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.
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!
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.
Labels: Brunch, Commentary, Dessert, Midtown, Pasta, Sandwiches, Steaks
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