Flock to Blue Jay Cafe for some good feed

Bar-b-q pork spareribs with french fries and coleslaw. (Sabrina Belara)

Bar-b-q pork spareribs with french fries and coleslaw. (Sabrina Belara)


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The unpretentious sign outside doesn’t seem like it’s intended to grab one’s attention, but more so serve as a marker for those who know what they’re looking for. Upon driving past it on numerous occasions, it appears as though one either knows or doesn’t know about Blue Jay Café. Nestled on Divisadero between Golden Gate and Masonic in San Francisco’s Western Addition, Blue Jay Café serves up American soul food with decent sized portions and delectable flavor.

The food is moderately priced with an average of $11 a plate. Service is friendly but a bit slow, hence the “servers wanted” sign posted on the door.

Dominating the space is a u-shaped counter in the center of the restaurant, with booths around the perimeter that endorse the laid back environment that permeates upon entering.

A skylight in the center of the ceiling serves as more than adequate lighting during the day, while white Christmas lights framing the daily special menu board hanging above the kitchen opening and candles placed along the counter top and at every table add to the ambiance of the place. But as the sun heads west, the lighting in Blue Jay Café seems to be lacking a bit, making it hard to distinguish the pieces of fat on my flank steak.

The music level was just right to where conversations from the other patrons cannot be heard, but loud enough so that if one were to do without conversation, any awkward silence would be satisfied. That night, they had a mix c.d. of Common playing that perfectly harmonized the comforting inner-city décor.

The waitress recommended the blackened flank steak, a recent addition to the permanent menu after originally being a highly sought after daily special. The flank steak was supposed to come with okra and onions; I opted to substitute the two sides for a taste of their mac’n cheese and candied yams. The thick cut of flank steak was juicy, without being bloody, and seasoned just right with enough spice to tickle taste buds. The mac’n cheese, which was made from scratch, was good, but nothing worth raving about. The candied yams were a bit watery, but nonetheless deliciously seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. I would question whether or not they were from the can though.

All the entrees were exceptionally presented, with the meat placed as the centerpiece and green specs of parsley to enhance the visual appeal. It seemed as though no consideration was taken for the combination of mac’n cheese and candied yams on the same plate; they allowed the sweet candied yam juice to run into the mac’n cheese, making for an unappealing combination of flavors.

Three generously moist pieces of fried chicken (a breast, thigh, and wing/drumstick) is definitely one of Blue Jay Café’s strong points. With every bite I took, citrus flavored chicken juice trickled from the perfect, crusty, golden, outer layer.

The bar-b-q pork spareribs were mediocre for soul food-tender-meat-falling-off-the-bone standards, which is what they did not do, but were rather close. The bar-b-q sauce left a reminiscent hint of licorice, or something of the sort, which was not bad, but initially came as an unexpected aftertaste. Accompanying the ribs were fries that tasted like McDonald’s fries without the health risk and coleslaw that contained golden raisins and pieces of grated apple, a delightful twist on the traditional cabbage and carrot coleslaw.

If driving around for thirty minutes to look for parking isn’t a big deal then Blue Jay Café is worth a second visit.