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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bardog Tavern

A well-deserved anniversary!

Today's review is in honor of Bardog Tavern's second anniversary, which is well deserved for all the efforts that owner Aldo Demartino (aka Aldo Dean) and his staff have put into making the bar a success. Formerly a diner, Bardog is one of the hottest places in Memphis for people to socialize and party, which is evident every Friday and Saturday night. Plus, the food is first class, from sandwiches to pasta dishes made from recipes passed down from Aldo's grandmother.

Among Bardog's best menu items is the Penne alla Vodka, a wonderful mix of penne pasta, vodka sauce and parmigiano cheese (along with either shrimp or chicken) that blew me away the first time I tasted it. The vodka sauce is thick and creamy (which is the way real Italians make it) with a hint of tomato. As far as pasta dishes are concerned, it is (along with Bardog's spaghetti and meatballs and carbonara) one of the best I've ever had in America. I'm saying this as a guy who lived in Italy for almost four years. Needless to say, Bardog can hold its own with any Italian restaurant in town.

Penne alla Vodka with shrimp

As for other items on the menu, there many great choices to choose from. One of my favorites is the original slider, a small hamburger made with 100% fresh ground chuck. The slider makes for either a great snack or, if ordering more than one, a hearty meal. As far as burgers go, it is one of the better ones in the Bluff City.

Another great sandwich to try is The "Amazing" Island Club sandwich, consisting of an eclectic combination of ingredients including chicken, ham, eggs, avocado and provolone. The sandwich is so good that I'm not sure the word "amazing" does it justice.

In addition to sliders and sandwiches, Bardog also has hot dog (called “Dog of The Day’) specials that are unique creations from Chef John Haley and his staff. Anything you can imagine could be a potential topping on any given day, like chili, Andouille sausage or spinach and artichoke dip. No matter what’s on it, a typical foot-long “Dog” hardly disappoints.

This “Dog of The Day,” a beef monster topped with grits, gravy and bacon, was fantastic. I want to thank Jean Pruett for taking this great photo. Jean is one of Bardog’s sexy, hardworking servers who keeps the bar lively with her charm and outgoing personality. She’s also an award winner, for she won second place in the 2013 Memphis Flyer’s “Best of Memphis” poll for best server in the Mid-South. She has her fans, with some of them starting a Facebook page to support her “Best Server” campaigns. So whenever you’re at Bardog (or Aldo’s or Slider Inn, depending on her schedule), check her out.

For the Early Risers, Bardog also serves breakfast from Monday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Overall, the breakfast menu is great and is even better when "Bloomers" is working the bar. It's one of the few places in Downtown Memphis that a person can get a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) with an omelet, which is nice.

Italian Omelet (loaded with marinara sauce, sausage, red bell peppers and pepper jack cheese)

In summary, Bardog Tavern is an excellent place to either dine or party with friends. I'm sure that with continued success, the bar will see many more anniversaries in the future.


Bardog Tavern on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Breakfast, Brunch, Burgers, Downtown, Hot Dogs, Pasta, Sandwiches

Follow Ken's Food Find

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gereny East African and Mediterranean

Never Again!

Last Saturday, I decided to visit Gereny again after reading the review in the August 5, 2010 edition of the Memphis Flyer. I assumed that things had improved since my last visit there, when I couldn't see a menu and the only food items offered were beef and chicken subs. At the time, I thought it was odd, for it is standard for any restaurant, whether it's upscale or "low rent" and regardless of cuisine, to offer a list of items that it serves. However, I couldn't get a menu from Gereny despite the fact that a copy of it was posted on Urbanspoon (it's also online at the Marks Menu website). Also, it took them over five minutes before anyone there even acknowledged my presence and took my order. However, I interpreted this experience as growing pains of a new restaurant and gave it the benefit of the doubt, hoping that my next experience would be better. My second visit to Gereny amounted to gross inhospitality on the part of the restaurant’s staff.
The first thing I saw when I entered the restaurant was a family sitting at a table, trying to decide what to order from the menus they had been given. After seeing this, I had hopes that things at Gereny had improved, and expected a decent, if not great, meal. However, when I asked for
a menu, the server said that the only food options they could offer me were two basic rice dishes, with the meat choices of either chicken or goat. Perplexed, I asked why the family sitting across from me was given menus, and the server said that it was the old menu produced by the previous owner, and somehow that family was allowed to order from it. This reason made absolutely no sense, for if a diner orders from a menu given by the restaurant, even if it's old one made up by a previous owner, that person has to assume that the menu represents the food offering of the current owner. Also, unless the restaurant made arrangements for any orders made from the old menu to be prepared off the restaurant's premises, a diner has to assume that the order will be prepared in-house, in the restaurant's kitchen. That said, it would seem that Gereny had the capacity to cook about anything offered by its menu, but not for me. Also, while waiting on the family with the menus, the server was very attentive to them and helped explain what was on the menu. Unfortunately, I wasn't shown that courtesy and would have been left "holding the goat" (with rice), but I decided to leave and headed to Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant that treated me very well.
Reflecting on this latest experience at Gereny, I am not sure what to make of it. I could go with the obvious conclusion that my appalling treatment was race-related, due to me being black and that the family who got the good service is white, and it may be so. But, given that the owners are black, combined with praises I heard from a black guy who was doing maintenance work there when I made my initial visit, my bad experiences there could have been attributed to something else, although I don't know what that could be. These kinds of experiences are rare for me, for most restaurants that I’ve been to treat everyone equally as opposed to offering different levels of service to different customers. If I'm the only person that had these kinds of experiences at Gereny, then I guess I'm extremely unlucky. On the other hand, if my experiences are typical of many customers who dine there, Gereny's chances of long-term success are slim. Regardless, I cannot recommend this restaurant and I will advise others, regardless of race and class, to not dine there.

Recently, the restaurant has gone out of business, as I predicted. It is now a Don Don's Hot Wings franchise.

Not what I expected

Had the chicken sub sandwich at Gereny, a Sudanese restaurant near Rhodes College. It was spicy, with a unique taste that was similar to other Middle Eastern dishes that I've had. To wash it down, a
had a hot apple tea, which was sweet and delightful (actually, it tasted more like pumpkin pie (I'm guessing the tea had cinnamon in it)).Although the sandwich and tea were pretty good, I wasn't too impressed with the service.
Although the
restaurant staff was friendly, it took almost five minutes for them to take my order (only had two people working in the kitchen, while the lone server was outside). When they finally got to me, I asked to see a menu, to which they responded by saying they weren't available and I could only choose either the chicken or beef subs (both were offered with rice, although my sandwich didn't have any). I will assume that because I came in at 12:30 PM, the restaurant wasn't prepared to offer their full menu (I noticed that the cook/chef was cooking a lot of meat in the kitchen, more than the number of patrons dining there could eat; must have been preparing for the evening rush). Overall, the experience was a lot less than I expected, based on what I read on Urbanspoon.
I hope that my next visit fares better, for I really would like to see this type of ethnic restaurant thrive near my neighborhood. These type of places make the neighborhood a nicer place to live.

First review was originally posted on Urbanspoon on June 2, 2010

LabelsAfrican, Midtown, Sandwiches

Follow Ken's Food Find

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant

Loved the Yebeg Tibes

Last Saturday, I had a hankering for something African, so I decided to try Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant. Actually, Abyssinia wasn't my first choice, but after a bad experience at Gereny where I couldn't get a menu (while seeing another table get first-class treatment), I wanted to get my African fix somewhere else. Fortunately, Abyssinia was nearby, and I was treated more respectfully there, in addition to feasting on a great meal.
After looking over the menu of Ethiopian dishes, couldn't decide on what to order. I asked my server for a suggestion, to which she replied by asking what did I prefer. When I told her I wanted something with lamb, she insisted that I try the Yebeg Tibes, a stir fried lamb dish that was a little more expensive than most of the other entrées on the menu. By the way, Marks Menus needs to update Abyssinia's menu. Most of the menu items were a dollar higher than what's listed on its website. Despite the price, the entrée is huge, consisting of a half a pound of diced lamb sautéed with onions and awaze (a spicy Ethiopian sauce) and two side items, cabbage and a mix of greens and carrots, and all of it is placed on top of a sheet of the restaurant's homemade Injera bread. The spiciness of the lamb was medium, not overwhelming which for me was perfect. I hate it when restaurants cook food that is too spicy, because it's hard to enjoy when it's like that. Although it was a huge meal, I managed to put it all down with the help of a bottle of Red Stripe beer, a great complement for this dish.
In all, I really enjoyed dining at Abyssinia, for the food was great and the service was both hospitable and helpful, two keys for a successful business. If Gereny aspires to be successful, it should follow this example.


Abyssinia Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

LabelsAfrican, Midtown

Follow Ken's Food Find

Max's (formerly Calhoun's) Sports Bar

Best Wings (that were frozen)

Peach Habanero Honey Wings
These are Max'x Peach Habanero Honey Wings.
Although not quite as hot as the wings that
I had earlier, they're very good.
Max's Sports Bar cooks up some of the best wings in Downtown Memphis, which is remarkable given the meager resources it has. Because of its limited space, the bar doesn't have enough room to install a grill, so most of its food is prepared with either a small, counter-top oven or a microwave. Therefore, in order to incorporate chicken wings into the menu, Max's uses frozen, pre-cooked wings. Now usually I would frown on this because I believe that a local restaurant that uses frozen, pre-cooked foods either lacks originality or is just lazy. However this is not the case with Max's. Even though it uses frozen, seasoned wings, the bar can add barbecue sauces to the wings if the customer desires. The choice of barbecue sauces are sweet, spicy and Habanero honey. WARNING: the Habanero wings are extremely hot. I tried to eat eight of them, but wimped out with only a half a wing left. Regardless of the sauce chosen, it is applied halfway into the cooking process, allowing it to blend in with the seasoning which in turn produces a very nice product. Compared to other places in Downtown Memphis (including Kooky Canuck) that have better equipped kitchens, Max's hot wings are among the best in the area.

As for Max's other menu items, such as the Lunchroom School pizza, are so-so. Other than the wings, the best part about the bar is the social atmosphere. It is pretty much a neighborhood bar where nearly all the patrons know each other and socialize while watching games on the many flat-screen TVs that adorn the bar's walls.

The only alcohol served at Max's is beer, but many patrons go BYOB with wine and liquor without having to pay a corking fee. Among the beer choices, my favorite is Pabst Blue Ribbon because at $2.50 a glass, it is a bargain.

(Recently, Max's got its liquor license. It is now a full-service bar, which is something to drink to.)

Overall, Max's Sports Bar is a great place to hang out and meet people while watching sporting events. The food, other than the wings, is "OK," but Max's is more about having a good time than anything else, which this bar is perfectly suited for.

Twitter: @MaxsSportsBar

Max's Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

Labels: Appetizers/Bar Food, Downtown, Wings

Follow Ken's Food Find

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sportsman's Grille

The Real Deal

Yesterday, while I was in Nashville, I stopped at Sportsman's Grille for lunch. After looking over the menu, I decided to go with something beef-related. Although I thought about getting a cheeseburger, my fascination with the Philly Cheesesteak directed my choice to that.
In my experience in eating cheesesteaks, I always wondered how restaurants made them. Some places emphasize either the meat or the cheese, while others make them like hoagies by adding lettuce, tomato and mayo. One of my favorite restaurants, Memphis' Side Street Grill, prepares the meat for its version by cutting up a steak into bite-size chunks rather than slices, which is the traditional way to do it. At Sportsman's Grille, it's done the right way, with a half-pound of sliced steak covered with sautéed onions and red and green peppers, and it was impressive.
The best part of Sportsman's Philly is the meat. The meat is chopped into tiny slices (to the point that I initially assumed was ground chuck), making it very easy to chew. Also, the seasoning and/or marinade added a nice flavor without making it salty or dry. In my opinion, the quality of the meat was on par with steaks that I've had at several upscale restaurants, which can't be said of most of the other places that I've eaten at. If Sportsman's put this much quality into its cheesesteak sandwiches, I'm confident that I'll be blown away by its steaks and burgers.
To complement the meat, the sandwich is benefited with a generous amount of Swiss cheese (not the typical type of cheese used in cheesesteaks) and red and green peppers and onions that are sautéed perfectly, enhancing the sandwich's delicious steak meat. The sandwich comes with a side of french fries that I wasn't too thrilled about because they seemed overcooked, but overall, the entire meal was great.
At $10.50, the Sportsman's Philly Cheesesteak is a little pricier than average, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. In this case, you'll get a nearly authentic Philly that I believe could hold its own with some of the best delis in Philadelphia. Definitely worth getting.

The Bacon Cheeseburger

I recently (12/28/10) had the Bacon Cheeseburger, and it was pretty good. The ⅓ lb. beef patty tasted like it was marinated in Worcestershire sauce, and it was topped with a thick layer of American cheese and Applewood bacon. The burger, along with fries, can more than satisfy the appetite, and while this burger stops just short of cracking my Top 5 list, it is a well-prepared and delicious burger that I highly recommend.


Sportsman's Grille on Urbanspoon

LabelsBurgers, Nashville, Sandwiches, Steaks

Follow Ken's Food Find

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cafe Napoleon

Tasty Pork Chops

Today, while riding my bike along Main St., I decided to stop at Cafe Napoleon, a soul food joint that's a couple of doors down from the Easy-Way market. It was nothing more than a whim on my part, although I had a good feeling about it. The restaurant offers the typical soul food staples such as fried chicken, fried catfish, fried pork chops, collard greens and corn bread. Because I wasn't that hungry, I decided to go with the lunch plate of one pork chop with cabbage and steak fries.
It didn't take long for my order to come out, and it was sizzling hot. The pork chop itself wasn't thick (only about a ¼") and was about a quarter of a pound, but what it lacked in size was made up in taste. The pork chop was nicely seasoned, and not too breaded and greasy. Also, the meat was well tenderized, so eating it was extremely delightful, especially when eaten with cabbage. My only regret (other than not discovering this restaurant until now) was not getting the second pork chop.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and if everything else on Cafe Napoleon's menu is just as good, I will definitely become a regular. Speaking of that, I'm surprised that none of my Downtown friends have mentioned this place. Granted, it is not as swanky as many of the restaurants in the area, but it is a nice, clean place that has friendly people serving good food. Hopefully more people (through blogs such as I Love Memphis and Memphis Que) will take notice. I feel it deserves it.

Labels: Downtown, Fried Chicken, Soul Food

Follow Ken's Food Find

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trolley Stop Market

Incredible Ham & Cheese Sandwich!

For lunch today, I decided go to the Trolley Stop Market, the new cafe in Memphis' Medical Center district. My reason for going, in addition to my hunger, was all the praises that I read about the cafe, so I decided to give it a try to see if it lives up to the hype. Based on the grilled ham & cheese sandwich that I had, I believe it might have exceeded it.
The sandwich was unlike any I've had before, which were usually a slice of ham coated with a slice of cheese between two toasted pieces of bread. Instead, this sandwich was huge, with numerous ham slices clumped together over melted cheese that blended nicely with the meat and all of it tucked inside two big pieces of wheat toast. The sandwich comes with potato chips and a side of pickles, which kind of threw me because I wasn't accustomed to it. However, the pickles enhanced the sandwich's flavor, making it more like a deli sandwich than the typical, mundane ham & cheese sandwich that many other places produce. The sandwich tasted great, and it was a lot more filling than I expected. When I get the sandwich again, I'm adding lettuce and tomato to it so I can get the true deli experience.

The cafe itself is nice, spacious enough to accommodate well over a hundred people, in my opinion. The service was pretty good as well, which doesn't surprise me because it's owned by the same people who run Whitton Farms, a regular staple at the Memphis Farmers Market that has always been helpful whenever I visited their "booth."
Overall, my experience at the Trolley Stop Market was great, and if the rest of the menu is as good as the grilled ham & cheese sandwich, I will definitely be back.

Delicious Pizza

A few days after my initial review, I decided to stop at the Trolley Stop Market after dropping off my car at the nearby Firestone for repairs. Because of what I read about its pizzas, I decided to give it a try. For my review to be thorough, I decided to sample a slice of each pizza that was on display, which were the pepperoni, Meat Lovers, broccoli and cheese and the veggie (forgot the exact for the last one).Because the slices were from a 16" plate, I knew that I wasn't going to eat all four pieces, so I decided to focus on the more unique ones, which I felt were the broccoli and cheese and veggie pizzas. The veggie pizza consisted of several vegetables from Whitton Farms, which were carrots, squash, zucchini and spinach, all layered and roasted on top of the pizza's tomato sauce. All combined, the toppings were a nice medley that was surprisingly good.
I would have assumed that these toppings would make the crust mushy, but that wasn't the case at all. The broccoli and cheese was very cheesy, in a good way for I enjoyed it too (I'm surprised that most pizzerias don't offer this topping combination). I believe the cheese used was mozzarella, but I could be mistaken. Regardless, I loved it.
Even though I didn't entirely eat the other two pieces, I sampled each of them. Both the pepperoni and Meat Lovers were decent, but far from extraordinary. Now, I'm not saying that I didn't like them (for I did), but if I have a craving for either these types of pizzas, I'm opting for my favorite pizzeria, Broadway Pizza. Still, I would recommend either of these to anyone who either lives or works in either Midtown or Downtown.
Overall, the pizzas of the Trolley Stop Market were really good. With its expertise in vegetables, I would highly recommend it to vegetarians and others who are health conscious. Along with its other menu offerings, I believe the restaurant can crave out a nice niche in Memphis' pizzeria market.

UPDATE (November 26, 2015): I recently had the Pimento Cheeseburger and it was great. It is so good that I included it my Memphis best burger list. There's something about grass-fed beef that makes it tastier than "industrial" meat. Combine it with pimento cheese within a fresh brioche bun and you have heaven in your hands.


Trolley Stop Market on Urbanspoon

LabelsBreakfast, Burgers, Downtown, Pizza, Sandwiches, Vegetarian/Vegan

Follow Ken's Food Find

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quiznos (at the Mapco Mart - Midtown)

It's fine (even after nine)

Tonight, I stopped at the Mapco Mart on Poplar and Belvedere to grab a Quiznos sandwich. Now I normally wouldn't comment on this, given that most people have had Quiznos' sub sandwiches, but I wanted to give kudos to lady who waited on me. When I arrived, it was a little after 9:00 P.M., which is when the Quiznos counter closes. However, the lady hooked me up and I appreciated it.
For most places (at least in Memphis, anyway), the closing time isn't really the last point when a customer can place a food order. Because of the requirements needed to shut down and clean a kitchen, most restaurants "jump the gun" and stop taking orders well before closing time. As a consumer, I hate that, especially when I drive across town to dine. I believe that a restaurant's closing time should be just that, and if it can't maintain it's operations up to that time, then close earlier. At the very least, it should announce when the kitchen stops taking orders, so customers will know ahead of time and plan accordingly.
Again, I want to thank the lady working the Quiznos counter for taking my order. Of course, this isn't always the case, for I once was refused service there by another woman who said that she couldn't (or wouldn't) work past her shift, and her relief didn't show up. However, on average, the service at this Quiznos is pretty good.
By the way, the sandwich (a large Roast Beef and Cheddar) was okay by Quiznos' standards. Also, because I was in a convenience store, I got a 24 oz. can of Bud Light which went nicely with my sub. Overall, it was a good dining experience, although I will try to get there earlier next time.


Labels: Chain Restaurants, Gas Station/Convenience Store, Midtown, Sandwiches

Follow Ken's Food Find