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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Stuffy's

Stuffed with Goodness

On the advice of the blog Best Memphis Burger, I decided to give Stuffy's "One Serious Burger Joint" a try. I was kinda prompted to do this after a bartender at my favorite bar, the Flying Saucer, mentioned that she worked there. Upon arriving, I was impressed by the decor of the place, which was really nice. With a guy playing piano in the background, I thought I was in the wrong place, given how unusual it was. However, I was in the mood for a burger and nothing was going to get in the way of that, and Stuffy's delivered.

After looking over the menu, I decided to go with the Stuffy Combo that consists of a 7 oz. burger with cheese, various toppings and a side of fries. The toppings include a variety of mayonnaise flavors such as the popular Lemon Cilantro and Hot Wing & Blue Cheese. I chose Chipotle mayo with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms as additional toppings. Maybe it was just luck, but that combination of toppings, combined with the 7 oz. tasty beef patty seasoned in Old Bay and pepper seasonings, was one of best burgers I tasted in awhile. What really stood out was the Chipotle mayo and grilled onions, for they brought forth a flavor that is very unique. The fries, hand-cut and seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, were also delicious and complemented the burger well. Overall, my first experience at Stuffy's was an "A+," which makes me anxious enough to visit again.

Unfortunately, the next visit will not happen soon. According to Best Memphis Burger, Stuffy's has closed and will be moving to Collierville. This is very surprising, for the restaurant had generated a lot of buzz despite being nestled in a residential neighborhood in East Memphis. I hope the restaurant isn't having financial problems and is making the move for strategic reasons. I definitely want to visit Stuffy's again so I can try the Double Stuffy burger that a lot of my friends have raved about. The burger joint also serves Buffalo wings that I want to try despite the mixed reviews I've heard. I look forward to Stuffy's re-opening, which I hope is very soon.

Website: www.oneseriousburgerjoint.com

Stuffy's

LabelsBurgers, East Memphis, Wings






Follow Ken's Food Find

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ugly Juanita's

Food for the "Drunkass"

If you're out on Beale St. this New Year's Eve and needing something to counter the "buzz" you're feeling, there's a place in W.C. Handy Park... err, Pepsi Pavilion that sells spicy food on the cheap. Ugly Juanita's, located on the corner of Beale St. and Rufus Thomas Blvd. (marked as Handy Circle on Google Maps), sells a tamale that will get your attention.




Ugly Juanita's chicken tamale isn't the typical kind that most are familiar with. Instead of everything being stuffed inside the cornmeal, the "stuffing" is on the outside. The toppings consist mostly of chili con carne with chicken (a small amount of it), cilantro (although I didn't see or taste it), salsa and grated cheese. The chili is very spicy and dominating, to the point that I almost forgot I was eating a tamale. Usually, tamales are so thick in cornmeal that I can hardly enjoy one, but Ugly Juanita's is the exception.

I may be in the minority, but I feel that Ugly Juanita's chicken tamale is pretty good for the price ($2). Because of the spiciness, the tamale could be strong enough to stir the senses of those who are "hammered." In fact, this tamale could be considered "Drunkass Food" (yep, I'm using someone else's term; if he's using "Food Find" in his blog, I will reciprocate). However, I'm not saying that eating tamales are the panacea for intoxication. If you're out celebrating this New Year's Eve, please be responsible and not drink and drive. Because of my love of partying, I will definitely take a cab home next Saturday night. But not before eating tamales at Ugly Juanita's. Happy New Year!

UPDATE: After a recent visit to the food truck Tamale Trolley where I had three delicious pork tamales, I returned to Ugly Juanita's. During that visit, I had the BBQ Pork Tamale. The tamale is stuffed with pork shoulder and topped with chili con carne, barbecue sauce and cheese, although my hastily-made tamale came without it. As expected, the tamale was spicy due to the chili and had the tanginess of barbecue, but I noticed something was lacking. The tamale had very little pork shoulder stuffed inside it, which in some ways wasn't surprising. One of the reasons why I'm not a big fan of tamales is that most of them are made with cornmeal (or masa) with hardly any stuffing, even when it's billed as a "______ (fill in the blank) tamale." To me, it's misleading because I'm not getting what I paid for. As it relates to Ugly Juanita's BBQ Pork Tamale, I liked it a lot despite not getting everything I wanted. If Ugly Juanita continues to sell tamales, it should market them as chili tamales with either chicken or pork. By doing that, the customer knows what he/she is getting and what to expect. Or it could replace the tamales with bowls of chili with cornmeal and meat. Anyway, that's my two cents about an otherwise decent tamale.

The Tacos are "OK"

When I decided to check out Ugly Juanita's, my intent was to evaluate its soft tacos. Many of my friends told me that the tacos weren't good, so I wanted to confirm this. I sampled all of the restaurant's offerings, which were chicken, pork and fish.
In both the chicken and pork tacos, they weren't as bad as my friends said. For both tacos, the meat was seasoned and the cilantro crema added flavor, but the salsa lacked spiciness. With cabbage and other components, both tacos were decent but far from the best.
Ugly Juanita's chicken tacoUgly Juanita's pork taco
Ugly Juanita's fish taco impressed me more, although I'm basing it on limited experience. In the few places were I had fish tacos (such as Cafe Ole and Flying Fish), I never had one that I liked. I didn't like the fish tacos because the taste was dry and bland. Ugly Juanita's version tasted better, for the cilantro crema and a sauce I couldn't identify (even though the menu says it's salsa) gave the taco a nice flavor.

(I'm not sure what type of fish is in the taco, but I'm guessing tilapia.)

Overall, the fish taco was the best among of the three that I had at Ugly Juanita's. As I said, I'm basing this on limited experience so I won't vouch for it. However it is good enough, to the point that I encourage others to try it.


After eating the tacos at Ugly Juanita's, my overall impression that the tacos are good, but far from the best. Even though the tacos are cheap ($2 a piece), there many places in Downtown Memphis (such as the Happy Mexican) that sell better tacos at similar prices. I'm not saying that my friends are entirely correct, but unless you need the immediacy of Beale Street, there are other places to get great tacos.

MENU

Ugly Juanita's on Urbanspoon

LabelsBeale Street, Downtown, Mexican, Tacos, Tamales






Follow Ken's Food Find

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Unofficial Kookamonga Challenge at Kooky Canuck

A Food Bloggers Summit

On December 14, 2011, I got together with four other food bloggers to take on the Kookamonga Challenge at Kooky Canuck. The challenge is "unofficial" because it is limited to one person. Still, I was up for it along with the other participants:
Seth Agranov - Best Memphis Burger and organizer of the challenge and "food blog summit."

Tiffany Langston - Tiffany Tastes

Kevin Martin - Burn My Mouth
Shannon Little - Memphis Foodie
This was the first time that all of us got together, along with two others who are the spouses of the lady bloggers. Before I go on, I want to say that Seth's write-up of the event is spot-on accurate (Shannon and Tiffany also wrote great reviews). However, I'm adding my take on this because of a tweet I made afterward on my personal Twitter account. The tweet may have been misinterpreted by fans of Kooky Canuck.

That evening, I believe everyone had a great time and enjoyed all of the food served by an excellent, professional server who made sure that the dinner party was taken care of. Shawn Danko, owner of the Kooky Canuck, was a great host who made everyone feel welcome. As someone who visits the restaurant often, I have never had a bad experience. I always get great food and service from Kooky's with a smile. I have never left the restaurant feeling anything other than satisfaction in quelling my appetite. So when Shawn read my tweet, he felt I was talking about how I was treated. Rather, I was referring to someone that I encountered later at the Flying Saucer. Despite the praise he gets (including from my fellow food bloggers) he is not a nice person to me and some of the ladies who work at the Saucer. I apologize for giving the impression that Kooky Canuck treated me poorly, for nothing could be further from the truth. Everything at Kooky's that night was excellent.

We started off with the "star" of the evening, the 7½ pound Kookamonga Burger. It was a sight to see, although I thought the burger was bigger (I might have confused it with Kooky's twelve pound King Kookamonga Burger). Even though the burger was intimidating, the seven of us managed to knock it out. To my surprise, I was able to eat my slice like I would any other burger. The bun, despite its size, is soft and fluffy enough to mash down into something manageable so a fork wasn't needed. The patty itself, about 1½ inches in thickness, was juicy, tender and well seasoned. In terms of eating and digesting, it was similar to eating a Wendy's Triple (with better quality) and I didn't need a beverage to "wash" it down. Kudos to Shawn and his chefs for creating a huge burger that can be shared with friends and is easy to eat.

After we finished the burger, the group ordered several other items from the menu. Kevin, who blogs for Burn My Mouth, ordered a half-and half combination of chicken wings, with one portion flavored "Hot" and the other dubbed "HOLY SMOKE!" The latter is appropriately named, because after eating ONE wing, I immediately grabbed a glass of water and started gulping. Despite drinking water, the tip of my tongue still burned. I eventually resorted to sucking on an ice cube for thirty minutes. If Kevin can eat a dozen "HOLY SMOKE!" wings, I'm not sure anything can burn his mouth.

Once I recovered from the "HOLY SMOKE!" wing, I dug into one of my favorite desserts, the Cookie a la Mode. It is a huge scoop of ice cream on top of a large cookie set inside a small skillet. The ice cream and cookie combination that I chose was vanilla and chocolate chip, which conjures childhood memories. Because the cookie comes straight from the oven, its texture is soft and somewhat similar to a cake. With the melted chocolate, the cookie makes for a hefty dessert on its own. Throw in the vanilla ice cream, and a creamy sweet masterpiece is created. The picture that I posted of the dessert doesn't do it justice.

(It would be nice if I got a five megapixel camera with a flash for Christmas.)

Because of all the water I drank previously, I couldn't finish the Cooke a la Mode like I normally do. Still, outside of the Kookamonga Burger, it was the best part of the meal.

Once everyone finished eating, we talked about various food-related topics and compared notes. As we were talking, I wondered how much the dinner would cost us. It turned out that the entire dinner, including the 34 oz. mugs of beer that some of us ordered, was on the "house." Shawn, a gracious host, comped everything which took me by surprise. On behalf of the other attendees at the dinner, I want to express my gratitude for this generous gift.

Speaking for myself, I'm glad I got a chance to meet fellow food bloggers who approaches the topic from different perspectives. From following their blogs, I've learned about new places and foods that I wouldn't have known otherwise. I hope that we get together again to enjoy more culinary dishes.


Photo courtesy of Memphis Foodie

Website: www.kookycanuck.com

Kooky Canuck on Urbanspoon

Labels: Appetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Dessert, Downtown






Follow Ken's Food Find


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dyer's

A Different Perspective

Last week, I read Best Memphis Burger's review of Dyer's that featured the Triple Triple Combo. I was surprised that Seth (the blogger/reviewer) didn't like it. As a self-proclaimed burger aficionado, I have always felt that Dyer's made one of the best burgers in Memphis. Also, in all of the reviews I've read on Seth's blog, I rarely disagreed with any of them. One exception is Bardog Tavern, but even its owner (Aldo Demartino) believes I'm a little bit bias (maybe the hot wait staff clouds my judgment). Still, Seth's review countered my opinion of Dyer's, so I decided to see why that was.
To make it an even comparison, I got the Triple Triple Combo instead of my usual Double Double. The burger consists of three thin beef patties that are deep fried in Dyer's legendary grease that dates back to 1912. Once cooked, each patty is topped with American cheese (hence the name "Triple Triple"). To complete the burger, mustard, pickles and onions are added and sandwiched in an ordinary bun. The combo includes hand-cut French fries and a soda that are essential to enjoying the burger.
When I ordered the combo, I should've insisted for a freshly cooked burger. I usually don't need to ask for this, for in the past I've been accustomed to watching the kitchen staff cook my burger. Unfortunately, the Triple Triple I got came out a couple of minutes after I ordered it. It was lukewarm in the way that fast food at places like McDonald's and KFC are, which Dyer's is supposed to be better than. Even though I was disappointed, I went ahead with eating the burger combo.
In eating the Triple Triple, my findings were similar to Seth's. Like he said, the meat lacked seasoning and the burger's flavor came from the mustard, pickles and the residue of onions that I removed. Discovering the truth about the Triple Triple was an epiphany for me, because I always felt that this was a great burger. I hate to admit when I'm wrong, but this was a sobering revelation in more ways than one.
I'm glad I didn't get the Triple Triple by itself, for it would have made for a disappointing lunch. As I said earlier, eating the burger with a Diet Coke enhanced the experience of it by adding some pizzazz to the otherwise flavorless meat (beer also goes well with it). The fries were well cooked to the point that they were crispy and not overly salty, which made for a nice complement to the Triple Triple. The bun wasn't anything special but unlike with Seth, my burger's bun held together. In all, I'm in nearly complete agreement with Seth yet I still liked the burger, and now I know why.
Dyer's burgers are notoriously greasy, and the burger I had wasn't the exception. I believe that, along with the enormous amount of cheese, is what hooks most people into liking Dyer's burgers. With Memphis being known for its fatty foods like barbecue ribs and fried chicken, Dyer's burgers play perfectly into this theme. Also, because it's on Beale Street where a lot of alcohol is consumed, many of Dyer's customers might not be in the proper frame of mind when eating there. With all the partying going on, most are looking for good, greasy grub regardless of quality. I for one fell for the greasy gimmick, but I have seen the light after having a Dyer's burger sober. Unlike Seth, I will continue eating burgers there despite Dyer's slipping a few notches on my favorite burger list.
After eating the burger, I didn't encounter the physical difficulties that Seth did. In fact, I later went to work at FedExForum feeling pretty good, at least until the University of Memphis got upset by freaking Murray State 76-72. Even though I left the Forum depressed, my stomach was good enough to digest another meal the next day (the outstanding Somali Beef Stew from Salaama Market and Restaurant). I guess I have more stamina for greasy foods than my friend Seth.
However, we both need to step our game up to meet the Kookamonga Challenge at Kooky Canuck on December 14, 2011. Seth and I, along with three fellow food bloggers, will try to take down the 7½ lb. Kookamonga Burger in under 60 minutes. Will we be up to the challenge? Can't say for sure, but with friends cheering us on, we won't lack inspiration.

Website: www.dyersonbeale.com

Dyer's Burgers on Urbanspoon

LabelsBeale Street, Burgers, Downtown, Family Friendly, Wings






Follow Ken's Food Find