There are innumerable places in San Francisco that specialize in brunch and it's non-combo meals. They open around 8am, serve till 2:30ish then close up shop. Everybody knows them from doing these meals up right which is why you will find a wait to get in on most any day you stop by. Every now and then one of these places decides they want to expand the menu and stretch their offerings by serving up dinner, to varying degrees of success. One such spot that has been dishing it out for over 20 years now is Just For You Cafe in Dogpatch. I vaguely remember them trying dinner service a number of years ago, but it seemed to come and go so quickly I never got around to trying it. This time around, they are testing it (?) on Friday and Saturday nights only. Since I was in the hood, I decided to give it a try.
Brunch/lunch here is a mostly New Orleans, Southern food styling affair and their dinner menu also has some notes of that. It was particularly crowded on this night, in fact, we were one of just two tables. Thus, I will say off the bat, service was a bit, um...economical. There were actually 2 servers working, though I got the feeling they either hadn't waited many tables or were "extremely" laid back. Nice enough, but they did give new meaning to California casual.
Tucking into the food they do have some interesting choices on the menu and wanting to keep with their theme and what they do best we ordered up some appetizers to fit the bill.
Black-eyed pea cakes with a creole remoulade and a side salad of kale, brussel sprouts, mixed greens and nuts with a light vinaigrette. The greens mix I liked. It was light, fresh, crunchy, kind of summery, healthy without tasting like it. I think a larger portion of this with a sprinkle of cheese could be a great app dish on it's own. The pea cakes for the most part we okay and tasted exactly like you'd think something made of black-eyed peas would taste like. They were pretty big and quite heavy. So much so, they actually tasted dense bordering on dry because of their thickness. While I will say they could have used a flavor enhancement, the remoulade help immensely. It was like a pleasing blend of tartar sauce and spicy 1000 island. Very tasty and the bright spiciness helped break up the thick cake and not make it taste so much like fried mashed peas--which technically is what this is.
Devilish eggs with roasted red pepper and avocado, paprika, cilantro and a dollop of sriracha on top. I will say I'm not normally concerned about presentation but seriously, they could have saved on the greens and just left them off the plate as they don't really add anything to the dish. As for the eggs, they were pretty good. You couldn't really taste the avocado, that was a plus for me. The dollop of hot on top was not so much that it overwhelmed the creamy, hint of sweet filling. It was a good variation on this classic Southern dinner party dish.
With a handful of entrees on the menu I narrowed my choices down to about three and then asked the server which of them would be my best bet. They said the chicken. I asked if it was boneless fried they said yes and so did I.
Buttermilk marinated chicken battered and deep fried with garlic mashed red potatoes and sauteed brussel sprouts with a hunk of honey butter. So really this was more fried chicken fingers, though 3 pretty large pieces. They were hot and crispy out of the fryer, but they were right on the edge of being over cooked. Parts of the pieces were a tad dry. Which is why is kind of helped having that heaping blob of honey butter on top of them. Though I was surprised it was on the chicken and not the potatoes. I've buttered many a thing in my eating life but not fried chicken, it's interesting. The potatoes were garlicky and home style with chunks, very nice. Liked the butter with them better than the chicken. Brussel sprouts were also good. They are one of my favorite vegetables and they've done a good job with them here. Not too hard or soft or over seasoned. As a down home dish it's perfectly fine, though it is a lot like something I could do at home (sans honey butter) if I weren't so lazy 'bout cooking on a weekend. I do think $16 is a little on the high side.
Of course I couldn't go here without trying what has become their signature dish and fortunately they are serving it up for dinner--beignets! They are giant puffs of dough deep fried and covered in powdered sugar. They are served hot and fluffy and are like square versions of funnel cakes. As a basic deep fried sweet treat they are good. Me personally I needed just a tad more to dessert them up so I asked for some honey and jam. I'm sure that is some kind of sacrilege for beignets purists but I guess I'm just used to other ones I've had around town to come with some kind of dipping sauce or something. Still, as far as topper to a Southern themed meal they were a perfect compliment without filling me up too much more than I already was.
Overall I'm gonna say the meal was pleasant if unexciting. Nothing they are doing for dinner service is breaking any flavor or taste ground. They pretty much seem to be sticking with the variations of what they do well with at brunch/lunch time. How does the old saying go--"it if ain't broke, don't fix it." And in some instances I'd say that is a good thing. However, when you are trying to do something new and stand out in an increasingly crowded San Francisco foodie town, sometimes it helps to change things up just a bit. Especially if you are in a neighborhood that already includes Hard Knox, Piccino, Serpentine and Smokestack.