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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Little Italy

Chillin' At Home

With almost the entire world on some degree of a lockdown because of Covid-19, being a food blogger got a lot harder. For me, getting the best sense of what I'm eating requires dining in at a restaurant where the food is hot and fresh from the kitchen. Being that I'm a fair guy, I usually refrain from getting out take-out for the blog unless that's the only way to get food from a particular restaurant (example: Roxie's Grocery). However, given the circumstances surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic, I will have to adapt both as a blogger and in life in general. So for this phase of the blog, I will try to focus on restaurants that either do a lot of take-out or aren't (in my opinion) "dine-in friendly" as far as atmosphere goes. With that in mind, I knew the first place I had to talk about is one of my favorite take-out joints, Little Italy.

NOTE: This review might be a bit dated, for this was written before some of Memphis' restaurants (not including Little Italy) reopened under Mayor Jim Strickland's "Back to Business" plan.

For years, Little Italy has been a go-to whenever I want authentic Italian cuisine. Not to be a snob, but I haven't found a restaurant in America that matches an Italian ristorante in food quality or atmosphere that I experienced during my four years in Italy as an Air Force airman. I have been to a few places that come close (unfortunately not in Memphis) but they are not quite there. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it could be that actual Italians (as opposed to Italian-Americans) aren't running it. Hopefully in my lifetime, I will go to New York to dine in a "genuine" Italian restaurant in America, but I'll have to make do until then. Although I can't get the complete Italian experience in Memphis, I rely on restaurants like Little Italy to serve some of the best Italian food in the city.

Rigatoni Rustico from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee
Rigatoni Rustico with salad and garlic bread (all included)

One of the things that I love about Little Italy is the pasta. While it isn't on par with most restaurants in Italy, Little Italy does a very good job with what it serves. An example of this is Rigatoni Rustico, a pasta dish with chicken and Italian sausage mixed with sauteed onions and red peppers in Little Italy's signature marinara sauce. As you can see in the picture, Little Italy doesn't drown the pasta in sauce, but rather adds just enough to bolster everything in it. The rigatoni was fresh and firm (as in "al dente") that didn't seem like it came out of a box. The chicken and sausage were also good and even better with the red peppers, onions and marinara sauce. Compared to what one can find in Italy, this is a very good dish that doesn't overwhelm with sauce but rather strikes a balance that allows all the elements to flourish. Those who aren't used to this kind of pasta might find this foreign, but the Rigatoni Rustico embodies the essence of genuine Italian cuisine.

Parmigiana pizza with meatballs from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee
The white "arrow" in the middle isn't a "play" button
In addition to great pasta, Little Italy serves fabulous pizzas. I'll admit that I usually go to Aldo's Pizza Pies as a first option because of convenience (usually after having drinks either there or some other Downtown establishment), I also like to mix it up occasionally with "pies" from Little Italy. They both offer New York-style pizzas that are far superior to the Domino's and Pizza Huts of the world. One of my favorite pizzas from Little Italy is the Parmigiana Pizza with meatballs. It comes with marinara sauce and topped with meatballs (or either chicken or eggplant) and mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. Contrary to what I said about the rigatoni, it wouldn't ruin my day if I got it swimming with marinara sauce. On the "Parm" pizza, the tomato and garlic in the marinara sauce is really good and a great foundation for the rest of the pizza. The ricotta is creamy with a sharp flavor that is very good by itself and awesome with the rest of the pizza. As for everything else, I have no complaints (I'm saving that for later in this review), for everything from the soft crust to the flavorful meatballs were excellent and very enjoyable. It's because of pizzas like this that make Little Italy stand out among the many pizzerias in Memphis.

Tiramisu from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee
SIDE NOTE: Because my pizza was under fifteen dollars, I had to add something to cross the threshold for delivery. For that, I chose the tiramisu as a dessert. Little Italy's version met my expectations as a creamy and coffee-flavored dessert that nicely hit the sweet spot.

Accidental Pleasure

Little Italy had always been one of my favorite places for takeout even before the current environment surrounding Covid-19. Even when I'm out at other bars that serve great food, I get that occasional itch for Italian. For the most part, the restaurant comes through without a hitch but not during my last visit. During a past Saturday, I attempted to order the Sausage Parmigiana Sub. The lady taking my order asked "you want an Italian Sub?" I confirmed I wanted the SAUSAGE Parmigiana sub, with the emphasis on "sausage." Then the lady asked me what kind of potato chips I wanted: plain or barbecue? I clearly replied by saying "plain" potato chips (I actually would have preferred French fries but wasn't offered that option). So, what happens next?

The calzone with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee

As you can see, I didn't get the sub that I asked for. Instead, I got the Italian Sub with Lay's barbecue potato chips (I swapped the Lay's with Brim's that I will talk about later). Needless to say that I was disappointed in not getting what I ordered, feeling like Leo Getz in getting screwed. Like Leo, I wasn't driving back to get the right sub, so I resigned myself to eating what I got.
The calzone with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee
As it turns out, the Italian Sub is a really good sandwich. It has pepperoni, ham and salami bonded by quite a bit of mozzarella cheese. Also with lettuce and tomatoes, the sub is a cheesy delight that almost made me forget that it wasn't my choice. The sub comes with an olive oil-infused Italian vinaigrette that surprisingly makes the sandwich tastier. In all, the Italian Sub is a great sandwich and a nice consolation for a botched order.

SIDE NOTE: For "plain" chips I swapped the Lay's BBQ chips in my order with Brim's Classic Potato Chips. In comparison to Lay's and other major brands, Memphis-based Brim's is just as good and a greater value. When you buy a bag of Brim's, you are not only contributing to the local economy but you are also keeping employed people who are in need of a second chance. Brim's BBQ Rib ChipsSome of Brim's employees are people who had been in trouble with the law and want to get back on track with a good job and a stable life. There aren't a lot of companies that are willing to hire "troubled" people but Brim's has stepped up in a big way to help out. Brim's is a good company that I hope remains successful, especially with its BBQ Rib Chips that totally outclasses Lay's barbecue chips. I talk more about the chips on Tumblr, one of the many social media platforms (along with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) that you can follow Ken's Food Find.

Calzone vs Stromboli

I was about to end this review when I was reminded that Little Italy sells calzones and strombolis. Because I was stationed in Northern Italy, I never had a calzone that is a staple in the southern part of the country. As for the stromboli, it is a creation of Italian-Americans like the muffaletta and cioppino (they were created in Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco, respectfully and (with the exception of "N'awlins") places that I'm not familiar with). Until writing this post, I've never had a stromboli and on one hand could count the number of times I had a calzone (all from Little Italy on the recommendation from my Atlanta-based sister). Now, what is the difference between a calzone and a stromboli? A calzone is basically a pizza folded in half with the sauce, cheese and meats stuffed inside it while a stromboli consists of meats and cheese rolled up by pizza dough (kinda like a burrito). To get a sense of what both are like, I decided to get both and compare them.

The calzone with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee

To start things off, I chose the calzone that has been a go-to in the past. As you can see above, it's basically an Italian version of a turnover filled with a lot mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. At $5.25, that's all you get and additional toppings cost a dollar each. For this calzone, I chose sausage because it's my favorite meat topping at Little Italy. Unfortunately, the sausage was smothered by all the cheese in the calzone. The calzone with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, TennesseeFor someone looking for a meaty meal, this calzone wasn't it. The cheese to meat ratio seemed like it was 5 to 1, something that I wasn't looking forward to. Now this is not to say that I didn't like the calzone, especially when I dipped in marinara sauce and eaten with garlic knots. Still, the calzone seemed more like a big Hot Pocket than a pizza. I appreciate the quality that went in to it, especially the dough used to make the buttery crust that enclosed the calzone. Despite that, I probably won't order it again unless I get it loaded with enough "toppings" to make worthwhile that will cost as much as an actual pizza.

The garlic knots from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee
"SIDES" NOTE: The garlic knots are a great side item for calzones and almost everything else on Little Italy's menu. Freshly made, the knots are soft and kinda sweet even with the garlic in it. It comes with marinara sauce (one cup, despite what's depicted in the picture; the other cup came with the calzone), although the knots were so good that I didn't need it (which was a bonus given that I used a lot of it on the stromboli that I ate later). The fried calamari from Little Italy in Memphs, TennesseeEven though the knots were good, if I had craved for a meaty side instead, the fried calamari (as in squid) is not a bad option. Compared to other places that I've had it, Little Italy's version is tasty with a decent amount of crunch that's not on par with restaurants like The Majestic Grille but it's good enough to balance a really cheesy calzone. Regardless of which side/appetizer you choose from Little Italy, you'll be reasonably satisfied.

The stromboli with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, Tennessee

A day after the calzone, I switched it up in getting the stromboli. Unlike the calzone, the stromboli is leaner and more meaty. Despite being wrapped in pizza crust/bread, the stromboli felt a lot like a burrito. After taking a couple of bites, I took a picture of its inside to see what was in the stromboli. The stromboli with sausage from Little Italy in Memphs, TennesseeUnlike the calzone, it had a lot more sausage in it with just enough mozzarella cheese to make it interesting. As with about everything else I mentioned so far, it comes with a cup of marinara sauce for either dipping or pouring. I eventually opted for the latter, pouring in the sauce to make the stromboli more pizza-like. For my side, I got French fries that were okay (not that crispy) that matched up well with the stromboli and helped me finish off that cup of marinara sauce that I kept from the day before. At $5.25 that includes the sausage, the stromboli was a better value in terms of a meal that satisfied my appetite without leaving much of a mess. As far I'm concerned, the stromboli won me over, for it's a better fit for what I'm looking for, an inexpensive pastry that's meaty and filling. When I get the stromboli again, I will eat it with potato chips to get the most for my money.
Overall, Little Italy offers excellent food that is high in quality and great in value. In terms of authenticity, it's as close to Italy as one can get while living in Memphis (there are a handful of others that are just as good, such as Aldo's Pizza Pies). As much as I like the food, Little Italy has never been a place to dine in. I can't quite put my finger on it, but maybe the restaurant has more of a Sbarro-like feel to it. It's not a place that you can hang out in, but more like a store where you just come and go. Fortunately, that's not a bad thing when it serves great food and excellent (but not perfect) service.
With the "dine-in " option not appealing (and unavailable due to COVID-19), there are other ways to get grub from Little Italy. The most obvious method is calling the order in, which comes in handy when heading home after having a few drinks at a nearby bar. It typically takes between fifteen to twenty minutes for the restaurant to prepare the order so waiting is minimal most of the time. In addition, you can order online thru its website that's really easy to use, much easier than a lot of fast food apps that can be frustrating (service is the same as calling it in, but better accuracy in getting the order right). For those who prefer delivery, Little Italy covers most of Midtown and Downtown Memphis with its two restaurants in those neighborhoods (Little Italy also has a location in Bartlett although the menu and ordering process are slightly different from its sister restaurants). Even where I live that's barely within the confines of Midtown (my home is almost borderline North Memphis), Little Italy delivers hot food in a timely manner (it usually takes an hour to deliver, which is comparable to other restaurants). However you get it (including dining in which I'm not discouraging), Little Italy offers a great experience that few restaurants can match. I hope you stop by one of its restaurants to get a taste of the old country (or as close as possible for Memphis). I promise you won't regret it.


Little Italy Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Bartlett, Cheap Eats, Commentary, Dessert, Downtown, Midtown, Multiple Locations, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwiches, Snacks

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Youth Villages' Soup Sunday

NOTE: Because of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, I feel a little weird blogging about food given that Memphis-area restaurants were ordered by city and state officials to cease in-house dining, coupling it with "stay at home" orders for the public at large. While take-out and delivery are still available from most restaurants, it doesn't have the same feel as sitting at a table in a dining room and enjoying food in a nice atmosphere. I'm hopeful that Memphis and the rest of the world will get through this, but in the meantime please stay safe and if possible, get tested for the virus.

Helping Children

For a long time, one of the goals of this blog was to write a review of Youth Villages' Soup Sunday, a yearly event for some of Memphis' best restaurants to showcase its soups. Because it's a fundraiser, a ticket is required to attend the event at the FedExForum where the proceeds obviously benefit Youth Villages, an organization devoted to providing "help for children and young people across the United States who face a wide range of emotional, mental and behavioral problems" (part of its official mission statement). It's definitely an organization that I wanted to support but was unable to until recently. It seemed that every time Soup Sunday occurred, I was too broke to buy a ticket. And with no one providing a "hookup" to me as a food blogger (something I've been doing for almost a decade), I pretty much had to admire from afar. This year, I made sure to purchase my ticket well in advance to ensure my attendance at the event (which at twenty dollars was cheaper than I thought). Speaking of that, Soup Sunday had many attendees who were anxious to try some the many soups and other treats served up by the participating restaurants.

SIDE NOTE: I assumed one of the participating restaurants would be Rizzo's Diner and its Chef Michael Patrick. I was looking forward to tasting his Cheeseburger Soup but it wasn't meant to be (he was there helping out but I didn't see him). Although Rizzo's wasn't participating, there were many other fine restaurants that more than made up for diner's absence.

As I expected, most of "Soup Sunday" takes place in the concourse of FedExForum where people line up to get samples of soups, breads, desserts and other foods (labeled "specialty items") from participating restaurants. Using a tray provided by the organizers, the portions are doled out in small cups that are consumed at tables within the concourse. At least that's how it supposedly works, but in reality the lines are really long so you might be tempted to eat while waiting for the next sample (which you can see in the picture below). Of course, that makes sense if you don't want your food (especially soup) to get cold and spoil your meal (however as a blogger, it's hard to document the evidence if it's in your belly). If I was organizing the event, I would apportion a certain amount of space to each participating restaurant and direct attendees to line up to them (sort of like what happens at the Southern Hot Wings Festival). With many of the restaurants/caterers clustered in groups of three or more, the process for getting served seemed a bit inefficient. To be fair, some of the attendants informed me that there were shorter lines in other parts of the arena, but I and others were hesitant in leaving one line for a potential wait elsewhere. In time, I tried most of the soups at the event but some of the restaurants either left or ran out of soup before I could get to them (I really wanted to taste something from Char, the new steakhouse has gotten a of buzz in Memphis).

Clockwise from the top: Crabmeat and Crawfish Bisque (nearly empty), Braised Cabbage & Roasted Potato Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Hot & Sour Soup

In the first round of soups, I had a variety of flavors from an eclectic group of servers. Some of the soups here were among the best at the event, such as the Crabmeat and Crawfish Bisque from Marshall Steakhouse in Holly Springs, Mississippi that was creamy and very flavorful. Another noteworthy soup was Huey's Chicken Tortilla soup that was spicy and gave the sense that I was eating an actual tortilla. A little less impressive were the Braised Cabbage & Roasted Potato Soup from Hog Wild Catering that tasted like pea soup (not a bad thing if you're a vegetarian) and the sweet... err, Hot & Sour Soup from Germantown's Mosa Asian Bistro that was indistinguishable from what you could get at a Chinese restaurant. Overall, the first round of soups were great and well worth the wait.
Because of the many participants at Soup Sunday, I won't bore you with everything I had at the event. However, some of more notable soups were Silky O'Sullivan's Red Beans & Rice Soup (bottom right in picture), the seafood gumbo from Blues City Cafe (top left in picture and best gumbo at the event) and the Irish Vegetable Soup (top right in picture) from Celtic Crossing, a popular Irish pub in Midtown Memphis' Cooper-Young neighborhood. These were among the best at the event along with a soup from an entity that's neither a restaurant or caterer. The Chicken Tequila Fiesta Soup (next picture below) from Sysco, a restaurant food distributor, really impressed me with its corn flavor and creaminess.
Chicken Tequila Fiesta Soup from SyscoI guess when you have access to a wide variety of sources, it's inevitable that you can make a great meal out of the finest ingredients. The one restaurant that I expected a lot from was the Stone Soup Cafe for obvious reasons. While its not-so Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (bottom left cup in picture above) was decent, it didn't make the impression that I expected. As a whole, none of soups I had were disappointments, for all the restaurants/caterers put out strong efforts that were memorable.

SIDE NOTE: Speaking of memories, one reason why there aren't more pictures in this post is the result of a mishap. While trying to take pictures of the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo from Lakeside Behavioral Health System (another non-restaurant entity), I dropped my phone on a table. Despite my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge being enclosed in a case, it hit the table pretty hard. At the time, I didn't think much of it and went on about my business. Eventually, I discovered that all the pictures I took that day along with other photos and files on the phone became inaccessible because the phone's SD card was corrupted. Bearing in mind that photos taken after the "drop" were saved in the phone's internal memory, I will assume that the "corrupt" SD card was the result of me dropping my phone. Granted, I'm not a tech expert on cell phones but I'm also not a believer in coincidences. If there's a lesson to learned here, it is to use a "cloud" service whenever you're saving something that you can't afford to lose. It's especially important if you're archiving photos, videos or other stuff on a phone that can be subject to damage, theft or loss. This is the second time that something like this has happened to me (the other instance being after an event where I lost my phone due to drunkenness on my part). Hopefully, this won't happen again if I can find a suitable "cloud" service.

In a side note to the "SIDE NOTE," the reason I was able to salvage some of the photos was because I posted them on social media. In the past, the blog's social media presence was limited to Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, media sites that aren't nearly as popular as the two social media platforms that the blog is now a part of. As of now, Ken's Food Find is now on both Ken's Food Find on FacebookFacebook and Instagram, places where I will post photos and (with regards to Facebook) links to blog posts and other relevant stuff. I hope you follow me as I share my experiences in great culinary adventures in Memphis and beyond.

In addition to soups, the event has three other categories: bread, "specialty items" (all encompassing that can range from lemonade to pasta) and dessert. Because of my focus on soup, I didn't get into any of those categories that much but I managed try a couple of items. The very first thing I tasted was the savory Lobster and Shrimp Bruschetta from The Half Shell, a legendary restaurant in East Memphis. Unlike bruschetta served in Italian restaurants, the creamy seafood mix seemed more like a chunky dip atop a small piece of bread that would have been messy to eat while holding a tray and standing in line. If I ever decide to go to The Half Shell, I hope that the bruschetta is on the menu. By the way, this is considered a "specialty item" even though it's bread-based (it was good enough to win the "Specialty Item" category for the "downstairs" portion of Soup Sunday). For a dessert, I tried the bread pudding from Eat At Eric's Grill & Catering that I just wasn't into. In terms of taste, it was pretty much bland. To be fair, I'm not into bread pudding so take my assessment with a grain of salt, but given that I had waited in a very long line to even get it (not intentionally) I felt it was worth a try (I actually wanted the chicken alfredo but "Eric" ran out of it by the time I got there). I wish I had photos to show all of this, but clumsiness ruined the day.

SIDE NOTE: The soup winner for the "downstairs" portion of Soup Sunday was Marshall Steakhouse's bisque. As I found out later, Youth Villages divides the Soup Sunday event into two categories, VIP and "downstairs" in the arena concourse for those not fortunate enough to go big time.  Given that I could barely afford twenty dollars, going "VIP" was never going to be an option. Maybe someday I'll get up there, but my finances will keep me "downstairs" for the foreseeable future. To see a list of all the Soup Sunday winners, click here.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first Soup Sunday and look forward to many more. The atmosphere was joyous for nearly everyone there, knowing that we were there for a good cause. Youth Villages does great work helping children with mental and emotional disorders get the help they need to get back on track to stability and a happy life. As an alternative to mental institutions and juvenile detention centers, Youth Villages is making a positive impact on kids and the communities where they live. If you wish to help Youth Villages in its mission, you can donate via its website. Of course, you can also support it through events that the organization hosts during the year, such as the fabulous Soup Sunday!

LabelsCharities, Commentary, Dessert, Downtown, Soup, Vegetarian/Vegan

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Momma's Roadhouse

Deja Vu at the "Crow"

A few months ago, I reviewed The Dirty Crow Inn that at the time was one of the newest acquisitions by Aldo Dean and his business partners. In it, I talked about the food and the bar itself as being a cool place to hang out while watching exciting music acts. I assumed that the "Crow" would be synonymous with chilling and relaxing on Crump Boulevard after a hard day of work on President's Island or a long day of driving for truckers passing through on I-55. Well, about a week after I posted this on my blog, I found out that the former "Dirty Crow" was no more. It turned out that Aldo wanted to go in a different direction for his new bar that includes a change in name and menu (by the way, the "Crow" owners will reopen the bar in a new location sometime in 2020, but not in Uptown). Needless to say, I didn't see that coming and my lack of info about it was embarrassing, given the timing. Hopefully, despite being an outsider in the local blogging community that doesn't have the readership or legitimacy of websites like "I Love Memphis" and others, I would appreciate it if my friends and others that I'm close to will apprise me of happenings in the local restaurant community. I'm not asking for much (like an invite to a "soft opening" that I've never gotten in the nine years of this blog's existence), but when something notable happens regarding restaurants, chefs or anything else associated with Memphis food, please keep me in the loop. Look, I know I'm not a local celebrity like Michael Donahue or Jennifer Biggs, but I hope that I've gained enough respect with at least some in the restaurant community, particularly from those people and places that I associate with the most. In the long run, I believe this blog is mutually beneficial to both restaurants and diners who rely on Ken's Food Find for the "411" on Memphis dining.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I want to talk about one of the many delicious burgers served at Momma's Roadhouse, the Southwest Memphis Burger. I chose the cheeseburger because I was looking for something interesting and memorable. The Southwest Memphis Burger checks all the boxes in that regard because it comes with jalapenos and Ghost Pepper cheese, which by all appearances should make for a spicy burger. Given my past experiences with Ghost peppers, I made sure to have a glass of water on hand (along with a 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer). Because I'm a glutton, I also added bacon, avocado and a fried egg to get the maximum "Southwest Memphis" experience. Not to my surprise, the burger was extremely spicy, so much so that I stopped after a couple of bites. As my mouth burned, it made me think back to when I tried to put down a bag of Nikki's Hot Ass Chips that had me weeping. Fortunately the "Southwest" doesn't pack that kind of punch, although it not a burger that I can quickly grub because I'm a wuss when it comes to extreme spiciness. In the end, it turned out to be a very good burger that I enjoyed to the last bite.

If you're not into spicy cheeseburgers, Momma's Roadhouse offers other burgers and sandwiches for milder palettes. For cheese lovers, there's the Wisconsin burger with white cheddar and fried cheese curds along with poutine aioli that's yummy. If beef isn't your thing, you can go with sandwiches like the meaty chicken breast Bluff City Slaw that isn't as sappy (and possibly canceled) as the TV show it's based on or The Fake Girlfriend that has, lo and behold, catfish (for guys like the manly NFL football player Manti Te'o). Personally, I don't think you go wrong with nearly anything on the menu, with one exception.

The Big Rig Grilled Cheese is a very impressive name for a sandwich that should carry a lot of expectations. Given how the grilled cheese sandwich has evolved into a feature item on menus of many restaurants in Memphis and beyond, I assumed that Momma's version would be a doozy. Unfortunately, my expectations were dashed the minute I took the first bite of what turned out to be a sandwich without much substance. The sandwich wasn't cheesy and for the most part, it seemed that I was eating mostly bread. After finishing the first half, I gave up on the sandwich and got wings (and on "Wing Wednesday" its two for one wings is a good deal). While waiting on my wings, my curiosity led to further examination of the sandwich. It was then that I discovered it lacked one the two things that I added, a fried egg (the other addition was avocado). So when eating the sandwich "plain" without adding anything else, it's almost like eating two wheat bread slices (with hardly any jalapeƱo flavor despite how its described in the menu) with little else in between. In the end, I advise anyone ordering the "Big Rig" to get it with all the add-ons (including bacon, despite having it already) for a decent sandwich that isn't in the upper echelon of grilled cheese sandwiches.

SIDE NOTE: For guidance, Momma's Roadhouse should refer to the premier grilled cheese sandwich at its sister bar, Bardog Tavern. Bardog's Deluxe Grilled Cheese gives you a good helping of ham, bacon and tomato smothered with a lot of cheese. The Deluxe Grilled Cheese cost a dollar more than Momma's sandwich, so there must be some truth to the saying "you get what you pay for."

From my few visits to Momma's Roadhouse, I will say it is a nice little bar that has a lot of potential. While I won't repeat what I said earlier about the other aspects of The Dirty Crow (all of that review applies here, including the music acts on the weekends), I will say that if things go the way that other "Aldo" owned establishments have turned out (such as Slider Inn's new Downtown location), I'm sure "Momma's" will be a success. As the far as the "working menu" goes, it definitely needs to fine tune some things like the "Big Rig" sandwich. I'm sure the bar staff will eventually get it right because Aldo always hire great people. Speaking of that, I want to give a shout out to one of its bartenders. On Thursdays, go there when Diana is running the bar. She and her regulars really livens thing up, which makes Momma's Roadhouse an even more fun place.

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LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Commentary, Downtown, Sandwiches, South Memphis, Wings

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Dirty Crow Inn

A Lot To Crow About

As a long time wings aficionado, it has always been my intention to stop by The Dirty Crow Inn to try the chicken wings that my friends have talked about. It's taken awhile to get there, mainly due to a combination of procrastination and the fact that the restaurant is a little off the beaten path for me. Located on the corner of Kentucky Street and Crump Boulevard, it's just outside Downtown so getting there meant passing by a lot of other places that I like to dine at. However, one evening while heading down Peabody Avenue from the Slider Inn, I was at the point where I usually turn the corner onto Martin Luther King Boulevard when I had a sudden epiphany. With my intention to engage in something different, I decided to turn left instead of right and headed down Crump to The Dirty Crow for some delicious wings.

For my choice of wings, I went with the ones that are the favorite among my friends. The Soy Ginger with Wasabi wings are definitely a departure from typical hot wings. In terms of taste, they were more about flavor than spiciness, for the balance of wasabi, soy, ginger and other ingredients combined for a unique experience that was memorable. In fact, I liked the wings so much that I got a second helping to go along with fries and a 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). My friends were right about the wings and I look forward to getting these often.

SIDE NOTE: The Dirty Crow has several wing flavors to choose from, ranging from Sriracha Honey to Dry Rub Seasoning to Jerk wings that a lady sitting next to me ate with a big smile on her face.

Despite being known for chicken wings, The Dirty Crow Inn also serves a variety of food that you can find in a typical dive bar. Given that a go-to item for most is a burger, I decided to go with the We Don't Bluff burger. It consists of a quarter pound of beef along with cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon and onion straws. Because I'm a man who really likes to grub, I got my burger as a "Double Stack" of two beef patties to satisfy my appetite. While the burger hit the spot, it wasn't as good as I expected, with the onion straws and BBQ sauce overwhelming the beef that was decent yet ordinary. Unlike the wings that I had earlier, I can't see myself ordering it again but I won't discourage anyone from trying the burger.
Overall, I have been impressed with my experiences at The Dirty Crow Inn. In addition to good food, I like the overall vibe of the place. The dive bar is small and cozy that is very easy to relax and chill (I wish this place was around when I working on Presidents Island). It also has an outdoor patio with additional seating and (on weekends) performing acts. In comparing the bar to other places in Memphis, The Dirty Crow is a lot like the Slider Inn with a little bit of the charm of Alex's Tavern. It's a fun place that will be even better now that my man Aldo Dean, owner of the Slider Inn, Bardog Tavern and Aldo's Pizza, has bought The Dirty Crow. With Aldo constantly expanding his restaurant empire, he is going to be a tycoon in the near future. It will be interesting to see how the "Crow" competes when Aldo opens a second Slider Inn in Downtown Memphis' South Main District that will have a similar setup to The Dirty Crow. Although it's possible that the two bars could cannibalize each other, I'm sure Aldo will make it work in a very profitable way.

SIDE NOTE: It's not often that I talk about non-food stuff on the blog, but I was really impressed by the act that I saw during my second visit to The Dirty Crow Inn. After eating my burger, I wandered outside to the patio to enjoy some music. It seemed that everyone was really getting into it and for good reason. Mallory Everett really put on a show, with a robust country voice that livened the audience. What made me take notice was a line in one of her songs that, and I'm paraphrasing, that she banged (substituting the f-word she used) a black girl so hard that it made her an albino. Damn! That definitely put a smile on my face as I sat back and enjoyed a very good show that featured a combination of her songs and classics like Dolly Parton's "Jolene." I would love to see her play again, especially at the Slider Inn where she will be an instant hit. Ms. Everett can be heard on most musical platforms including Spotify and Apple Music. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Before I close, I want to mention that the Monroe Avenue Festival is coming up this month (August). It's a festival that benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in a fun way. It kicks off with the Breakaway Bardog 5K (an exhilarating run that I participated in; I know, it's hard to believe) and continues with raffles, concerts and plenty of food and beer. It will have plenty of games and other fun stuff, including the dunk tank for folks with a strong arm that can accurately hit the "dunking plate" (I'm hoping Magyn will be one of the "participants"). The festival ends with a meatball eating contest that's fun to watch and isn't as serious (as in grotesque) as the hot dog eating contest in New York. It's all for a good cause that will help kids get the help they need. I hope you come.

UPDATE: About a week after I posted this, I was informed that Aldo has changed both the name and menu for this iteration of The Dirty Crow Inn (now called Momma's Roadhouse). Although the "Crow" is gone for now, the owners have announced that the bar will reopen in a new location sometime in 2020. However, it won't be going Uptown as was posted on its Facebook page but will possibly reopen somewhere in Downtown Memphis. Follow the bar to stay updated.

Check out The Dirty Crow Inn on

The Dirty Crow Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Charities, Commentary, Downtown, Sandwiches, South Memphis, Wings

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