Out Of The Way Good
On the advice of others, I decided to give Toarmina Grocery and Market in North Memphis a try. It's located on Chelsea Ave. near Watkins St., not exactly a place that Memphians seek out when looking for a lunch destination. That said, a lot of people dine there, given the number of cars and trucks that I've seen parked there in any given week. Some say that it serves some of the best Southern/Soul Food in town. Upon hearing that, I wanted to find out if all the hype about the place was true. After visiting a few other "hyped up" restaurants recently, I didn't get my expectations up in the event of a letdown. Well, after a few visits, I wasn't disappointed.
The first meal that I had was what Toarmina calls (I think) the "half" lunch plate, consisting of one piece of meat, two sides and a couple of cornbread rolls. For the meat, I chose the fried pork chop, and my sides were broccoli and cheese and mashed potatoes and gravy. Unlike my initial visit at Cafe Napoleon that offered up a small and thin pork chop, the one I got from Toarmina was huge (maybe half a pound), twice the size of Cafe Napoleon's, even though both lunches are the same price. Now, I thought about getting a "whole" lunch plate which would've included an additional pork chop, but doing so would've been borderline gluttony. The pork chop itself was delicious, for the meat (a little over ½" thick) was tender and easy to chew, with breading that was spiced with a reasonable amount of salt to make it flavorful (also liked that it wasn't overbreaded). As for the two sides, both were decent, in the sense they average in terms of taste. The cornbread rolls, however, were great, for they tasted very close to how my Mom bakes them. With butter, they were awesome. After my first visit, I was anxious for my next visit to Toarmina's.
For my next visit, I decided to get a two-piece fried chicken deal, which for me consisted of two small thighs. In terms of taste, even though the chicken doesn't have quite the spicy flavor of either Gus's or Uncle Lou's, it can still hold its own with most restaurants in town. The breading for the chicken tasted about the same as the stuff used for the pork chops, which contributed well to the chicken's taste.
Toarmina also serves breakfast, but it is the usual fare of eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits, along with their staple of fried chicken and pork chops. Everything is prepared in advance (with the eggs scrambled), meaning that specific items like omelets aren't offered. The likely reason that the deli does this is because of the long line of people that it gets in the morning who expects a quick take-out for breakfast. The day I went there, I opted for one of its three egg plates, which included two sausage patties, biscuits and grits in brown gravy, something that I have never had before. The grits/brown gravy combination wasn't bad, and the scrambled eggs and sausage were okay, but what really impressed me were the biscuits.
Usually, I don't care much for biscuits because most of the time, they taste dry and salty. However, sometimes I'll take a bite in order to satisfy my curiosity, and I'm glad that I did in this case. Toarmina's biscuits are some of the best biscuits that I've tasted in Memphis, for they are moist and fluffy, with a taste that's somewhat sweet (just short of the honey-flavored biscuits sold at Church's Fried Chicken). The biscuits tasted sweet enough that I didn't need to put either jelly or jam on them. If Toarmina makes sausage gravy, the next time I get breakfast there, I'm getting that along with a few biscuits.
As for the other items on Toarmina's menu, it varies from day to day, ranging from baked chicken to casseroles. As of this writing, I haven't had the chance to try them because Toarmina had recently closed for remodeling; it has since re-opened. However, after a few visits to Toarmina Grocery and Market, I got the impression that this is a place where hard working blue collar people, regardless of color and class, can feel at home ordering take-out meals that they're familiar with (unfortunately, dining inside the place isn't possible, due to a lack of seating which I hope the remodeling project will address). While Toarmina will never be compared to places like Bryant's Breakfast and The Arcade Restaurant with regards to variety and choice, Toarmina serves great quality food that anyone can appreciate. For anyone living in North Memphis or certain parts of either Frayser or Midtown (or anywhere else, for that matter), give Toarmina a chance to serve a great meal that will surely satisfy the appetite.