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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Maria's Cantina

For Old Time's Sake

After months of procrastinating, I finally got around to visiting Maria's Cantina. My primary reason for venturing outside Memphis' city limits was to see someone from the past. One of the bartenders at Maria's is Meghan, a former Flying Saucer Girl who was one of sweetest servers who worked at the draught emporium. Also one of its hottest-looking ladies, Meghan was (and still is) a sight to behold by me and most of the regulars at the Saucer. Before I go further, I want to state that I do not have a "crush" on her, but rather an appreciation of both her beauty and service to me and anyone else thrusting for beer. So for old times' sake, I made the trek to Southaven.
Maria's Cantina is about as "Mexican" as Young Avenue Deli in terms of décor and atmosphere. As a cantina, Maria's is more like Neil's than Happy Mexican because of its festive environment with live music blaring everywhere. If this place were in Midtown, I believe it would rival places like the Hi-Tone Cafe for the party crowd (Maria's also has a location in Bartlett). However, I was there to say "hi" to Meghan while grubbing on some Mexican food.


In deciding what to order, I wanted something that was unique. I got my wish when I stumbled across Maria's Cantina's Mexi-Q menu. Incorporating barbecue into a traditional Mexican menu, most of the "Mexi-Q" consisted of entrées stuffed with pulled pork along with sides that most expect. Initially, I considered getting tamales, but changed my mind when I discovered the chimichangas (or as I call them, "chimmy chongas") on the menu. Not having one in a while, it was the obvious choice for me. The chimichanga comes topped with queso and drizzled with sweet barbecue sauce for an appealing appearance. The shell of the chimichanga was slightly crunchy (like a Ritz cracker) that meshed well with the queso, barbecue sauce and smoked pulled pork. With the rice, beans and other sides, the Mexi-Q chimichanga made for a nice late night dinner. Far from a truly authentic Mexican (or Tex-Mex) experience, the chimichanga was alright for what it was. I see it as evolved Taco Bell grub that the fast food chain might develop if it wanted to branch out into the casual dining/nightclub arena. Overall, it was decent and I have no complaints. Whenever I get around to revisiting Maria's, I want to try a traditional chimichanga with beef, chicken or other meats (including pork that's prepared differently) so I can get a better sense of the restaurant's capabilities in cooking Mexican food. Again, I want to state that I liked my chimichanga that seemed more American than Mexican.

SIDE NOTE: While I waited for my food, I wanted to check out some of the March Madness going on in the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Unfortunately, Maria's Cantina didn't show all the games that aired while I was there and in general isn't much of a sports bar. Fortunately, I had the NCAA March Madness Live app installed on my phone which gave me access to any game I wanted. The app works on both iPhone and Android platforms and performs great (at least on my Samsung Galaxy smartphone).

After finishing my dinner, I wanted to take a picture with Meghan. Unfortunately, she was too busy serving drinks and tending to others at the bar to do that. The fact that she was working her ass off debunks the bullshit of another blogger who gave her nothing but grief. This guy would harass her at work (both at the Saucer and Kooky Canuck) as well as post disparaging things about her work habits on his blog. A person (as in a douchebag) has to have low self-esteem if he gets his jollies from bullying others. Fortunately, Meghan is now working in an environment that's free of that kind of abuse and I wish her the best.
To sum it up, Maria's Cantina is a place that offers decent food in a lively environment that should appeal to both families and single people like myself. Aside from Meghan, the service is good and the restaurant has a lot to offer from margaritas to burgers (I've heard they're really good) to traditional Mexican fare. So, if you're looking for a nice experience in Southaven, Maria's Cantina is a good choice. When you go there, leave the "bags" behind and enjoy.

Website: www.MariasCantina.com

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Labels: Barbecue, Commentary, Mexican, Southaven







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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brother Juniper's College Inn

Reigniting The Past

In an effort to reminisce the past, I revisited a place that I used to frequent often. With it being so close to work, I regularly stopped by Brother Juniper's College Inn for breakfast. Usually, I would order one of its many popular omelets that the inn offers. Although I liked most of them, they never inflamed a passion for Brother Juniper's. However, I recently had an omelet that really fired me up.


The Fireman is a spicy open face omelet that will get your attention. The heat derives from peppery stuff like Chorizo sausage & hot sauce, jalapeños and green onions that make the omelet spicy while not burning your mouth. Add the milder toppings of sautéed tomatoes and cheddar & Mozzarella cheeses, and the result is an omelet with vibrant flavors. The accompanying cheese grits is a good match for the open face omelet, for it blends well with nearly everything on it. Overall, The Fireman is a great omelet that I look forward to having again.
I am glad that I returned to Brother Juniper's after a far too long absence. I will definitely return to get another Fireman and the warm hospitality that comes with it. It won't be easy because the restaurant is far away from the routes that I take to work (going from Midtown to Downtown). The problem can get worse by the inn's occasional long wait times that are potentially longer on weekends (thirty minutes or more). Hopefully, I will do my best to find the time to enjoy another spicy omelet from Brother Juniper's. It's worth the effort.

Website: BrotherJunipers.com

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Labels: Breakfast, East Memphis Family Friendly






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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chiwawa

A New "Dog" On The Block

Several weeks ago, I stopped by ¡Chiwawa! for both dinner and to see one of my favorite bartenders. While I missed out on seeing Kyla (who also is a former Flying Saucer Girl), I still managed to have a great time at the Overton Square restaurant.

From left: The Chubby Vegetarian, Pollotillo and Taco de Pescado

For starters, I got three tacos that I randomly chose. While I liked all of them, the one that stood out was The Chubby Vegetarian, named after a prominent Memphis blogger. Consisting of panko-crusted fried avocados topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, candied lime, cilantro, and chipotle aioli that are wrapped around a corn tortilla, the taco has a light crispness with quite a bit of zesty flavor. The restaurant cooks the avocados in canola oil so there isn't anything about the taco that's unhealthy. At $5, the taco is more expensive than average but is well worth it. The other tacos (the Pollotillo (chicken) and the Taco de Pescado (fish)) were also good, but it takes a back seat to the "Chubby". I'm not sure if I can clarify it as genuine Mexican cuisine, but The Chubby Vegetarian is great comfort food for almost any occasion.


After finishing the tacos, I had some hunger left in me. To satisfy it, I got the restaurant's signature Chiwawa Dog. The best part about this hot dog is the quality of the bacon-wrapped beef frank that is a cut above the average wiener. Other than Cafe Eclectic, I don't know of a many places that use gourmet-quality meats in its hot dogs. Combine that with toppings such as avocado, salsa fresca, sour cream, and Valentina hot sauce, for a really good "¡perro caliente!" that's worth every cent of its cost ($7).

SIDE NOTE: Cafe Eclectic, with entrées like its Wonder Dog, provide more bang for the buck. For less than seven dollars, a person can get one of the cafe's hot dogs with a side item like its Roasted Taters. I hope I'm not putting a sour note on the Chiwawa Dog, but I felt that it needed mentioning.

In the end, my dinner at ¡Chiwawa! was a very pleasant experience because of the good food it serves. Speaking of service, the not-Kyla bartender treated me well by satisfying all my wants and needs. She even provided free coffee to perk me up while I sat at the bar. All around, ¡Chiwawa! is a really nice restaurant that's well suited for anyone who loves good food in a cozy environment (which includes a huge outdoor patio) in the heart of Midtown Memphis.

Website: www.ChiwawaMidtown.com

LabelsHot Dogs, Midtown, Overton Square, Tacos, Tapas/Small Plates, Vegetarian/Vegan

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