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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blues City Cafe

Unveiling The "Secret"

On the advice of a couple of Facebook friends, I decided to try some things at Blues City Cafe that I haven't had before. One reason why I hadn't had these menu items is because they're aren't exactly on the menu. My two items of choice were the grilled version of the Catfish Plate and the Chopped Salad with Rib Meat. Supposedly, these items are a part of the restaurant's "secret menu" that's unknown to the public. This concept doesn't make sense to me, because I believe that everyone should have the benefit of a restaurant's entire menu.
On my first attempt to order from the Blues City's "secret menu," I tried to get the grilled version of the Catfish Plate, based on a picture and an informal endorsement by noted Downtown Memphis foodie "Nuh-Uh Girl." She is regularly featured on a particular Downtown blog that for whatever reason obsesses over her eating habits, even though the blogger is a pretentious, uppity, arrogant, small-minded fat ass creep that most women would never date. When I attempted to place my order at the bar, the bartender told me that I could only get it fried. Even after I showed her Nuh-Uh Girl's Facebook picture of it, the bartender wouldn't relent. Disappointed, I settled for the fried version of the entrée, which came out a few minutes after I ordered it. The platter, consisting of three fried catfish filets, steak fries, tartar sauce and cole slaw, is an enormous meal that will satisfy most appetites. Regarding the catfish itself, the taste isn't anything that couldn't be experienced at most restaurants that serve it and likely will never be its premier menu item. However, it is good and I'll likely order it again. As for getting the grilled version of the platter, I guess one of three things will have to occur: 1) I become a Downtown resident who is popular with the merchants there, 2) I go on a dinner date to Blues City Cafe with "Nuh-Uh Girl" (unlikely), or 3) I develop a relationship with the cook like I have with Paul, one of the cooks at the Downtown Hooters, just around the block from Blues City. Paul (or one of the other cooks) always hooks me up with the grilled version of Hooter's delicious Big Fish sandwich, formerly known as the Grouper's Cousin. Coincidentally, this isn't on Hooters' menu.
A couple of months later, during a late Friday morning (about 11:30 AM), I stopped by Blues City to see if I can get the grilled catfish. With hardly anyone there, I figured that it shouldn't be a problem. However, the kitchen staff was still reluctant to do it for me, but out of kindness they fulfilled the order. The platter comes in two versions, which are the lunch plate with two filets and the dinner plate that has three. Out of fear of overeating, I chose the lunch plate with red potatoes, coleslaw and tartar sauce. After waiting over twenty minutes, my catfish plate arrived, and I could tell from the aroma that I was in for a treat. The catfish, seasoned in Cajun spices, was cooked perfectly. My only regret about ordering this was choosing the "lunch" version of the entrée, for I definitely could have eaten three filets instead of two. I hope someday that Blues City includes this in the menu, for it is a great alternative for those who aren't into Southern cuisine.
In my second attempt at ordering from Blues City Cafe's "secret menu" (which is no longer the case), I chose the aforementioned Chopped Salad with Rib Meat based on a recommendation from a friend who travels around much of the world as a Pinnacle Airlines pilot. This dish, which isn't exactly a secret, for it is listed as one of the toppings that can be added to any of Blues City's salads, consists of barbecue pork meat sitting atop a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Even though the menu says it is "rib meat," the texture of it seems more like pork shoulder (of course, this is my unprofessional opinion). Even though it's a lot of meat (maybe half a pound), it gets lost in the salad when it's mixed together. Even after applying salad dressing, which is a combination of BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, the two main components (the salad and barbecue meat) seemed to cancel each other out. The combination resulted in a bland taste. I didn't get any sense of enjoyment from the salad, so I sprinkled some New Orleans Hot Sauce's "Bourbon Street Bad" sauce on it. After adding the hot sauce, the salad became tastier and enjoyable, for it really hit the spot. Still, as far as meat salads go, there are many other places that serve that kind of salad, although not necessarily with barbecue pork. I particularly like The Blue Monkey's Angus salad that features beef tenderloin.
As much as I wanted to try out Blue City's "secret menu," my favorite dish is still the Memphis Strip. The steak is a 16 oz. version of a New York strip steak that is among the best I have ever tasted. I especially liked it when it was prepared by the late Chef Bonnie Mack, a true legend of the Memphis culinary scene. When he cooked the Memphis Strip, it was a perfectly tender steak with the right amount of grease that oozed throughout the plate, including on some of the steak fries that made them heavenly good. Eating the grilled-tinged steak with greasy steak fries was pure ecstasy, for I rarely have anything that good. Since Mack's passing, the Memphis Strip has, in my opinion, lacked that greasy goodness, but is still one of the best steaks in Memphis.
In summary, the Blues City Cafe is a great place to dine at, whether it is with the family or with friends. In addition to food, live music is performed daily at the restaurant, which is another reason why like this place. I like Blues City so much that I recommend it to tourists who visit FedExForum, where I work part-time. Even though I hope someday that Blues City includes grilled catfish and other healthy entrées in its menu, I'll always be a fan of the place that is a Memphis institution.


Blues City Cafe on Urbanspoon

LabelsBarbecue, Beale Street, Downtown, Family Friendly, Salads, Seafood, Steaks

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders, Part 2

Chic Critique

When I posted my first comparison of ground beef sliders from two of Memphis' prominent Downtown establishments, Bardog Tavern and Bar None (which recently closed), I thought my work was done. Since then, I discovered that two other restaurants (not including chains such as Hooters) also make them, which are The Silly Goose Lounge and Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar. Because of the different demographics that each restaurant caters to, their approach in making the slider is vastly different, as I will explain.
The Silly Goose's cheeseburger slider consists of a thick piece of ground beef cooked medium and seasoned with tasteful spices. Combined with pepper jack cheese, a mix of onions, red and green peppers (all sautéed) and bacon bits, the slider has a nice juicy flavor that isn't too spicy. Compared to other sliders that I've had recently, Silly Goose's version could be considered a "gourmet" item because of the uniqueness of it. In order to get the slider, you have to get it as part of a combo plate consisting of two sliders and French fries at a cost of $9.00, not including tax. As a meal, it hits the spot. However, if I was really hungry, I would love to have three sliders as opposed to two. For most people, especially those conscious of gaining weight, two sliders is more than enough.

The Silly Goose on Urbanspoon

As for Flight, it took awhile for me to try it because it is only served during lunchtime, and not competing with Silly Goose which opens at 4 PM during the week. The cheeseburger burger slider "flight" that I had consisted of three sliders, with each one cooked slightly different from the others. To get a true sense of the slider, I order one medium rare, another medium and one cooked well done. What came out were three sliders that at first glance looked ordinary, consisting nothing more than thick beef patties topped with lettuce and tomato. With the meal costing $12 (including fries), I expected a lot. However, I was underwhelmed with what I got. None of the sliders had that "WOW" factor that I got from the other three places I visited. Rather, all three of the sliders were average burgers that anyone could make. That said, all of the sliders were properly prepared and fresh off the grill, so I had no complaints about that. However, I expected more from a place that considers itself an upscale restaurant. In its defense, it could be argued that upscale restaurants shouldn't specialize in making cheeseburgers. But if that's true, then why do it at the risk of the restaurant's reputation. If this was my first experience at Flight, I might not be inclined to eat there again. Anyway, the cheeseburger sliders are on par with places such as Back Yard Burgers, but because of the unjustifiable high price, I will not order them again.

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Of the two places I visited, The Silly Goose is clearly the better when it comes to sliders. The Silly Goose has put a lot more effort into developing a slider burger that is unique and delicious. While Flight's slider isn't nearly as good as Silly Goose's, overall it is an excellent restaurant. Based on my one other experience at Flight where I had a poultry-based entrée (it might have been the Feathered Flight), the food and service at the restaurant is first-class. Of course, The Silly Goose isn't a slouch either, for the menu has a lot of great items on it like the Seafood Mac and its various flatbreads (or "pizza" to the uninformed). Although both restaurants are great places to dine at, they're not one in the same as far demographics are concerned. The Silly Goose caters to a younger audience by offering a causal place for socializing and partying, while Flight is more refined which appeals to an older audience who might want more than a mere burger. Those differences might be the reason why Silly Goose's slider is better than Flight's, but both restaurants are excellent places to dine at. That said, Silly Goose wins this battle of sliders, but a person can't go wrong in choosing either restaurant.

NOTE: I just learned that the Silly Goose will phase out the Seafood Mac dish from its menu. If anyone wants this kept on the menu, let the restaurant's management know about it. I think it’s one of the best entrées on the menu and I would hate to see it go away.

LabelsBurgers, Downtown, Upscale

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