It's a pleasant Sunday and the SO and I are meeting up with his cousins who are in town to grab a little brunch because, well, it's San Francisco. They are staying near Lower Haight so we decided to hit up Kate's Kitchen, an institution in town. Being a Sunday morning the wait wasn't too terribly bad, about 20 minutes, before we got seated. I had done a little gorging the night before so I wasn't terribly hungry and perused the menu to find a light mid-morning snack instead. I decided to go with the hushpuppies-described as six balls of deep fried cornmeal served with pooh butter (that's honey butter for the unenlightened).
Now I'm not going to say it didn't look pretty, they did, even though they were covered in powdered sugar, which was just the first of many sins this dish had. Hushpuppies are a staple of Southern food and any number of restaurants there serve them by the basket--without charging. Here places seem to think they are some delicacy that they charge appetizer prices for, which would be mostly fine if they would make a half decent one that would be worth it.
Besides the powdered sugar, 2 of the "balls" were on the tiny side and not exactly "ball" size. Hushpuppies come usually in round form or elongated, most folks are familiar with the balls and they should be light cornmeal bready affairs, fresh out of the deep fryer and ready to dip into butter (with or without honey). These were dense, flavorless, dry, overcooked lumps of Jiffy mix cornbread that should be an affront to Southerners everywhere. All the honey butter in the world couldn't save these sad imitations of what should have been a golden brown treat. This is where hushpuppies have come to die. Of course the kicker in all this is that when the waitress came by the table I told her I was done and she asked if I wanted a to go box I said no and explained why these were not good. She said oh well sorry you didn't like them and then went into some story about liking beignets and how Just For You does them well and blah blah blah. She took the dish away but left the charge for them on the bill even though 90% of the dish was still in tact and I was an obviously dissatisfied customer. It's this kind of thing that makes me not want to go back places.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't try Kate's. It is a decent neighborhood diner with solid breakfast brunch food and if you are going there it's best to stick to the staples. But you should avoid these hushpuppies until hopefully they perfect the recipe or better yet, put it out of its misery and just discontinue it all together. Until such a time I will continue my search to find a place that does at least a halfway tasty hushpuppy in San Francisco or better yet, I will just look forward to my next trip home when I can have the real thing---done right.