Olivia’s Soul Food (San Francisco Sole) – Lip Smackin’ Good

Olivia’s (to be renamed San Francisco Sole at some point)
4712 Third St
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 647-3663

Make sure when you decide to hit this place, that you get your driving directions down right. This place isn’t in the “hiply industrial” part of Dogpatch or Third St. It’s really in the Bayview/Hunter’s Point district. (How either of those are geographically separated, I don’t know. I seem to see them always lumped together, so I’m doing so myself.)

If you’ve never volunteered in sections of San Francisco that, er, are “more resource-constrained” than your usual yuppie neighborhood, come take a field trip to the ‘hood. Hopefully shows like The Wire or The Shield haven’t totally biased your judgment, but with the new rail line coming in to this part of town, it’s good to explore. (Granted, we were there in the afternoon.) I was ok with my surroundings but one of my companions (who lives in Pacific Heights) blurted out “wow, this is, like, the opposite of Pacific Heights!” (You mean, specific whites?, I thought to myself.)

Olivia and her connection to this restaurant have long parted ways, but Olivia’s still serves legit soul food that my Southern transplant buddies approved of wordlessly, while busily chomping on the cornmeal-encrusted deep fried fillet of catfish after a not-too-strenuous hike down in San Mateo.

We also ordered:
– fried chicken drummettes (which included drumsticks and wings)
– fried shrimp (huge!)

Each order came with the usual 2+ slices of generic mass-produced wheat bread (Artisan Bakery not!), fries, and some macaroni salad. Mmm mmm good!

The service was friendly, and they even let us come inside and order before their opening time of 4pm. Yes, we did stick out like sore thumbs (plus we were in our post-hike clothing), but the more publicity this place gets, maybe that’ll help pour some money into the neighborhood, right?

The owner even had us sample a deep fried pork chop so we could give him some quickly thought out MBA advice on pricing the entree.

Everything was served piping hot, the crust was deliciously crispy, and seasoned just right without being greasy. The catfish, chicken, and pork chop were also cooked perfectly. How they time it, I don’t know. But the catfish was juicy (not dried out or rubbery), the chicken and pork chop, too. The shrimps were impressively plump and one of my Asian sistahs chided me for not doing a better job of sucking out all the meat from the shrimp tail.

Unfortunately I was not able to fit in any of the ribs to try – that’s for another day. Pricing here was reasonable. Volume is decent, but recent food inflation has raised their cost of sales, too. I don’t think the margins here are that huge, and I really don’t believe too much of your price is going towards the lease. However if you want to check out something legit, venture on out here.

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