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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bahama Breeze

Curry In A "Breeze"

With my baby sister visiting last week, my Mom wanted to take us to dinner. Usually, that means one of two places: Houston's or Bahama Breeze (her other favorites are take-out specialists Adline's Hot Wings Express and Cozy Corner, a very underrated barbecue restaurant). This time, my mother was in a festive mood for something Caribbean. Obviously, that meant another trip to Bahama Breeze.
When we got there, I was surprised at the number of people who were there on a Tuesday night. Despite that, we were seated immediately after arriving. Once we got to our tables, our server greeted and handed us menus that were very thick. For a Caribbean-themed restaurant, Bahama Breeze has an extensive menu that appeals to almost any taste. Given that this is a chain restaurant that aims for broad appeal, that didn't surprise me. However, me and my family decided to order Caribbean. I almost deviated when I saw that sliders were on the menu, but I eventually chose the West Indies Chicken Curry. After my recent experience with the "Curry Chicken" at City Market, I was curious about how Bahama Breeze's version compared to it.

Please forgive the picture's quality. Using a crappy, low-end smartphone, I can only do so
much. Hopefully, I'll soon have a digital camera that can render better photos.

The entrée had many of the ingredients of the curry that I had a month earlier (including Basmati rice and hummus... errrr, chickpeas). However, unlike the City Market's Indian-styled version that was very spicy due to chili pepper seasoning, the West Indies Chicken Curry goes in another direction. Instead of being spicy, Bahama Breeze's dish focuses on sweetness that comes from its roasted pineapple chutney. It is dominant throughout the curry and overwhelms everything else. The curry definitely has West Indian flair that impressed me. However, I wouldn't advise anyone to get it if they never had curry before. Traditionally, it is a South Asian dish that's meant to be spicy with a lot of cumin and turmeric seasoning. Those spices are barely noticeable in Bahama Breeze's version of it, so a person would be in for a big surprise in getting the "real deal" after experiencing a taste of the islands. As it is, the West Indies Chicken Curry is really good (especially with naan flatbread) and will appeal to most, as long as they are aware of what they're getting.
Both my Mom and sister seemingly enjoyed their dinners. Mom had the Bahamian Seafood Chowder with shellfish and vegetables. While I didn't bother my mother for her thoughts about it, her facial expression conveyed immense pleasure. Although didn't taste my Mom's chowder, I managed to get a sample of my sister's Jamaican Chicken Wings. Marinated with Jerk seasoning, the whole wings were tender and very spicy. Although I wouldn't drive across town to get them (even though my sister traveled from Dallas for it), the wings made a nice impression on me. I might consider ordering them whenever I revisit Bahama Breeze. In the end, it seemed that all of us were satisfied with our meals.

SIDE NOTE: In keeping with my policy of not intruding on dining companions, I didn't take pictures of my family's dinner. In lieu of that, I've posted a photo of Bahama Breeze's Jamaican Chicken Wings from The Daily Fork. Also, I'm surprised that fellow blogger Kevin of Burn My Mouth hasn't blogged about Jerk-seasoned food. Although I don't think Bahama Breeze's wings will ignite his mouth (although it fired me up), I'm curious about his opinion on Jamaican/West Indian cuisine.

To sum it up, my family and I had another great experience at Bahama Breeze. While it will never be my cup of tea, I don't mind going there if it makes my Mom happy. With me being single, I will always favor places like Bardog Tavern that caters primarily to an adult crowd. However, if I were to "settle down" and start my own family, a place like Bahama Breeze could serve well as nice alternative from the norm. With its great atmosphere and good service (although it's Wi-Fi connection is spotty), the restaurant is capable of mass appeal. It's definitely worth checking out.


SIDE NOTE: This dinner outing later led to a discussion about Memphis restaurants and the "chain"/local debate. I subsequently wrote about my Thoughts About "Chain" Restaurants.

Bahama Breeze on Urbanspoon

LabelsCaribbean, Chain Restaurants, Cordova, Family Friendly, Wings

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Thoughts About "Chain" Restaurants

While heading home with my family after having dinner at Bahama Breeze, my Mom lamented about the "lack" of restaurants in Midtown. Given the number of establishments within Overton Square alone, it was an unusual assertion from her. When I mentioned restaurants such as The Cupboard, Side Street Grill and Fresh Slices Sidewalk Cafe & Deli (a black-owned business), my Mom was weary of those places. To her, those locally-owned establishments have no credibility because she has never heard of them. In my Mom's worldview, only "legitimate" brands like Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse and IHOP are the only ones that matter in the restaurant business (along with her favorite local take-out places like Adline's). If that's the case, I strongly disagree.
In fact, my best experiences have come from so-called "mom-and-pop" restaurants where the owner(s) have a personal stake in all facets of the business. Just like I said in my review of Los Pilares, "chain" restaurants are more "corporate," run by managers more concerned about the "bottom line" than lending the personal touch that makes a restaurant unique. That extends to everything including the food, drinks, service and overall decor and atmosphere. Also, that includes getting to know the customers, especially the "regulars" who consistently bring in revenue. Knowing the intricacies of them such as favorite drinks, preferences for cooking an entrée and even a customer's temperament can make a difference in customer loyalty. With regards to the last point, I've personally found (or rather put) myself in situations where I wasn't the most, shall I say, "friendly" in some of my favorite bars like Max's, Bardog and others. In a "corporate" setting, I'm sure that I would've been given the boot and banned from returning. However, local restaurants and bars where the owners and workers know their "regulars" can sense when one of them is having a bad night and will likely cut him/her some slack. As long as the person isn't damaging anything or harassing other customers, they know that everything will work out in the end. To put it in another way, local restaurants care more about their customers than "chains" who only see things from a numbers perspective. I don't have anything against "chain" restaurants, it's just that I'll never be a fan of them.
The one exception to the "chain" rule is The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium that's based in Fort Worth, Texas. Despite the number of "Flying Saucers" throughout the South and Midwest, each one is uniquely tailored for its community. For example, the Flying Saucer in Memphis' Cordova neighborhood is more of a restaurant that caters both to families and beer connoisseurs who are simply trying to unwind after a long day of work. Having been there a few times, I definitely felt like I was in "Cordova" as opposed to festive Downtown Memphis. The layout of the place doesn't include things like a stage for music acts and a pool table, items featured in its Downtown location. Even the menu is slightly different, for "Cordova" serves burgers and seafood "baskets" that has more appeal to kids than its Peaboby Place counterpart. Personally, the biggest difference between Memphis's two Flying Saucers is the personnel. To me, the staff at the Cordova is a little more "reserved" than its sister restaurant/bar. Unlike the Downtown location were the bartenders and waitstaff are very engaging with customers, the personnel at the Cordova location are more laid-back and focused on service. Quite often at the Downtown Saucer, I'm welcomed by people who briefly chat with me before getting me a beer (usually the daily "Fire Sale"). I also like that the bartenders and servers seem to have more fun at work, to the bemusement of patrons like myself (this is probably the reason why I spend so much time there). Before I go on, I'm not implying that the waitstaff at either Flying Saucer is more or less professional than the other, but rather that the two places cater to its unique clientele. As it relates to the Downtown Saucer, it has to have personnel with experience of dealing with adults who are more focused on drinking and the consequences involved with that. That includes those who occasionally visit Downtown from the suburbs and "regulars" who love drinking lots of beer (especially when served by ladies in short skirts). So, while Memphis' two Flying Saucers share the same name, they are two different places with regards to atmosphere and character. Unlike a similar "chain" like Hooters, there's a lot of variety among the "links" of the Flying Saucer. If more "chains" allowed its management the autonomy and flexibility to create the perfect environment for its customers, people like myself might be more willing to embrace it as part of the community. Hopefully, restaurant chains like the Flying Saucer will set the example for others to follow.
Getting back to what my Mom said, I hope someday that she will see the light about locally-owned restaurants. I believe that she is depriving herself by ignoring places that would appreciate her business. I will do my part to change her opinion by treating her to places that I think she will like. For example, instead of going to Bahama Breeze, maybe dinner at Evelyn & Olive will satisfy her Caribbean craving with a little local hospitality. As for her love of Houston's, hopefully a trip to Restaurant Iris will convince her that Memphis-based restaurants are very competitive with regards to quality. If my efforts can sway her, I'm confident that she'll become a local "regular" of a restaurant who will truly appreciate her. In doing so, she will break the "chains!"

SIDE NOTE: I would be remiss if I didn't mention a blog devoted to supporting local restaurants. Eat Local Memphis reviews local restaurants, announces culinary events happening in the area and talks about other issues related to Memphis cuisine.

LabelsChain Restaurants, Commentary

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Miss Polly's

Waffling Opinion

One of the benefits of working near Memphis’ Beale Street is having access to the assortment of touristy honky-tonk joints that mostly serve Barbecue, Cajun/Creole and Soul Food. Among this group is Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe, whose signature dish is the Chicken and Waffle. The entrée is fascinating to me because I don’t see how fried poultry and a yeast-battered pastry soaked in maple syrup go together. I’ve tried eating this in the past at other places and never got satisfaction from consuming both elements at the same time. Seasoned fried chicken and a sweet waffle come off as a mismatch, for the flavors of the two conflict harshly. But despite the illogic of it, chicken and waffles is a popular American dish. So in the interest of this blog, I’d decided to try Miss Polly’s version of it to see if the entrée would change my opinion.

The Chicken and Waffle was as good as I expected. The "waffle" portion of the entrée consists of a huge Belgian waffle that was decent yet out-of-place in a Southern diner (the pancake batter-based American waffle is the choice of most restaurants that serve the entrée). Compared to other places that I've had it, the yeast-battered waffle was average in terms of taste and texture.
The same goes for the chicken breast, for the seasoning consisted of the usual spices associated with fried chicken. The meat was tender and juicy, complementing the eggs and grits that I got as sides. However, when I tried eating both the chicken and waffle together, I got the same clash of flavors that I experienced in the past. So for me, I will never see the light about chicken and waffles as a single entrée. By themselves, the two items are good, but not good together. This is not a knock on Miss Polly’s, but rather it’s that my palette isn’t down with it.
For me, the best part of the Chicken and Waffle dish from Miss Polly’s is one of the sides. The entrée comes with eggs cooked any way a person wants it. Scrambled eggs is my preference, but not to the point where it’s impossible to pick up with a fork. To that end, Miss Polly’s did an excellent job with it, for the eggs were soft yet firm enough to cut into. I also liked that it was lightly seasoned, allowing the flavor of the eggs to shine. The scrambled eggs are great on its own and even better with sausage and grits. In future visits, I might choose this as an entrée over Miss Polly’s premier dish.
Grits were the other side item that I ordered. The side wasn’t any better or worse than most places and I’m not a huge fan of it. However, the grits are better than its alternative, the home fries. I don’t like them because of the charring around the edges. When I had them with the gravy-laden Down South Skillet Scramble, I needed three margarine condiments to take the edge off the burnt taste. If I had gotten it with the Chicken and Waffle, it might have ruined my meal. Fortunately, the grits meshed well with everything, including the syrup-saturated waffle.
Overall, Miss Polly’s Chicken and Waffle is a nice entrée that will appeal to most. Although my personal tastes will never fully embrace it, I can approach it as a two-course meal if I’m really hungry. By the way, Miss Polly’s has other good entrées that will satisfy the appetite (a friend told me that the meatloaf is really good). However, the Chicken and Waffle is a unique experience that I urge others to try.

SIDE NOTE: For those who regularly read this blog, some changes in design have been made. My intention was to make it more user-friendly by condensing and arranging content in a newspaper-style format. Unfortunately, it is still a work in progress, which might lead me to taking the advice of an occasional drinking buddy who is a programmer for Wordpress. As many know, Wordpress provides the publishing platform for many blogs such as I Love Memphis, a website that has a design that I want to emulate. My friend assured me that Wordpress' software is easy to use, which might convince me to switch over from Blogger. If my troubles continue with this blog's makeover, that is exactly what I'll do. Wish me luck!


Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe on Urbanspoon

LabelsBeale Street, Breakfast, Brunch, Downtown, Fried Chicken, Soul Food

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