Brown Sugar Cafe

While driving around for new lunch places, I’ve always wanted to try out this tiny place in the middle of a thoroughfare. It was a Jamaican cafe that touted delicious jerk chicken. The only problem was that the hours were frenetic and I could never get there when they were open. Months and months went by and eventually it closed down. Too bad, because what I heard from people who actually had gone there, said that it was actually quite good.

Now in it’s place was a brand new place that started to have a lot of buzz from people around work and out of it. Of course I had to check it out. The interior is clean and very welcoming. It’s always great to sit at a counter and see the cooks in action. Brown Sugar Kitchen is a new southern cooking/soul food restaurant that take the old recipes and updates them.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

I started out with the gumbo. It had the nice brown color that came from a solid roux, with chunks of shrimp floating about. The flavor was decent but really came out once you added some hot sauce. My one big gripe about the gumbo was that it had no rice. Or at least such a small amount of rice that I didn’t notice it. I do admit that I am very finicky about my gumbo. In my opinion the best place that had gumbo was a now defunct place in San Francisco called Crescent City Cafe. They served it correctly with a scoop of rice then with the gumbo added. The closest thing to good gumbo currently has to be Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen. Now the Brown Sugar Kitchen wasn’t far off, I just missed the rice.

Shrimp po'boy @ Brown Sugar Kitchen

For my main I had the shrimp po’boy. The shrimps were plump and the fixings had a great zing to them. The bread was of good quality and stayed together for the most part. I had a side order of beans that didn’t impress me. Although the po’boy was tasty, there was something that was lacking just a little. Or something that was too much. There is something about the nature of soul food to me that recall the simple nature of the kitchen and the ingredients. Some foods work with a bit of classing up, but to me soul food isn’t one of them. The gumbo must be a hodge podge of ingredients. The origins of the po’boy was from cheap cheap sandwiches that the poor boys could afford. Sometimes it is better to stick with the classic recipes than try to add something to make the fancier. The Brown Sugar Kitchen is one of these places that get real close but for me should keep it simple. The food was good overall and I would want to go back and try other dishes, but there is something to be said about keeping it simple.

One bad thing that will keep me from going back any time soon was that the service was really, really slow. It was a lunch service, and the typical patrons are people on their lunch break, including me and my friend. Now I have to give them a little leeway due to the fact that they are relatively new and haven’t quite gotten in the groove. However the service was slow especially getting the bill. We had to ask our waiter several times for the bill and still it didn’t come. We eventually found the manager (or someone who appeared to be the manager) walked up the the register, and asked for our bill. She then promptly pointed to our waiter and said that he would take care of it. We then waited another 5 minutes while the waiter found our bill and dealt with someone else’s bill before us. The thing that really bothered me was the fact that the manager did not deal with the situation when we obviously were in a hurry since we asked for the bill at the register.

All in all the food was good, though trying to be fancier that it really should be. The service was really slow and add to the fact that it gets really busy during lunch, it gets really, really slow. The prices were also a little steep for the neighborhood and the food. Again it’s my pet peeve about a place trying to fancify their food and adding fancy prices to fit the menu. It will take me a few months to give the place a chance to settle into their routine. I also hope that the initial crowds of first timers checking the place out will die down a little. I’m not sure how much repeat business they will get due to the high prices, but Oakland needs higher-end restaurants and there are the customers out there that will pay for it. But in West Oakland?