Monday, November 18, 2019

Where to Eat: Weekend Brunching @ Brown Sugar Kitchen (Oakland)

The Eats: Soul-filling “new style down home” favorites including BBQ Shrimp, Blackened Catfish, Gumbo and Cast-iron Skillet Cornbread

The Location: Oakland

The Vibes: Upscale, relaxed, vibrant

Good for: Alone, Dates, Very small groups

When-To-Go: Weekend brunch, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Other days & times: Wednesday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; closed Monday & Tuesday)

The $$ Factor: Entrées, $12 - $21; Sides, $4 - $7; Cocktails, $12

The Names behind the scenes: Executive Chef Tanya Holland

The 4-1-1: Brown Sugar Kitchen also has a fast casual location in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, with a patio overlooking the Bay

Parking & Transportation Situation: Free and metered parking; closest to BART’s 19th St. Oakland Station

I’ll Be Back…: For the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Waffle!

I initially stopped by Brown Sugar Kitchen (BSK) on my very first trip ever to Oakland, back in 2011. Eight years ago, BSK called an industrial part of West Oakland home, in a laid-back, cozy one-room joint. Check out the throwback pic below and my original post here!

Fast-forward to present day, and BSK and I meet again, this time in completely different spaces. We’ve both changed addresses in 2019 — me to the Bay and Brown Sugar Kitchen to Oakland’s bustling and trendy Uptown neighborhood. By way of email updates over the years, I had kept up with BSK’s important milestones like cookbook launches and anniversaries, so like a long lost friend who couldn’t wait to reunite, I was ecstatic to make my way to the all-new location to see what had changed, and what had perhaps remained the same.

The first detail that caught my eye was the space. It's a lot bigger and has a snazzier, more upscale appearance than the old BSK. Subdued yellows and muted greens have been replaced with muted teals, rich red booths and golden accents. Sleek, modern light fixtures delicately hang from soaring ceilings bathed in black. Before, it seems like rolling up in sweats and t-shirts would've totally been fine. But here? Heels and dressing to impress appear to be the norm. All-in-all, the space is a tasteful, complementary backdrop to the classy, upscale soul food served inside.

Just as I had eight years ago, I immediately ordered the Beignets. While I had definitely loved them before, I hadn’t remembered just how soft and fluffy they actually were! It’s as if the recipe had been perfected even more with time. Coated in powdered sugar and accompanied by a delightful berry jam, they come piping hot as a trio.

Nowadays at so many places, what was once a novelty — the “fried chicken and waffle” combo — feels uninspiring, forgettable and underwhelming. Brown Sugar Kitchen, though, brings something new to the table by experimenting with one-of-a-kind ingredients. Its golden crunchy waffles are made of cornmeal and accompanied by a sweet but subtly tangy apple cider vinegar syrup. Plus, O.M.G. the fried chicken!! In addition to being perfectly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, the batter has an incredible flavor, thanks to added spices (maybe hints of rosemary?). I’d order that again and again.

While I had previously raved about the Smoked Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo, this time around, it was good, but not great. More spices and more shrimps — I literally had one prawn in my entire bowl — would’ve been nice additions. In Brown Sugar Kitchen’s defense, the server did caution that the gumbo was typically better later in the afternoon after brewing all day, and another server offered to bring me another bowl, after I lamented about my lack of shrimp.

Of course, I couldn’t order everything off the menu, but there are eight brunch entrĂ©es total, including Blackened Catfish, a Vegetable Egg Scramble and BBQ Shrimp. There are also a dozen or so different sides in addition to the Beignets, including a Buttermilk Biscuit, pictured below.

As a heads up, BSK doesn’t take reservations — it’s first come, first served. If there aren’t any open seats when you arrive, there is a waitlist you can put your name on. But, being on the waitlist doesn’t guarantee you’ll get seated and waits can be up to two hours long. There are ways to avoid the dilemma — like hiring a TaskRabbit freelancer to stand in line for you (yes, this is actually a thing) or go on a less crowded weekday. But hopefully, BSK will just start accepting reservations sooner, rather than later.

So the next time you’re in the mood for a hearty and delicious soul food brunch, I recommend Brown Sugar Kitchen.

See you there soon!

For more information:

No comments:

Post a Comment