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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Johnny G’s Creole Kitchen

Good Food, Great Service

Johnny G’s Creole Kitchen recently opened on Beale Street in Downtown Memphis and it specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine. With other restaurants on Beale Street serving either Cajun or Creole food, I was curious if Johnny G's could hold it's own. Knowing that sampling the entire menu is a bit tedious, I decided to try some of the restaurant's signature dishes along with typical entrées.
The first dish that I tried was a bowl of Drunken Chicken, a chicken and rice concoction that is very spicy. It was so spicy that I didn't need to add hot sauce. The chicken (which I believe consists mostly of "white" meat) is very tender and not overcooked, making it easy to chop up and mix with the rice and sauce. Overall, the Drunken Chicken was really good and my only gripe was that the bowl wasn't big enough to satisfy my appetite. But this is a personal preference, although the portion is big enough to satisfy most.
For my second visit, I decided to get cups of gumbo and jambalaya, in an effort to compare it to other Cajun/Creole restaurants that I've been to. After eating both cups, it is my opinion that both entrées were average. In terms of taste and flavor, the dishes weren't any better or worse than what I had at other Cajun/Creole restaurants (the gumbo is much better than the popular DejaVu Restaurant in South Memphis). That said, both cups had the requisite ingredients for the respective entrées, which made for a spicy meal that was good yet not exceptional.

Johnny G's GumboJohnny G's Jambalaya

During my third visit, I went with the Voodoo Chicken po' boy sandwich with potato salad and coleslaw. The chicken, cooked in a manner similar to the Drunken Chicken entrée, has a nice flavor to it. One reviewer on Urbanspoon said that the chicken had a "smoked" flavor, however I couldn't detect it because of the spiciness of the Voodoo sauce. The sauce tasted similar to the gumbo I had earlier but it was a tad more spicy (about the same as the Drunken Chicken). As a stand alone dish, I believe that with rice, the Voodoo Chicken would make for a really good meal. As the main component in a po' boy sandwich having the usual lettuce and tomatoes within a fresh baked hoagie bun, the Voodoo Chicken is excellent. The sandwich, along with creamy potato salad (sprinkled with black pepper) and average-tasting coleslaw, is a complete meal that satisfied my appetite. Of the three meals that I had, this was by far the best.

After making three trips to Johnny G's, I came away with a good impression of the place. Overall, the food was good and can hold it's own with most Cajun/Creole restaurants in Memphis. However, the service that I got was great, for the waitstaff was very friendly and informative, and I got my food quickly. If I was working near Downtown, I would put Johnny G's high on my list of places to lunch at, solely on the expediency of the service. On a scale of ten, I would give Johnny G's a seven based mostly on the service, which is not a "knock" on the food. It's a good place for dining that I don't mind recommending.

Johnny G’s Creole Kitchen on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Beale Street, Cajun/Creole, Downtown, Sandwiches

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Decent Food For The "Soul"

Recently, I've been visiting Rudabagas, a "Soul Food" restaurant on Cleveland St., near Poplar whenever I had a chance to dine there for lunch (currently, the restaurant isn't open during dinner hours). I did it so I could fulfill my quest to "check-in" via Foursquare to every restaurant that is either in or near my neighborhood. So far, my goal is nearly complete for I only have a few more restaurants to go. Anyway, my experiences at Rudabagas has been good overall, for I have been treated to some decent meals.
On my first visit, I decided to get the dark chicken entrée, with the choice of either getting it fried or "smothered." When I saw "smothered," I incorrectly assumed the chicken would be baked and smothered in gravy (that wouldn't have happened if I had read the entire menu, which has baked chicken listed as one of its weekly specials). Well, I was half-right, for the gravy (lots of it) was smothered over fried chicken, not baked or grilled. Personally, gravy-smothered fried chicken doesn't work for me, because I don't believe the gravy gets absorbed into the meat as well as grilled and baked chicken. In eating the chicken, I needed a lot of napkins (and a bib) to make eating it palatable, and the chicken was decent, although to get a real sense of how the chicken really tastes, I wanted to try a fried piece sans gravy, which I later did.
After my first visit, I was anxious to try Rudabagas again. This time, I waited until the following Tuesday when baked chicken was the special for the day. When I got the special, I made sure to order it with green beans and rice and gravy, so I could do a side-by-side comparison with Amoco Food Express, another place where I get this combination. Rudabagas' chicken was extremely tender, and greasy enough that I needed napkins to keep me from making a big mess. The chicken was okay in the sense that it tasted about the same as many other restaurants that serve it (in other words, the chicken's seasoning was average). As for the vegetables, the rice and gravy were average and the green beans were great. From what I could ascertain, it seems that the cook added a lot of butter to the green beans that made them taste wonderful. Overall, the baked chicken was good, but not enough to dissuade me from going elsewhere.
After getting take-out orders for my first two visits, I decided to eat at the restaurant for my next experience. The restaurant has a casual appearance that should appeal to most diners, with jazz music playing in the background. This time around, I decided to get away from poultry and chose the fried pork chops with turnip greens and the restaurant's namesake, rutabagas (the restaurant's spelling of the vegetable is off by a letter). The pork chops were perfectly breaded and seasoned with a nice combination of salt and other spices. The pork chop itself was very tender, to the point that I could've eaten it by hand and not having to floss later. The pork chops meshed well with the rutabagas, which I discovered is a type of turnip that is much sweeter than what I'm accustomed to. If Rudabagas ever decided to make rutabaga greens, it would likely taste much better than the turnip greens that I ordered. Before I go further, I must admit that I'm not a fan of turnip greens (except my Mom's), and most places that serve it uses salt and meats such as ham hocks for seasonings that doesn't appeal to me. With so many restaurants cooking turnip greens this way, I am probably in the wrong with my assessment, so don't take this as a put-down of it. Overall, the meal was decent that made me more anxious to try the fried chicken, sans gravy.
As a side note, the waiter who served me didn't do a good job of checking on me after he took my order. In fact, the extent of the service that I got from him was only the taking of my order and the serving of my food. The waiter didn't even notice that my glass of unsweetened tea was empty, and I had to pay for my meal at the restaurant's lunch counter. With that kind of service, I was inclined to give an appropriate "reward" but because I'm not a douchebag, I decided to give the guy a $2 tip. However, for future trips to Rudabagas, I will strictly stick to take-out.
After trying the fried chicken "smothered" and the pork chops without gravy, I was very curious about how good the fried chicken was "unsmothered." The fried chicken, with mashed potatoes (no gravy) and spaghetti, tasted like most places where fried chicken is served, such as the nearby Kroger grocery store. The breading was saltier, more flaky and less greasy than the pork chops, while the meat was tender and well cooked. As fried chicken goes, it was decent, yet not exceptional. The same can be said for both the mashed potatoes and the marinara-style spaghetti. Overall, it was a good meal that could hold it's own with most restaurants in town, but it's far from outstanding.
After a few visits, my assessment of Rudabagas is that it is good restaurant that serves decent Southern/Soul Food cuisine at decent prices. In addition to chicken and pork chops, the restaurant also serves meat loaf, turkey necks, beef liver and chopped steaks everyday, and salmon croquettes and fried catfish as weekly specials. For those working in Midtown Memphis looking for a nice alternative to either fast food or better known restaurants to eat lunch at, Rudabagas isn't a bad choice. The restaurant is very prompt in fulfilling orders, but for those who want to dine-in, don't expect much from the waitstaff. In particular, I really liked the fried pork chops, green beans and rutabagas, so much so that I personally recommend the menu items as a combo meal. In closing, Rudabagas is definitely worth giving a try, and although it may not be the best restaurant that a person could visit, it's far from the worst that shouldn't disappoint.


Rudabagas on Urbanspoon

LabelsFried Chicken, Midtown, Soul Food

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