Mission SoMa and Bud's Louisiana Food Shoppe
location: 2034 Kettner Boulevard, No. 12, Little Italy
chef: Bud Deslatte
IS THERE JUNE GLOOM, in the forecast? Not in this column, where your critic has only good things to say about two new bright spots on the dining scene.
For fans of the old Bayou Bar & Grill, which closed two years ago, happy days are definitely here again. The founders of that Market Street fave, Bud Deslatte and Rob Adams, are back in town after opening restaurants in the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon.
Get out the Mardi Gras beads. Cajun cooking, Creole spices and crawdads have come to Little Italy. Just follow the sultry scent of gumbo in the air and the siren song of long-smoked ribs to Bud’s Louisiana Food Shoppe.
Bud originally intended the place as a simple takeout shop and grocery with limited hours and menu. “I was going to do something small and be semiretired,” he says in an engaging drawl. “But then all the Bayou people started finding us.”
Okay, the place is small and simple, with seating for just three dozen. But the cooking is meticulous. Bud is in the kitchen most days at 7 a.m., stirring up perfectly browned roux to make his signature gumbo, and smoking chickens for a heavenly jambalaya. The menu’s the same at lunch and dinner, and most dishes come in small (actually, quite ample) or large (read: XXL) portions. (Prices shown here are for the small sizes.)
Starters include an excellent Caesar with shaved Parmesan ($3.95) and the aforementioned gumbo, a yum-bo blend of shrimp and crab, crawfish and sausage with crisp green okra ($3.95). Hot cornbread muffins studded with fresh jalapeños are just 50 cents apiece and highly addictive.
Crawfish etouffee ($7.95) is a knockout, fragrant and complex as curry, and heavy on those precious nuggets of tail meat. The cornmeal-crusted fried catfish in the po’boy sandwich ($6.95) is as fresh and moist as you’ll find outside of the French Quarter, while the shrimp Creola with rice ($6.95) boasts a tomato sauce that tastes just-picked. And the smoked pork ribs served as a special (three meaty bones with red beans ’n’ rice or Caesar, $9.95) are oh, si bon.
Red beans ’n’ rice comes with a choice of smoked chicken or andouille sausage from Bud’s favorite Louisiana purveyor. Either way, this dish is sheer Southern comfort. It’s mild; if you want hot, order an extra water and have the Cajun jambalaya packed with chicken, tasso ham and more heat than the cast of Desperate Housewives.
For dessert, there’s dreamy warm bread pudding bound with custard and white chocolate sauce ($3.95) and pecan pie prepared with a cheesecake base ($4.95). The short adult-beverage list features wines at just $4 or $5 a glass (Bonny Doon’s Pacific Rim Dry Riesling plays nicely with this spicy fare) and Louisiana beers like Abita Purple Haze. Service is warm and down-to-earth, just like the simple surroundings and the Dr. John tunes playing in the background.
The only complaint we have about the place is its petite size. There’s seating indoors and on the sidewalk patio, but you never know if there’s going to be a wait. Be assured that it’s worth your time if so.Mission SoMa location:
1250 J Street, downtown
chef: Catherine Nye
BUILT IN 1870 AND RELOCATED TWICE since then, Rosario Hall has enjoyed a checkered past as a saloon and dance hall, a hotel and a tenement. These days, the stately two-story building, now at 13th and J Street in the East Village, has a rosy future as the newest addition to the Mission Café family.
Launched in February by the gifted restaurant partners Deborah Helm, Fay Nakanishi and Tom Fitzpatrick, the Mission SoMa is lovely inside and out. High ceilings, tall windows and a wide sun porch fill the space with light. The neighborhood’s a tad gritty, but the restaurant is a work of art.
Open daily for breakfast and lunch, this Mission draws a mostly local, all-ages group of diners. It’s part coffeehouse— the menu lists more than a dozen caffeinated drinks under “the last legal vice” —and part saloon, serving beer, wine and Bloody Marys made with sake “vodka.” But mostly, it’s a celebration of boldly flavorful cuisine, ranging from Asian to all-American.
As at the other locations in Mission Beach and North Park, breakfast means a variety of pancakes—strawberry granola, cornmeal, banana blackberry and more —and French toast made from the café’s own cinnamon bread ($4.95-$7.95). Latino breakfast plates include variations on huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos ($5.95-$6.95), and at lunch, there’s a terrific combo of sweet-corn tamales, salsa verde and achiote-flavored rice ($7.50).
The Asian chicken salad dressed with cilantro vinaigrette is still one of the best versions in town ($6.50). And vegetarians, take note: The menu offers plenty of great-tasting meat-free options.
The Mission SoMa is an easy walk from Petco Park, making it a dining option before afternoon games. Look for metered parking on nearby streets; lots charge up to 20 bucks on game days.
Bud’s Louisiana Food Shoppe serves lunch and dinner Wednesday-Saturday and brunch (noon to 6 p.m.) Sunday at 2034 Kettner Boulevard, No. 12, Little Italy; 619-239-4210.
The Mission SoMa serves breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1250 J Street, downtown; 619-232- 7662.