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Shrimp and Grits - SF Dish of the Month January 2014

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The SF Bay Area Dish of the Month for January 2014 is Shrimp and Grits!

Now is your chance to try versions of Shrimp & Grits that you haven't tasted before. Report back with reviews and photos, and let's aim as a community to try as many versions of Shrimp & Grits as possible!

Some useful discussions of Shrimp & Grits from two voting threads:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9216...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9280...

Here's a link to the this month's vote:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/928077

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  1. Pican/Oakland's Voodoo shrimp and grits. The grits have enough butter to float a cow, and atop are large shrimp in a spicy creamy sauce of Tasso ham, beer and bourbon.

    The beer/bacon/bourbon sauce with the shrimp is to die for. It's one of the most inspired riffs on a beurre rouge (itself a red-wine variant on the classic beurre blanc) that we've ever encountered. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, tender and sweet.

    The quality of the grits is superb, as well. Pican's are far better than Brown Sugar Kitchen's version.

    8 Replies
    1. re: jaiko

      jaiko, CH needs to install a "Drool" button so I can respond appropriately to your post. Nice kickoff to the Jan thread. Pican just moved up the list for next visit.

      1. re: grayelf

        and you're not here until May??? i may not be able to wait that long!

        I've not eaten at Pican, only been for drinks. Didn't love the atmosphere much but for that dish..... wow....

        1. re: mariacarmen

          Go, mc, go! Don't wait... though I will be jelly :-). What about Pican's atmo didn't strike you?

          1. re: grayelf

            it's a little too.... stuffy? sceney? i don't know....i'd just prefer a more casual place. but i'll try it! not sure when, but i'll let you know if i do.

            1. re: mariacarmen

              I wouldn't describe Pican as either stuffy or sceney, but we're retired so we're walking in wearing Polarfleece, open-toed sandals with socks, or my beat-up Tevas. Dinner or brunch, we've never felt out of place.

              Service at Pican, however, suffers at dinner when they're more popular as an after-work place. Brunch is more relaxed and easy going; not a lot of people have discovered it although they've been doing brunch for years.

      2. re: jaiko

        Jaiko, hohhh, I'm on it!

        Grayelf, I agree! Add a drool tray w the button.

        Newbie CH'er here...

        1. re: jaiko

          Do you know if they use farmed, or wild shrimp?

          1. re: jaiko

            Sadly, if we (collectively) snooze, we lose...our party of four was just at Pican for brunch on Sat 2/08, and the VooDoo shrimp & grits are off the menu for now.

            Currently the brunch menu lists "Gulf Shrimp & Grits", with fried okra and something called 'brown butter Worcestershire gravy': http://www.picanrestaurant.com/Docume...

            Our group was in the mood for other things so we didn't try it. Even more sad that they also took the chile pancakes with creamy sausage gravy out, that was a winner too on our Jan 2014 visit. But the excellent spicy collard greens hash is a regular, thankfully, as is the fried chicken Benedict. Chef Uong can really do wonders with her riffs on French butter sauces.

            Brunch is a lot of fun at Pican. Do a bourbon tasting afterwards and the bartenders have much more time to talk about what you might like.

          2. I tried the shrimp & grits today at NOLA in Palo Alto. I don't recommend it. All the individual components are great, but there is not enough sauce, so the proportions of shrimp to grits to sauce seems wrong; the sauce doesn't really punch through.

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/1...

            1. has anyone tried Brenda's?
              http://frenchsoulfood.com/dinner

              I've only had Mr. Pollo's version (last year, so of course, not on a regular menu), and Sable's version in Chicago, which does not count since it's not SF Bay Area - http://www.sablechicago.com/

              but both were amazing and inspired me to try the dish at home myself - and i was frankly thrilled with my own results. Pican's version sounds very intriguing too....

              1 Reply
              1. re: mariacarmen

                Yes. The version in the link was pretty good. I had another version there as well that might have been a special. I think it was titled BBQ Shrimp & Grits that wasn't as well balanced. The sauce took over and it was too sweet.

              2. Haven't had a chance to get out for shrimp & grits yet this year, but I thought I would share that the best rendition I have had in SF was actually the crab & grits at the Front Porch. If they used shrimp instead of crab I am sure I would have loved the dish just as much.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Civil Bear

                  thanks for this, Civil Bear - i've only had their chicken. Since it's so near me, i'll have to give their shrimp & grits a shot.

                  1. re: Civil Bear

                    I agree. The Front Porch crabs & grits is great, or at least, was great the last time I had it.

                    1. re: Civil Bear

                      oops saw this just after i wrote about shrimp and grits at the front porch :) last time i was there they had shrimp and grits, not crab and grits but both sound equally yummy!

                    2. run and get thee to Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland for an impeccible Creole rendition: shrimp are bathed in a deep, luscious red sauce with a medley of Nolo spices beyond my ability to parse. Suffice it to say: rich, deep flavors that are addictive.

                      it's not always on the menu, so call ahead. or do as I did one time: cry when the server says they don't have it, and then smile when he offered to ask the chef who then accommodated my craving.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: escargot3

                        you charmer you!
                        i can't believe i still haven't tried that place... must rectify!

                        1. re: escargot3

                          It's on BSK's weekday breakfast menu (7-11:30am) and Sunday brunch menu (8am-3pm) so showing up @ 12:30 was a no-go.

                          I didn't shed any tears so had to "settle" for their fried chicken & waffle. OT: that cornmeal waffle is amazing!

                          1. re: escargot3

                            Agree with the recommendation of the shrimp and grits at BSK. The problem with BSK is that it's difficult to decide what to order -- everything I've had there has been great.

                          2. Scratch in downtown Mountain View (one of Rob Fischer's restaurants, which also include Reposado and Gravity Wine Bar) does an impressive shrimp & grits currently. On its "Appetizers" menu (which means: available discounted at the restaurant's large bar/lounge during weekday happy hour, 4-6 PM). However Scratch recently changed its 3-year-old policy of discounting this menu (normally $9-12 items) by half during that deal; now they are reduced by $2 or $3 instead.

                            This restaurant uses a piquant worcestershire butter, which I think is further spiced up, and as with many of these "Appetizer" courses, the plate comes nicely garnished and presented.

                            1. I had the crawshrimp grits at Rickybobby in the Lower Haight about a year ago (yes, dated, I know) and really liked it. Got it without the pork belly:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8850...
                              "The grits were cheesy and resting in a spicy broth as promised, with bits of shrimp. Generous portion and very comforting, and filling! We both loved it."

                              The dish is still on the menu:
                              http://rickybobbysf.com/

                              I've been meaning to get over to Front Porch forever, so now I've got a good excuse.

                              1. So does anyone know where in the Civic Center area (other than Brenda's) a guy can find shrimp & grits?

                                Unfortunately its not on the menu at the Boxing Room.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                  Shrimp & grits are on the brunch menu at Boxing Room.
                                  http://www.boxingroom.com/pdf/BrunchM...

                                  Remember, this was originally a breakfast for shrimpers. S & G is also known as Breakfast Shrimp.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Thanks. Unfortunately I am rarely in town during the weekends. This is going to be a challenge!

                                    1. re: Civil Bear

                                      Here's one in Civic Center/Hayes Valley:

                                      South at SF Jazz (Franklin & Fell) has shrimp and grits on the lunch and dinner online menus.

                                      http://www.southatsfjazz.com/

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Thanks for the find MW. Charles Phan, eh? I'll be sure to check it out!

                                        1. re: Civil Bear

                                          Good, let's get some real time reportage going.

                                          1. re: Civil Bear

                                            Okay, finally made it out to South today. Their version was more of a NOLA BBQ'ed shrimp over creamy coarse-ground grits. The sauce was fine but drowned out the mushy bite-sized shrimp. $10 for a medium sized portion. Not unpleasant, but I won't bother ordering it again.

                                            Worse was the side of red beans & "popcorn" rice. Under-seasoned and under-cooked, it lacked flavor and any semblance of soul. Even adding several dashes of the homemade hot sauce (tasted like sriracha with added garlic) couldn't bring it to life.

                                            DC had the fried chicken, and although the pieces looked small they also looked crispy and moist in a thin salt & pepper batter. DC said the side of greens were actually quite good, but the mac & cheese was mediocre.

                                             
                                    2. re: Civil Bear

                                      Here's the search result for shrimp grits in SF (all neighborhoods) on Menupages,
                                      http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...

                                      One that looks interesting is the Velvet Room at the Clift Hotel . . . uses Anson Mills grits.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Randomly checking current menus on the websites of establishments that popped up in Menupages search linked above, I'm not seeing S & G now at:

                                        Jasper's
                                        Stock in Trade
                                        Velvet Room

                                    3. It's been a while since I tried 1300 Fillmore's (SF) version but it was excellent and refined. Really creamy grits. Maybe someone else can revisit and let us know if it's still as good as I remembered.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                                        7x7 published 1300 Fillmore's recipe,
                                        http://www.7x7.com/recipes/secret-rec...

                                      2. Fenix in downtown San Rafael has shrimp & grits on their lunch and dinner menus. SHRIMP AND GRITS, Barbecue shrimp, mascarpone, herbs, Anson Mills grits 11/15

                                        http://fenixlive.com

                                        http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/din...

                                        1. Surprised no one has mentioned Luka's version. I only had a bite of my friend's order, but I can vouch that it was really fragrant, and seeing and smelling it arrive at our neighbor's table meant we had to order it. As I recall it was flawed in some way, but I'm not able to recall how. Maybe the grits were too thick?

                                          I also recall that it was on the menu when we visited Backyard in Forestville, and that one of our party really liked it. But it is not seen on the currently posted menus. Memory lapse / confusing it with another meal? Or changing menus?

                                          Also, any word on Little Skillet's rendition? Have to confess that its hard not to order the chicken every time there.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: BernalKC

                                            Hopefully heading to Little Skillet next week at some point, so stay tuned.

                                            1. re: Dave MP

                                              Little Skillet has a new bar http://www.victoryhallsf.com/

                                              Let us know what you think of it.

                                              1. re: foodeye

                                                Oh cool, I'll check it out. The bar's sample menu does not list shrimp and grits :( But I wonder if they will have it sometimes/eventually?

                                              2. re: Dave MP

                                                We did go to Little Skillet today, and were pretty uniformly disappointed. The portions were small for $11, the grits were way undersalted (actually tasted as if they hadn't been salted at all), there was no sauce to speak of, and two of the three of us who got the s&g felt that the shrimp tasted oddly fishy (as in, like fish)--the Cajun seasoning couldn't mask the off taste of the shrimp. I ended up pouring a fair amount of the house hot sauces on my dish, both red (heat but no real spice) and green (spicy).

                                                We got a side of waffles--also nothing special, and the syrup wasn't popular with us. (One person thought it was heavily molasses-y, two of us thought it might contain alcohol.)

                                                The person in our group who got the fried chicken said it was pretty good, if also too small of a portion.

                                                Little Skillet is a small hike from our office, and unfortunately none of us would walk that far again to eat there.

                                                The new bar next door looks really nice though--loved the wood decor.

                                                Little Skillet
                                                360 Ritch Street between Brannan & Townsend and 3rd & 4th
                                                http://www.littleskilletsf.com/

                                                1. re: DeborahL

                                                  Here are pictures. I agree with Deborah that this food wasn't amazing. It was good, but not good enough for me to want to return.

                                                  I could make better shrimp and grits at home pretty easily. Waffle lacked any real flavor on its own. The syrup tasted like melted panela, not really maple or even artificial maple. So, not necessarily bad, just not to my liking.

                                                   
                                                   
                                                  1. re: DeborahL

                                                    I've only been to Little Skillet on Saturdays. I first had the shrimp and grits one day when they were out of my 1st choice. I liked them a lot. The grits were creamy and buttery and the shrimp fresh-tasting. I don't recall any sauce. I've had them a couple of times since and was satisfied each time. Luck of the draw?

                                              3. Didn't realize Duende was dinner only so went down the block to Flora for brunch and saw Shrimp & Grits on the menu.

                                                I guess I didn't read the menu carefully enough as the Shrimp & Grits turned out to be a seared grit cake instead of creamy grits.

                                                The shrimp & poached eggs were both nicely cooked, but the shrimp gravy was pretty bland. The grit cake was OK, but definitely not what I had in mind when I ordered or what comes to mind for shrimp & grits.

                                                The g/f's fried egg & avocado toast drizzled with chili oil was definitely the winner today.

                                                I looked at the menu on the way out and it did say "crispy Anson Mills grits"

                                                 
                                                 
                                                1. my favorite shrimp and grits ever is at The Front Porch in SF. chef matt marcus was even on diners, drive thrus and dives making the shrimp and grits. i won't attempt it at home but i will drive to the city to get my fix!

                                                  1. RickyBobby. Yum!

                                                    1. Last week I kicked off DOTM at The Parish Café in Healdsburg.
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8792...

                                                      I remember that when I tried the cafe soon after it opened in fall 2012, I was disappointed that I could only order shrimp and grits before 11:30am. Now I understand that it is considered breakfast food.

                                                      Taking a solo seat at the counter, I recognized the red label on the box of Albers Quick Grits on the shelf of the open kitchen. But I forged ahead anyway ordering shrimp and grits, $12, and café au lait, $3.50.

                                                      The portion’s on the smaller size. Three largish shrimp dusted with what tastes like Creole seasoning were accompanied by a sauté of bacon and shallots in Creole tomato sauce with the trinity. On top, some artful scallions cut on the bias.
                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                      The shrimp were firm and juicy, cooked on point. Here’s a little closer look at what all is in the sauce. The tomato component was hardly noticeable at all under the spice mix and meatiness of the bacon. Due to the high salt level and very robust flavors, I downed two extra quarts of water that day.
                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                      The quick grits had some dairy, perhaps cooked in milk, but not at all rich with butter or cheese. Pretty bland, not tasting of corn or hominy, just white blankness.

                                                      As others report in this month, I’d like to hear more about the quality of the grits. I found it very disappointing that this restaurant wouldn’t take the time to prepare real grits. I’ve had the shrimp and stone-ground grits that Green Grocer serves outdoors at Sonoma County farmers markets and the grits resonate with flavor and texture. They’re vastly superior to this pablum, and I recommend them highly.
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8561...

                                                      Also in Healdsburg, Zin Restaurant has featured shrimp and grits on its menu. But I’ve called and the current grits dish uses chicken, not shrimp. Here’s a link to my post in 2006, the first time I tasted Falls Mill stone-ground grits prepared by Zin and I “got” what the difference could be.
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4675...

                                                       
                                                       
                                                       
                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        There's a discussion on the General Topics board today about instant and quick grits that might be of interest.
                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/961696

                                                      2. I tried the shrimp and grits at Pican in Oakland:
                                                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/1...

                                                        Juicy, plump shrimp and nicely done grits. The sauce was good; I just wish there were more of it. There was enough sauce to lightly glaze each bite, but not enough to truly savor it. What exactly is the "right amount" of sauce? I've seen versions that are drowned in sauce, and also versions where the sauce is nearly hidden from view.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ssfire

                                                          Went to Pican Friday night for the first time. Recognized people working there who used to work at Sea Salt. Liked the atmosphere. Great service. Great waitstaff. Found the diversity of the crowd refreshing. Loved the food. Tried the shrimp and grits and thoroughly enjoyed it. As has been mentioned it is buttery but I did not find it heavy. The grits were perfect. Very creamy and satisfying. The shrimp were fresh and tasted very high quality. The sauce was complex and brought the dish together. The dish was toped with cress greens which added a fresh element and red jalapeño slices which added some spice which enhanced the complexity of the dish. I loved it.

                                                           
                                                        2. Just today I spotted a "Grand Opening" banner going up at a hole-in-the-wall named Soul Food City at 403 Eddy St. at Leavenworth (It's the place that previously had a sign that said "Tunisian Cuisine" and sold Yucatecan food).

                                                          I peeked in and noticed Shrimp and Grits was on the menu, along with the likes of po' boys and red beans and rice.

                                                          1. Shrimp and Grits at Fenix (San Rafael)

                                                            Today I had lunch with a friend (originally from the South) at Fenix. We split a small order of Shrimp and Grits and the Korean bbq short rib sandwich (I'll report of that in another thread). The Shrimp and Grits is described on the menu as "SHRIMP AND GRITS, Barbecue shrimp, mascarpone, herbs, Anson Mills grits (vo) 11/15". I thought it was excellent, the chef's take on a southern classic. The grits were very creamy, unlike any grits I've had before. We asked about that and were told that it was because the grits were mixed with mascarpone. Good rich flavors all around. But my originally-from-the-South friend said it would have been fine if they hadn't called it grits, which to her it wasn't, but instead something else (unnamed). She grew up on plain grits with butter (and loved grits) and these "grits" just weren't grits. So there you have it. If you want classic grits, this dish isn't it. If you're OK with a chef's variation on the theme, you may like it a lot. We had the small order ($11) with three sort-of-large shrimp. The place itself is very ambitious, especially for San Rafael, and they're definitely trying hard to do a good job with the food. The server was every helpful and friendly. The place was almost empty at lunch.

                                                            A (very) few photos: http://ruthvenphotos2.com/fenix

                                                            Korean bbq short rib sandwich report:
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9094...

                                                            http://fenixlive.com

                                                            11 Replies
                                                            1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                                              From what part of the South does your friend hail? Cheese grits (though not made with mascarpone) are quite wide-spread, so I'm surprised that she's not familiar with the genre. Also quick grits are ubiquitous, much like Wonder bread, so much so that many Southerners of the post WWII generations have not been exposed to stoneground grits. Fortunately, renewed interest in traditional foodways has rev'd up availability of classic stoneground grits and they're making a comeback.

                                                              ETA: Did your grits actually taste like corn?

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                I think the corn flavor was pretty much hidden in the mascarpone. I didn't "grow up" on grits, but if they hadn't called them grits I probably wouldn't have identified them as that. The "grittiness" texture wasn't there.

                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                  FWIW, Charleston style grits call for cream.

                                                                  This recipe from Emeril Lagasee is incredible, btw..

                                                                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

                                                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                    That's odd. I've had the most delectible shrimp/grits in Charleston -- in a tomato-based sauce.

                                                                    1. re: escargot3

                                                                      You might want to check the discussion links in the original post starting this thread for background on how the shrimp grits has evolved from its humble beginnings as working man's breakfast and the different ways it plays out across different regions of the South. Not to mention individual chef's creativity in dinner houses or rice versions.

                                                                      1. re: escargot3

                                                                        I was referring to the grits part only. Could it be possible that event though the grits were covered with shrimp in a tomato sauce that the grits themselves could have been made with cream?

                                                                        1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                          yes, CB. There in lies the issue! Nice detective work. No tomato nuthin' in the grits. The shrimp was in a reduced tomato sauce.

                                                                      2. re: Civil Bear

                                                                        I made the Emeril recipe last weekend and it was delicious. Will make it again for my next dinner party.

                                                                      3. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                        Cheese grits are very common, but with a sharp cheddar, not mascarpone, it seems that would be a very different taste, not bad, but very different

                                                                        1. re: karenfinan

                                                                          Yes, of course, and perhaps originally made with hoop cheese rather than cheddar. I wanted to make the point that plain grits boiled in water then served with butter is not the one and only defining grits.

                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                            "I wanted to make the point that plain grits boiled in water then served with butter are not the one and only defining grits."

                                                                            Much as "Shrimp and Grits" isn't the only, or defining, grits dish in the Southeastern US. It's a particular region's dish, which happens to have gotten some extra exposure and be currently fashionable beyond its usual turf. But the Bay Area Americana-cuisines restaurant where I reported getting this DOTM upthread had earlier, for a longer period, served grits with pork belly. And elsewhere in the Southeast (than SC), shrimp is not the typical pairing I've seen with grits, the past 25 years.

                                                                    2. made it to The Front Porch last night. the spicy shrimp and grits were heavenly - with a caveat.

                                                                      the flavor was great, the grits themselves were super creamy - really wonderful with the Andouille sausage and the red eye gravy - not super spicy, but adding their homemade habanero hot sauce fixed that up.

                                                                      the problem was the shrimp were overcooked. I saw it happen, as I was sitting facing the kitchen, and I watched one of the chefs making someone else's shrimp & grits first - she plated the grits and then carefully lifted each shrimp - a generous total of 8 shrimps, I believe! - out of the sauté pan and placed them on the grits, then poured the sauce over them from the pan.

                                                                      when it came to making mine, she plated the grits, but then I saw her quickly dump the entire sauté pan - shrimps and all - onto the grits. i'm assuming that she'd let the shrimps go too long, and knew it, and was afraid of taking the time to pick them all out one by one, allowing them to overcook further. and they were fine when I first started eating, but after they sat in the hot grits for a few minutes, they mushed up. it was a shame, but the dish was still amazingly good, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. great depth of flavor. there were a couple other snafus like that in the rest of our meal, but i'd still go back. great tasting food, sometimes questionable execution when busy.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                        Have been very silent on shrimp and grits despite it being one of my favorite dishes. Problems are two fold.

                                                                        First, I had not had a decent S&G in the Bay Area and nothing reported here seemed up to Charleston or Louisiana standards. Certainly not the paltry under flavored portion of little shrimp on cheesy (both senses of the word) grits at the otherwise often stellar Rickybobby.

                                                                        Now thanks to Mariacarmen, we went back to Front Porch, which had fallen off our list - maybe because we could never get in and maybe because our first try there years ago was not that compelling.

                                                                        Second, as others have noted this is not a well defined dish. It can be very variable both in concept and in quality of execution. Last summer I tried maybe half a dozen versions in Charleston and maybe I can barely remember one or two as somewhat outstanding. Best were probably at Husk and Hominy Grill, two of Charleston's best kitchens. These are mild and well balanced and probably should be considered prototypical.

                                                                        The version I really remember, probably on my top ten all time list of dishes, is the version at Galatoire's in Baton Rouge. Shortly after the hurricane closed down everything including Galatoire's in New Orleans, they opened a place in an upscale fancy mall on the south side of Baton Rouge. Probably this was to serve the many New Orleans refugees in Baton Rouge at the time. As a special one day I found shrimp and grits on the menu -- subsequently I think it has become a permanent fixture in Baton Rouge, but never at the original Galatoire's in NOLA.

                                                                        The Galatoire's version is completely different from what you get in Charleston. It is a smoky version, somewhat of a barbecue or gumbo sauce, with huge (fresh) Gulf shrimp on creamy grits. Incredible dish.

                                                                        So, Front Porch has done a very creative variation on S&G, not unlike Galatoire's. Actually quite comparable, but maybe not at that stratospheric level. The shrimp are smaller, and have been through a freezer on the way from the gulf. Mine were cooked just right, BTW. And the grits are nice and creamy. The smoky sauce reminds of a barbecue shrimp or a smoky gumbo, and this sense is augmented by the generous pile of andouille slices, a touch I have seen no where else.

                                                                        Otherwise, the fried okra was OK, maybe too thick a breading. The deviled eggs, spicy and good. The pecan pie first class. The fried chicken was also very good.

                                                                        Guess we will head back there.

                                                                        1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                          Here's a link to your positive report on the "excellent" shrimp & grits at Old Skool Cafe, circa 2012,
                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8497...

                                                                          Updates, anyone?

                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                            Can't hide my bad memory from Melanie's searches. I was hungry for S&G at the time, before overdosing in Charleston, and I liked the place, Old Skool. Guess I need to go back and retry?

                                                                      2. OB's in Oakland. It's not just shrimp and grits (which are amazingly good and maybe the best I've had in Bay Area) but the entire experience. 'Nuff said

                                                                        Hutch: hell no, we won't go.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: MrSmart

                                                                          have you been to OB's recently?

                                                                          the last two Y*lp reviews from Nov/Dec say it's new owners/cooks for the last few months.

                                                                          1. re: drewskiSF

                                                                            <looking at yelp> Crapola!! I haven't been in a few months. This is sad :( I looked forward to his shrimp and grits every so often.

                                                                        2. FONG's CAFE, Oakland

                                                                          Two weeks ago I dropped into Fong's Cafe for breakfast before an appointment. The Chinese-Viet lady behind the counter pointed to the Chinese-American dishes on the menu. But my eye was drawn to the shrimp scrambled with eggs served with grits (or choice of hash browns or home fries), $8.30. She asked me if I wanted green onions (yes) and to add cheese (59¢ extra, yes). I did crack me up when I heard her call the order into the kitchen: "Ha don gwit", literally shrimp egg and I guess, grits, in Cantonese.

                                                                          The grits themselves were quick-cook, unsalted and plain, served with a small scoop of softened butter-margarine. A combination of creamier bits and some very gritty underdone bits, seeming like a blend of two different batches. Also lots of lumps. This seemed rather typical for diner breakfast grits.

                                                                          Cheese was a slice of unmelted American under the shrimp scramble. The shrimp were cooked on point, but tasted too iodine-y. What is worth mentioning is the soft texture of the barely mixed scramble eggs. Some white showing and the taste was obviously real eggs, not powdered or frozen. The Chinese short-order cook does have good touch in this humblest of surroundings.

                                                                          Fong's Cafe
                                                                          6807 Foothill Blvd
                                                                          Oakland, CA 94605
                                                                          (510) 568-3050
                                                                          Open for breakfast and lunch
                                                                          https://plus.google.com/1066771827605...

                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                          1. Wow, this was a tough DOM! Very few places offering this dish for lunch during the week, so I was only able to hit up one new place.

                                                                            My hopes were to find out new places that offered up good versions, but no such luck.

                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                              Here is one that I think wasn't reviewed. I had it many years ago, and it was great. Need to go there again DOTM, or not.

                                                                              http://www.theblackberrybistro.com/lu...

                                                                              1. re: foodeye

                                                                                Another in Oakland that hasn't been mentioned, Aunt Mary's in Temescal has shrimp and (stone ground) grits on the lunch menu,
                                                                                http://www.auntmaryscafe.com/Pages/Me...

                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                  It's been a couple of years since I've had it, but when I did, Aunt Mary's rendition was excellent. Loose, rich with butter, good texture, and really nice flavor to the roasted tomato gravy. I'm trying to keep things a bit leaner this month, so I haven't returned during the DOTM reign to see how they're currently faring.

                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                    It's been a while, but the Aunt Mary's version is among the richest I have had and has a lot of Tabasco in the sauce. Not a Worcestershire heavy version at all.

                                                                              2. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                You might check out Soul Food City mentioned above as newly opened. It serves lunch and the chef is from Georgia, so maybe a low country version instead of the mostly Creole ones we've been hearing about.

                                                                                403 Eddy St
                                                                                (at Leavenworth St)
                                                                                San Francisco, CA 94109
                                                                                (415) 441-1886

                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                  Years back I frequented a place in DC, Johnny's Half Shell on P St. off Dupont Circle (since relocated) that did an excellent version of S&G. I recall the sauce being more of a clear style (butter?) no tomato or other veggies but with great flavor. Might this be a regional thing or just peculiar to JHS?

                                                                                  1. re: PolarBear

                                                                                    These links have some background on the dish. It has evolved over time, the original breakfast version gussied up by dinner houses, and regional styles developing as it diffused outward from Low Country.
                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9216...
                                                                                    http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/09/2...

                                                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                    Checked out Soul Food City today in order to get my shrimp & grits fix under the January deadline. Real nice folks, but was told they haven't started making them yet because they haven't been unable to source worthy grits.

                                                                                    Good sign right? Well, as a replacement I thought I would sample the bbq brisket. Turns out it is cooked in an oven, pulled and served in sauce. Comes with two sides. The mac & cheese was quite good; the red beans & rice not so much. The jalapeno corn bread was just so so. DC had yams that were excellent.

                                                                                    As I mentioned the couple running the place were very friendly and sincerely wanted to know how we enjoyed the food. They are clearly still working out some kinks, so I will be back to check them out a again in a few weeks. Definitely would not order the brisket again though.

                                                                                    1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                      You're a champ! And yes, that's a good sign that they're picky about grits. Were you honest with them in your assessment?

                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                        No, not really. They were so nice and eager to please, I just didn't have it in me.

                                                                                        The pulled brisket was the only real offence, and probably just because I am a brisket snob. And I'm sure if he had a bbq pit he would use it.

                                                                                        Had a another customer ask me if it was my first time there. When I told him yes he said I should be prepared to get blown away, so who knows, YMMV.

                                                                                2. Last week included a swing through Carneros to catch the morning meal at Fremont Diner. The breakfast menu includes Low Country shrimp & grits, $13.95, “Fremont bacon, sausage, green onions, and poached egg.”
                                                                                  http://thefremontdiner.com/downloads/...

                                                                                  I had a perch at the counter with a bird’s eye view into the kitchen.
                                                                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                  These shrimp & grits here may be the one to beat. The stone-ground grits were creamy, not lumpy and fully plumped-up from long-cooking and actually tasted of corn. Also they’re milled to a range of uneven sizes and shapes that made for a much more interesting mouthfeel. Definitely not filler, these glorious grits.
                                                                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                  Sweet shrimp bathed in a light and buttery tomato’d sauce revved up with house-smoked bacon and sausage that tilted almost too far toward the meaty side. While I would have liked this to taste more of shrimp instead of the smokehouse, the cured meats were terrific in their own right. The main spice was black pepper, rather than the Tabasco of NOLA. Detailed with fresh parsley, scallions, and dice of sweet red pepper, the dish was crowned with a runny-yolked backyard egg.
                                                                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                  All in all, a very craveable rendition of shrimp and grits.

                                                                                  On the way out, I grabbed a nutella fried pie, detailed here,
                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9610...

                                                                                  Slideshow for Fremont Diner:
                                                                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                   
                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                    Great photos (and descriptions)! Fremont Diner just doesn't disappoint. Haven't been there in too long.

                                                                                    1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                                                                      Spoken by a man who himself takes some really great photos!

                                                                                      1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                                                                        This was my first time there. It's not an easy place for me to get to for breakfast, and I've been put off by the reports of long waits if you're not there early. The rep is well-deserved, this was really good.

                                                                                        It is curious that Sonoma County has attracted so many Southern cooks for such a small place. I wonder why.

                                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                          >The rep is well-deserved<

                                                                                          Once I sat at the counter and watched as one person, sitting on a stool, did nothing but squeeze lemons, add seasoning and olive oil, mix the dressing, and toss it into a salad, starting anew for each salad. That included each side salad that went on many plates, not just the salad menu items.

                                                                                    2. Last weekend I visited my last candidate for January's dish of the month, Sweet T's Restaurant in Santa Rosa. Owned by folks from South Carolina, I had my hopes up for a Low Country take on S&G. Shrimp & grits were not on the lunch menu, but I was told they're available any time of day since grits are readily available as a side on the menu. I had a nice table outside.

                                                                                      When the dish was served and I saw the okra, I first asked if this was gumbo brought 'round by mistake. No, that's how it's made here . . . with okra, sweet red pepper, corn niblets, and a pile of braised greens on top. The greens could have been good if they weren't candy-sweet. The addition of corn made the whole thing even sweeter. The scatter of parsley on the rim of the bowl was so 1990's.
                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                      The tomato-based gravy was somewhat thickened. With the level of sweetness, it seemed ketchup-y. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were some smoky barbecue sauce mixed in too. Not much shrimp, I counted seven, but they're wild-caught from the Gulf. The tasso ham was cut into big 1" cubes.
                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                      The Anson Mills grits served up a cheesey grits were fully plumped with a nice creaminess and uneven texture. A bit lumpy and clumped together as can be seen from the photos, but good deep flavor.
                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                      At $19, this was the most expensive example I tried this month. I liked the grits themselves, but did not care for the rest of the treatment. Still, I'm curious about some of the other dishes here and might be back, just not in a rush.

                                                                                      http://www.sweettssr.com/

                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                      1. Enjoyable version during brunch at Hi-Lo BBQ in the Mission : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/962916

                                                                                        1. Beer infused shrimp & grits on the menu for today's Speakeasy brunch at Memphis Minnie's.
                                                                                          https://m.facebook.com/events/2126576...