We like our Southern food, which is what Brenda Buenviaje, raised in New Orleans, does really well at her ultra popular Brenda’s French Soul Food. We’re not much for long waits and lines, so rarely make it over there (they don’t take reservations); but we found ourselves in NOPA on a weeknight where there was little to no wait at her second restaurant, Brenda’s Meat & Three. Opened last October, it is named after a fairly simple concept: choose from a daily revolving protein selection and three side dishes. It’s like a San Francisco version of an upscale cafeteria-style restaurant common in the Southern states, where a selection of prepared food is doled out from steam tables. But in the case of the very affordable and casual Brenda’s Meat & Three, there is table service with a waitstaff.
Beverages are limited to beer and wine, where there a few selections of the latter available by the glass. We opted go with that evening’s special selection of a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which came liberally poured in casual glasses.
The paper menu includes appetizers such as salads, soups and starters along with a listing of house specials like Po’Boys and red beans and rice. The meat and three menu is listed on the board above the kitchen door, while sides are further subdivided into Vegetarian, Vegan and Prepared with Meat (e.g. collard greens) options. But anchor items such as fried chicken, ribs and grits seem to be regularly available.
We came close to ordering the Little Gem and Fried Oyster salad, but decided to skip the appetizers and just dive into their namesake platters. There was no doubt in our minds that one of our proteins would be fried chicken, and our waiter graciously fulfilled our request to serve us only thigh pieces. The sides we selected were Cauliflower Gratin, Fried Okra and Cheese Grits (left to right). The chicken was crispy great (although the accompanying hot sauce could be spicier), and both the creamy grits and cauliflower were bowlfuls of cheesy goodness. The cornmeal coating on the okra didn’t stay on, and they were a little on the dry side – likely the result of being pre-cooked in larger batches and stored under heat lamps for awhile.
As much as the first platter appeared to be monochrome in the brown and yellow tones, our second platter was much more green. This plate included the BBQ Pork Ribs accompanied by Collard Greens, Brussels Sprouts and Oyster Dressing. The rib meat still held some resistance from falling off the bone, and the thick sauce was sweet and sticky. All of the sides were very tasty, especially the dressing.
It’s a good thing we didn’t order a starter, as we had just enough room left to share this really excellent Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie. it was so good that we already stole a couple of bites before we took a picture. it was like a light and airy version of a peanut butter cheesecake made with whipped cream and cream cheese.
Brenda’s Meat & Three has more of a retro diner-type atmosphere, making efficient use of a tiny space. There are tables that seat about 32 with room for 10 more around the U-shaped counter. There is more seating in the patio, which should be popular in warmer weather.
Brenda’s Meat & Three is an all-day restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with long waits during prime eating times and especially during weekend brunch. It’s easy to see why it’s very popular, with generous portions, reasonably priced at less than $20 for most of the meat and three platters.