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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Villa

Not Satisfied

Tonight, I decided to go out on the town, and I kicked it off with dinner at The Villa, a new Italian restaurant in Midtown's Overton Square. Initially, I thought about giving Gereny, a Sudanese restaurant near my neighborhood, a second try, but I wanted to use The Villa's coupon that offers a free menu item with the purchase of another menu item of equal or greater value. With the coupon expiring tonight, I couldn't pass it up. After looking over the menu that offers a variety of pastas, pizzas and salads, I decided to go with the sautéed calamari for the appetizer and a small plate of Rigatoni Bolognese for the main course.
The sautéed calamari, resting atop a bed of lettuce, was bland in terms of taste. Even mixing in marinara sauce and balsamic vinegar did not enhance the flavor. In addition, it was hard to stick a fork in the calamari, which indicated that it wasn't tender. Now I must admit, I'm not a calamari expert, and it's been a long time since I had it, but I don't remember sautéed calamari being this bland and tough to chew (I'm sure others who are more knowledgeable about calamari can give a better opinion). It's definitely not what I remembered when I was introduced to it in Italy, where I was stationed for almost four years while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
As for the main course, the Rigatoni Bolognese literally left a bad taste in my mouth. The sauce, while meaty, tasted similar to canned sauces that I've bought in grocery stores. I don't know what the chef puts in his "signature" meat sauce, but it left such a terrible aftertaste that I later washed it down with a couple of Saranac Summer Brews. It's a good thing that I only had the small plate because I'm not sure my breath would have recovered from a larger portion (would have gotten the big plate if I didn't have other plans later in the evening). Overall, the pasta was edible, just not enjoyable. As far as meat sauces go, Dino's Grill (down the street from the popular Cafe Eclectic on McLean Blvd.) is far better. Another option that's within walking distance of The Villa is Bari Ristorante, although I can't vouch for their meaty pasta sauces (however, their carbonara is pretty good).
Overall, the dining experience at The Villa was fair. The service was decent and for that, I'm willing to give it a second try. However, after my initial experience, I will lower my expectations.

Website: www.thevillamemphis.com

Labels: Midtown, Pasta, Seafood



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Friday, July 30, 2010

Past "Tweets"

The following are past "tweets" about restaurants that I and others have commented on through my Twitter account, prior to establishing this blog. Some of the sub-headings are hyperlinked to blog articles:

Kooky Canuck:

Just had the blackened catfish @KookyCanuck, with green beans and a salad with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. A healthy, awesome meal! (May 16, 2010)

The strawberry & jalapeño chicken wings I had yesterday @kookycanuck were amazing. An unlikely combination of ingredients, but brilliant. (June 13, 2010)

Kooky Canuck's Cookie A La Mode (chocolate chip & vanilla ice cream) was yummy as well. After eating that & the wings, I was ready for a nap. (June 13, 2010)

Sweet Grass:

For lunch, I had the Low Country Shrimp and Grits at Sweet Grass (@SweetGrassMem) and I loved it. (May 21, 2010)

KFC (Lakeland, TN):

Had the grilled Double Down at the KFC in Lakeland. Not as salty as the fried version, but it could've been better http://twitpic.com/1prd4z (May 21, 2010)

Melanie's Soul Food:

At Melanie's Soul Food, I had the BBQ ribs, collard greens & mashed potatoes w/gravy. Overall, the meal was average. http://bit.ly/bCHaJt [the restaurant's website] (May 21, 2010)

Frayser Maid:

Eating a Ham and Cheese omelet with hashbrowns. The meal is OK, for a "greasy spoon". Service is decent. (http://4sq.com/cvbp7K) (May 29, 2010)

Broadway Pizza House:

Had the cheeseburger at Broadway Pizza. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 5. Not quite as good as it's hype, but decent. (May 29, 2010)

Had the @HookandLadder Lighter (a light ale) with the perfect dish: a shrimp pizza from Broadway Pizza. Great combination! (May 31, 2010)

Blues City Cafe:

Tip: Bud Light Lime (a favorite) doesn't go well with BBQ ribs (at least not the ribs I had at Blues City Cafe; ribs were pretty good). (June 1, 2010)

Dino's Grill:

The beef lasagna at Dino's Grill was great, as usual. However, Dino's is the only Italian restaurant that I know of that doesn't serve wine. (June 3, 2010)

Cockadoos:

The barbecue omelet I had at @cockadoos was scrumptiously delicious! The pulled pork and sauce was the best I've had in awhile. (June 19, 2010)

The catfish & grits I had @cockadoos was awesomely delicious! Two thumbs up! (June 26, 2010)

Cafe Eclectic:

Just had a glazed donut at my new [and preferred] neighborhood bakery (@ Cafe Eclectic) http://4sq.com/4zgHbr (June 20, 2010)

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken:

While listening to Howard Stern, Cyndi Lauper gave a plug to Gus's Fried Chicken, the best in Memphis. Check it out! http://bit.ly/aV7LXA (June 22, 2010)

Wild Bill's:

Although the "seasoned" wings I had at Wild Bill's last night were average, the Blues performances were awesome! Who needs Beale St.? (June 26, 2010)

Majestic Grille:
One of the best brunch offerings in Memphis. (@ Majestic Grille) http://4sq.com/6z789P (June 27, 2010)

Court House Deli:

RT @waskew: Court House Deli's crawfish etoufee gets my highest endorsement. [I'm including this because I know this place; makes great sandwiches] (June 30, 2010)

DejaVu:

The seafood gumbo at DejaVu was decent. Could've been meatier. Also, would've liked to have had something to crack open the crab legs. (July 2, 2010)

The Edge Coffee Shop:

The Edge's Avalanche milkshake is quite good. Ice coffee as a milkshake. (July 2, 2010)

The Blue Monkey:

Try the prime rib at the Blue Monkey. It's really good. The flatbreads (trolley car crisps) are also a treat and beer prices are reasonable. (July 3, 2010)

Bardog Tavern:

The breakfast sliders (with sausage) @bardogtavern were pretty good, despite the bottom buns breaking up. (July 4, 2010)

Lenny's (Midtown):

As usual, Lenny's Philly cheesesteak sandwich was awesome. Not the typical Philly, but with lettuce, tomato & mayo, it's great nonetheless. (July 4, 2010)

South of Beale:
RT @norococo: @southofbeale Thank you. Is your popcorn seasoning a secret recipe? Love it so. http://bit.ly/bo30FJ [I totally agree with this] (July 9, 2010)

In the future, I will try to coordinate my "tweets" and blog posts better.




Labels: Appetizers/Bar Food, Barbecue, Breakfast, Burgers, Dessert, Downtown, Fried Chicken, Midtown, North Memphis, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwiches, Seafood, Soul Food, Wings






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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grace Restaurant

Outstanding Experience

Last month, I treated myself to dinner at Grace, an upscale restaurant in Memphis' Cooper-Young neighborhood. My dining experience was a very memorable one for the meal was great and the service was outstanding.
For my appetizer, I had the baked grits that were the best I've ever had. The combination of stone ground grits, Shiitake mushrooms and Beurre Moutarde Dijon is brilliant. It tasted so good that I wish I had a double helping of it and made it my main course. To accompany my appetizer, as well as the main course, I was served slices of bread that I believe was baked by the restaurant. The bread complimented the grits nicely, completing the best "appetizer" that I've had in a long time.
Before I comment on my main course, I want to commend the staff at Grace for being very hospitable and helpful to my dining experience. From the time I walked in the door (by the way, it is highly recommended that reservations be made prior to going there; I didn't but got lucky anyway), I was treated like a VIP. In being served, I pretty much had two waiters serving me, with a primary server and another who was a "floater" who made sure I had plenty of bread and kept my glass of mineral water full. In addition to them, one of the managers (possibly the owner, Ben Vaughn; not sure) also checked on me and even suggested that for my wine, I should get the muscadet. To prove his point, he comped me with a glass that I had with my grits, and he was absolutely right. However, I regretably went with a cheaper wine for my main course, the halibut. Sometimes, it's better to go with a restaurant's wine recommendations for their menu offerings that are tailored to complement each other. Overall, I was very satisfied with the service, so much so that I would recommend Grace even if my meal was so-so, which it wasn't.
As mentioned earlier, I had the halibut for my main course, and although it was pretty good, it didn't match the level of satisfaction of the grits I had earlier. Even with the Tasso ham mousseline, Yukon potatoes and the foie gras, I would rate the entée a seven on a scale of one to ten. However, if I had gone with the muscadet, the meal might have been better, so I'll give it a second chance the next time I go to Grace.
In summary, my experience at Grace was the best I've had in dining in a long time. Just on the service alone, I would give it high marks, but the meal itself was great and I look forward to going there again soon.

Website: www.gracememphis.com

LabelsMidtown, Seafood, Upscale






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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

About this blog

Ken's Food Find is devoted to highlighting the restaurants in the Greater Memphis, Tennessee area. I do this as a hobby, having no vested interest in restaurants that I write about. My goal for this blog is to enlighten others about the diversity of Memphis dining establishments ranging from communities such as Downtown Memphis to Orange Mound to Cordova to Millington. I hope my perspective can be helpful to those who are unfamiliar with places that they may not otherwise visit.
In addition to this blog, I also write restaurant and food reviews on Urbanspoon, YelpPinterest and Twitter. I hope that you find this blog informative and I welcome all feedback.

Thanks and Bon Appétit!

Labels: Commentary






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Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken

Awesome Chicken and Great Hospitality

Today, I stopped at Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken for the first time for lunch, and I was impressed the second I walked through the door when the manager greeted me. After he handed me a menu and welcomed me to sit at any of the available tables, I decided to keep it simple by going à la carte and ordered two "dark" pieces. Initially, I was going to order my pieces cooked "Homestyle," but the cashier persuaded me to get two pieces cooked that way and have the other piece cooked with one of the "Sweet Spicy" sauces (I played it safe and went with the mild version). I got my order within under five minutes (it might have been three) and it didn't disappoint.

SIDE NOTE: I arrived at Uncle Lou's just before 11:00 a.m., the restaurant's opening time. Therefore, I was its first customer that day.


First, I started with the thigh that was cooked with the mild "Sweet Spicy" sauce. The sauce was in fact sweet but not overwhelming like the typical "sweet and sour" sauce that one can find at most Chinese take-out joints. It had a blending of sweetness with just the right amount of seasoning to make it, well, "Sweet Spicy." As I was eating it, I imagined myself eating a bunch of chicken wings with this sauce. This made me realize that Uncle Lou's is better than most of wing joints in Memphis.
As for the other pieces, the "Homestyle" was quite spicy and very hot (burnt my tongue when I bit into it). The taste was similar to Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken, but maybe a tad bit spicier. However, unlike Gus's, which usually takes about forty-five minutes to fulfill an order, Uncle Lou's had my order ready immediately (during lunch hours, the wait time is about twenty minutes).
In summary, Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken cooks some of the finest fried chicken in Memphis. Compared to the better known Gus's, Uncle Lou's can more than hold its own. Plus, the service is much better, although Gus's will argue that their chicken is better because it is fresher due to the order being prepared when received. However, customer service is an important part of any business, and Uncle Lou's delivers. Gus's should be fortunate that it's not competing side-by-side with Uncle Lou's, because it is a formidable competitor.

A Decent Burger

I recently had the ⅓ lb. cheeseburger at Uncle Lou's, and while the service was up to it's usual standards, the burger was at best average. As much as people rave about its Monster Burger, the Jumbo Cheeseburger was average. With its Black Angus beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, it was average in terms of taste. While I'm not criticizing, I expected more given all the hype about Uncle Lou's burgers. That said, I will go there again if I'm the neighborhood and craving for a decent, unspectacular burger.



Website: www.UncleLousFriedChicken.com

First review was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 12, 2010

Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

LabelsBurgers, Fried Chicken, Whitehaven, Wings






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Side Street Grill

One of The Best Restaurants in Memphis

The Side Street Grill is one of best (and underrated) restaurants in Memphis. The quality of the food, whether it's steaks, pasta, sandwiches or desserts, is superb. It's great place to dine, especially late at night when most of the city's other restaurants aren't open. In addition to the food, the social atmosphere is great because I usually meet a lot of interesting people there.
The marinated rib eye steak is one of the best steaks I've had in Memphis. It is well seasoned and so tasty that steak sauce isn't needed, in my opinion. The steak goes great with either creamed spinach or mashed potatoes.


SIDE NOTE: Since writing this (and after the restaurant's reopening), the rib eye is no longer on the menu. In its place, I've had strip steaks there that weren't as good. Scroll down for a further explanation.


Cajun Pasta

Also, the pasta dishes are excellent. Among those, my favorites are the Cajun Pasta and Shrimp Alfredo. My only complaint about the Shrimp Alfredo is that it is too watery (I always wear a bib when I eat it). The Cajun Pasta comes with shrimp and Andouille sausage in a savory cream sauce that is spicy and delicious. For a non-Italian restaurant, Side Street is an excellent place for pasta that holds its own with the best in Memphis.




As for other dishes, my favorites are the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and the Fried Cheesecake. The Philly comes with big chunks of steak combined with red and green peppers, onions (which I tend to do without) and of course, cheese. Compared to places like Lenny's (whose cheesesteak sandwiches are actually hoagies), Side Street's version is the real deal despite the fact that it uses chopped meat instead of sliced.




The Fried Cheesecake comes in rolls of fried dough wrapped around cheese coated with either chocolate, caramel or strawberry. Whenever I order it, I get the caramel version with a glass of Bailey's Irish Cream that I use to dip the cheesecake in. This dessert is such a favorite of mine that I get it even when I've had dinner elsewhere.

Several months ago, Side Street Grill had burned down. The restaurant is on the verge of being rebuilt and should reopen soon. I am anxious for this, because it is one of my favorite restaurants that I sorely miss. I wish the place the best of luck and hope to dine there again soon.

UPDATE: Since writing this review, Side Street Grill has reopened and is better than ever!

MENU

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 27, 2010


Not What It Used To Be

When I posted this review three years ago, I held the belief that Side Street Grill made some of the best steaks in Memphis. Unfortunately, the steaks that I had recently don't measure up to the quality of the restaurant's past. On the night of its reopening, I ordered one of my favorites from Side Street, the marinated rib eye. From what I could remember, the steak was tough to chew and lacked the flavor that I'm accustomed to. I attributed the bad steak to an exhausted kitchen staff that couldn't handle the large crowd that attended the restaurant's reopening. Fast forward to today, where the steaks aren't any better.


On June 23, 2013, I went to Side Street Grill for brunch before heading toward Downtown. I yearned for something different, and I assumed that the restaurant could accommodate me. When I looked over the menu, I saw a lot of things that interested me. In the end, I chose the one item that I felt needed redemption. In getting the Steak-N-Eggs, I hoped that Side Street Grill would restore my confidence that it was the place for steaks. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
The steak, which was a 10 oz. strip, was not prepared properly. Like with the last steak, this one wasn't tender so I had a hell of a time chewing it. It also wasn't cooked the way I wanted, which was "medium rare." Instead of getting that, the steak was very rare although no blood seeped from it. I thought about sending it back for further grilling, but I didn't because I was anxious to get Downtown. The flavor met my expectations so it wasn't a disaster, but I will no longer rely on Side Street Grill for a good steak. For that, I wouldn't be surprised if nearby Applebee's is better.
The Steak-N-Eggs entrée comes with an egg prepared any way you want it and an additional side item. For me, I got my eggs scrambled and chose cheese grits as my side (the other choice is home fries). The eggs were great by themselves and helped my subpar steak immensely. The cheese grits were decent by most standards and mixed in well with the steak. I was glad that the eggs and grits were good, for it salvaged an otherwise lackluster brunch.

SIDE NOTE: On the night that I photographed my dessert, I noticed something on my bill that I haven't seen before. In addition to what I ordered, a 15% "service charge" was added to my bill. This is the second time that I've seen this (the other instance was at T.G.I. Friday's) and a first on Overton Square. I don't think it's a trend, for nearby restaurants like Boscos, Memphis Pizza Cafe and Local On The Square aren't doing it. However, Side Street is a favorite Midtown nightspot for blacks, stereotyped by some as being poor tippers. I will call "bullshit" on that, for myself and nearly every black person I know is generous to those who serve us. Usually, I tip anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five percent (sometimes a lot more), depending on how good the service was. Even during times when I'm broke, I rarely fail to compensate those who rely on gratuity for their primary income. My feeling is if I can't afford to tip, then I shouldn't dine out. To me, tipping is a responsibility to anyone who is waited on by someone making $2.13 an hour. This obligation should apply whether you like the person or if he/she is of a different race. There isn't an excuse for "stiffing" someone, unless the server completely screws up and/or is very rude. If that's the case, then report the person to a manager so something can be done about it. I am so passionate about tipping that I've linked the blog If You Can't Afford To Tip to this site in an effort to support the service industry. Needless to say, I don't need a "service charge" to force me into doing the right thing.
Getting back to tipping, I am clueless about where the stereotype regarding its negative relationship with blacks come from. However, when I was a pizza delivery driver in Florida, black people did "stiff" me more often than anyone else. If I wasn't an African-American, I might have bought into the stereotype. Fortunately, due to my association with many blacks who appreciate good service, I've concluded that those who "stiffed" me were douchebags. That term can apply to anyone, including some of the "readers" of this blog. People like that don't define an entire race anymore than the Klu Klux Klan does for white people.
As the tipping issue relates to Side Street Grill, I hope the "service charge" isn't a response to its African-American clientele. If it is, I will consider it an insult and deal with it accordingly.

It seems that the good old days of great steaks at Side Street Grill are now a memory. Like the late great Chef Bonnie Mack of the Blues City Cafe, something must have died when Side Street's original building burned down. Whether the subpar steaks are the result of new equipment or personnel, the lack of quality is evident in its steaks. I hope the rest of the menu didn't suffer from the rebuilding process, because Side Street was a great place for dining. I hope it still is, because it would be a shame to see it descend to mediocrity or worse. I hope it gets better.

Side Street Grill on Urbanspoon

LabelsBrunch, Commentary, Dessert, Midtown, Overton Square, Pasta, Sandwiches, Steaks






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Mandarin Wok II

Better Than Average

Mandarin Wok II was one of my favorite places to go for lunch when I worked near Millington. Service is very prompt, for the restaurant usually fulfills orders within ten minutes. For phoned-in orders, this works out well because it is usually ready when the customer arrives at the restaurant.
As for the food itself, all the dishes I had were great. My favorite is the chicken with cashew nuts. Consisting of a blend of chicken, cashews, snap peas, carrots, celery, onions and baby corn in an Asian sauce (probably soy), it is a treat. Mix in the fried rice with roast pork and onions and you have yourself a delicious meal. I recently had this entrée without extra soy sauce, and it seemed to taste better.
Of the many Chinese take-out restaurants that I've been to, Mandarin Wok II is one of the better ones. It's definitely worth checking out.


Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 21, 2010

The Second Time Around, It's Still Great!

Since my initial review of Mandarin Wok II, I have had the pleasure of revisiting recently (August 12, 2012) during a week when I was working in Millington. With only thirty minutes for lunch, I knew I had to make the most of it. Fortunately, I was able to quickly look up the phone number with the Urbanspoon mobile app so I could place my order. I went with my favorite dish, chicken with cashews, with instructions to prepare it as a dine-in order. This isn't something that I normally do, but past experiences gave me the confidence to order it that way. When I arrived at the Chinese eatery, my order was ready, on a plate.


The plate used for my meal was small compared to the amount of food on it. Despite the plate’s size, I kept it together and knocked it out quickly. It took me less time to finish my lunch than my cohorts who dined at McDonald's. My lunch cost $4.70, which is cheaper than many of McDonald's combo deals. In terms of quality, I fared better as well due the amount of fresh ingredients that Mandarin Wok II uses. So in terms of efficiency, quality and great customer service, Mandarin Wok II is hard to beat.
I'm really glad I got a chance to revisit one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Greater Memphis. Although the Mandarin Wok II will never be mistaken for a five-star restaurant, it is a nice family-run business serving great inexpensive food. And, unlike places like Yum's, Mandarin Wok II doesn't dabble in cooking hot wings, sandwiches and other non-Chinese food that could distract from its core business. Its Chinese menu is good on its own, which will always keep me coming back.

MENU

Mandarin Wok II on Urbanspoon

LabelsAsian, Chinese, Millington






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George's Coffee Shop

Love the Double Cheeseburger

The double cheeseburger at George's Coffee Shop is one the best burgers in Memphis. The burger is simple, with lettuce, tomato and mayo, accompanied with Texas (steak) fries. The meat patties are fresh, greasy, well-seasoned and cooked-to-order, unlike burgers in most fast-food joints. The other menu items are okay, but not at the same level as the double cheeseburger. The owner and waitstaff are very friendly and the service is prompt, which makes it a great destination for lunch.

UPDATE: On February 18, 2011, George's Coffee Shop closed for good. The place was one of my favorite lunch spots in Downtown Memphis that will be sorely missed. For more about the closing, please read the article and comments about it in the Commercial Appeal.

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 21, 2010


Labels: Burgers, Coffee Shop, Diner, Downtown






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Neil's

The nachos are HUGE!

Whenever I go to Neil's, I usually get the nachos. When I get them, I get the "half" size portion, which is more than enough for a meal. The "full" size portion of nachos can feed about three people and cost around $10 (from what I could remember from several years ago; I'm sure the prices have gone up since then). The nachos have plenty of cheese, lettuce and meat (either chicken or sausage). Even though I like the other food offerings from Neil's, the nachos are by far my favorite, and in my opinion are the best in Memphis.

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 21, 2010


LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Midtown






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Pho Hoa Binh

Great buffet deal for $5

Today, I went to my first Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Hoa Binh. I decided to go there after reading the reviews about the place and it's popular entrée, lemongrass tofu.
With me being on a tight budget, I opted for the lunch buffet where I got my fill from various items that were prepared. Before I go on, I'll admit that I wasn't a fan of tofu. This can be attributed to an encounter I had at Sekisui, a Japanese restaurant near Pho Hoa Binh. Because of the overwhelming popularity of PHB's tofu dishes, I decided to give it a second try. This time around, it was a lot better and I wasn't disappointed. Although all of the tofu dishes were good, I will go against the grain by declaring my favorite was the curry tofu (by the way, I know it's a traditional Thai dish). It was creamy, spicy (to the point that it didn't need Sriracha sauce) and overall delicious. As for the oft-mentioned lemongrass tofu, I liked it as well even though it tasted somewhat dry. To be fair, it was the last portion of lemongrass in the pot and might have been there for a while. I'm sure it will be better on my next visit, just like the barbecue was on my second visit to Jack's Bar-B-Q Rib Shack (lesson: don't judge a restaurant solely by its buffet). In addition to the tofu, also had the chicken wings that were average. However, I was cool with it given that I wasn't there for the wings. As for this being my first "Vietnamese" experience, it was memorable and it only cost $5.19.


UPDATE (July 30, 2013): I had the lemongrass tofu for the second time and loved it! I still don't like it as much as the curry tofu, but I won't hold that against it. By the way, the cabbage and carrot soup (the bowl at the top of the second picture) was really good, too. Also, the buffet now cost $6.22.

Finally, I want to stress that Pho Hoa Binh's customer service was excellent (completely opposite of its nearby competitor P & H Cafe; please read my review). Overall, it was a great experience and I will return.

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 20, 2010


Pho A Good Time

While updating my review of Pho Hoa Binh (or "Pho Binh" that's displayed on the restaurant's sign), I realized that my assessment of the restaurant wasn't complete. To me, I didn't make sense to blog about a Vietnamese restaurant with "Pho" in its name without mentioning an entrée that likely inspired it. So to make this right, I decided to try one of its pho dishes during Pho Binh's dinner hours.


After looking over the menu, I chose the Pho Tai which features slices of beef. In addition to that, the Vietnamese soup dish had the customary noodles along with bits of culantro, onions (including green onions) and other herbs and spices. The sum of it was a noodle soup with a pungent taste that was spicy and somewhat minty. The green onions were very profound in the pho with the beef merely a supporting cast member. The herbal presence of the culantro negated the need for the accompanying basil leaves that I got as a side item (along with bean sprouts). In all, the huge bowl of Pho Tai was quite tasty and a good experience for me. While I can't see myself ordering it on a regular basis, Pho Tai and similar dishes can be a nice diversion if I'm ever bored with my typical fare of bar food and Southern cuisine.

SIDE NOTE: Whenever I get pho again, I will use chopsticks to eat it. In using a fork and spoon to consume it, I made a bit of a mess. Although my experience in the Asian utensils is thin, I believe I would fare better in grasping the thin noodles with chopsticks than eating it like spaghetti. I guess I should have taken a hint from the other diners who ate their pho the right way.

Along with the pho, I got spring rolls as sides. Filled with shrimp (tofu is the other available option), lettuce and noodles, the spring rolls were bland. The accompanying peanut-based dipping sauce didn't help, and neither did Sriracha sauce. Fortunately, they were okay after I dipped them in my pho. While they weren't impressive, I might order the spring rolls again if I can get a salad dressing/vinaigrette to go with it.

Overall, my latest experience at Pho Binh was very pleasant and insightful. Although noodle soup won't likely be my first choice whenever I'm getting Vietnamese food, I appreciate the quality and expertise that goes into a pho dish. I urge others to try it whenever they get the chance, if for no other reason than to gain enlightenment. As a consequence, some might even enjoy it.

Pho Hoa Binh on Urbanspoon

LabelsAsian, Buffet, Midtown, Soup, Vegetarian/Vegan, Vietnamese






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Family Bar-B-Q & Snack Bar

Decent BBQ Sandwich, Confusing Menu


Today, I made my first visit to Family Bar-B-Q & Snack Bar with the intention of getting a barbecue sandwich for dinner. The place is a small, cozy hole-in-the-wall in North Memphis at the corner of Hollywood and Chelsea. My first impression upon seeing the dim-lit interior was that it looked more like an inner-city liquor store. It consisted of a cashier's counter enclosed in Plexiglas, stocked with beer (as in 40 oz. and other large sizes) and soda. Just outside the cashier's counter were a few booths for those who want to dine-in. When I looked for the menu, what I found was very confusing. It was one of the most complexing menus I had ever seen outside of a Chinese restaurant. All of the BBQ joint's offerings are listed on a wall, with each item assigned a number. Adjacent to this is another numbered list consisting of the prices for the items in the first list (please see photos that I posted about this). With the restaurant offering well over a hundred items, having the menu displayed in this manner was a little confusing. If the place did a better job of catagorizing their offerings, it might have been easier to follow. Unfortunately, for someone who is unfamiliar with the place, seeing this type of menu can be overwhelming. I eventually ordered the BBQ pork shoulder sandwich, but I might have gotten the BBQ chicken plate had I spotted it in the sea of menu options.
As for the sandwich itself, the barbecue sauce was a tad bit sweet, similar to what I can get from a grocery store. If the restaurant makes its sauce, I believe it uses ketchup as its main ingredient (of course, this is my unprofessional opinion). The meat was smokey, tender and juicy, and overall the sandwich was decent. I wouldn't put it in my top ten, but I could eat another one if I was hungry.

Because of its wide variety of offerings, I plan on visiting Family Bar-B-Q & Snack Bar again. Of course, I've got to memorize the "wall."

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 19, 2010

LabelsBarbecue, North Memphis, Wings






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Yum's

The Bad and The "OK"


I had the shrimp & broccoli at Yum's
2451 Jackson Ave. location. In short, the meal consisted of 60% fried rice and had TOO MUCH SALT! Do not eat this (or similar entrées) if you have high blood pressure.
However, Yum's Chicken Philly (minus cheese, which I did not ask to exclude) is a decent hoagie, especially after adding Tabasco to it. The Philly cheesesteak isn't bad either. Therefore, I would recommend this place for their sandwiches, but would exercise caution about their Chinese dishes.
By the way, the service is pretty good (better than Gereny, their nearby competitor who happens to make a better chicken sub; please read my review for more info).

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 17, 2010


Labels: Asian, Chinese, Multiple Locations, Sandwiches






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Au Fond Farmtable

I love the grits!

The best item to get at Au Fond Farmtable is the cheese grits. I usually get it with scrambled eggs and bacon (which is also pretty good), and it all goes well together. The grits are thick, buttery and creamy, which is great for dipping eggs, bacon and sausage. Even the biscuits, which are average, tastes great when dipped in the grits. With grits this good, I'm anxious to try Au Fond's shrimp and grits (I've heard they're great as well).
Au Fond Farmtable is a great value given the quality of food that it serves. The scrambled eggs special that I usually get costs a little over $6.50, not including tip. Compared to other places that charge more for lower quality, it's one of the best deals in town.

Website:
www.aufondmemphis.com

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 12, 2010


Labels: Breakfast, Midtown






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P & H Cafe

The Burger's Good, The Service Sucks!

I have been to the P & H three times, with two of my visits resulting in poor service due to rude bartenders. Although my initial visit, which was with my college classmates, was positive, my next two visits were bad experiences. In both of those visits (several years apart), I went there to get a to-go order for a cheeseburger and fries. The bartenders were very stand-offish, barking at me "What do you want!" (I'm paraphrasing because it's been so long ago). From what I can remember, the cheeseburger in all instances (including my first visit) was pretty good, even though the buns on most of them were slightly burnt. Although the food was good, I will never go there again because I don't feel that the waitstaff and/or owners appreciate my business. My friends told me that the P & H is rude to everyone. However, given that I'm buying a product and service from the restaurant, I feel that I deserve better.

The previous was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 4, 2010





"Stuffed" The Right Way

As a guy who believes in second chances, I recently (February 4, 2014) paid another visit to P & H Cafe for late takeout. It wasn't my original intention, for I really wanted Krispy Krunchy Chicken. Unfortunately, the two places close to P & H (Snappy Mart and Mapco, a convenience store that also sells Quiznos subs) stopped selling chicken after 9 o'clock. Well, after considering other options like KFC, Popeye's and Church's, I gave up my poultry search for the sake of a delicious cheeseburger. It was my second one of the day, after having a burger from Chef Mike at Rizzo's Diner. But despite going into burger overload in both body and blog, I really craved a P & H burger. I wanted one even if I had to place my order with, well, you know....
Once I arrived and got a menu, I saw something that immediately caught my eye: stuffed ½ lb. burgers. For those not in the know, a "stuffed" burger (a.k.a. a "Juicy Lucy") is one that has cheese, veggies and other things put inside the ground beef. The first thought that popped into my head was Mot & Ed's, the Soul Food restaurant that's up the street from P & H. Before that point, I wasn't in "blogger mode" but rather a guy who was hungry. However, with P & H being within walking distance of the Southern eatery, I felt obligated to get the cafe's stuffed burger for the sake of comparison on this blog. Given my experiences at both places, I was very confident that P & H's stuffed burger would be better than Mot & Ed's. My prediction proved true in a very wonderful way.


My burger of choice was the El Espanol stuffed with cheddar cheese and jalapeños. Although I considered going with a Foursquare tip (the "Greek," stuffed with Feta cheese and capers which I got later), I chose the El Espanol because I wanted something spicy to keep me up while I watched one of my favorite TV shows (FX's "Justified"). It was a choice that I didn't regret, for the burger met all my high expectations. The ground beef was seasoned the way a good burger should, with a moderate amount of salt and pepper that enhances the meat without overwhelming it. The burger, cooked "medium," definitely lived up to P & H's reputation and didn't need any "stuffing."
That said, the cheddar and jalapeños were aplenty in the meaty burger. Unlike the burger I had at Mot & Ed's that didn't have a lot of cheese, P & H's had plenty along with a good amount of jalapeños. No doubt, P & H brings it with the "stuff," something I'll keep in mind whenever I want a fill of burger.

UPDATE: I got around to trying the stuffed Greek burger that many have spoken highly of. While it is a favorite of many, I didn't like this one as much as the El Espanol because the stuffing didn't hold up as well. After biting into the burger, some of the capers spilled out of it, leaving me to eat them separately. Although it's not a big deal, the burger was harder to consume than its spicy counterpart. Still, it's a great burger that I recommend to anyone including fellow blogger Best Memphis Burger (I believe Seth would give the burger four stars).

Of course, I can't end this updated review without commenting about the service at the P & H. The bartender who took my order was hospitable and courteous, qualities that I haven't seen from others at the "cafe" that's more of a dive bar with pool tables in the back of it. Although I didn't ask much of him, I felt welcomed at his bar while I waited for my order. For me, that's all I'm looking for when I'm dining out. I'm not looking for anyone to kiss my ass, just some respect as I spend some of my hard-earned money. As a bonus, the manager greeted me as I got my order and asked if everything was okay. After looking everything over and taking pictures of my dinner, I nodded and thanked her for my great looking burger. If my latest experience at P & H Cafe is a sign of things to come, the bar might convince me to visit more often. Burgers without bullshit definitely suits me fine.

Website: www.pandhcafe.com

P & H Cafe on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Commentary, Midtown, Sandwiches






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Chicago'z Fast Foods

For the price, a decent Philly cheesesteak

For the price ($5.77, which included fries) the Philly cheesesteak was pretty good. Not nearly as meaty as Lenny's or South Philly's (which went out of business), but good enough to make for a satisfying lunch.
I haven't tried much else on the menu, although I did get a chance to taste some of it's hot wings. The wings were average when comparing them to the numerous other wing joints in Memphis, so if I didn't live nearby, I would probably go elsewhere (as in a safer neighborhood) to get wings of a similar quality. I'm not trying to "knock" Chicago'z hot wings, I'm just saying they aren't unique.
By the way, even though it has "fast foods" in it's title, you might want to call ahead if you're in a hurry to get your order. I believe it took between ten to fifteen minutes before I got my orders, which wasn't too bad.


Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on July 4, 2010


LabelsNorth Memphis, Sandwiches, Wings






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Sweden Kream

One of Best Burgers in Memphis!

Sweden Kream, despite its name, makes the best hamburger in Memphis. The burger (which I usually get with cheese) is simple, consisting of lettuce, tomato, mayo and a perfectly cooked ⅓-pound Black Angus beef patty. The meat is tender and well seasoned in salt and pepper, with just enough grease to give it that element of juiciness. It usually takes about thirty minutes for the restaurant to cook, but it is well worth the wait (I usually call-in my order well in advance). I always order fries with my burger, which complements the sandwich well even though the fries are about average. The cheeseburger and fries cost just over $5, which is a pretty good deal compared to national fast food chains, whose quality isn't nearly as good. Also, I think it is better than Jerry's Sno Cones, a similar, albeit better known establishment that is about a mile away in the same Nutbush neighborhood that Sweden Kream is located.
So far, I haven't tried anything else on the menu, but if the rest of the food is as good as the burgers, I look forward to trying them in the future.

Great Wings Experience

I've always been a fan of Sweden Kream, exclusively for its burgers. However, lately I've been fascinated by Buffalo-style hot wings. This fascination isn't rooted in my love of chicken wings, but rather in the techniques used to make them. It seems that most places prepare and cook them the same way, with very little differences between them. So out of curiosity, I decided to pay a couple of visits to Sweden Kream.
As I said, Sweden Kream has been my favorite burger place for a long time. I like its burgers because of the perfectly seasoned Black Angus beef combined with the right mix of toppings. Anytime I bite into one of Sweden Kream's burgers, I know that I will get a unique experience that I can't get anywhere else. Of course, the same can said of most places that serve great burgers, such as Kooky Canuck, Roxie's and Big Burger, a North Memphis institution that doesn't get enough recognition. If a burger is good (or bad) enough to have a "signature," it is noteworthy. I had hopes that Sweden Kream's wings would have that same kind of distinction, but what I found was interesting.
When I placed my first order of hot wings from Sweden Kream, I did it over the phobre without the benefit of having a menu. I chose the "hot" wings as part of a combo consisting of five "party" (which aren't whole) wings, fries and a soda. It also includes choices of either celery or carrots and either blue cheese or ranch dressing (I prefer celery and blue cheese). I assumed the wings would have Buffalo sauce, but what I got surprised me. Instead of being smothered in Buffalo sauce, the wings had a coating of a dark sauce with a smokey flavor. They kind of resembled the barbecue wings that Cozy Corner makes, with the difference being that Sweden Kream's wings were fried. When I asked about the sauce, the woman working the counter insisted that it was a "hot" sauce and not barbecue. According to Sweden Kream's menu, its hot wings are "hickory flavored" which some might interpret as barbecue. Once I got over the disappointment of not getting authentically hot Buffalo wings, I settled for enjoying a really good meal.

I'm sorry for not getting a better photo. The wings should have been on a plate, which would have allowed for better lighting. I hope to provide a better picture soon.
Despite not getting traditional Buffalo wings, I wasn't deprived of all the "heat” I desired. Sweden Kream's wings had the hot spiciness that I wanted with a smoky flavor. The wing sauce had plenty of vinegar that had a lingering aftertaste that I didn't mind. The wings themselves were a bit small, which suited me well because I only needed a light meal. They were also thoroughly fried, but the sauce rendered the wings’ texture to the point where it felt like roasted chicken. Overall, Sweden Kream's hot wings were great for what they were (pseudo barbecue), but I yearned for the real deal.
On my second visit, my wish for authentic hot Buffalo wings was somewhat fulfilled. I originally wanted Honey Gold wings, but as I looked over the menu of flavor choices (something I didn't do on the first visit), I noticed a peculiar option: Buffalo. When I saw that, I decided to get a ten-piece order of wings, with half of it Buffalo and the other half Honey Gold. After a long wait (over twenty minutes), my wings arrived on a single plate. In hindsight, I should have requested that the Buffalo and Honey Gold wings be separated so the sauces wouldn't mix. Actually, the only sauce that I had to deal with came from the Honey Gold wings. The Buffalo wings were apparently cooked with a dry rub seasoning which I am not accustomed to. Despite the lack of Buffalo sauce, I dug into my wings and made the best of it.


The Honey Gold wings from Sweden Kream were the sweetest of this type that I've had so far. Unlike places like Ching's and Adline's, Sweden Kream's Honey Gold wings lacked the balance between spiciness and sweetness. Even though the wings were sweeter than I expected, they were impressive enough for me to order again. However, I also might consider ordering the Honey Hot wings if I'm craving for spice to go with my honey.
As for Sweden Kream's Buffalo wings, they were decent for what they were. The dry rub seasoning provided the requisite Buffalo flavor, but it lacked the spiciness that I desired. Besides, without an accompanying sauce, the Buffalo wings were nothing more than fried chicken with Cayenne pepper seasoning. Fortunately, because they were on the same plate as my Honey Gold wings, the Buffalo wings got the benefit of sauce. Although it wasn't the same as "The Real McCoy," the Honey Gold sauce added sweet pizzazz to the Buffalo wings. In fact, I felt that the sauce made the chicken more like the Honey Gold wings that I'm accustomed to. Overall, the Buffalo wings were good but nothing out of the ordinary.
After I finished my wings, I decided to get dessert. In honor of the restaurant's name, I got a Swedish Blitzer. The dessert consists of ice cream topped with whipped cream and candy/cookie pieces. When I ordered mine, I didn't specify an ice cream flavor so I ended up with vanilla. However, among the six candy/cookie toppings that Sweden Kream offers, I chose "Chocolate Chip Cookie." All together, the Swedish Blitzer was a creamy sweet treat that I really enjoyed.


In summary, both of the wing meals that I had were delightful. From the experiences, I learned more about Buffalo wings. I've found out that the wings can either be made with a sauce or dry rub seasoning. The latter was something that I never noticed even though I've had dry rub wings in the past. Personally, I like my Buffalo wings the same way I like my barbecue, with lots of sauce. However, dry rub wings are good in some environments. For example, during a recent visit to the Slider Inn, I ran into a former Flying Saucer Girl who just finished her bartending shift. While rapping with Kyla (who will soon be working at Aldo's Pizza Pies when it opens), it would have been embarrassing if I made a mess of myself after eating a half-dozen Buffalo wings drenched in sauce. Fortunately, the bar's dry rub wings allowed me to eat while having a casual conversation. Therefore, I recognize the function that dry rub Buffalo wings can play in certain social situations although it will never be my preference.
As far as the dry rub/sauce debate relates to Sweden Kream, I would offer a saucy version of the Buffalo wings if I were running it. Of course, the owners know their customers better than I do so I can't argue with the restaurant's success. Apparently they are doing something right, which is why the restaurant has a loyal following. As part of that following, I will always hold it in high regard as one of the best restaurants in Memphis.

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Sweden Kream on Urbanspoon

LabelsBurgers, Dessert, Nutbush/Berclair, Wings






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Cozy Corner

Best BBQ Ribs in Memphis!

The barbecue ribs are, in my opinion, the best in Memphis, by far. Much better than Rendezvous, Corky's, Neely's and all the other better known barbecue joints in the city. The meat is tender and juicy (as in greasy), smothered in BBQ sauce. The sauce choices are either "mild" or "HOT" (caution: the "HOT" is hotter than many Thai pepper sauces I've had; it brings the heat). The sides that Cozy Corner offers are coleslaw, baked beans, corn and barbecue spaghetti, the latter being quite delicious (more so than the often-mentioned Neely's spaghetti dish).
As for Cozy Corner's other entrées, they are okay. In fact, I have never had a bad meal in all the years that I've eaten there. My only criticisms of the place are the wait times (about 20 minutes), the inability to phone-in orders and their 5:00 P.M. closing time (since writing this, I've heard that the hours have been extended to 9:00 P.M.). However, the barbecue ribs are so delicious that I don't mind putting up with these inconveniences, and will always be a loyal customer.

Was originally posted on Urbanspoon on June 14, 2010

The Wings Are Great Too!

Cozy Corner's barbecue wings are smoked to perfection, which doesn't mean "fall off the bone" tenderness. In my opinion, the taste and texture of the wings are very similar to Cozy Corner's ribs even though they are different types of meat. And like the ribs, the wings are smothered in one of Cozy Corner's signature barbecue sauces, "Hot" or "Mild." My personal preference is the sweet taste of the mild sauce but for those looking for heat, Cozy Corner's hot BBQ sauce can definitely provide that. I could be wrong, but I believe that Cozy's hot sauce is comparable to some Thai pepper sauces that I've had in terms of heat intensity. The wings, which are prepared as whole pieces, come with a slice of white bread and one side. Unfortunately, French fries aren't an option, although potato chips are offered (McDonald's fries goes great with Cozy's BBQ). Among the side items offered, I really like the barbecue spaghetti. The wings also come with a cup of ranch dressing but I can't imagine anyone dipping barbecue in that, especially when it's the quality of Cozy Corner. To sum it up, Cozy Corner's wings are great and it's as good as its BBQ ribs that I've been a longtime fan of.



Website: www.cozycornerbbq.com

LabelsBarbecue, Downtown, North Memphis, Wings






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