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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sam's Hamburgers & More

Looks Are Deceiving

If anyone has noticed, I haven't been blogging as much as I used to. A combined lack of inspiration and other personal things, I lost the motivation to blog. So, unless I found something that was really noteworthy, I was going to gradually let go of "Ken's Food Find" and move on to something else. Fortunately for the blog, the spark I needed came from one of my co-workers at the FedExForum where I work part-time. My friend Corlista told me about Sam's veggie burger that she felt was good enough to pass for a "real" (as in ground beef) burger. She insisted that I try it myself and write about it. Having had veggie burgers in the past, I was skeptical of her claim but I respect her opinion enough to give the burger a chance. So on a Saturday afternoon that didn't allow me to fall into my usual beer-drinking routine (I had to work a Grizzlies game at the "Forum"), I decided to go to Sam's Hamburgers & More on Madison and Main to see and taste it for myself.

SIDE NOTE: Sam's has another location near the corner of Main and Adams, but Corlista told that it doesn't serve the veggie burger.

At first glance, one could tell that the "burger" was different from its beefy counterpart solely by its appearance. Despite what my friend said about it, the brown speckled patty caught my attention from the minute I saw it. Now, if I hadn't gotten Corlista's recommendation beforehand, I might have had preconceived notions that could have influenced my expectations. However, I delved into the veggie burger without prejudice and got satisfaction from the first bite. What impressed me the most was the veggie patty's composition that was a mash-up of cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots molded and cooked until it was golden brown. The key for me was the veggie patty, because its texture was very convincing in putting me into the mindset that I was eating meat as opposed to something else. If I had the burger without anyone telling me what it was, I never would have suspected it was vegetarian. The patty's texture is very similar to ground beef and sausage, although the taste is unique. For the most part, the veggie mix kind of threw me off because I didn't have anything to compare it to. Despite being confused, I quickly came around to liking and accepting it for what it was, a tasty piece of veggie "meat." My only criticism was the lack of seasoning in the patty, which by itself was a few notches above blandness. Even though I'm knocking it for lacking pizzazz, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Compared to a veggie burger that I had several years ago at Imagine Vegan Cafe, with a vegan patty having the texture and taste of Country sausage, maybe Sam's lack of seasoning works in its favor. Fortunately, Sam's veggie patty provided enough flavor to support the rest of the burger that the seasoning issue didn't matter. With it having toppings (lettuce, mayo, onions, etc.) typical in most hamburgers, the lack of real meat became less of an issue as I ate more of the burger. In the end, the veggie burger turned out to be a decent sandwich that didn't give me regrets. Having said that, the guys at Sam's did a very good job in creating a veggie burger that can appeal to non-vegetarians like me. It's definitely better than Sam's other burgers and a nice alternative to beef. As a guy who is not a vegetarian, I was very impressed with it and am confident that other meat eaters will like it, too. My thanks go out to my friend for bringing the veggie burger to my attention, for it is very noteworthy.
As for everything else on Sam's menu, the food is decent by most standards and very affordable. It's one of the few places in Downtown Memphis where you can a get a burger, seasoned fries (which in Sam's case are very good) and a soda for a little over $6.50. For value, it's definitely a good deal for people on a tight budget who can't afford to go to restaurants like Oshi Burger Bar, a place that also serves great non-traditional burgers like its tasty Ahi tuna Tora Tora Burger. Fortunately, Sam's Hamburgers and More has carved out a nice niche in Downtown Memphis' dining community that will likely endure for as long as the demand for good affordable food exists.


Sam's Hamburgers & More Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Getting My Groove Back

Before closing, I want to address a few things. As it relates to the blog, I will write fewer reviews per year, reserving time only for stories that deserve mention. Also, I promise not to blab about my personal life and any drama surrounding it. I started this blog to talk about food and nothing or nobody else. So from now on, regardless of what is going on outside my dining experiences, I will not use "Ken's Food Find" to express my feelings about it. Having said that, keeping that promise is easier said than done. To quote the great philosopher Mike Tyson, "everybody has a plan until they get hit," so keeping my promise won't be easy. However, with good friends keeping me straight, I am confident that I can keep my promise of making this blog a "no drama zone" unless either a crappy meal or a douchebag waitress warrants otherwise.
Also, even though I will blog less, I will remain active on Twitter and Pinterest along with another social media platform, Tumblr. I'm not sure how I will use it, although I am leaning towards making it a photo album for the many pictures that I have taken without posting them on the blog. In some cases, I might post a mini-review with the picture if I believe it's necessary. For places that I frequent like Bardog Tavern, Tumblr will be extremely useful because the bar always has enticing specials that are irresistible. For anyone interested in following my exploits, go to

LabelsBreakfast, Burgers, Cheap Eats, Commentary, Downtown, Hot Dogs, Multiple Locations, Sandwiches, Vegetarian/Vegan

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Alex's Tavern

Finally (Part 5)

It has taken me a long time to do this, but I've finally gotten around to reviewing Alex's Tavern. The reason that it took so long is that I've never been sober enough to do it. In fact, I thought about making the subtitle "Doing It Sober" to point out the significance of me not being hammered when I assessed the tavern. Before I go further, I want to stress that most of my visits to Alex's was after 2:00 A.M. when the bar is usually at its peak. For those unfamiliar with the bar, Alex's Tavern is famous for keeping late night hours that stretch into the next day. The bar is popular with bartenders and others in the service industry who go there after working long shifts at other establishments. I am rarely out that late and hardly in good shape when I am. However, last Saturday was different, for I was in the right state of mind to do a competent review.

Although my original intention was to write about Alex's burgers, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take advantage of the barbecue ribs that the bar sells on weekends. I ended up getting a half slab of ribs that were literally the last of Alex's barbecue for the night along with seasoned fries and baked beans. The ribs were "dry" with plenty of barbecue sauce on the side, which allowed me to get the total BBQ experience. The ribs were rubbed with Greek spices that are the hallmark of the tavern (the key ingredient is Cavender's Greek Seasoning, something that the bar uses to season everything on its menu). As far as dry rub ribs go, Alex's was very good and far better than places like the overrated and over hyped Rendezvous, but the tender and juicy ribs are awesome in Alex's barbecue sauce. To describe exactly how the sauce taste is bit difficult for a novice like me, but Greek spices gives it a distinctive flavor that is unlike anything I had before. Like most barbecue sauces, Alex's has an element of sweetness but it is well-balanced with spices that add tartness to a great barbecue sauce. Collectively, Alex's ribs are better than most barbecue joints that I've been to including my favorite since childhood, Cozy Corner. I'm hesitant to say that Alex's Tavern serves Memphis' best barbecue because I feel like I'm betraying an old friend but I try to be objective in writing my reviews. Therefore, I will conclude by saying that anyone who isn't partial to any particular BBQ restaurant or has never had Memphis barbecue would likely choose Alex's ribs in a taste test of the city's best restaurants. Of course, this is merely an assumption but you'll be hard pressed to find anyone having a negative opinion of Alex's ribs.

As outstanding as the ribs are, Alex's seasoned steak fries are just as noteworthy. Seasoned with a mix of Sonny Salt and Cavender's Greek Seasoning and likely benefiting from the smoky aroma of the barbecue, the fries are the perfect side item for the tavern's ribs. But even if you are eating them with Alex's Greek Burger or Rock-Mo's Chicken Drummies, the steak fries are a great complement that will make either your lunch or dinner better. Even if you don't have much of an appetite, the seasoned steak fries are simply great by themselves as bar food to snack on while watching a ball game or socializing. Compared to other seasoned fries, Alex's is incomparable and the best I've ever had.

The main reason for writing this review was to highlight Alex's Greek Burger. Seasoned with Cavender's Greek Seasoning and a special version of black pepper, the "medium" cooked Greek Burger is one of the many unique things that I've had in Memphis. Every time I eat one, I get an exotic experience similar to my Air Force days when I was stationed in Italy. Of course, local, non-chain hamburger joints were a rarity during my time in Europe but I'm glad that a little Greek ingenuity made its way to Memphis for a great burger that is among the city's best.

I could go on and on about the food at Alex's Tavern, Memphis' oldest tavern established by Alex Kasaftes in 1953. Bottom line is that you won't find anything on the menu that isn't anything short of great. Whether its barbecue, burgers or Rock-Mo's Chicken Drummies that are the best and most popular hot wings in Memphis, owner Rocky Kasaftes and his crew don't screw around in serving great food. By the way, I want to mention that Alex's Tavern is a CASH ONLY restaurant, meaning that it doesn't take credit cards although it has an ATM on the premises. That's something to keep in mind if you decide to get some of the best bar food in Memphis.

Check out Alex's Tavern on

Alex's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Barbecue, Burgers, Commentary, Midtown, Wings

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Maciel's Tortas & Tacos

Second Time Around

In my last review, I talked about the country fried steak sandwich that I had at E's 24 Hour Cafe. At the time, I never before had a fried steak sandwich and figured it would take another fifty years before I would even find another restaurant serving it. Lo and behold, it took all of one month before finding another one in the most unlikely of places, a Mexican taqueria. Most people, whose familiarity with Mexican food goes no further than tacos, burritos and nachos, might assume that the sandwich is a gimmick for appealing to American tastes but that isn't true. Like with the Somali spaghetti I had at King's Grocery and Deli, the Mexican torta has roots from Italians who introduced it to South Americans as "Cotoletta alla Milanese" in a more traditional manner (in other words, not as a sandwich). Although I never a fried steak sandwich during my times in Italy and the Western U.S., I was anxious my first "foreign" fried steak sandwich.

The Milaneza (according to Google and Wikipedia, the actual spelling is "Milanesa") consists of a thin slice of "shallow-fried" bread crumb crusted steak and topped with sour cream, cheese, mayo and an assortment of veggies including avocados and jalapenos. Unlike the bland sandwich that I had at E's, the Milaneza was lively and tasty, making for a great lunch when I ate it with tortilla chips and guacamole. So, for anyone looking for genuine Mexican food, I recommend getting a torta like the Milaneza at Maciel's.

Another traditional Mexican staple that Maciel's offers is the huarache (name take from the Spanish word for sandal), a "flatbread" that looks more like an open-faced sandwich. In place of bread, the oblong-shaped dish uses fried masa (something that Maciel's does very well) that is usually topped with a meat and a variety of other things. For my first time, I got the Desebrada, a huarache covered with shredded beef, lettuce, sour cream, queso, cheese crumbs and other toppings. It's sort of like a giant-size nacho that surprisingly wasn't too messy when I ate it. Overall, I really like Maciel's Desebrada although when I get it again, I will get a side item like Elotes Con Crema (Mexican street corn with cream) to make it a complete meal. By itself, the huarache is a great snack that I hope others come to experience.

It seems that Maciel's Tortas & Tacos is the real deal, and I hope it's successful. Given its location on Main Street between Union and Monroe, known for many failed restaurants, the odds are against them although Maciel's quality food (including its delicious fried tacos) gives it a better than average chance. Judging from the positive things I heard others say about Maciel's (including restaurateurs like Chef Brian Michael Patrick of Rizzo's Diner), I'm confident the restaurant will be around for a while.

Check out Maciel's Tortas and Tacos on

Maciel's Tortas & Tacos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Downtown, Mexican, Sandwiches, Tacos

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

E's 24 Hour Cafe

Getting Fried Up

While chilling at the Silly Goose recently, I overheard a conversation about chicken fried and country fried steaks. It seemed that one of the regulars had never had either of the fried staples before despite being a native Southerner. I believe part of the reason for that is he's a former military brat who spent his some of his childhood overseas, but it is still surprising that he never had a fried steak as an adult. Although I didn't believe my input would have been welcomed in the conversation, I decided to share my views about Southern fried steaks on this blog. Personally, my go to place for fried, breaded steaks is The Port on Memphis' Presidents Island (which is really a peninsula) where I previously worked for a printing and sign company. With my current employer located on Summer Avenue (combined with The Port's daytime hours), it is nearly impossible for me to ever visit it again. However, there are plenty of restaurants on Summer Avenue (such as The Cottage) that can fill the void. One of them is E's 24 Hour Cafe, a local chain of diners (acquired from CK's Coffee Shop) with locations in East Memphis and Midtown. For the purpose of this review, I will focus solely on the Summer Avenue location although Downtown Memphians like the aforementioned "brat" can easily get to E's Union Avenue diner via MATA's Madison Avenue Green Bus... err, Trolley Line (for those living outside of Memphis, the city's transit system isn't the epitome of good management).

SIDE NOTE: Before I go further, I know there are slight differences between a "Country Fried Steak" and a "Chicken Fried Steak" with regards to preparation. To surmise what John T. Edge (food writer for The New York Times) said about the two fried cube steaks, the big difference is the gravy. Country Fried Steaks (which Edge calls "a pan-Southern dish") are battered and fried with an infusion of brown gravy, producing a crust that to me seems more flaky than crispy (with more gravy smothering it afterwards). Chicken Fried Steak (popular in Texas and Oklahoma), on the other hand, is battered and fried in a manner similar to crispy fried chicken, with a creamy white peppered gravy either smothering the steak or served as a side. Honestly, I don't believe the causal diner will notice the difference between the two (I didn't until recently) and will likely see them as one in the same.

In the realm of fried steaks, E's contribution is its Country Fried Steak & Eggs that doesn't come with hash browns (the steak's picture in E's menu is a bit misleading). Being the "meat & potatoes" guy that I am, I got the country fried steak with hash browns, scrambled eggs and E's award winning (2014 "Memphis Most" winner) biscuits. The steak itself is topped with white peppered gravy that's supposedly reserved for chicken fried steaks (I hope this isn't getting confusing) for a decent tasting dish that I'm sure my "Silly Goose" drinking mate would agree. E's country fried steak itself isn't indistinguishable from other places serving it, for it was chewy and seasoned in a way that most are familiar with. Along with hash browns, scrambled eggs and E's sweet biscuits, E's Country Fried Steak made for a tasty breakfast.

As I ate my country fried steak, I perused through the menu to see what else E's offered. When I got to the menu's last page, I saw something that made me smile: a country fried steak sandwich. E's Cntry Fried Steak Sandwich (for you smart asses who love making fun of my spelling, this is the sandwich's exact name) comes with American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes within two slices of toasted bread. As the main part of a sandwich, the fried steak's qualities didn't taste as good with the cheese that I assumed would be great together. To me, the fried steak and cheese was very salty and not a treat to eat. It definitely could have benefited from white gravy (or "brown" if available), something I will have a cup of if I order the sandwich again. Overall, the "Cntry" sandwich is somewhat decent, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't had country fried steak before. However, if anyone is looking for something off the beaten path, give E's country fried steak sandwich a try and form your own opinion.
After having country fried steak two different ways, I'm confident in saying that E's 24 Hour Cafe (whose Summer Ave. diner is only open all hours from Thursday through Saturday and closes at 10 PM during the rest of the week) is a good place to go for country fried steak. In addition to fried steaks, E's also offers a variety of things ranging from delicious pancakes to bland cheeseburgers. Everything on the menu is available throughout the day, although E's can be hit or miss depending on what you're ordering. My personal favorite is E's Ultimate Hashbrowns that are six ounces of shredded potatoes mixed with ham, cheese, onions, green peppers, tomatoes and a protein of your choosing. For me, I generally go with eggs sunny side up and either bacon, sausage or ground beef. If you like hearty dishes, you can't go wrong with the Ultimate Hashbrowns.
Getting back to my fellow "Silly Goose" regular, if he still hasn't had a fried steak yet, he should ride a trolley..., err, bus..., I mean trolley bus or whatever (such as splitting either a Lyft or Uber ride with friends which is more economical, not to mention faster) and give E's a try. Preferably, he should get just the fried steak and graduate to the sandwich. I believe he'll have a good time with it.


Menu (mobile friendly)

E's 24 Hour Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsBreakfast, Brunch, Burgers, Commentary, Diner, East Memphis, Midtown, Multiple Locations, Nutbush/Berclair, Sandwiches, Southern, Steaks, Summer Avenue

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