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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nikki's Hot Ass Kettle Potato Chips

An Apology

Earlier this year, when I wrote about the places I ate at in Olive Branch, Mississippi (a Memphis suburb), I briefly mentioned Nikki's Hot Ass Kettle Potato Chips at SideStreet Burgers. My initial take was that the potato chips were "mildly spicy" and that "Hot Ass" was "a bit of an exaggeration" (in other words, a marketing gimmick). I formed my opinion after eating a couple of chips, so I didn't experience the full force of the "Hot Ass." Meanwhile, my laborer cohorts said the chips were the hottest they ever had. Them telling me this made me think they were puss... err, girly men who couldn't handle a little heat. In hindsight, those guys knew what they were talking about, for they had the equivalent of a small bag of chips with their burgers. They opted for the chips because they were free, setting in a bowl near the restaurant's cash register. Following the "if it's free, I'll take three" philosophy, my cohorts thought they were getting over by not having to pay for potato chips. However, human physiology intervened and kept their indulgence in check. Now, fast forward to the recent Best Memphis Burger Fest that took place at Minglewood Hall where I had my encounter with a bag of Nikki's HOT ASS chips. Unlike eating a couple of them, attempting to eat an entire bag had me whimpering like a baby. It seems that it takes more than a chip or two to get the burn that it's known for.

SIDE NOTE: Seth, the man who established Best Memphis Burger Fest and talks about burgers on his blog, should find time to make the trip to Olive Branch for a burger from SideStreet. I'm very confident that he will like it and give it at least four stars. By the way, I'm not the only one recommending the burger joint, as fellow blogger Memphis Que also suggested it to Seth. Also, he should visit the P & H Cafe that is across the street from Minglewood Hall. Given his love of the "Juicy Lucy" (a burger with stuffed meat, aka "Jucy Lucy"), I believe Seth will like it and even incorporate the grungy dive into future burger fests, provided the venue doesn't change.

When I got the bag of Nikki's chips, I didn't think much of them other than as something spicy to eat with the many burgers I tasted at the festival. Nikki's Hot Ass (why do I feel pervy whenever I type the company's name) was handing out free bags from its booth at the festival. Like my cohorts in Olive Branch, I took advantage of it without giving it a second thought. Like the last time, the first couple of chips didn't hit me that hard, but the pain exponentially worsened as I ate more of them. By the time I got a third of the way down the bag, I was desperate for water. Eventually, I scrambled to Squeal Street BBQ's tent to put out the fire in my mouth with water, beer or anything liquid. After regaining my composure, I turned the bag around to read the chip's ingredients. In a bit of an eye opener (literally), I discovered this:

Ingredients for Nikki's Hot Ass Kettle Potato Chips that includes Ghost Peppers

Discovering that the potato chips had Ghost Peppers as a part of its seasoning was quite a surprise. The peppers are the hottest on Earth, rating at a million Scoville Heat Units (a scale that measures a pepper's spiciness). That's far hotter than jalapeƱos (2,500-8,000) and Habanero peppers (100,000-350,000) that are also hot to handle. Had I known this beforehand, I would have been more cautious in eating the potato chips. Unfortunately, my arrogance literally burned me (specifically my tongue), forcing a reassessment of the fiery chips. I am now convinced that Nikki's Hot Ass lives up to its name, for its potato chips are the spiciest in Memphis and possibly all of America. That said, I apologize for undercutting the chips in my initial review. This is one mea culpa that I don't mind giving. Respect the "HOT ASS."


Website: www.NikkisHotAssSeasoning.com

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As for the Best Memphis Burger Fest...

Best Memphis Burger Fest entrant - At The Bistro
After gulping bottles of water and beer, I eventually recovered and enjoyed the rest of the burger fest. With my capacity for burgers limited due to my liquid consumption, I only ate a few sliders and missed out on delicious burgers like those from Slider Inn's tent. Of those that I had, my friends at Squeal Street had one the best burgers at the festival. Now, before you call me a biased "homer," I was objective in approaching the burger fest. With that in mind, the best burger I tasted came from At The Bistro, a Soul Food restaurant located on Brooks Road in Whitehaven. It had a lot of seasoning for a peppery burger that might have been a standout at the burger fest. Overall, nearly all the burgers I tasted were great and the competing teams did an excellent job for a noble cause.
Sticky Rice
Sadie
The Best Memphis Burger Fest benefits local animal rescue organizations like Streetdog Foundation, Tunica Humane Society and Fayette County (TN) Animal Rescue with donations that help homeless and abused animals get the help they need. As someone who has a stray cat, I appreciate the efforts of everyone associated with the festival and hope it has much success in the future.

Website: www.BestMemphisBurgerFest.com

Labels: Burgers, Commentary, Snacks






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Friday, September 26, 2014

Al-Rayan

A Change From The Usual

In an effort to focus the blog on overlooked restaurants, I want to talk about a place I visit often. Although it's not on par with personal favorites like The Majestic Grille and Bardog Tavern, Al-Rayan is a neighborhood restaurant that I often go to when I crave for a good, inexpensive meal. Typically, I go there for a pita wrap of shawarma or a gyro for lunch. While a wrap is good enough most of the time, I went all out with a full blown feast about four months ago. To satisfy both my hunger and curiosity, I got the beef shawarma plate with a salad, hummus and naan bread as appetizers.

SIDE NOTE: I'm sorry for not having a more current review. Lately, I haven't eaten out a lot, so I'm relying on experiences from the past. Fortunately, I have enough "reserves" to last me to the end of the year.


To start things off, I got a salad with hummus, naan bread, and chili and garlic sauces. The salad had the typical stuff like lettuce and tomatoes, but it also had a lot of black pepper in it. The spice wasn't something that I am accustomed to in a salad but it made a good impression on me. The salad is better with the garlic sauce, the mayonnaise-looking stuff in the upper right corner of the above picture. Although the salad was good, the best part of the first course was the hummus. Not that I'm an expert, but Al-Rayan's hummus is the best that I've had in my limited experience with the legume-based sauce. It ranks ahead of places like Cooper-Young's Green Cork and Downtown's Silly Goose Lounge in terms of taste. Speaking of that, the hummus sort of tasted like blue cheese despite an assurance from my server that I was sensing the tahini in it. Nevertheless, I really liked it and look forward to having it and the salad again.


As I was finishing my salad and hummus, the beef shawarma arrived. Thoroughly broiled on a vertical spit, the chopped beef was somewhat dry while possessing a hint of vinegar aroma. The accompanying rice tasted similar to many African restaurants where I had it. The beef shawarma and rice were good together, but are better with chili and garlic sauces. Rounding it out with the restaurant's fresh naan bread, my lunch at Al-Rayan was very nice.
Although Al-Rayan isn't in one of Midtown Memphis trendier neighborhoods (i.e. Cooper-Young, Overton Square), it's a cool restaurant that's worth checking out. With the dining room adorned with Middle Eastern furnishings, the restaurant has a cultural vibe that sets the mood for something special. For me, that's good enough for more visits in the future.

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LabelsMiddle Eastern, Midtown, Pita Wraps







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