It's time for another installment of the blogosphere's most useless series, "The Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders." When I wrote the initial review, I was curious about how two bars with similar sounding names would compare to each other. I could have approached it several ways, but I decided to focus on one of my favorite foods. Both Bardog Tavern and the defunct Bar None featured sliders (essentially mini hamburgers) that had great reputations among friends and "foodies" in Memphis. I thought the review would be a one-time thing because I assumed that no other restaurants in Downtown Memphis served sliders. Apparently, I was far off the mark on that assumption, for the slider is very popular in Memphis. So, after writing three more reviews over the course of two years, I've discovered a lot of diversity in how various restaurants make them. Places like Bardog take the simple approach of broiling high quality ground beef and only adding white American cheese, ketchup and mayo within a plain burger bun to make an awesome slider. At the other end of the spectrum, upscale restaurants like Felicia Suzanne's uses unique ingredients to create a masterpiece befitting of its reputation. Whatever the approach, most places that I've visited do a good job of making sliders. Although I encountered a couple of duds on my journey (Flight and Hooters), I've mostly been satisfied with what I had. After my last comparison, I assumed that the slider series was done. However, an opportunity presented itself a few months ago when Blind Bear Speakeasy (current tenants of the address previously used by Bar None) accidentally got a shipment of slider patties. Seeing this as an act of fate, I immediately took advantage of it. Of course, a "battle" can't happen with only one participant, so I needed to find another Downtown restaurant that served sliders. It took awhile to find one because technically, none of them offered it. Fortunately, I knew The Brass Door featured non-burger sliders as part of its weekday specials, so it had the capability (as in buns) to serve as a “combatant.” As it turned out, both restaurants acquitted themselves well for their sliders were good. However, the degree between them was significant.
The sliders that I got from The Brass Door were a variation of its Brass Burger. It features a hand-formed beef patty with smoked cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and its best component, bacon. From the first bite, the taste of the "Mini Brass" really impressed me. The ground beef (cooked "medium") was flavorsome on its own, benefiting from good seasoning. But the thing that impressed me the most was the bacon, for its crunchiness and smoked flavor really stood out in the slider. In combination with the ground beef and cheese, the bacon makes the mini Brass Burger one of the better sliders in Downtown Memphis. Or it would be if it was on the menu. However, the full-sized version is available for lunch and dinner and worth checking out. I hope the slider makes it on to The Brass Door's "daily special" rotation. I feel it's worthy of it.
Another entrée that I really liked from The Brass Door is the Fish and Chips, one of its most popular menu items. Small cod filets lightly coated with the Irish pub’s ale batter, it came with dipping sauces (tartar and curry) and “chips” (hand-cut fries). By itself, the “fish” portion was quite good, but the dipping sauces really made the difference. The tartar sauce (if it is that) was quite tangy, possibly due to the presence of horseradish. Although a little watery, the tartar sauce added a sharp taste to the “fish” that I thoroughly enjoyed. As for the curry sauce, my feelings on it are mixed. If the sauce had the spiciness that I’m accustomed to, I might have liked it with the battered cod. However, the curry sauce was more on the sweet side and didn’t fare well with me. As much as I try to keep an open mind, I couldn’t accept eating slightly salty battered fish smothered in a sweet curry sauce. This is not to say that the concept is wrong, but it isn’t my cup of tea (obvious puns unintended). The fries…err “chips” (which are the same that came with the sliders) were slightly crunchy and mushy with sea salt sprinkled on for seasoning. They complemented the “fish” well and tasted fine when dipped in the sauces provided. As a whole, the Fish and Chips were great (without the curry sauce) and will always be one of my favorite dishes there.
SIDE NOTE: I wanted to talk about a genuine Irish dish that wasn’t a Shepherd’s Pie. Unfortunately on the day that I got the Fish and Chips, my server was only able to point out one Irish dish, the Tam O’ Shanter sandwich. However, if I had checked out The Brass Door’s online menu, I might have discovered the Chef’s Special Entrée. The dish consists of braised lamb, onions and potatoes in a broth with soda bread. Although I’m far from being an expert in Irish cuisine, I’m guessing that this is the real deal. Maybe my server didn’t know about this or it wasn’t available during my visit. I will keep it in mind when I visit again.
Overall, I enjoyed the two meals that I had at The Brass Door. Both were great and I look forward to dining there often. Given that it’s an Irish pub, The Brass Door is also a great place to socialize while having a Guinness or other alcoholic beverages. The décor of the place is definitely within its intended theme (the pub was originally a bank) and is very comforting. The service is great and the owner Seamus (a real Irishman) strikes me as a nice guy, sort of in same the way that The Little Tea Shop’s Suhair does. I hope the bar succeeds, which will buck the trend of failed restaurants that located on Madison Ave. between Second and Third streets. I will do my part to support it, and I hope others do too.
When I think of sliders (or even cheeseburgers), a speakeasy isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, Blind Bear Speakeasy had some to serve three months ago when it accidentally got a shipment of slider patties. Unable to send them back, the speakeasy kept and served them up. Unofficially called “cubs” and patterned after the Blind Bear Burger, the sliders weren't anything out of the ordinary. Garnished with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese (I chose pepper jack), the sliders were average in terms of taste. The burger patty had some seasoning in it (likely a typical salt/black pepper combination) that one can find at many restaurants, so I can’t say it’s a slider of distinction. Despite that, the sliders were good and I hope to see them on the menu permanently someday.
UPDATE (September 11, 2014): As of a year ago, the speakeasy permanently added the sliders to its menu. For the most part, they are the same as the burgers I had for this review and are pricey ($10+ for two sliders).
Although Blind Bear might never win any awards for its burgers, its overall menu is decent for a bar. One of its most popular items is the Hibernation Chili with Macaroni & Cheese (which I will refer to as “HCMC”) that many of my friends love to order. Separately, the chili and Mac & Cheese (I chose white cheddar) are okay by themselves but are great together. For this particular meal, I got it topped with bacon bits for added flavor along with a side of fries (something that I also got with my sliders). As a whole, the HCMC tasted great, with the bacon adding a smoky element that gave the entrée a good boost in flavor. Although I really liked it, I had a craving for spiciness that was satisfied with Tabasco sauce. The hot sauce made the dish even better, for it complemented all the other components in it extremely well. The fries were decent and a nice side to the HCMC. However, when I order this again, I will likely get green beans that I feel are more suitable for the entrée. Despite it being carb-heavy, it was a great meal that really hit the spot.
UPDATE: I decided to follow-up on my review of the Mac n' Cheese entrée by getting it again with pepper jack cheese and a side of green beans. As expected, this version was spicier (it didn't need Tabasco) although the cheese was milder than most of that type. The green beans were a better match with Chili Mac n' Cheese than fries, for I didn't go into carb overload after eating all of it. Also, even though I got bacon to accompany my meal, I didn't use much of it because I eventually came to the conclusion that the entrée didn't need it. It was great stuff all around, and it's something I look forward to having again.
As far as I said earlier, the food at the Blind Bear is good by most standards. Although it won’t likely be my first choice whenever I desire fine dining, the speakeasy is what it is. It is a great bar staffed by excellent personnel that is proficient in serving drinks and accommodating its patrons in a relaxing and festive environment. Outside of The Flying Saucer, the “Bear” is one of my favorite places to hang out at. I look forward to many more visits there, for it’s a great place to be.
Obviously, The Brass Door wins this "battle" because its slider is a great tasting burger. Nothing against the Blind Bear, but its slider was merely good. While that's not a bad thing, it's like getting a "C" and just getting by. By no means am I speaking ill of the speakeasy (refer to previous and following paragraphs), it's just that the burger didn't stand out from the pack. On the other hand, The Brass Door's slider gets an "A-" because it's well-made and flavorful. As far as the secondary items go, I will call it a draw. Both Blind Bear's Hibernation Chili/Mac & Cheese and The Brass Door's Fish & Chips were impressive and I can't say which one is better. I wish I could have gotten the Chef’s Special Entrée from The Brass Door because it might have swayed my opinion, but I was satisfied with what I got. Unfortunately for the "Bear," I have to base my decision on the sliders, so I'm siding with The Brass Door. Although it's not Downtown Memphis' best slider, The Brass Door can hold its own with any restaurant.
The following are personal thoughts related to the blog and life in general. If you don't to want read it, you can skip it by clicking here.
In the last slider "battle," I responded to a detractor about comments that he made about me. Since then, I've gone back-and-forth with him and his "professor" buddy with insults and other hateful gestures. In doing this, it has cost me a lot in terms of reputation and relationships with some of my best friends. In hindsight, I regret involving anyone in selfish and needless battles with insignificant individuals who I'm better off ignoring than acknowledging. When I mean "better off," I'm saying that I will be a happier person if I don't let the stress from it (along with other personal issues) affect me. Therefore, I will no longer pay attention to whatever they or anyone else says about me. Whether it's snide remarks and/or gestures made in my presence or comments made online on blogs, Facebook and Twitter (including one solely devoted to bashing my food blog), I will ignore them as if they don't exist. As far as I'm concerned, those people are dead to me, provided they don't try to physically harm me. From now on, I'm moving forward with my life by simply being the weird, quirky and socially inept guy that I am.
Along with that, I will be more considerate of others whenever I'm depressed, angry or simply having a bad day. Whether it's the result from getting bullied or something else, it isn't fair to expose my anger to others. If I offended anyone with my behavior in the past (exacerbated at times with alcohol), I apologize. This includes both patrons and staff at some of my favorite bars such as The Blind Bear. I have been unbearable to be around and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including the hardworking waitstaff at The Flying Saucer. I have a lot of respect for them and I don't want to do anything that will make their jobs harder. That includes making drunken comments and related actions that are intolerable. I have no excuses for my actions but I promise that I will try to be a better person. As it stands now, some of my friends have been patient with me while others have grown tired of it. For those relationships that were damaged or lost, I hope I'm given another chance to show what a good man I am. To accomplish this, I will try to become a more selfless person in the future. It won't be easy, but hopefully I will do the right things to make that happen.
By the way, I want to express my gratitude to a friend for an invitation into his barbecue team's tent/booth during this year's Memphis in May barbecue fest. Given my antics toward one of his teammates, he had good reason to not invite me. However, I told him the same thing that I'm saying now, that I will no longer let guys like "the professor" bother me. By putting that guy out of mind, I had a great time with his team and guests while enjoying excellent barbecue. I'm fortunate to have friends like him, something that I will never again take for granted. So to my enemies, I'm throwing in the towel for the sake of myself, family, friends and others that I care about. As it relates to this blog, it will no longer be used as a platform for fighting others. I'm tired of it and will move on with my head held high.
Now It's Your Turn!
Now that five installments of The Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders have been posted, I feel it's time to end the series. It's ironic that, because one of the "combatants" is located at the scene of the first "battle," I'm sort of ending it where it began. I feel that it has run its course and I don't believe there are other restaurants in Downtown Memphis that serves them. Even if I'm wrong, it doesn't matter because it's not the only reason why I'm ending it. Quite frankly, I've lost the passion for not only that but also blogging and social media as a whole. Until I can get to a good place, I will be blogging a lot less. It doesn't mean that the blog is going away, but I'm not blogging unless I see something that really inspires me. To quote B.B. King, "the thrill is gone" from Ken's Food Find. So, I will end the slider series by asking readers to take part in a poll rating all the sliders that I have written about in TBDMS (more shorthanded laziness). I'm curious to know who really has the best slider in Downtown Memphis, for my opinion is just one voice. The poll will take place over the next thirty days (ending on July 21, 2013 at 12:00 A.M. CDT), with the results announced July 22, 2013 or shortly thereafter. To ensure fairness, the poll will allow only one "ballot" per voter. Also, because of the possibility that I might have overlooked a restaurant or two, write-in votes will be allowed. Of course, like any election, any write-in candidates will be verified for eligibility in the poll. The winner will be announced on this blog with cross-postings to Twitter and Urbanspoon. Please keep in mind that this is about sliders and not a popularity contest, so don't vote for a candidate because it's your favorite restaurant. I hope you will take part in this and thanks for your support of The Battle of Downtown Memphis Sliders.
Click below to read
The Battle of the Downtown Memphis "Sliders," Part 4
The Battle of the Downtown Memphis "Sliders," Part 4
Labels: Appetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Commentary, Downtown, Irish Pub, Pasta
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