A Taste of New Orleans at Queen’s Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe, A Stylish Excursion to Flora Grubb Gardens, and a Detour to a Mud Pit

In honor of Fat Tuesday next week, we finally got around to taking a family food adventure over to Queen’s Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe, a place that’s been on our list for quite some time. I’m a total sucker for gumbo, po boys and red beans and rice — don’t get me started on beignets and chicory coffee — but real deal versions are tough to find around here. And in my humble opinion, a bowl of bad gumbo is far, far worse than no gumbo at all. There are few yummy New Orleans-inspired places that come to mind, Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk in the Tenderloin and Cajun Pacific in the Outer Sunset, but neither quite satisfies in terms of that real, authentic flavor.

Queen’s Louisiana has that certain something we’ve been missing. The ambiance is kind of basic in a good way: a few mardi gras masks here, some jazz fest posters there, and a simple, family-friendly vibe. It would be easy to go overboard with the feathers and beads, but they don’t. As far as the menu goes, they’ve got all your classics covered from fried oyster, catfish, and crawfish po boys on soft pillowy rolls, to hush puppies and red beans and rice with andouille sausage. The seafood gumbo is definitely legit and the beignets, while not as puffy as those you get at Cafe du Monde, were tasty and to my son’s delight, appropriately blanketed with powdered sugar. (If you don’t end up with powdered sugar all over yourself, then you can’t really call it a beignet, right?) You can also get other New Orleanian favorites rare in these parts: Zapp’s Potato Chips, Community Coffee (with or without chicory), and Abita beer and rootbeer.

Since Queen’s is on the other side of town from us on San Bruno Avenue in the Portola/Bayview neighborhood, we decided to make a day of it by stopping in at exquisite Flora Grubb Gardens for pre-lunch browsing and coffee, and capping off our excursion with a visit to another  intriguing place we’ve been curious about for a long time, Cayuga Park, which is nestled in a funky spot right next to hwy 280 and has a large collection of topiary and carved totems.

If you ask us, Flora Grubb, about 5 minute drive from Queen’s, is one of the most gorgeous spots in our lovely city. I’m happy to trek over there at the teensiest little nudge. Just wandering through is guaranteed to inspire anyone who loves gardens or gardening and you can pick up some great plants (they have an especially nice selection of succulents and drought tolerant natives). While you’re there, treat yourself to a warming cup of Ritual Coffee, one of our favorite SF artisan roasters. Little ones seem to love Flora Grubb’s fabulous ambiance, innovative landscaping and objects d’arte just as much as us adults and if your kids are anything like my Luca, they will enjoy trying out every one of the cool patio chairs dotted around the shop. This would be near the top of my list of “places to feel like you’re on vacation without leaving home” if I actually had such a list.

I’m sorry to say that the third leg of our inspired little excursion was a bust. Cayuga Park is undergoing a total renovation and is nothing but a big mud pit surrounded by a chain link fence at the moment. But we hear that the totems are safely in storage and will be re-installed when the construction is done. If only we had thought to bring our mud gear we could have had an epic-ly, awesomely messy ending to our adventure. Luckily, I predict a trip back through these parts when the Cayuga Park is back in business to suffer the fate of more beignets, amazing gardens and outdoor art. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it.

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