, they're catering to a young, hip bar crowd.
As to white meat, I grew up in the south, and dark meat is what I would expect if I didn't request otherwise. If you want something specific, it pays to ask.
Thanks for your report.
Since it seemed to surprise you that the music is loud, let me emphasize this again for others who might have missed the point. A small child can giggle and shout as much as she likes and not bother anyone. A DJ is spinning tunes all night and the music is turned up even louder after 7pm. Do not expect to be able to talk in normal conversational tones.
I'm the father of the little girl Windy mentioned. I felt a little old and out of place at Farmer Brown. There was a very young, trendy vibe. Very noisy, which I think made it more fun for my daughter. She could make a lot of noise and no one would notice. Though she was the only small child there, the staff was gracious. Of course, I enjoyed the company of my fellow Chowhounds.
The food was nice, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to find my way back. I was at the "second seating," so it seems we missed the best dishes. The fried chicken was the hilight for me, as others have commented. Corn muffins were drier than I've had at more down-to-earth type places. (I love the corn muffins at Sweetie Pie and Poppy's Southern in Oakland). At the next table, someone ordered the stuffed roast chicken which was huge and looked like it could be delicious.
Agree with Windy that the trout was weird and somewhat lacking flavor. Greens were nothing special.
Anyway, it was a fun night out, and thanks to Windy for arranging it.
this is the perfect place to go to with that special someone you are thinking is not so special anymore. food is good, and the noise is a good excuse not to "really" talk.
it was my first chowhound outing, and i think i met a few of them. the general good resto vibe was such I think I could have attached myself to another group and would have been welcomed also.
the slaw and beans and fries were the standouts for me. it is nice to be able to just take a bite of trout and think it is okay, but i'm sticking with sand dabs for home cooking.
bonus ending was the free cable car ride home.
re: Morton the Mousse
Way at the begining of this discussion "Frisco frog" who had both dark and light reported...
o friscofrog replied.....
I, too, enjoyed the company of the other Chowhounds at the first "seating." I thoroughly enjoyed my fried chicken dinner platter.These three perfectly fried pieces were the crispiest I have ever encountered while still maintaining a juicy interior. I liked the fresh watercress garnish and mac and cheese side. I agree with Windy, the Watermelon margarita was disappointing despite the novelty of a cayenne/salt dip on the glass rim. Kudos for that incredible pecan pie. I couldn't stay for the later seating, but would appreciate more comments about the seafood gumbo and the trout.
...So hopefully in answer to your question, at least in his experience...Yes!
re: Morton the Mousse
I didn't get any breast meat, but I thought the third order was a wing, leg, and thigh, without any special requests.
Maybe stick to dark meat, or smaller pieces where the crust to meat ratio is higher. We did ogle the stuffed roasted chicken at the next table while we were waiting for dessert.
One thing I noticed is that the food was not oversalted for me, whereas the I usually find southern cooking much too salty. I liked the traditional cheddar mac & cheese, nice creaminess and some integrity still to the macaroni. And, it benefitted from some added salt.
Our fries were nicely browned but strangely tough. The aioli tasted like Best Foods with some extra lemon juice to me.
First round of sides -
My one bite of a chicken drumstick was very nice. I appreciated the thin crust and juicy dark meat.
Like the others, I thought the pecan pie was wonderful. I like pecan pie, but most versions leave much to be desired. I didn't try the strawberry-rhubarb pie, but here's a picture of it. The crust on the pie deserves special mention. Thickish, but very short and tender.
Strawberry-rhubarb pie -
I hadn't read up on FarmerBrown at all before our happy hour chow meet. So it was a complete suprise to find the bar seats completely filled at 5:58pm and the young, clubby atmosphere. I enjoyed it very much - thanks Windy!
I did mention in my post (a few back) that they are planning on doing lunch in the near future.
I tried the Louisiana Fried on 6th and hated it! So, I certainly won't try the new one on Fillmore near Geary (especially since Popeyes is right there)
Do try Farmer Browns, i don't think you'll be dissapointed...
BTW if you find that it has begun serving lunch, please keep us informed!
Chowfun, thank you for being a popeye's lover as well.
I think they have pretty much set the bar for me and i can't seem to get behind any other fried chicken (especially fast food chicken) except for theirs. The last time i went to the Geneva and Mission branch i noticed that there was a framed chron review of the best fired chicken restaurants in the bay area and Popeye's came in 3rd!
I nodded sagely and was like "of course! duh!"
But i can't wait to try farmerbrowns! i will absolutely let you know when it starts doing lunch service.
I didn't really eat but did pick at a few things second seating. On the whole, great place and I will definitely return.
My only disappointments were the greens, the seafood gumbo, and the pulled pork sandwich. The greens, while perfectly well cooked, didn't taste like anything other than greens-no hamhock, no smokiness, no nothing. I like veggies as much as the next person but I like my greens to have some pork flavor. The seafood gumbo would make a perfectly nice seafood soup but it didn't taste anything like gumbo. The pulled pork was moist but didn't appear to have any sort of sauce, just plain pork. I guess I was expecting that NC vinegar sauce or something. So really, as far as complaints go, that's not bad. The dishes were well executed, just not what I was expecting. Oh, and the drinks were weak and watery. I would have been hard pressed to figure out that my drink was a peach concoction were it not for the slice of peach hanging off the rim.
But the good stuff: the fried chicken skin was perfectly spiced, loved the mac n' cheese. I LOVED the slaw that came with the pulled pork. I don't like mayo and this had none. Crunchy, pickle-y, and fresh. I would definitely order a side of that. French fries were great (especially compared to the awful In-n-Out ones I had the day before. What the hell do they do to them to get that frickin' weird texture?). The green beans that came with the trout were seriously spicy, I really enjoyed them. I also loved the strawberry-pepper jam that came with the muffins and biscuits. Didn't stay for dessert.
The prices are incredibly reasonable, the staff friendly and sweet. Just be prepared for the noise, there is almost nothing to absorb it.
The greens tasted different from the first table to the second. Same greens (beet greens?), but the first batch were dressed in a spicy vinegar that really made them shine.
The pork was like a less greasy carnitas--big chunks of high-quality meat but definitely in need of some kind of dressing. Every bite was eventually finished. Worth noting that any time a server attempted to clear a plate from our table, someone would shout "no!" and hastily grab the last fry or bit of chicken skin or watercress.
Interestingly, all my favorites were ordered in the first round, although we didn't get any mini corn muffins.
The trout was weird--filleted and stuffed with pine nuts and wild rice, with a strip of bacon on top. It was hard to eat and needed a sauce or something to bring it together. The green beans, as CH addict mentioned, were peppery and wonderful.
"Gumbo" was a tomato-based crab soup that didn't quite come together, but seemed to have all the right elements. Might be better closer to midnight with cocktails.
I'm so bummed I missed this chowdown. I'd love to meet some fellow SF hounds soon...hopefully the next time.
Weird about the trout. When I had it last week I loved it and there was definitely no wild rice in there - bacon yes, but no rice - which doesn't really appeal to me either. I asked the bartender/server about the stuffing and he said "walnuts and cornbread, mostly". It had a seriously vinegary sauce with it too. Those little inconsistencies could be bad for biz but, I guess they're still playing with the menu. Glad to hear the pepper jelly is back!
The fried chicken was crispy and juicy with just the right amount of spicing to enhance the 'chicken' flavor without overwhelming it...It comes with Mac and cheese which was good, not overcooked...so no mushy macaroni..very 'cheddar cheesy' (not velveeta)..the plate was cleaned!
The little corn muffins had a nice cornmeal grit to them and I enjoyed the strawberry/pepper jam accompaniment.
The greens were chewy (in a good way) garlicky.vinegary. and smokey..very good.
My friends pork loin was crusty but still slightly pink (personally, I would order it as rare as possible..137 degrees!! but that's just me)
The pecan pie with fresh whipped cream and strawberries was warm and gooey with whole tasty pecans.. and one of the best, if not THE best version of this pie that I have experienced!
Farmer Browns is not yet open for lunch, but they are planning to be in the near future, so they said.
Thanks to Windy for putting this together, I'm looking forward to the next outing!