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Jul 17, 2012 04:08 PM

Hard Knox Cafe for Lunch [San Francisco]

I'm thinking of having lunch, maybe even dinner here on our next visit. What caught my attention were the braised oxtails with gravy and greens. Looks like great comfort food as does the fried chicken. Has anyone eaten here and more importantly, is it worth a precious meal on a short 3 night stay (we do manage a city visit every other year or so). Yank SIng would be our other planned lunch. Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. Braised oxtails with greens is my fave dish at Hard Knox - so here's one vote for yes. Are you comfort food deprived?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cynsa

      Doesn't Hard Knox Cafe lack just a little bit of TLC put into their dishes? Like I'm pretty sure a lot of the sides are "open up a can, dump in a pot and heat", boxed mac-n-cheese with fake cheese, premade mashed potatotes, etc. It's not like the actual family-owned Southern places you'd find in the South where they're getting their beans, peas and greens locally and making everything from scratch. So I think it really depends on how desperate you are for this type of thing. Myself? I was so desperate I moved back to the South over eating at Hard Knox Cafe!

      1. re: Cynsa

        Thanks for both your replies, I appreciate it although they are two completely different viewpoints. Cynsa, I think I'll be ready for some comfort food by the time we hit the Hard Knox. Oxtails, greens, rice and gravy, OMG!

        1. re: curiousgeo

          I can't believe that HK's sides are pre-made from mixes, boxed, bagged, or otherwise. Since I usually choose rice/gravy and collard greens, I can't comment on mikeh and hhc's 'mashed potatoes from mix' but I do remember good lumpy mashed potatoes in the early years of business.
          Just a note to you - I prefer the 2526 Third Street location. Lots of TLC. Added plus: Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous for ice cream.

          Tony Hua grew up in Texas:

          For pix of oxtails, scroll to March 2, 2011 on facebook

          When I'm at the Legion of Honor museum, I stop at the Hard Knox on Clement Street for the waffle and fried chicken.

          1. re: Cynsa

            Instead of scrolling, you can get the url and link to a specific fb post by clicking on the date/time stamp of the post in the timeline view.

      2. I went a year ago to the 3rd St location, glad I tried it but not in any hurry to go back:
        Went on Sun 6/19/11 to Hard Knox Cafe in the Dogpatch. We took the T Muni line from Embarcadero Station, it took forever to get on the T. About 1hr later we got near the restaurant and had to walk back down on 3rd.

        Place was busy, but they had room at the bar we could eat our lunch at. There's about 10 seats at the bar.

        Things we got:

        FREE iced water

        FREE cornbread - 2 cornbread muffins per person. I liked it. It was slightly warm, packaged butter cold given. The rest of the food took forever to get!

        Oxtail - 3 big pieces of fatty/meaty beef w/ giant bones w/ brown gravy. You pick 2 sides. I got mac & cheese - thought it was ok, creamy, but pretty bland. Red beans & rice was ok. Huge portions. They have Crystal hot sauce (from New Orleans) which isn't spicy at all.

        B. got fried chicken w/ 2 sides. Collard Greens - we got to sample it, it's really salty! Tip: be careful it's really temperature HOT on the fried chicken. He liked the meat 3 pieces, saved one piece for dinner. He picked mashed potato w/ gravy (skip it just from a mix), & black eye peas w/ rice. He saved some for his dinner. Huge portions.

        I saw lots of people getting a plate of fried chicken w/ a side of waffle. Bowl of grits looked good. French toast looked good.

        Credit cards taken. One unisex bathroom past the bar in the back.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hhc

          hhc - the mac 'n cheese at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland is probably more to your liking.

        2. HKC has a lot of things going for it, which is why I return every now and then. Unfortunately many of the main & side dishes, including those smothered in gravy are quite bland (haven't actually tried the ox tails). Big portions and friendly service though, and the fried chicken and biscuits are quite good.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Civil Bear

            Bland, like no taste bland? If anything, it's sometimes too salty for me.
            There's a bucket of condiments on each table. What are you missing? onion, garlic, thyme, marjoram, hot sauce? beef bouillon? Worcestershire sauce?

            1. re: Cynsa

              Yes, bland. I find myself loading up the dishes (mostly sides now that I stick to the fried chicken) with black pepper and crystal, but even that doesn't help with the depth of flavor and soulfullness. For a comparison I would recommend trying similar sides such as red beans & rice that can be found at places like Queen's on San Bruno.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                thanks, I will try the red beans & rice at Queen's - I have liked their oyster po'boy.
                My standard was NOLA's Buster's for red beans & rice in the late 70's

                Isn't it interesting that one dish calls our name? I don't veer from collard greens and oxtails and you stick to fried chicken?

          2. I've been going to the 3rd street location for a long time and while the food is good I wouldn't make a special trip to it. The braised oxtails with gravy & greens are pretty average especially compared to oxtails you get in the south.

            3 Replies
            1. re: tjinsf

              I'm not in The South, I'm in San Francisco. Where in SF should I go for oxtails? I've had oxtails at New Lung Ting in Chinatown and the Mariposa Cafeteria at 1599 Tennessee Street. You think Hard Knox oxtails are just average, where's the best?

              1. re: Cynsa

                You can cross these off -
                China First, Clement St., too hard
                Denny's Cafe, Geary/19th, too hard
                Flower Lounge, McArthur/Fruitvale, Oakland, too salty
                Thing is, I bought them at lunch time to re-heat for dinner -- maybe they would have softened up if I bought them closer to dinner time...

                1. re: Cynsa

                  I don't know about the best as it hasn't opened yet but Rich Table lists tomato braised oxtail on its inaugural menu: