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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cafe 1912

Majestic Midtown

It's not often that I write about upscale restaurants, being the poor soul that I am. But sometimes, I get that irresistible urge to splurge for something expensive yet delicious. About a week and a half ago, that urge inspired me to get one of the specials at Café 1912. Usually, I get the cheeseburger while sitting at a table by myself. Although the restaurant recommends getting a reservation before arriving, I usually manage to get a small table (usually near the cafe's kitchen). Unfortunately on a busy Friday night, I couldn't even get that so I settled for a spot at the bar. In the end, that wound up being a good thing.

After getting to the bar, I initially ordered the cheeseburger but I changed my mind after seeing what others were eating. For some reason, I assumed that Cafe 1912 was either a French or other "European" restaurant, but with a few exceptions, nothing on its menu didn't seem foreign when compared to other "American" restaurants. I eventually got one of the cafe's specials, the swordfish with basil couscous, pickled strawberry and cucumber salsa in a red curry vinaigrette. Although it wasn't the most exquisite thing that I ever had, the dish was unique in terms of taste (the swordfish itself is comparable in taste to grouper and similar ocean fish). It actually felt weird eating strawberries with fish but with the other components in the entrée, it added an interesting element to a very nice dish.

Because my portion of food was small, I got a plate of fried calamari. Despite being a step below The Majestic Grille's version, the cafe's calamari is much better than a dive bar. I appreciated that it wasn't too salty, for I'm trying to avoid high blood pressure/hypertension. Overall, the calamari was good by itself and even better when dipped in either rémoulade or Mae Ploy, the cafe's version of a sweet chili sauce. Along with the swordfish, the calamari hit the spot and rounded out a nice dinner at Cafe 1912.
Even though the dinner was great, what made the experience wonderful were the people who dined with me at the bar. Mostly consisting of couples (I and a middle-aged woman were the only "loners" at the bar), we all kept each other company, which for me made for a more pleasurable experience than dining alone. Although it's not the same as having a dining companion, eating with strangers is a good way to meet new people.

SIDE NOTE: A big reason why this is my second review of the year is that loneliness has sapped my passion for blogging. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but not having someone to engage in a shared experience is starting to matter more. Please don't interpret this as me pining for a "date" (I know I'm not a stud), but rather my desire to occasionally have a nice time with others over dinner. For me (a "foreigner"), that is an elusive goal.

Although my dinner at Cafe 1912 was great, it doesn't compare to what I believe is one of the best things on the restaurant's menu. The cheeseburger (recommended by my friend "John D.") is flat-out one of the best in Memphis (good enough to make my best burger list). With ground beef that tastes like a Prime rib eye, the burger comes with bacon, garlic aioli and either Maytag blue cheese or Provolone (my preference) within a ciabatta bun. Speaking of preferences, I usually get my burger "medium rare" and the cafe never disappoints, resulting in a burger that's the equivalent of an excellent chopped steak. The burger comes with shoestring French fries (called "pommes frites" by the restaurant and in France) sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil, which compared with the Majestic Grille and Local are decent but not on the same level as the aforementioned. Collectively, the burger and fries are great and will always be one of my go-to foods whenever I'm at Cafe 1912.
At this point, you would have been the end of this review, where I would listed the usual stuff like the restaurant's website, its Urbanspoon... err, Zomato link and other stuff (including KFF's new mobile Twitter feed), but I felt something was missing. As usual, I looked over the restaurant's menu to ensure that I didn't miss anything relevant to the review. As I was doing that, I noticed that Café 1912 offers "dinner salads" that aroused my curiosity. Before discovering this, my go-to place for "dinner salads" was and still is The Majestic Grille. I like the Majestic salads because they are full, high quality meals that have a lot of protein (as in meat) to satisfy my appetite and are flat-out great. So, with Cafe 1912 being comparable to the Majestic, I wondered if the cafe could churn out a "dinner salad" that's as good as my favorite restaurant.
I wasn't sure about what to order, so I took a chance in ordering the Niçoise (pronounced "niˈswaz") salad. In getting this, I had low expectations with regards to portion size and content. Honestly, I assumed the salad would have small bits of tuna and a lot of lettuce with modest portions of veggies and other stuff sprinkled in. Man, I was so wrong!

(It would have helped if I remembered the salad's picture that is posted on the menu page of Cafe 1912's website)

When I saw the amount of food that my waiter... errr, server brought me, I was shocked. This whopper of a salad features approximately a half a pound of seared tuna that is crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. For those who like fried tuna (or fried salmon) and tuna tartar, the Niçoise salad gives a taste of both. The seasoning in the Tuna's crust adds lots of zest to both the raw parts of the tuna and the rest of the salad. Speaking of that, the Niçoise salad comes with a lot of lettuce, spinach and other "greens" that's enough to satisfy an appetite by itself. When olives, tomatoes, capers, red onions (which I omitted), a hard cooked egg, and basil are thrown in with anchovy aïoli on the side, you have a meal fit for a king. Overall, the "dinner salad" is really good and something that I can confidently recommend to anyone who isn't a vegetarian (I'm also confident that the cafe can hook up vegetarians and vegans with something good, too)
In my visits to Cafe 1912, the impressions I got were positive. Nearly everything I had (including brunch that I had several months ago) was top-notch, the results of an excellent kitchen staff. The  nearly all-male wait staff was very professional, although as a guy, it would have been nice to have had a pretty lady serving me. As someone who appreciates sexy women like those at the Flying Saucer, I'm generally not a fan of male servers. The restaurant itself is small (although I heard that expansion will happen soon) with its decor resembling a French bistro. While that description contrasts with another restaurant that I'm about to mention, Cafe 1912 is similar to one of my favorite Memphis restaurants, the Majestic Grille . In terms of food, ambiance and charm, the two restaurants are very similar. That said, I will probably dine at the café more often whenever I'm out in Midtown. I just hope that I'm not dining alone.


Cafe 1912 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAmerican, Appetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Brunch, Commentary, European, Midtown, Salads, Seafood, Upscale

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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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