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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Luv Lasagna

Lasagna That's Luv-able

Looking for a new place to eat, I stumbled across I Luv Lasagna while searching Urbanspoon's website. With a name like "I Luv Lasagna," I couldn't resist the urge to try it out, which I decided to do one day when I was tending to business in Hickory Hill. The restaurant is located in a strip mall on Kirby Parkway, facing a Kroger supermarket. It's a little hard to find, but it's worth the trouble for anyone looking for a good lasagna meal.
I decided to order the small portion of the house lasagna with a slice of Texas toast. The lasagna consisted of the usual ingredients such as marinara sauce and cheeses (mozzarella and ricotta) with a decent amount of beef. It isn't as meaty as the lasagna served at places such as Ronnie/Judd Grisanti's or Dino's Grill. The marinara really stood out, for the lasagna had a strong tomato flavor that contributed heavily to its taste. The Texas toast, subbing for the omission of garlic bread from the menu, is a really nice buttery complement to this entrée. I recommend getting two slices because one piece of toast will get you halfway through the entrée. Also, I want to commend the hostess for bringing out the lasagna after it had cooled down, because eating hot cheese is discomforting.
As a comparison to the house lasagna, I took home the small portion of the grilled chicken lasagna. Topped with chunks of grilled chicken breast, the lasagna is filled with spinach and onions that blends and spices up the flavor. Along with the marinara sauce, cheeses and layers of pasta, the "small" portion of grilled chicken lasagna (as well as its "house" counterpart) is a very hefty meal, even without the Texas toast, and it is pretty good. On a scale of one to ten, I would rate both lasagnas a 7½, for they're pretty good by strip mall standards, but falls just short of what someone would expect from a genuine Italian restaurant (in other words, if you're looking for 5-star quality lasagna, this isn't the place to find it). Still, the lasagnas satisfied my appetite and I wouldn't mind ordering either of them again.
A week later, I went back and tried the Lasagna Burger, which really is a Sloppy Joe sandwich with cheese. Unlike the actual lasagna, this burger didn't have the pasta layers and marinara sauce, and while it did have cheese, it didn't have nearly as much. The cheese that topped the "lasagna" was a mix of shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and while that was okay, I wished it had more of it. In fact, if I was making this burger, I simply would've cooked a less-layered version of the house lasagna and put it between two slices of its Texas toast, which I believe would've made for a great sandwich. Nonetheless, the "lasagna" burger was decent, but wouldn't stand out from other Sloppy Joe sandwiches that I've had.
After visiting I Luv Lasagna, I've concluded that it is a nice venue for dining for either lunch or dinner, and the staff that works there are very friendly. As I've said earlier, this isn't an upscale restaurant, but for anyone looking for a good pasta meal at a reasonable price, you probably can't go wrong with this place. In addition to lasagna, the restaurant serves other things such as buffalo wings, sandwiches and seafood. With such a diverse menu, there's something for everyone. I believe that once you try I Luv Lasagna, you'll not only like it but "luv" it.

Check out the review in The Commercial Appeal for more insight on this place.


I Luv Lasagna on Urbanspoon

LabelsHickory Hill, Pasta, Sandwiches, Wings

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

All About Dem Wangs

All About That Taste

In searching for new places to get Buffalo wings, I decided to give "All About Dem Wangs" a try. The place is on the corner of Elvis Presley Blvd. and South Parkway in a not-too-terrible neighborhood, although the inside of the restaurant looked really shabby. With all the tables being dirty, I changed my mind about eating there and opted for take out. For my order, I went with ten whole wings flavored with "Regular Hot" sauce with fries and blue cheese dressing. I was shocked that the dressing wasn't watery, which I find all too often in places like this. The wings were somewhat crispy and the hot sauce had just enough spiciness to get one's attention. In terms of taste, the wings are slightly better than average, so I wouldn't drive across town to eat there. However, it's not a bad choice to go with if you're in the neighborhood.

LabelsSandwiches, South Memphis, Wings

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kelvin's Hot Wings

The "New" Kelvin's - Not What It Used To Be

Today, while driving down Watkins St. in Frayser, I noticed a banner as I approached the Coastal Mart gas station/convenience store that read "Kelvin's BBQ & Hot Wings." It took me by surprise, given that all of Kelvin's restaurants closed. With me needing a fill-up and satisfy my curiosity, I decided to stop at the gas station. After finding out that the "new" Kelvin's was an extension of the old, I decided to get take-out there (by the way, unlike the former restaurants, this place doesn't have tables that customers can use to dine-in). When I grabbed a menu to see what I wanted, I was very surprised that the barbecue portion of it was very limited, with items such as ribs and BBQ spaghetti not being a part of the menu. In fact, there WEREN'T ANY PORK items on the menu, not even sliced pork shoulder. I stress this because of the fact that this is a Memphis barbecue joint, and not some place in a city like San Francisco, Minneapolis or Boston, that isn't known for the swine cuisine. I mean, a barbecue joint in Memphis not offering pork is like a sushi bar refusing to include seafood in its menu. Not that you have to have fish in sushi, but it would be extremely odd if that wasn't an option on the menu. As it relates to barbecue, and especially Memphis BBQ, excluding pork from a barbecue menu is the equivalent to that. And for any fans of Texas barbecue, I know pork isn't a traditional component of that. However, the best pork barbecue that I ever had was cooked by a guy from Austin, Texas. His mesquite-smoked ribs were so tender that the meat literally fell off the bones. Having said that, I decided to give the "new" Kelvin's a try.
Initially, I wanted to get the BBQ Chicken dinner plate, but Kelvin's was out of chicken, so I went with the BBQ Chopped Beef plate instead, or so I thought. For my two sides, I chose the seasoned French fries and fried okra, which along with the main entrée should've cost $8.75 before sales tax. When the total was $7.92 with sales tax, I knew something was wrong. My order ended up being a Jumbo BBQ Beef sandwich with two huge sides of fries and fried okra. Upon discovering this, I thought about refusing the order and having it redone, but I had other things to do and didn't have the time to wait so I went with it.
As for the sandwich, it was okay for what it is, and that's a griddle-fried half-pound of beef topped with barbecue sauce (which has the same sweet taste consistent with the original restaurant) and resting on top of coleslaw, with all of it within a big bun. The meat will never be mistaken for beef brisket, for it lacked any signs that it was smoked and roasted. The sandwich is what it is, and no one should expect more from it. The seasoned fries and fried okra (the latter of which I only tasted a small sample of) was average, and overall the meal was decent yet a far cry from the days of the "old" Kelvin's.
In the future, I hope the "Express" version of Kelvin's succeeds, although if I was advising the owner, I would have advised him/her that if you're going to reestablish your business using the same name, go all out and do it right and not be "half-ass" about it. If you're not going to offer former items like ribs that people are accustomed to, and not even offer pork at all, then open the business under a new name (and attaching "Express" to the old name doesn't qualify as that). Although "Kelvin's" as a name might work in the short run with those like me who remember the old days, not living up to those old standards might give the name a new reputation, which could be good or bad. That said, I wish the "new" Kelvin's well.

New Location, New Menu

After my first visit to Kelvin's, I thought that was it, as far as the blog was concerned. However, the owners responded to what I said on Urbanspoon (where a copy of my review was posted) and asked me to give them another chance. It took awhile to get around to it, but I did it on a weekend when I was working in Millington.
Before I go on, Kelvin's is located in the Frayser section of Memphis, which I believe is the northernmost part of town. From where I live, I have to pass through it to get to Millington (actually now, you have to go to Millington to get to it; read the update below). In addition to doing a follow-up review, my interest in Kelvin's stemmed from past history. When I worked near Shelby Forest, Kelvin's was one of my favorite lunch places. During that time, Kelvin's was a barbecue establishment with locations in Frayser and Raleigh. Unfortunately, despite having great barbecue, Kelvin's went out of the BBQ business. Later, it re-emerged in a gas station on Watkins Street as "Kelvin's BBQ & Hot Wings Express." Seeing this made me very happy, but that soon changed once I saw the menu. It surprised me that the menu didn't have any pork items on it. Kelvin's responded by saying that the gas station owners wouldn't allow the sale of certain products. For a Memphis-based barbecue restaurant, that should have been a deal breaker. However, Kelvin's persevered and, if the "Likes" on Urbanspoon is a measure, achieved some success. Once the restaurant made the move to its own place, pork items were added to the menu. So with me passing by it for a few days, I felt it was time for a reassessment of Kelvin's.
For my first visit, I wanted to reminisce in the past by getting pork ribs. Kelvin's ribs were really good, highlighted by its sweet barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, the "new" Kelvin's doesn't sell ribs but offers rib tips instead. That took me aback, because it didn't make sense for a barbecue joint to not sell ribs while offering "tips." But when I saw the sign at the top of Kelvin's new location, the logic of the restaurant's decision became evident. With the restaurant rechristened "Kelvin's Hot Wings," the owners have shifted focus away from barbecue and more towards chicken wings and sandwiches. It seems that rib tips fit into that business model, for they are small nuggets of meat attached to bone cartilage. Like chicken wings, rib tips are cheaper than ribs. That translates into less overhead for Kelvin's.

Barbecue Rib Tips from Kelvin's Hot Wings. The BBQ/wing joint has moved to Millington, Tennessee.

When I got my rib tips, it was part of a plate dinner that included two sides and a roll that cost $10.65. The amount of rib tips I received probably weighed a pound or more, for it was enough for two people. The tips were moderately tender and lacking in smoke flavor. The barbecue sauce wasn't as sweet as it was in the past, but it was good enough to pass muster with me. The two side items (coleslaw and seasoned fries) were decent, tasting the same as most places that serve it. However, both were adequate in complementing the barbecue. Overall, the rib tips were okay, but not nearly as good as ribs that I've had in the past from Kelvin's.
A day after having the rib tips, I started to write the follow-up review before thinking "I really need to try the wings." After all, I am reviewing "Kelvin's Hot Wings" so it wouldn't be fair to exclude them in my follow-up. I decided to go with eight "cut" (party) wings with half of them in hot sauce and the rest smothered in honey gold sauce.
The honey gold wings didn't have the robustness that I've experienced at places like Ching's. Fortunately, I had enough extra sauce at the bottom of my carry-out box to dip the wings in, which added additional mustard flavor. The ranch dressing also helped, making the honey gold wings decent for my taste.
Although the honey gold wings were mediocre, the hot wings impressed me. They are hotter that most places that designate its wings as "hot." Although the wings bring the heat, it doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the spices and vinegar in the wing sauce. In comparing it to other Buffalo-style hot wings, Kelvin's is exceptional. The hot wings were some of the best I've had in Memphis, and I'm not an easy guy to impress. Until I try other items on the menu, Kelvin's hot wings are by far the best thing on it.

It seems to me that the new version of Kelvin's is focused more on forging a new path as opposed to clinging to the past. From what I experienced so far, I'm not totally confident about its long term success, but Kelvin's management has a positive attitude that could carry it a long way. They are very receptive about customer feedback and are eager to address any problems. The staff is friendly and courteous, key qualities needed to establish customer loyalty. If the good people at the "new" Kelvin's continue to strive for customer satisfaction, their new path may lead to a pot of gold. I wish them the best of luck.

SIDE NOTE: Despite the website's listing of operating hours, Kelvin's Hot Wings is open seven days a week, including Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

UPDATE (May 14, 2015): Recently, Kelvin's moved to Millington at 8500 Wilkinsville Rd., several miles up the road from their last location. It's a good thing that I check the stats frequently on this blog or I might have missed it. From what I've seen on Blogger and Google Analytics, Kelvin's is "blowing up" in popularity. It seems that they have far exceeded my modest predictions and are doing extremely well. I'm happy for the restaurant and wish it continued success. Whenever Kelvin's makes its next move, I hope it announces the news on Facebook or Twitter.


Kelvin's Hot Wings on Urbanspoon

LabelsBarbecue, Burgers, Food Truck, Millington, Sandwiches, Wings

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Lucky Star

You get what you pay for

A while ago, I made my first visit to Lucky Star and ordered a chicken and rice plate. What I ended up with was a huge portion of heavily salted rice and very little chicken. After eating this, my initial impression of Lucky Star was not good, but I recently decided to give it a second chance.
For my second order, I went with the Beef Lo Mein, and like my first order, it didn't have a lot of meat in it. However, the entrée, which nearly weighs a pound, consists mostly of noodles with specks of beef, cabbage and slivers of carrots. The sauce (where I believe the prime ingredient was soy sauce) used in the Lo Mein gave the noodles a nice thickness, which really hit the spot for me. That said, I would urge caution to anyone with high blood pressure that this entrée is very salty, so much so that I could still feel the aftertaste several hours later. In all, the Beef Lo Mein was okay, and $7.65 it provided a decent meal.
To sum it up, if you're looking for cheap Chinese food, Lucky Star might be the place to go. However, if you're expecting quality (even if it's half-ass) in your meal, you would be better off going elsewhere. I'm not saying that Lucky Star is terrible, but you don't have to go far to find better (like, for example, Shang Hai on Poplar Ave.). Bottom line: you get what you pay for, although there are quite a few restaurants that serve better food at about the same pay as Lucky Star (like Mandarin Wok II in Millington). Anyway, this is only one man's opinion that could be wrong, so try it and judge it for yourself.

LabelsAsian, Chinese, Midtown, Sandwiches, Wings

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