This blog is devoted to highlighting restaurants of Memphis, Tennessee.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Raffe's Deli

One of the Best Beer Stores in Town (and the food is good, too)!

In another effort in fulfilling goals set in the past, I've finally gotten around to talking about Raffe's Deli. Like my last post about The Silly Goose, this doesn't qualify as a "Finally" themed review because it was never a top priority for the blog. However, because of unique circumstances that required my attention in East Memphis, I took an opportunity to follow up on something that I started 3½ years ago (if foursquare...errr "Swarm" (an unneeded evolution of the app) is correct).

For my first visit to Raffe's in years, I thought about getting a sub or some other type of sandwich. But with the likelihood that my next visits being far down the road, I made the most of my lunch by getting something unusual as it relates to the blog. I got a gyro with a Middle Eastern twist, something that doesn't have the typical Greek tzatziki sauce that usually is associated with it. Instead, along with the vertically roasted lamb, the Syrian Gyro has hummus and a mix of vegetables, herbs and spices. Collectively called a tabbouleh salad, it mainly consists of parsley (a lot of it), chopped tomatoes, mint, onions and bulgur, a grain indigenous to Syria and other countries near it. According to Wikipedia, bulgur has more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals than white rice, meaning it is a healthier alternative. Within the tabbouleh salad, the bulger is one of many components that make the gyro salty and zesty, balanced by the sweetness of the lemon juice in it. Overall, I like the Syrian Gyro because it is savory and much healthier than what I normally eat. For anyone looking for something different yet tasty, I suggest giving the pita sandwich a try.

SIDE NOTE: The tabbouleh salad is available as a stand alone entrée and is one of Raffe's vegetarian dishes. Speaking of that, the deli's "grape leaves" (aka sarma, not to be confused with dolma) is another vegetarian/vegan dish that is worth trying. The leaves are stuffed with rice and herbs and boiled with lemon juice and served with tzatziki sauce or a yogurt. By the way, sarma isn't technically a vegetarian dish, for it's traditionally stuffed with minced meat like beef, pork and veal. Although I haven't had the Middle Eastern dish at Raffe's, I had a plate of them at Sean's Cafe several years ago that amounted to an interesting experience. From what I could remember, the stuffed grape leaves were decent despite being a bit bland without the tzatziki sauce. Of course, I'm not prejudging Raffe's sarma but it's something that I will keep in mind if and when I get them.

The muffaletta that I had during my last visit was pretty good, too. For some reason, I thought it would be bigger, however the muffaletta was hearty enough to satisfy my appetite, even without sides like potato chips. It has the usual stuff like salami, ham and cheese (in this case, Provolone). However, the one ingredient that really makes it tasty is the olive salad dressing with its strong and robust flavor. Compared to other muffalettas that I've had, Raffe's version is one of the better ones.

Lastly, I want to mention the wide variety of craft beers that Raffe's Deli offers. Whether you're looking for something local or an exotic export, it's likely that Raffe's has it. Among them are beers from Rogue Ales that includes the yummy Hazelnut Brown Nectar. However, it's hard to offer everything to everyone (for example, the deli doesn't carry Rodenbach, another favorite that's sold at Cash Saver and bars like The Flying Saucer) but a beer lover can get a lot of satisfaction from Raffe's offerings. By the way, any beer bought at the deli can't be consumed on the premises, but that shouldn't be a problem for most (although Lucchesi's Beer Garden next door can meet the need for instant gratification with its beer menu).

Regardless of whether you want food or beer, Raffe's Deli has you covered. Owner Sean Feizkhah (who's not involved with Sean's Cafe) is doing a great job with the deli and has big plans for its future. According to the Memphis Flyer, he plans to expand the menu to include Persian (Feizkhah is of Iranian descent) and Turkish fare and add a growler (as in a big jug) station to sell beer by the gallon. Given the improvements that he's already made in terms of the deli's decor, I'm confident that he'll transform it into something sensational.

Check out Raffe's Deli on

Raffe's Deli on Urbanspoon

LabelsBeer, Deli, East Memphis, Greek, Middle Eastern, Pita Wraps, Salads, Sandwiches, Vegetarian/Vegan

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Silly Goose

Snack Time!

In getting around to writing this review, my intention was to continue with the "Finally!" theme that I started last May with my overdue review of Las Delicias. The reason for the theme is to highlight some of my favorite dishes and restaurants that I've neglected in my four years of blogging. Near the top of the list is The Silly Goose's Steak On The Stone (if that's not the proper name, please correct me), consisting of a raw steak (or chicken) and a hot stone to cook it with. This method of serving steak was very unique when compared to other Downtown Memphis restaurants (notwithstanding the former Butcher Shop) and something that I really wanted to try. Unfortunately, my past financial predicament prevented me from indulging in the sizzle of the stone (I'm currently not doing much better). Because of that, I waited too long for something that The Silly Goose no longer has. Upon finding this out from the bartender (the lovely Jessica), I was sadly disappointed. After accepting the news, I was at a loss as to what to order. With steak off the menu, I was left with choices of appetizers from Silly Goose's menu. Not satisfied with my options, I considered scrapping the review because I didn't feel that the Goose had anything worth writing about. Of course, I was proven wrong about that after I tasted some of the items from Silly Goose's menu.

The first thing that I want to talk about is something that had this week, as opposed to my initial "official" visit. Among Silly Goose's better menu items is the Thai Meatballs that my friend and drinking buddy, John D., recommended to me. Immersed in a savory broth, the meatballs didn't have any of the Asian flavors that I'm familiar with, but it was very good nonetheless. The broth had a bit of spiciness in it and bolstered with slivers of red peppers and shredded cheese (Mozzarella?) that contributed mightily to the appetizer. Even without the meatballs, the broth (along with damn near a loaf of fresh baked pita bread) makes for a tasty snack to have while chilling at the bar. Of course, this is far from a full meal for most, but not many go to The Silly Goose for dinner. For an appetizer, the Thai Meatballs is one of the better dishes served in Downtown Memphis. I want to give thanks to my main man for hipping me to it.
Getting back to my first "official" visit for this review, I want to mention something that Jessica suggested. She pointed out the tacos with chorizo, chicken and goat cheese, a modest appetizer for snacking before dinner (which I eventually got at The Majestic Grille, located around the corner (on Main St.) from the bar). The chorizo and cheese (along with the avocado) really stood out in the tacos, even after adding lettuce and tomatoes to them. The tortillas wrapping the tacos were slightly crunchy and held everything together, making for an overall good experience. By the way, if you order the tacos or any other appetizer during Happy Hour (4 p.m. - 8 p.m.), the cost is about $3 less than the listed menu price. With a deal like that, I will take advantage of it whenever I can.

I want to thank Jessica for suggesting the tacos and being an all-around great bartender and server. I have known Jessica (a former Flying Saucer Girl) for a few years and she is one of friendliest servers working in Downtown Memphis. A woman with a lot of sex appeal, she is always a sight to see whenever I visit The Silly Goose. Of course, I'm not the only guy who feels this way, for she has a small legion of fans (including a douchebag who I will talk about later) who keeps her busy whenever she's bartending. I appreciate everything she does (such as hooking me up with some delicious pizza... errr flatbread slices) and I hope to see more of her in the future.
Jessica is one of the many reasons to visit The Silly Goose. Known more as a nightclub, the bar is a popular hangout on the weekends for people who love to party. Personally, I'm trying to get away from the party scene but I get down occasionally whenever one of my friends is celebrating something special. The decor and atmosphere of the Goose is very casual, with couches and an outdoor patio for those who really want to chill out. Also, The Silly Goose has an excellent staff of servers and bartenders who are very professional and, well (at least for the ladies), HOT. All of it stems from the mastermind who pulls the strings, owner Daniel Masters. A gracious host to me throughout years, he is a cool guy who I hope has much success with his bar/nightclub. Because of these reasons, I will always be a loyal patron of The Silly Goose.


The Silly Goose on Urbanspoon

Before I Go...

Again, I want to thank Jessica for serving me and being a great bartender/server to everyone that visits The Silly Goose. "Everyone" even includes a certain individual who has a serious problem with me being around him and his friends. For whatever reason, "Mr. Load Turd" has an obsession with preventing me from having any association with his favorite neighborhood, Downtown Memphis. While he has been somewhat successful (with the help of my personal stumbles) in swaying some to his opinion, I still have relationships with a lot of Downtowners despite my troubles. That includes some of my drinking buddies who I enjoy having a beer with at my favorite bars like The Silly Goose, which happens to have regulars like "Load." Despite his whining, I will continue to hang with my friends as long as they're cool with it. I will also keep seeing my favorite bartenders like Jessica who makes Downtown Memphis worthwhile. If "Load" can't deal with it, he should see a shrink. Not that I'm a psychiatrist (just a modestly paid graphic artist) but when I analyze it, I see "Turd's" personality as similar to South Park's Eric Cartman. Like the cartoon character that suffers from Only Child Syndrome, he's a fat, selfish douchebag who whines when he doesn't get his way. Also, they both like eating at Casa Bonita (Check Poly Roly's Journal to see that I'm not making this up). Of course, he won't follow my advice but I'm putting it out here in case someone wants to help him with his anxiety over me.

SIDE NOTE: One of the things that a counselor can discuss with "Mr. Load Turd" is his belief that I'm following him. A simple comparison of Foursquare check-ins will show that isn't true. For my part, I currently spend a lot of time at The Slider Inn in Midtown, far from "Load's" sacred Downtown.

Also, I want to clarify something else that "Mr. Load Turd" said about me recently. While sitting at The Silly Goose's bar with our mutual friends (who started things off with a discussion about where LeBron James will play next season), I overheard "Load" bragging about his dysfunctional barbecue team's "trophy" that it won at the Memphis in May BBQ Fest. He was playfully rubbing it in that his team took a trophy while our friends left the fest empty-handed. Although I didn't comment on it while I was at the bar (other than responding to "Turd" calling me a retard), I chuckled at what I heard. For "Roly Poly" to talk shit about winning a non-food trophy to guys who bailed out his "well managed" barbecue team with barbecue at a barbecue competition is laughable. After all, this happened at the Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, not the Southern Hot Wings Festival, the Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival or an artistic competition for who can design the best booth. Even though "Load" didn't have malice in his boasting, I felt that he should have shown more humility and gratitude to the barbecue team that saved his crew's asses. Of course, his team's troubles aren't a concern of mine (after all, I'm "persona non grata" to it) but I want to set the record straight about what I didn't say at The Silly Goose. Then again, it wouldn't have been an issue to "Load" if anyone else was sitting where I was at the bar. Like I said earlier, dude needs psychiatric help.

Downtown Memphis' Eric Cartman

Labels: Appetizers/Bar Food, Commentary, Downtown, Pizza, Tacos

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Carbonara Done Right!

Finally! (Part 2)

Putting an end to another case of procrastination, I want to talk about one of my favorite dishes. Carbonara, a pasta dish consisting of an egg-based sauce and a form of Italian bacon (such as pancetta), is something that I had a lot of during a four-year stint in Italy as an Air Force serviceman. Since leaving Europe, my opportunities to indulge in carbonara have been rare. More times than not, the pasta was mediocre and disappointing. I'm not saying that the carbonara was bad, but it didn't meet my expectations for excellence. Nonetheless, I should have blogged about my experiences but the uninspiring pasta didn't move me to do so.

An example of the carbonara that I've had in America is the version served by Bari Ristorante in Memphis' Overton Square district. Other than the thick sauce, Bari's carbonara is okay by most standards. It usually has modest amounts of pancetta, onions, parsley and garlic, along with other herbs and spices for something that's decent yet unexceptional (Parmesan cheese is optional). Compared to restaurants that I visited in Italy, Bari's carbonara gets a "B-" for good quality that doesn't push the envelope for greatness. I hope I'm not being harsh, but I'm just calling as I see (and taste) it.
I also had Bari's calamari as a side dish during a recent visit. Actually, it was more like an additional "tapa" to the small plate of carbonara that I ate. For the most part, the calamari was good although I'm not used to eating it grilled (Bari's menu lists it as "calamari e polipo alla graticola" which translates to "squid and octopus on the grill"). The charred portions of it undercut the rest of what I felt was good calamari (I prefer to have it pan-seared). Of course, this is just an unqualified opinion based on numerous experiences with the seafood appetizer. For those who really like grilled foods, Bari's calamari might win them over. As it relates to carbonara, I believe that the restaurant's squid appetizer is a good match like grilled chicken and Alfredo pasta. All around, Bari's calamari is good as far as appetizers go.
After carbonara experiences at restaurants like Bari, I thought it was as good as it gets in Memphis and the rest of America, but a chef at one of favorite bars proved me wrong. While at Bardog Tavern during a weekday afternoon, Executive Chef John Haley asked if I wanted a plate of carbonara. He was following up on a request I made a while back after missing out on a special featuring the pasta. It wasn't something that I planned for, because I was content on chilling at the bar and listening to my favorite sports talk show host (Jim Rome) through my phone while getting beer from a beautiful bartender (Brittany). Of course, loving carbonara the way I do, I wasn't passing up an opportunity to try the bar's version of one my favorite pastas.

Bardog's version of carbonara is outstanding. From the second that I laid my eyes on it, I knew it was going to be one of the best things that I would taste in 2014. The carbonara had plenty of pancetta along with a lot of parsley, onions and grated Parmesan cheese. I was a little surprised that Chef John used a powdered (as in a can) version of Parmesan that, in my opinion, is more salty than an actual block of cheese. Fortunately, the Parmesan and all the other ingredients (including basil, if what I sensed is correct) worked well with the thick carbonara sauce and spaghetti pasta. Unlike carbonara at other restaurants, Bardog's pasta is vibrant and very flavorful in a way that makes it exceptional. The only other times that I've had carbonara this good were in fine restaurants in Italy, and Bardog's version (like all the other pasta dishes on the menu) is reminiscent of that. I don't know if the carbonara recipe is Chef John's or the man behind it all (Aldo Dean), but whoever came up with it is a genius. Currently, carbonara isn't on the menu at Bardog, but that could change if enough people ask for it. It's a great dish that I hope others get to know.

UPDATE (July 11, 2014): After talking to Aldo, I've found out that the carbonara recipe is neither his nor Chef John's. It originated from a former chef for the bar (Dimitri) who passed it on to his successors. Last I heard, this chef was working at Double J Smokehouse & Saloon.

Unlike with Bari, I didn't get calamari with the carbonara at Bardog. If I did, it would have been fried and served with a topping of Sriracha aioli and a side of cocktail sauce. I won't try to compare the two squid appetizers because it would be the equivalent to an apple vs. orange comparison. However, Bardog's fried calamari is on par with most restaurants that serve it. That said, the calamari is a bit salty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing although my doctor would disagree. If paired with the carbonara, I believe that they would go well together.
After comparing the two restaurants, it's my opinion that Bardog Tavern has the better carbonara. With all the ingredients that make up Bardog's version of it, the pasta outclasses Bari Ristorante and many others that serve it. This isn't to say that I don't like Bari's carbonara, but eating it is like driving a Buick. By that, I mean it's a good experience but not exactly memorable. Chef John's (or Aldo's) carbonara is more like a Bentley (a car that I've never ridden in) that has all the bells and whistles to provide a ride unlike any other. If anyone is looking for excellent Italian carbonara without the hassles of going to an upscale restaurant, Bardog Tavern is the place to go (provided Chef John is in the house).
I'm glad that I "finally" got around to blogging about one of favorite dishes. I probably would have blown it off completely if I hadn't run into Chef John during this year's (2014) Memphis in May BBQ Fest. Seeing him reminded me of the favor he did in making the carbonara despite it not being Bardog's special for that day. I appreciate it and all of his other marvelous dishes. John Haley is a chef that deserves his due praise.

SIDE NOTE: Speaking of the 2014 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, I want address a comment from a "spokesman" for one of the participating BBQ Fest teams. As he said, you will never find me in the team's booth because I'm "persona non grata." While that's true, I also want to point out something else that will hardly be there: barbecue or anything else that's edible. It seems that $20,000+ (membership fees, sponsorships and other revenue) doesn't buy as much as it used to. Well, at least the team won a non-food trophy at the barbecue fest. All things considered, that seems about right for a group more suited for partying than 'cuing.

Speaking of "Finally..."

Part of the reason why I haven't blogged about carbonara, my favorite guacamole and other things in the past is that I've been pursuing more important endeavors. Especially, I've focused on a goal that has eluded me for 5½ years: full-time employment. After years of searching, I finally have good news (which you might have heard about via Downtown Memphis' Pathetic Retard's Journal): I GOT A JOB! Thanks to a friend who put in a good word for me, I'm working as a graphic artist for a company that sells flags throughout America. After years and literally hundreds of attempts of applying for jobs that would pay a decent wage, I came very close to giving up. Fortunately, I have a friend who had my back and made a big difference in influencing my new employer. I am very grateful for that and will do my best in promoting the interests of the company that hired me. The way I see it, I need to make the most of this opportunity because this is the last hurrah of my career. Not that I'm ready to retire, but I know that I probably won't find another job in graphics in the foreseeable future because of reasons that I won't elaborate on. Anyway, I'm happy for what I have and anxious to "Git R Done!"

 Bari Ristorante:
 Bardog Tavern:

Bari on Urbanspoon

Bardog Tavern on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Commentary, Downtown, Midtown, Overton Square, Pasta, Tapas, Upscale

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Las Delicias

Finally! (Part 1)

In the four years that "Ken's Food Find" has been in existence, there are a few places that I haven't talked about despite my passionate feelings for them. I don't have a good reason for not writing about them other than my procrastination and distraction by whatever caught my eye. Whether it's a new and hip place on Overton Square (Chiwawa) or a restaurant that I stumbled across during my "temping" assignments (El Gallo Giro), I've tended to follow the crowds while ignoring my favorites. Ironically, I frequent those places often yet I've never took the time to write about them. Well, starting with this review of Las Delicias, I will try to make up for lost time.

SIDE NOTE: My inspiration for ending my procrastination was inspired by my friend Bob (aka "Bicycle Bobby") who is the president of the Squeal Street BBQ Team (the team was gracious to me during this year's Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (aka "BBQ Fest") and I'm grateful for that). I happen to know (thanks to a chance encounter with him a few years ago) that Las Delicias is one of his favorite restaurants. If a great cook like him is willing to travel from Downtown Memphis to Park Avenue at Getwell Road for Mexican food, then it's worthy of an out-of-character Saturday night visit by this blog (I'm more of a Midtown/Downtown guy in my leisure time).

When I arrived at Las Delicias, I wasn't sure about my choice for the main course but I knew what my appetizer would be. For the last few years, the Guacamole with Pico de Gallo has always been my go-to dish whenever I'm at Las Delicias or its concession tent at an event like the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival. Whenever it's available, the delicious appetizer never disappoints in putting a smile on my face. Comprising of chopped avocados, onions, diced tomatoes and cilantro mixed with other ingredients, the Guacamole with Pico de Gallo is the best that I've had in Memphis. What makes this better is that it uses chopped avocados as opposed to puréeing them into a messy sauce that requires extra napkins to consume. Another thing about chopped avocados is a person can enjoy the squishy and fatty characteristics of the tropical fruit while chewing it. In and of itself, the avocados alone don't make Las Delicias' Guacamole with Pico de Gallo the best in town. What also makes it great is the amount of lime juice that's in it. When it's mixed with the floral aroma of cilantro, the result is a refreshing dip that can stand on its own. Although the Guacamole with Pico de Gallo is splendid, Las Delicias's tortilla chips make the appetizer even better. The chips are crispy and tasty while not being too salty. I also love that the restaurant makes the tortilla chips so they are always fresh out of the oven (or fryer, evidenced by the oily sheen on its crust). Overall, I can't think of anything negative to say about Las Delicias' fabulous appetizer. For me, it's one of my favorite things to eat in Memphis, along with Roxie burgers and Cozy Corner barbecue ribs. Of course, this is only my opinion that anyone can disagree with although many others have praised the appetizer. The Commercial Appeal's Whining and Dining blog pegs it as one of the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die and popular blog iLoveMemphis hails it as one of 365 Things to Do in Memphis (ranking it at a lowly No. 235). While I don't always agree with what others say about Memphis' best eats, I don't have any issues with the praises about my favorite dish at Las Delicias.

For the main course, I got my grub on with a meaty fajita that more than satisfied my appetite. In getting the Alambre with steak, my entrée had plenty of meat (including bacon), green peppers and onions beneath a topping of mixed cheeses. Like most Mexican steak dishes, the beef was likely chopped skirt steak that isn't known for its tenderness. However, when wrapped around a corn tortilla, the steak was chewy and very flavorful for a dinner that was worth the trip to East Memphis. Compared to the Guacamole with Pico de Gallo, the Alambre doesn't measure up (then again, not many dishes do) but it is something that I have no qualms about. In all, it's a solidly good entrée that I look forward to having again.
I'm glad that I "finally" got around to writing about Las Delicias, a restaurant that ranks among my favorites. As far as Mexican restaurants go, Las Delicias is second only to the Happy Mexican on my personal list of go-to places for "South of the Border" cuisine. Unfortunately (in a good way), I'm not in a minority in my feelings about the restaurant, for Las Delicias has many patrons dining during lunch and dinner. On the night that I went for this review, I waited several minutes for a table. It wasn't a big deal and I was happy to see the restaurant thriving. Despite the huge crowds, I got prompt and attentive service throughout my meal that was very pleasurable. It's another reason that I regret taking so long to write a review of it. Now that I've done that, I can focus on other places that I love yet ignored...


Las Delicias Mexican Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, East Memphis, Mexican, Multiple Locations

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