I am amazed it took me six months to walk through the door of Queen’s Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe (QLPBC) and yet, after our visit on a Wednesday, I returned only a few days later with the rest of my family. QLPBC is absolutely one of the gems of San Bruno Avenue and the Portola. If you’ve not eaten there yet, then you definitely are missing one of the best treats of the neighborhood. I was there for lunch as part of our series of articles, Eat On Down “The Road”, which examines the wonderful array of food establishments along San Bruno Avenue.
QLPBC is run by husband and wife, Troy and Danielle. The cafe has only been open a few years but upon meeting some of the patrons inside, the atmosphere was of a business that had been in the area for decades, with a clear following of regular customers. We were greeted by Danielle’s smile, southern hospitality and a very Louisiana menu. Troy is a native to the Portola, growing up near Palega Park and has lived here most of his life. He met Danielle, while at college in Louisiana, and they married soon after. Her family had been “dabbling” in the restaurant business for many years and she told me that it was her desire to open a truly authentic New Orleans Cafe. You walk through the doors into a spotless, warm, inviting bistro-like atmosphere. The hanging lanterns conjure up the New Orleans, nola french quarter. The walls are adorned with colorful pictures of Jazz musicians and French creole inspired signs, hang from the ceiling. A large display cabinet full of reminders of her hometown hangs on the wall for people to view.
I was joined on this occasion, not only by the usual crew, Robert Ramirez and William Lee, but also Portola Planet contributor, Carlin DeCato. We shared our order from a selection of items on the menu. It would’ve been a crime to not try their award winning “Authentic Seafood Gumbo”, so we had two bowls. We asked for two Po Boy’s, one fried oyster and one cat fish. Robert opted for one of the $5.99 value meals, three pieces of dark chicken with coleslaw. Carlin noticed the lunchtime special, comprised of southern fried chicken, red beans and a baked cornbread muffin, all cooked on-site. It just wouldn’t have been the real French deal without serving beignets, would it? We did not leave without dessert! We enjoyed a basket of our sizeable beignets made to order and smothered with powered sugar.
Now, I’ve never really eaten much southern food, other than very bad, fast fried chicken. In fact, I think I’d get a dirty look or two from Danielle for even making the association. But after a few tastes of the gumbo, I was smitten. It was easy to understand why SF Weekly gave it the award for best gumbo. But my lunch got better, the cat fish Po Boy was a delight. I had never tasted such a good balance of crunchy, fried fish, in soft white bread. Will was kind enough to split his fried oyster Po Boy and it was even better. I think next time, I will order the oysters.
The chicken took a few minutes to arrive, but this was acceptable considering it was being bathed in fresh batter, fried from scratch and delivered hot to the table. Everything was freshly prepared and it wasn’t until I started to ask Danielle some questions about the dishes I realized the thought and effort that went into the menu. Wonder why the bread seems so different? That’s because it is shipped in from Louisiana. The sausage in the gumbo tastes great and unlike anything you’ve had in San Francisco? Again, imported from Louisiana, original Pattons Hot Sausage. Danielle proudly stated that she has created the same soul food found in Louisiana, not some modern Californian interpretation, but the real deal. Exactly what you’ll find cooked and served in homes all over New Orleans. When my wife and I visited with the two boys a few days later the food was that good it even spurred conversation about us visiting New Orleans.
After devouring all the savory items, the sweet beignets arrived. Another type of food I had not eaten before and Carlin told me they compare a little to donuts. The big difference I found was that, unlike most donuts, these beignets were crisp and light. They were excellent. Many others share the same view, QLPBC is in the top 10 for best beignets in San Francisco and the reviews written for them on Yelp are very positive. The entire table was in agreement, lunch was excellent.
While we were eating, we met several people who were regulars to the restaurant. Two engineers working for Astound, Chris and Robert, told us about their love for the food. Chris even wanted to show off his New Orlean’s jewelry and love of chicken in the same photo. (featured below).
The week before, at Wing Hing’s, I ate frog that apparently went well with a beer, which I hadn’t ordered. I didn’t make that mistake this time and I bought myself and Robert a bottle of beer. What brand? Of course it had to be a Louisiana native beer that QLPBC imports, Abita.
Can it get better? I’m afraid so. The menu opens to reveal inside a catering menu with at least twice more options again! So I feel that I’m missing out and I’m going to have to arrange for a party one weekend if only to order some of their Crawfish Etoufee or Creole Minestrone soup! Thanks to Troy and Danielle, your cafe certainly adds to the great variety of resturants we have in the Portola. I’ll be back soon…