Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No. 61: Hard Knox Cafe's Chicken and Waffles

Posted By on Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 6:42 AM

Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffle, $10. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffle, $10.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

click to enlarge sf_92.jpg

What does soul food look like in San Francisco? Show up at Hard Knox in Dogpatch some afternoon, vying for counter space with the bro with blazed-out eyes, the Asian granny in a Giants sweatshirt, neighborhood tech rats, and the dude with 3/4-inch lobe plugs and knuckle ink, and you can't miss it: It looks like us. Hard Knox owner Tony Hua built a thriving business posited on the universality of soul food in a city particular about its own diversity. That's the appeal here, in a room lined with corroding corrugated roof panels and American Pickers-style bric-a-brac: soul food that jumps the narrow rut of Southern genre.

That's partly what makes Hua's chicken and waffles so good. Within a decade, it's migrated beyond the world of African American diners to become, first a stunt dish, then comfort food with the lingering glamour of the cultish. Here, though, the dish is absolutely guileless. The waffle has a crisp skin that softens within a couple minutes of leaving the kitchen, as the gob of delicately funky salted butter melts and sluices through its channels and the insides go all stretchy. The chicken three-piece is craggy as a popcorn ceiling, brown, and saturated with just enough grease to register as rich, above flesh (garlicky from its marinade) that pries easily from bone. By the way, that's supermarket-grade pancake syrup in the dispenser, but you don't need it. A beer, however, is just about essential.

Hard Knox Café: 2526 Third St. (at 22nd St.), 648-3770. Also 2448 Clement St. (at 26th Ave.), 752-3770.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tart

81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée

80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle

79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña

78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

77: Cheesecake from Zanze's

76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel

75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra

74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch

73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup

72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk

71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille

70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery

69: Plow's crispy potatoes

68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye

67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe

66: Nakaochi at Ippuku

65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer

64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut

63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah

62: Cotogna's roasted carrots

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Contact me at

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"