I’ve had a thing with soul food over the years. It’s the one type of food that was always hard to find for me growing up in San Francisco. I had heard tell of this thing called grits, but never had a chance to try it. Sure there was polenta, but while it’s the same, it’s different. Then I found myself one night out in the Bayview and got introduced to Auntie April’s Chicken and Waffles.
Everyone I think has heard of chicken and waffles which started in Harlem when the jazz musicians would get off work somewhere around 4am. It was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast so they sort of did both, hence chicken and waffles. I happened to be with some musicians that night from the band Drivin and Cryin who while from Atlanta didn’t seem to be able to understand the concept of chicken and waffles. They understood them separately, but not together. Well we all had a good experience that night.
I grabbed a two piece wing and thigh with the waffles [you can also get belgian waffles for an interesting twist] that were drowning in butter, which in my opinion is the way waffles should be. Then you pour syrup on the waffles and lots of hot sauce on the chicken. The two kind of mix together a bit and waffles with hot sauce or chicken with syrup isn’t too bad actually. I could see if I was in a drunken haze at 4am and it would taste pretty damn good actually. Well, I wasn’t drunk, but it still tasted good. I had to sample some more so I got sides of grits, collard greens and mac & cheese. I had to try the mac & cheese to find out what made this soul food. I grew up on the stuff as a kid, but every soul food place I’ve read about always served it and there was just something crunchy about the top that gave a good blend to the creaminess underneath.
I was pretty full after that and I noticed that they had some interesting looking breakfasts so I decided I had to go back. When you go for breakfast and see a sandwich called a fat neck jones you just have to try it. It’s eggs, cheese and bacon or sausage on a bun that was the soul food equivalent of a fast food breakfast sandwich, but it was better, bigger and a hell of a lot tastier. I also tried the Rev. James Leach which is 3 eggs with green onions and six strips of bacon. With that much bacon you can’t go wrong plus you also get grits and toast with it [my take on grits? They’s grits, there’s not much more you can say about them].
I’ll have to go back again and try the catfish. While I can eat a lot I just couldn’t add the catfish in either time I went. Auntie April’s is cash only so be sure to have some money on you. It’s an inexpensive place to eat and you will not leave there hungry ever. They’re at 3rd and Newcomb so give them a try.
Rarely something crosses my path that makes me raise an eyebrow and take notice. I happened to see something come across my twitter feed the other day about a guy running Ocean Beach BBQ that I had to look into a little farther and I have to say that I wasn’t sorry that I did.
Ocean Beach BBQ is a rogue food vendor. Not like some of the non-permit street food sales that you might find in the mission, but he is essentially a food truck without the truck, fully licensed by the city of San Francisco to sell food that he cooks. I have to say I was impressed when I met him. The pit master who runs Ocean Beach BBQ is an enigma clouded in smoke. A man of mystery who’s barbecue is located somewhere on the dunes of Ocean Beach wrapped in the fog. The pit master travels along 46th Avenue selling his food to people along the way to people who’ve reserved a plate based on the day’s menu via Twitter. He usually ends his daily, seven day a week trips at the Riptide bar which deserves it’s own article that will be coming soon.
I found him Friday night sitting right inside the front door and our conversation was interrupted frequently by people coming by to purchase more food. I do have to say that after talking about to him about his philosophy behind the Q for 15 minutes that I was offered to taste test some of the food. How could I say no? Friday night he brought with him chicken and goat [yes, I said goat]. I got to sample his chicken since knowing that chicken while being something every one can cook, not everyone can cook it right. He got it right. The meat was tender and juicy with a chewy outer char that wasn’t black and uninviting. This was definitely put down the fork and dig in with your hands type of food. It came with a side of coleslaw and potato which after sitting on the barbecue the potato was finished off with the marinate from the goat. You could definitely taste the earthiness of the goat all over the potato without it tasting like dirt which I’ve found in a few places I’ve actually had goat in the past.
While places like this you can find downtown easily, out by the beach it’s not so easy. I have personally been tweeting the food trucks to tell them when we have sun at the beach so they should get out there, but it is very rare to see them out there. Here is a guy that will be there to feed you even when it’s not sunny and we’re hit with a fogged in cold evening. We need more people like this.
Why would someone start a business like this? It turns out not only does he like food, but selling the food opens door for him to talk about carcinoid cancer which is a really horrible disease that struck a member of his family. He gets to raise people’s awareness of the disease and keep them fed all at the same time. To find out more you can follow the sport he started to help bring awareness to carcinoid cancer by following @fieldfootball or visiting fieldfootball.com.
Currently if you want to find out where he is you’ll have to follow his twitter account since that’s the rogue way he operates. His choice of foods changes daily, but there’s usually chicken, pulled pork or ribs and the occasional goat or even quail. Send him a tweet of what you want to order and he’ll wait for you at the agreed spot along 46th Avenue in the Sunset. He also uses Square so credit cards are easily accepted along with cash. He’ll be there until he runs out of food seven nights a week. I was told that there might be an expansion to serving lunch as well in the future now that he’s a new dad and is getting up earlier. That sounds like a win-win situation to me.
This was a dish my Mom was known for and it was the one dish that was requested the most by friends and family when they would come over. I thought it was an original dish or handed down through the family, which it might have, but apparently it’s a rather common dish in the South coming from British Captains who had spent time in India.
This isn’t the type of Indian food you’ll find today it was an Americanized [re: white bread] version of Indian food cooked as a stew. My Mom always served it with little bowls of coconut, almond, raisins and chopped green onion that you could sprinkle on to your taste, but just went for the chicken and rice. That was enough for me as a kid.
My Mom always liked to spice this dish up a lot and I think she usually added the 2-3 teaspoons of curry using tablespoons. It’s a very tasty dish and something that while it has lots of ingredients isn’t really that hard to prepare.
Country Captain Chicken
1 fryer chicken cut up
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion chopped
1 small green pepper chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 can (16 oz) stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup currants or raisins
Hot cooked rice
Toasted blanched almonds
Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter in skillet- brown chicken on both sides. Remove chicken and add onion, green pepper, garlic, curry powder, thyme. Cook until onion is tender. Add tomatoes, currants and chicken. Cook covered until chicken is tender.
Serve over rice with almonds and chutney
Makes 4 servings
My friend Angelina Armani was in town last night and contacted me to tell me that she and her boyfriend Robert Hall would be videotaping a performance by Kevn Kinney of Southern rock band Drivin and Cryin at the Bayview Opera House. That was enough to give me an excuse to check out a piece of San Francisco history few people know about.
The funniest part when I drove up and met everyone was that they were talking about chicken and waffles that they just had for dinner. Apparently, they didn’t know about the Bayview part of town. Kevn greeted me with a hey brother, you from this part of town? The first thing that popped out of my mouth was, you just had chicken and waffles for dinner, do I look like I’m from this part of town? Not being unaware of soul food [yet I still can’t figure out the combination of chicken and waffles] we both ended up having a laugh after my comment.
Built in 1888, the Bayview Opera House is small in comparison to other opera houses you might find elsewhere.It underwent a refurbishment recently and I can tell you that from walking around the outside and inside that it is definitely a centerpiece to the Bayview-HuntersPoint community. This area was originally considered to be a part of South San Francisco.
The odd part is that while it was called an opera house there was never any operas performed there. Built as part of a Masonic Lodge it was home to vaudeville acts like Pawnee Bill’s Medicine Show and other traveling type of groups, but it was a place that the people of San Francisco would visit for a night out on the town which would make sense since there was a brewery on the opposite corner where they could fuel up for whatever form of entertainment was happening that night. While I can’t find much more about the history of the place it is today a place that serves the African-American community with arts programs, yoga and helps bring the community together.
I was surfing around the web yesterday when I got a notification that an old friend of mine Kirsten had added me to the Sunset District Group on facebook. I had to check this out since it’s one more thing about San Francisco. I’m glad I did.
Someone started this group so that all the people who grew up and or lived in the neighborhood could get together and talk about the old times. I like nostalgia so as I’m starting to look over the postings a portion of my brain unlocked and all these childhood memories started flooding back in.
Names I hadn’t heard in close to 30 years started to pop up. People were posting old photos of places that no longer exist [Don’t cook tonight, get Chicken Delight!] It was fun reading all the old stories. There’s a lot that’s gone over time. Like the Fotomat booth that used to be out near the foot of Noriega. Aladdin Bowl on Noriega which I always remember people complaining that the lanes were warped and of course you can’t talk about the good old days in the Sunset without a mention of the old ice skating rink out on…45th Ave was it?
Then there was the post of all people I knew as a kid who had died. It was kind of sad finding a bunch of people who’s names you haven’t heard in years only to hear more names of those that have died. But at least there’s more fun to cover the sadness.
There’s over 2300 people now in the group and it’s growing faster every day. If you want to know what it was like growing up in the Sunset amidst the fog this is a good place to go.
On a completely unrelated note, I received a tweet today from @geeksugar which is a website for techie girls that was in response to their request for the nerdiest/geekiest pick up line ever used. I guess I won with:
Sorry, I will not tell you what CHMOD 777 means if you don’t know and I didn’t realize how funny it would be until my cellphone started vibrating off the table with all the retweets. I’ve finally come up with something that’s gone viral. Let’s see how far it goes now.