This past Saturday, Danny and I had a night out without the little one. We downed a quick bloody mary at the Elite Cafe, then went to a movie at the Clay (Tristram Shandy -- capsule review: If you are a rabid Steve Coogan/Alan Partridge fan like we are, you would expect more laughs. If you have no idea who he is, you'll spend the whole movie wondering why everyone is making such a big deal about him.) After the movie, we wandered around Fillmore Street trying to find a place to eat dinner. We were willing to plunk down some cash at one of the yuppie eateries on that stretch, but every single snooty place we checked out had at least an hour wait and was filled with the most unpleasant looking rich white people we had ever seen. Yuck. We didn't want sushi, didn't want Mifune noodles at Japantown because we always go there. We wanted something different, something decent, something that would rock our world.
We were reaching that awful moment in all long-term relationships where you are standing on a cold windy street, the disappointment and indecision palpable, and you're asking each other "Well, what do you want to do?" "I don't know, you decide." Ugh, if you've ever been there, you know how that one moment can open a dark, yawning chasm from which it is very hard to crawl back out. The whole evening can be ruined by that moment, and perhaps the whole weekend, or in some extreme cases, the whole relationship!
Finally, my genius husband (I can safely say that, 'cause he is) remembered that Powell's Place, the soul food restaurant, had recently relocated to the Fillmore District from Hayes Valley. We made a quick cell phone call to find out where they were. Alas, they were at Eddy and Fillmore, just a few blocks, but several worlds, away. All of a sudden, the cold windy night became full of possibility, the walk was joyous, the relationship was saved!
When we walked into the new and improved Powell's, and the slow-moving old host showed us to our table, we were immediately overtaken by -- live gospel singing! Right there in front of us was a young man in an impeccable suit, looking a little like Jamie Foxx, singing gospel songs karaoke-style through a booming sound system. Hallelujah! We looked at each other: We have reached the promised land!
The place was bustling with people of all races and fashion statements. To our left and behind us were well-dressed older African American ladies in their fabulous feathered hats, the gentlemen in suits, with impeccable table manners and gracious bearing. There was a table of dudes who looked like they just came from the Eagle, and a mom and her uncomfortable looking teen daughter singing along to every song. There was a big party of white and Asian folks with lots of babies and kids, and a white family with two scraggly looking punk teens. It was awesome. And through it all, this young man gently preached and sang lovely gospel tunes and light R&B. And Mr. Powell, with his James Brown pompadour slash 70s shag hairdo, gold chains, and warm smile, would just work the room, making sure everyone was happy, introducing the music, and just filling the place with his charm and personality. And the food...
Being a Louisiana girl by way of my dad's upbringing, I definitely have a sweet spot for soul food, and Powell's delivers the goods. The fried chicken is crunchy on the outside, steaming and juicy on the inside. I had the beef brisket, drenched it in BBQ sauce, with some spicy sauteed greens and red beans on the side. The ladies next to me were tucking into some pork ribs that looked divine. The waiter then plunked down a plate of corn muffins, fresh from the oven, still steaming. Praise be. And like all good soul food restaurants, they'll make you an iced tea/lemonade combo that is out of this world, and cools the fire in your mouth.
When we were done, we kicked back and enjoyed the tunes. We really wanted the banana pie for dessert, but when we asked, they had just run out. We were bummed. But then, when the waiter brought our check, he informed us that a batch of banana pies had just come out of the oven, and we got one to take home. And boy, when we ate that pie later, while partaking in some substances that, well, make pie taste really good, we were ready to convert to whatever religion could make such a glorious pie. Thank you, Lord.
Powell's Place is located at 1521 Eddy Street at Fillmore. 415-409-1388. Saturday night features live gospel music.