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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Extreme Brunching: Deep-Fried "Croque Yes Ma'am" at Southpaw

Posted By on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge MAUREEN GRODZKI
  • Maureen Grodzki

For many of us, going to brunch is not about enjoying a healthy meal. We don't roll out of bed at the crack of noon in search of an invigorating bowl of grains and cup of ice water -- we want to fill our bellies with enough food to either counteract the drinking we did the night before or give us a reason to take a nap at three. Or both. In short, we want cheese, fried things, bacon, and booze.

The folks at Southpaw understand this, and offer a Sunday brunch menu full of inventive seasonal cocktails and classic brunch dishes that have a decidedly southern accent. And by that we mean lots of BBQ, lots of cheese, and lots of bacon.

Take, for example, their Croque Yes Ma'am. A cross between a Monte Cristo and a Croque Madame, it consists of fried Benton aged ham and pepper jack cheese placed between two pieces of white bread, dredged in egg and flour ... and then deep fried. Finally, it's crowned with one sunny-side up egg.

To call its arrival at your table shocking is putting it mildly. See, the menu doesn't explicitly state that it's a deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich with an egg on top. So some diners may be in for more than they bargained for. Southpaw partner Edward Calhoun admits that the dish "doesn't explain itself" but says it's been on the menu since they started doing brunch and "it's pretty popular." And it's easy to see why.

Despite its carnival food-like appearance, this is a sandwich where all the ingredients and textures come together in a graceful way. First there's its extremely satisfying crunch, which gives way to a slightly chewy gooeyness packed with salty hammy smokiness and a slight kick from the pepper jack. Dip a corner into the runny egg yolk, and remind yourself why you could never be a vegan.

A watercress and mirliton salad is served alongside, but its mild, creamy dressing doesn't provide as much of a contrast as a brighter, more vinegary salad could.

There are more items on the menu of course, but you won't find anything that could be remotely called "light" other than a side fruit plate. Based on classic brunch dishes Calhoun and chef Max Hussey learned over their years working in kitchens in New Orleans and North Carolina, every brunch item is embellished by Hussey's hearty, rustic southern spin.

His version of Eggs Benedict, for example, uses drop biscuits instead of English muffins and features a green chile hollandaise. His French toast is spiked with whiskey, and when you order the hash you have your choice of smoked brisket, pulled pork, or fried oysters.

On the more lunchy side of things, there's the popular fried oyster and bacon sandwich they have on their dinner menu, a grilled pimento cheese served with a roasted tomato soup and a new item: an open-faced pork sausage burger smothered in pimento cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon.

Keep in mind that for now, they only offer this brunch menu on Sundays from 11am-3pm, so make sure you schedule your over-imbibing and napping accordingly.

Southpaw: 2170 Mission (at 18th) www.southpawbbqsf.com

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Maureen Grodzki

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