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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hollywood Cafe

"Walking" in Robinsonville

Since I've started blogging about food, I usually write about where and what I ate during Thanksgiving. As for the "where," the dinner was usually in a Tunica casino that had a huge buffet for massive appeal. This year, because my family stayed home for the holidays, I decided to do something different. Instead of writing about another turkey and dressing meal, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite foods.
From past trips to Tunica, I've discovered that most of the casinos have a variety of restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining. In that mix, some of them have "burger bistros" that are supposedly a cut above places like McDonald's. Intrigued, I researched some of them in preparation of another trip to Tunica. One of the places that I studied was Horseshoe's 8 oz. Burger Bar, a restaurant that's part of a national chain which isn't owned by the casino. While reading its Yelp reviews, I saw this:


With the caption "Best of Yelp Robinsonvile - Burgers" below it, I instantly recognized it as the place mentioned in the song "Walking in Memphis" by singer/songwriter Marc Cohn. Personally, I feel that the song is one of the worst representations of Memphis, for it depicts the city as a small, folksy, backwater town that's mired in the past. Particularly as it relates to walking, I can't see any conceivable way that anyone would want to walk to "The Hollywood" because it is a thirty minute drive from Memphis to Robinsonville, Mississippi. Heck, even walking from Union Avenue (at Bellevue Blvd.) to Graceland isn't an easy stroll (it's actually 5.4 miles in one hour, forty-eight minutes according to Google). Unless you really like doing it, "Walking in Memphis" is a very inefficient way to get around the city. Even if Cohn's description of the city was accurate, his song about it was a sappy way of doing it. If I was making a song about one of America's music capitals, I would try to do it in a genre that represents the cultural essence of it. "Walking in Memphis" has no resemblance of the Blues, Soul (although I'm sure Cohn was singing from the heart) or any other style of music that Memphis is known for. Even if Cohn had made the song better, his mentioning of "The Hollywood" as a Memphis institution is misleading. However, it is on The Blues Trail that leads from the city so there is a connection both literally and figuratively.

SIDE NOTE: If I ever get the chance, I will travel to New York so I can visit Tom's Diner (now known as Tom's Restaurant). The diner was immortalized by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Suzanne Vega. Oddly, Vega and Cohn performed together on many occasions that included a date in Denver, Colorado in August of 2005. Unfortunately, Cohn got carjacked before the show (which wasn't in Five Points) and sustained a gunshot to the head during the attack. Miraculously, he didn't receive any brain damage because the bullet didn't penetrate his skull. Currently, Cohn is on tour as the opening act for legendary Blues artist Bonnie Raitt.



Getting back to the food review (and away from "Ken's Music Musings"), I decided to get the Hollywood Cheeseburger (a day after Thanksgiving) with fries preceded by an appetizer of fried dill pickles. I chose the pickles as an appetizer because of the restaurant's boast as the "Home of The Fried Dill Pickle" that's augmented by the claim that it originated there. Whether or not that's true (it's disputed by Bob Austin of the Duchess Drive-In in Atkins, Arkansas), the fried dill pickles were the best that I've had so far. Granted, my experience is limited (from visits to Hooters and Kooky Canuck), but Hollywood's pickles were very impressive. What I liked most about them was its catfish-style breading. Because of the light breading, the taste of the dill pickles shined. Surprisingly, the pickles didn't posses a strong brine/vinegar taste that was a turnoff (along with excessive breading) in past experiences with the appetizer. The pickles came with the restaurant's homemade ranch dressing, which made the tasty appetizer even better. Overall, I really enjoyed the pickles and recommend them to anyone living or visiting the Tunica area.



While the fried dill pickles were really good, the cheeseburger didn't provide similar satisfaction. The Hollywood Cheeseburger (cooked "well done") didn't taste much different from most places. It tasted about the same as burgers from places like Uncle Lou's and Dino's Grill. The meat was likely seasoned with typical stuff like salt and black pepper and not much more. Although the burger was average, I wasn't disappointed because I didn't go to The Hollywood Cafe with any expectations. That said, my first experience was positive and I'm inclined to visit again.
If I make another trip, I might do it on a Saturday night when the cafe (a slight misrepresentation of the place) features live Blues acts starting at 7 PM. With its location beside the old and fabled U.S. Highway 61 (one of the "Crossroads" of Blues folklore), it seems logical that the divey restaurant would promote music celebrating the many Bluesmen who traveled it while "Walking in Memphis."

Website: TheHollywoodCafe.com

Hollywood Cafe on Urbanspoon

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Commentary, Tunica






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Monday, November 25, 2013

Alannah's Breakfast Kafé

Another Breakfast Gem

On a whim, I went to Alannah's Breakfast Kafé (formerly Cafe Napoleon) to check out something that I've heard about. According to some, the cafe serves some of the best catfish in Downtown Memphis. That's a heady claim, considering the competition from places like The Little Tea Shop, Blues City Cafe and Kooky Canuck (it's much more than a burger joint). I wanted to see for myself if the catfish was as good as the hype.
My entrée of choice was the Catfish & Grits with scrambled eggs and wheat toast. Eating catfish for breakfast seems somewhat unusual, but I'll try anything at least once. It isn't more ridiculous than chicken and waffles, a dish that is seemingly on the menus of most diners in the nation. Although I will never fully embrace the concept of either chicken or catfish for breakfast, what I had at Alannah's made a good impression on me.


The foundation of this entrée is the catfish. What I like about it is the seasoning, which has a strong presence of cayenne and black pepper that isn't too spicy despite being very flavorful. The catfish itself is tender to the point that it melts in your mouth, combined with perfectly fried cornmeal breading makes for something very delicious.
As part of my breakfast, the catfish went well with both grits and scrambled eggs. Speaking of the grits, they are swimming in butter (or margarine) so those with heart problems should take note. As a person who loves mixing butter and seafood, the catfish and grits completely hit the spot. The eggs are a bit bland, but I consider it a good thing because I don't want it conflicting with the catfish. To make a long story short, Alannah's Catfish & Grits is great and worthy of its praises.
In addition to breakfast, Alannah's also serves lunch with a menu of Soul Food and barbecue. The former consists of familiar staples like fried chicken, pork chops, green beans and black-eyed peas. The "Q" comes from Interstate Barbecue, not exactly a favorite of mine but appeals to tourists and some of my friends. Despite serving lunch, the other favorite among Yelp reviewers is the chicken and waffles. If it's as good as its catfish and grits, I'll have something to look forward to on my next visit.
Run primarily by owners Ollie and Stephanie McDowell (the restaurant is named after their daughter), the service at Alannah's Breakfast Kafé is very friendly and attentive. Mrs. McDowell did a good job of taking care of me throughout my breakfast, making sure that I had everything I needed. The restaurant (on Main St. across from the Renaissance Apartments and Wrapzody) is very clean and cozy, so most would feel comfortable dining there. With it being far from the popular parts of Downtown Memphis (Beale Street, South Main Arts District, etc.), I hope my friends and others will take the time to discover the good food at Alannah's.


UPDATE: I went back for Alannah’s Chicken and Waffles that were absolutely delicious. Consisting of fried chicken wings on top of a sugar-powdered Belgian waffle, the combination is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. By themselves, the individual components are a bit above average. The wings are on par with restaurants like Jack Pirtle’s and the waffle is comparable to those served from places like Cafe Eclectic. Throw them together with butter and maple syrup for an amazing mix of tantalizing flavors that will convert any doubter about the dish, including myself. For me, Alannah’s version of the entrée is the first that I really liked. I think part of the reason for it might be due to the cafe's use of dark meat as opposed to chicken breast that restaurants like Miss Polly's uses for the entrée. Whatever the reason, Alannah's dish definitely made an impression on me. Until someone can prove otherwise, Alannah’s Breakfast Kafé is the place to go for chicken and waffles in Memphis.

Websites:
   www.alannahskafe.com
   alannahsbreakfastkafe.weebly.com
   alannahskafe.wix.com

MENU - I'm including it because one of Alannah's online menus is in Latin, a "dead" language unfamiliar to most people I know.

Alannah's Breakfast Kafé on Urbanspoon

LabelsBarbecue, Breakfast, Downtown, Soul Food






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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mot & Ed's

A Place To Get "Stuffed"

Recently, someone posted a comment on my Urbanspoon "Best Burger Joints in Memphis" list, asking if I had the Stuffed Burgers at Mot & Ed's. Although it wasn't the first time that I've heard about the Soul Food restaurant, I never took the time to check it out. Last week, I made a couple of visits to the Midtown eatery to see what the buzz was about.


During my first visit to Mot & Ed's, I got the recommended Stuffed Burger (a.k.a. "Juicy Lucy"). "Stuffed" in this case means that the beef patty is stuffed with things that are normally either on top or beneath it like bacon. For my burger, I got it stuffed with that along with mushrooms and grilled onions and topped with pepper jack cheese. After waiting over twenty minutes, the cheeseburger arrived with what I believe was seasoned fries (I asked for "regular"). From looking at it, it appeared that the meat (Black Angus Beef) was medium brown, which could have been interpreted as being undercooked. Once I bit into it, I found it difficult to determine the rawness of the meat (although it was slightly pink on the inside) because of the massive amount of seasoning in it. As far I could tell, it seemed to be a mix of mostly black pepper and spices not normally found in hamburgers. As I ate more of it, I wasn't sure what I was eating but I managed to finish it. The "stuffing" and cheese had a presence in the burger but was secondary to the meat's seasoning. If I order another burger from Mot & Ed's, I might get it stuffed with ketchup and make it a meatloaf sandwich à la the Graduation Burger from Lunchbox Eats. Needless to say, the Stuffed Burger didn't impress me.

UPDATE: On February 4, 2014, I visited one of Mot & Ed's competitors in the "stuffed burger" game, P & H Cafe. Located a few blocks away from Mot's on Madison Ave., P & H does a much better job in making "Juicy Lucys." Go there, check it out and compare the two restaurants.

SIDE NOTE: In addition to beef, the restaurant also offers stuffed turkey burgers for those looking for a healthier alternative.


A day later, I returned to Mot & Ed's for one of its Soul Food plates. In a departure from the norm when I usually order something fried (chicken, pork chops or catfish), I chose the chopped steak. I did it to see how it compared to a Stuffed Burger in terms of preparation and taste. What I got was a lot better, for the fully cooked meat had all the flavors that most expect from chopped steak. To me, it tasted more like a burger that what I had the previous night. I'm not sure if it's the best chopped steak ever I had, but it's better than anything that I've eaten in a long time.
The side items were pretty good, too. I particularly liked the macaroni and cheese that was creamy and seasoned in way that made it slightly sweet. In eating it with the chopped steak, the two didn't taste like a perfect match, but I would love to get a full plate of the mac 'n cheese mixed with chunks of Country ham. Something like that could rival places like Alchemy that are known for serving excellent versions of the entrée. As you can see, I really liked the pasta.
Although the mac 'n cheese was the best among my sides, the others were good too. While the collard greens tasted like it should, the cornbread wafers (or whatever they're called) were perfect by my standards. Baked to a perfect brownish yellow (or yellowish brown, depending on one's color perception), the cornbread was buttery and crispy. Not only that, I liked that it wasn't charred or "browned" (I couldn't think of a better word) by the pan they were baked in. All too often, charring often undercuts the rest of the flavor in cornbread, but it wasn't a problem with the wafers. Next to The Little Tea Shop, Mot & Ed's might have some of the best cornbread in Memphis.
All around, my second visit to Mot & Ed's was much better. As you can see in the picture above, I got my dinner as a take-out order. I'm mentioning this because of the way I got it. When I called in the order at about 5:36 PM, I was promised that it would be ready in ten minutes. Personally, I found that hard to believe but I gave it the benefit of the doubt. After placing the order, I searched my house for exact change to pay for it. Fifteen minutes later, I found what I could and drove to Mot & Ed's (by the way, I could have easily paid for it with a debit card). I arrived there at approximately 6:00 PM, expecting a completed and ready order. Once I paid "Ed" (short for Edna, who is a lot younger (late thirties to early forties) for a woman with that name), I waited an additional fifteen minutes. As I waited, I heard a sizzling sound in the back that came from the chopped steak that I ordered almost a half-hour earlier. Ed explained that they were out of chopped steak when I called it in, but it seems like a peculiar coincidence that the restaurant got more of it once I paid my bill. What I'm getting at is that if a restaurant doesn't want to accept take-out orders without prior payment, it should ask for the money upfront via credit card. I'm sure some will be offended by it, but Mot & Ed's is a business that can't afford screwballs calling in bogus orders. As long as the restaurant is honest in fulfilling orders and resolving problems that could result from it, I believe a prepay policy is feasible. Especially for a business located at an address were other restaurants failed, I believe it is a prudent approach in customer service.
Speaking of customer service, both my visits to Mot & Ed's were great from that standpoint. Ed and the rest of the staff were very friendly as I felt right at home. Referring back to the "change" that I sought after, Ed was kind enough to spot me the two cents I needed. Seriously, the restaurant is a nice place to dine at for either lunch or dinner. The Southern eatery also offers entertainment, for it hosts poetry readings by aspiring artists. With a great atmosphere coupled with excellent service, Mot & Ed's is a nice place to be.

Check out Mot & Ed's on


Mot & Ed's on Urbanspoon

LabelsBurgers, Commentary, Midtown, Soul Food






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Monday, November 18, 2013

Off The Hoof Burgers

Not Always In Harmony

Last week, I wanted to satisfy my curiosity by trying something I heard about. A while ago, Seth of Best Memphis Burger blog proclaimed that he found his first five-star burger. Give the fabulous sandwiches that he had previously, I assumed that he found the Holy Grail of hamburgers at Off The Hoof. So, I decided to make a trip to Arlington, Tennessee for a taste of magnificence.

SIDE NOTE: Because I lost my smartphone recently, I've had to rely on Google Maps for getting directions to places. On the night that I went to Off The Hoof, the directions stated that after going about a mile down U.S. Highway 70 (from the exit off of I-269), I had to make a right turn on Chester Ave. followed a left on Mott Ave. In making those additional turns, I assumed that the restaurant's entrance didn't face the road of its official address (12013 U.S Hwy 70). Anyway, I ended up on a dead-end street, far from anything resembling a restaurant. After turning around and going into "old" Arlington, I wasn't sure that I would find Off The Hoof. At one point, I thought I would get "DWBed" ("Driving While Black-ed") by cops wondering why I was driving around the neighborhood. After about ten minutes, I eventually made it back to U.S. 70 and found the burger joint. If there is a lesson from this, that is knowing where you're going and not putting blind faith in the Internet.

Once I arrived there on a Wednesday night, Off The Hoof was nearly empty. My server greeted me immediately and escorted me to my table. Once there, I had already mind up my mind about what I wanted. I decided to get two burgers, with one of them beef-based and the other from one of the restaurant's "big game" meats. Off The Hoof offers unique hamburgers featuring buffalo, elk and ostrich for those wanting to expand their horizons. Unfortunately, those meats were out of season so I settled for a beef burger. Actually, the primary reason for my visit was to try the Pat LaFrieda Chopped Steak burger that received Seth's highest honor. I was hoping for a sample of amazement, but my expectations were dashed.


Before I go on, I want to say that the Pat LaFrieda Chopped Steak cheeseburger is really good. There are great things to like about it, such as the freshly baked croissant bun and the spicy pepper jack cheese (other cheese options are available). On the other hand, the best part of the burger had flaws when I got it. The meat of it is a combination of two-way chuck and boneless short rib, considered by many as prime cuts of beef. While the mix itself is very good, my burger wasn't cooked properly. As most followers of this blog know, I like my burgers and steaks cooked "medium rare" although I'm not a stickler for perfection. However, I value something that was lacking in my "LaFrieda" burger, consistency. After taking a couple of bites, I sensed that something was wrong. Upon further examination, I saw that I had an unevenly cooked beef patty. Some parts of it were slightly rarer than "medium" while other portions were "well done." In and of itself, the burger was the opposite of a disaster, but it fell far short of expectations. Ironically, I hoped for something similar to a Three Angels Diner burger, the inspiration for the Best Memphis Burger blog. While Three Angels' burgers are the epitome of steaks in a bun, the Pat LaFrieda Chopped Steak left much to be desired. In the end, while I have a deep regard for Seth's opinions, I will respectfully disagree about Off The Hoof's five-star status. While the burger is very good, I don't believe it is the ultimate "Best Memphis Burger."


Along with the burger, I got a bowl of Off The Hoof's battered fries. With "battered" being the key word, the fries are heavily coated with batter that is crunchy, buttery and well seasoned. They are also filling, for I tapped out after eating a few of them. By itself, the battered fries make for a great snack, but I advise consuming a small portion if it's a side item to something else.
Overall, I had a nice time at Off The Hoof Burgers. While expectations weren't totally met, the restaurant's food and service was satisfying. Speaking of the latter, my server was very courteous and quickly brought out my order in less than ten minutes. In hindsight, I might have gotten my burger too quickly, given the end result (speed isn't everything, as a recent poor burger experience at Mot & Ed's proved). However, I appreciate the restaurant's efforts in serving me and hope to return soon. When I do, I hope that the "big game" meats are in season. If so, I'm sure to have a blast (no pun intended).

Website: OffTheHoofBurgers.com

Off The Hoof Burgers on Urbanspoon

LabelsArlington, Burgers, Commentary, Family Friendly






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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mandarin Wok

Two (Snap) Peas In A Pod

During a day off last week, I went to Munford, Tennessee for Chinese food. With the numerous Chinese restaurants in Midtown Memphis alone, some might see this as lunacy. However, my purpose for the trip wasn't for satisfying my appetite, but rather to quench my curiosity. For the past several years, I knew that one of my favorite Chinese restaurants had a "sister" establishment. For Millington's Mandarin Wok II, the obvious assumption was "Mandarin Wok I" or simply Mandarin Wok. Because the two restaurants are in close proximity to each other and not far from a company that I previously worked for, I wanted to dine at Mandarin Wok for the sake of comparison. Unfortunately, I never got around to it and the location of my current employer is prohibitively too far for a short lunch excursion. Luckily, a lazy afternoon allowed me the time to fulfill my wish.


In going to Mandarin Wok, my intention was to get the entrée that I usually order in Millington. By going with Chicken with Cashew Nuts, I was curious about the similarities between the two restaurants. From traveling to places like Shang Hai and the Vietnamese restaurant Phuong Long, I know that the entrée's composition will vary. Not that I'm an expert on Chinese food, but I tend to prefer Mandarin Wok II's version because of its mix of chicken, cashews, snap peas, carrots, celery, onions and baby corn in an Asian sauce (probably soy). Not surprisingly, Mandarin Wok follows the same recipe for its version which also (like its "sister") includes a generous portion of fried rice with roast pork and onions, although the Munford restaurant seemingly uses a little less meat. Other than that, the entrée tastes identical and has the same deliciousness as its nearby counterpart. If the other entrées have the same similarities, one is bound to get a good meal regardless of the "Wok" he/she dines at.
The only real differences between the two restaurants is service. For example, even though both offer similarly priced lunch specials, the Mandarin Wok II's deal includes a can soda at no extra cost. In addition to not offering a drink, the Munford restaurant has an eight-dollar minimum on credit card purchases, although it didn't enforce it when I was there. Also, learning that the restaurants have different owners, I'm not sure if employee compensation is the same. I'm making this assumption on the basis of the tip jar that I saw on top of the cashier's counter (read my review of MacStell's for my opinion about "jars"). By comparison, the Millington restaurant doesn't ask for tips. From what I can remember, the "II" didn't accept one when I included it on a credit card purchase (by the way, I left a tip at the Munford restaurant). Despite the differences, the level of customer satisfaction is the same at both restaurants, so one would have a good experience regardless of where he/she goes.
My summation of the experience at Mandarin Wok is good, although I don't feel that I missed out on anything. As I said, the two restaurants are almost the same despite having different owners. With that being the case, I wouldn't make a special trip to Munford for something that I can get closer to home or work. Likewise, if I lived in either Munford or adjacent Atoka, I would not need to travel far for good Chinese food. Now that I've satisfied my curiosity about Mandarin Wok, where should I go next?

Mandarin Wok on Urbanspoon

LabelsAsian, Chinese, Munford/Atoka






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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Westy's

Great Burgers, Mediocre Barbecue

About two or three years ago, I ran into a friend while heading to my favorite bar, The Flying Saucer. After talking about this and that for a few minutes, my friend recommended Westy's One-Eyed Bacon Cheeseburger with pepper jack cheese. Actually, he said "get the One-Eyed Jack Burger," which is a lot easier to say. It didn't take me long in making my way to Westy's (located in Downtown Memphis' Pinch Neighborhood), where I had one of the best burgers in Memphis.

Thanks to the generosity of my family on my latest birthday, I finally got a decent camera. The Kodak EasyShare C1530 is capable of taking 3216 x 4288 pictures at 14 megapixels. Although it is not a professional-grade camera, it's a lot better than what I had.
The reason why I love Westy's burgers is a simplistic one. While the other components of the "Jack Burger" are really good, the ground beef is what makes it great. The meat is chargrilled to order without any special seasonings to jazz it up. My guess is that Westy's uses a little salt and black pepper and nothing else, which doesn't matter as long as it tastes great. In the "One-Eyed Jack Burger," the meat comes with mild pepper jack cheese, a fried egg and bacon that's tender, chewy and full of smoked flavor. All of it, along with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a bun (an in-house baked onion roll) makes for one of the best burgers in Memphis.

SIDE NOTE: While Westy's does a good job in making hamburgers, the restaurant isn't always perfect. For example, my boss (who sprung for the ribs that I will talk about later) got Westy's Helluva Burger that she wanted cooked "well done." Despite taking the request, she got her burger a little undercooked. She eventually came around to liking the cheeseburger, but wasn't completely satisfied. So while Westy's gets it right most of the time (like when I order burgers cooked "medium rare"), it is prone to making mistakes.

Burgers aren't the only thing that Westy's makes. The bar/restaurant has an extensive menu that has everything from rice bowls and soups to steaks and pasta. Among the more intriguing items on the menu is the barbecue ribs. When I saw it, I was skeptical if Westy's could pull it off. With the restaurant having a huge variety of food, I wasn't sure if the kitchen staff had the time, equipment (such as a barbecue smoker/pit) and expertise to do ribs right. Fortunately, I got a risk-free opportunity at work to try Westy's ribs. The experience didn't turn out well.


The Westy's ribs, unlike its burgers, are underwhelming. The meat isn't as tender as I and most people like, and lacks the smokiness that comes from hours of roasting in a barbecue grill/pit. Most of the ribs' flavor comes from the barbecue sauce that is the typical sweet tomato paste stuff that anyone can buy in a grocery store. To borrow a term from fellow blogger Memphis Que, the ribs are nothing more than "fast food barbecue" that are a step below Tops Bar-B-Q. As much as I hate to say it, but the ribs met my expectations in a bad way. However, given that Memphis is disputably the BBQ capital of the world, I know that I don't have to rely on Westy's for good barbecue. As long as the burgers are great, I'll continue being a patron of the place.

The sides that came with the ribs don't tickle my fancy, either. While the tater tots are merely okay, the coleslaw is too creamy for me. It seems that it uses a lot of mayonnaise to make it, which in turn overwhelms everything else in it. For the slaw I had, I threw it away after a couple of bites and focused on the rest of my lunch. Combined with mediocre barbecue, the coleslaw doesn't come close to genuine barbecue establishments in terms of satisfaction.

For dessert, I decided to get a variation of one of Westy's signature dishes. As a step up from Jake's Original Hot Fudge Pie, the Ultimate Hot Fudge Pie is (according to the menu) a brownie cake "drizzled with raspberry and roasted pecans, buried under French vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream and strawberry." That seems like a humongous dessert, but it didn't appear that way when I initially got it delivered. Not wanting to write about something that wasn't complete, I will wait until I make another visit to Westy's.

With the contrasts of reactions to two of Westy's many entrées, it seems to me that the restaurant/bar can't do everything well. However, it has done a relatively decent job of providing good meals for me in the past so I'll try not to be too critical of it. In my opinion, I believe that it is difficult to employ a "jack of all trades" strategy that provides consistent quality in food or anything else. That said, Westy's manages to make great cheeseburgers (although my boss will disagree) that will keep me coming back.

Appreciate Your Friends

Before I end this review, I want to refer back to the guy who introduced me to Westy's "One-Eyed Jack Burger." Since his recommendation (which is ironic given that he dissuaded me from starting this blog), I've decided to focused on building and strengthening friendships with those that mean a lot to me. Given the drama that I've allowed myself to get embroiled in over the past several years (such as scrapping with a certain blogger that I will no longer acknowledge), I've decided to focus on those who have been supportive despite my faults. If it weren't for them, I don't know where I would be emotionally. Going into 2014 and beyond, I hope to strengthen those relationships by being a better friend (and less of a pain in the ass). By "friend," I don't mean with people who I merely socialize with, but on relationships based on mutual respect. I know that I'll never be a "cool guy" to most (including the "One-Eyed Jack" guy), so I appreciate those who befriend me in spite of that. For this, I'm grateful.

The composite of photos was taken at my sixth (and likely last) "plate party" at The Flying Saucer on October 16, 2013. The photo on the right was taken by Kelly, our Saucer Girl for the party. Kelly is a friend who has been good to me over the past few years. I wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on her new career as an EMT.

Website: www.westysmemphis.com

Westy's on Urbanspoon

LabelsAmerican, Appetizers/Bar Food, Barbecue, Burgers, Commentary, Dessert, Downtown






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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Restaurants Honoring The Military

Thank You!

On Veteran's Day, I want to recognize restaurants that honor the military with free meals. These acts of generosity (which many also do on Memorial Day) is appreciated by most of the military and veterans like myself. For some such as the homeless, lunch/dinner from places like Hooters and Blues City Cafe is one of the few decent meals that they will have this year. While I'm fortunate to have a home and a job, I'm just as grateful for the gratitude shown by these charitable restaurants.



T.G.I. Friday's


One of the many restaurants offering free meals is T.G.I. ("Thank God It's") Friday's. I usually get cheeseburgers whenever I'm there, but this time I chose something different for Veteran's Day. For lunch (which is the only time (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) that T.G.I. Friday's offer it), I got the Korean Steak Tacos. Wrapped around corn tortillas and loaded with ginger lime slaw, cucumbers, cilantro, basil and Sriracha sauce, the tacos are sweet and spicy in a non-gimmicky cheap Chinese take-out way. A little less of the former and slightly more of the latter, the tacos had a robust Asian flavor that was impressive. They came with a slice of lime that would've been an unneeded distraction. A side of jasmine rice pilaf nicely complemented the tacos, making it a complete meal. Overall, my lunch at T.G.I. Friday's was better than I expected, especially for a chain restaurant that's not my cup of tea (by the way, service was excellent). For an occasional lunch spot, T.G.I. Friday's isn't a bad choice.

SIDE NOTE: TGI Friday's is famous for its loaded potato skins. Despite its popularity, I can't say that I'm a fan of it. My biggest gripe about them is that they aren't cheesy enough and the bacon lacking crispness and smoked flavor. Meanwhile, potato skins from places like Second Street Shoppers' are better on both those qualities while not costing nearly as much ($10.60 for T.G.I. Friday's skins that includes a 10% take-out service charge). I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds, but I felt it needed mentioning.

Website: www.fridays.com

T.G.I. Friday's on Urbanspoon



Applebee's



After work, I stopped by Applebee's to take advantage of its Veteran's Day special. Unlike my visit to T.G.I. Friday's, Applebee's had a full house of mostly veterans and their families. After managing to get a seat at the bar, one of the bartenders quickly greeted me with a menu. Once I looked over the menu, I chose the Three-Cheese Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato Penne to satisfy my occasional pasta craving. Consisting of grilled chicken breast strips, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, parmesan) basil, tomato pesto and Alfredo sauce, the pasta was cheesy and somewhat garlicky. I liked that the sauce was thick and creamy, something that I don't see at most Italian restaurants in America (especially at chain restaurants). The entrée also comes with a small loaf of bread (Applebee's version of bruschetta) that didn't receive until I asked for it. The buttery garlic-tasting bread tasted great after I dipped it in the Alfredo sauce. In all, I had a nice experience at Applebee's, for the food was good and the service was friendly and very attentive. While I will never be a "regular" there because of my preference for locally-owned restaurants, Applebee's is a nice place to take the family to for a nice dinner.

Website: www.applebees.com

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon



Afterthoughts

Again, I want to express my thanks to both T.G.I. Friday's and Applebee's for treating me and my brothers and sisters in arms to delicious meals. From the looks of the men and women that I encountered, I can confidently say that most of them enjoyed their meals. Not including myself (a nine-year Air Force vet), I feel that the meals were well deserved for those who took the oath to protect the U.S.A. Committing yourself to defend your country is a courageous act that most Americans don't either have the time and/or guts to do. I'm not saying this as a criticism, for there are many ways to serve the country. Although most will never serve, it is great that many support the military. While that's a good thing, it shouldn't be limited to verbal support and gestures like displaying magnetic "ribbons" on vehicles. To me, "support" should include accountability for our leaders who put our military in harm's way. The troops can only do what they're told, so it's up to us to ensure that they are only deployed when needed. Using the military to resolve a conflict should be a last resort, for anything less would be a betrayal to those who proudly serve. The military should be seen as one of America's greatest assets that is cherished and not taken for granted.
Veterans of the military deserve all the support it needs, such as job training, housing and in some cases, drug rehabilitation. Far too often, I've seen vets who are homeless and destitute, seemingly forgotten by society. These men and women are owed a debt greater than a few free meals a year. I hope they get all the help that they need from citizens enjoying freedom in America.

For homeless veteran assistance in Memphis, more information can be found at:
Alpha Omega - a non-profit that helps veterans with drug rehab, mental illness and housing. Website: www.aovs.org

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - provides job training, health care & housing assistance. Website: www.va.gov/homeless
Those living in Memphis can obtain more information at www.memphis.va.gov/services/homeless/index.asp

Veterans Crisis Line - offers help to veterans who are contemplating suicide (current rate: 22 a day). Website: veteranscrisisline.net

LabelsAmerican, Asian, Appetizers/Bar Food, Chain Restaurants, Commentary, Family Friendly, Multiple Locations, Pasta, Tacos






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