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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wiseacre Brewing Company

Getting Back To Normal

Memphis Sands, a lager from Wiseacre Brewing CompanyIn a first for for this blog, I want to talk about a craft beer that is, for the most part, "normal." Recently, while at Wiseacre's taproom, I came across a beer that wasn't loaded with hops or any of the other "crafty" stuff that's unfamiliar to the average American beer drinker. It's simply a lager that's both distinctive and familiar, meaning that while isn't interchangeable with a Bud Light or a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), the malty flavor of the Memphis Sands is unique but still falls within the norms of what most expect in a beer. By the way, this is not a put down of craft beer in general or any of Wiseacre's other brews like the hoppy pilsner Tiny Bomb, the Ananda (an IPA) or the Gotta Get Up To Get Down, a coffee milk stout that might be hip with a lot of millennials. However, for middle age guys like myself, I would rather "get down" with a normal, decent tasting beer that I can chill out with. On that note, the Memphis Sands is perfect.
Memphis Sands, a lager from Wiseacre Brewing CompanyGoing into 2018, I want to get back to normal in blogging about food and anything related to that (including an occasional blog post about beer, wine or any other alcoholic beverage). Although blogging is a hobby, I still feel that its my mission to highlight restaurants that are noteworthy and point out places that most aren't familiar with. Unfortunately, I've had a lot of distractions that kept me from blogging (along with a scarcity of cash), but I hope to recommit to Ken's Food Find as a way of getting back to normal. With new restaurants like The Dirty Crow, Indian Pass Raw Bar and Hopdoddy Burger Bar opening (along with Hattie B's expanding into Memphis), it's time for me to get back into the game.



Website: WiseacreBrew.com

LabelsBeer, Broad Avenue, Commentary, Midtown







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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cook Out

Welcome to Memphis

As you might have noticed, I haven't been blogging much this year. Because of other things that have been going on my life, Ken's Food Find has been a low priority. However, when I come across something that's exceptional, I'm blogging about it. Having said that, trying to find the time to highlight the best this year has been challenging, given various obligations that I couldn't ignore. So, other than a hot wing contest at my high school alma mater, this review will likely be the only one that I do this year.
In discovering Cook Out, I will admit that it wasn't on my radar. I wouldn't have noticed it were it not for the line of cars spilling out to the street from its Highland Street restaurant. When I saw that, I turned my car around and went to Cook Out.
Not sure about what to get, I got the Cheddar Style Burger with fries and chicken nuggets that was really good (the nuggets are almost identical to Wendy's). A few days later, I returned and got another Cheddar Style Burger with a corn dog and a hefty bacon wrap. I had all of this last spring and intended to blog about it, but again my lack of spare time got in the way of blogging about it. Fortunately, certain personal issues are coming to resolution so I now have more spare time. Also, Cook Out recently opened a third location on Union Avenue that's a lot closer to me, so I set out again to review Cook Out (the other location is on Stage Road in Bartlett/Cordova).

NOTE: To see the pics that I took during those visits to the Highland Street location, go to my "mini-blog" at kensfoodfind.tumblr.com.


This time around, I decided to get the Cheddar Style Burger again, which I believe is Cook Out's best offering. I love this burger because the gooey cheese and grilled onions blend well with the tasty beef patties of the "Huge" cheeseburger. The burger toppings are modest compared to a typical fast food joint, giving way to a beefy burger that most associate with, well, a "cook out." Compared to its competitor Back Yard Burgers, it's my opinion that Cook Out's beef is juicier and better seasoned. If anyone is looking for a genuine "backyard" burger, I highly recommend Cook Out.


Keeping with the "backyard grill" theme, I decided to get another cookout staple, barbecue. For that, I got Cook Out's chopped pork BBQ plate with cole slaw, fries and hushpuppies. That last side item caught me by surprise, for I never had hushpuppies with anything other than seafood. The hushpuppies and fries were far superior to the main dish, a mushy scoop of pork that was bland and lacked smoke flavor. The topping of sweet barbecue sauce helped it to some extend, but overall the chopped pork tasted more like something out of a high school cafeteria than from a backyard grill. Compared to the burgers, the chopped pork falls far short of the quality of a genuine barbecue joint. However, the plate costs under four dollars (cheaper than Tops) so if you're looking for a cheap and quick meal, Cook Out might be the way to go. However, if it's quality barbecue (particularly "backyard" style) that you crave, I suggest that you go elsewhere like Cozy Corner.
Overall, I have been really impressed with Cook Out. Other than the barbecue, everything that I had from the restaurant chain was very good, with the burgers being exceptional. Looking at it strictly as a burger joint, Cook Out is definitely in the upper echelon of restaurants like local favorite Roxie's Grocery and national chains like Five Guys (by the way, Cook Out's service is quick, much faster than the aforementioned). I'm glad to have another excellent burger option in Memphis that I'm sure to visit a lot.

Website: Cookout.com

Cook Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
LabelsBarbecue, Burgers, Chain Restaurants, Hot Dogs, Multiple Locations, Pita Wraps, Sandwiches







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Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Day As A Judge

Helping A Good Cause

As you might have noticed (or not), I haven't blogged about anything this year. Well, that's not entirely true, for I have posted some thoughts on my "mini-blog" on Tumblr, along with a few tweets. Part of the reason for my absence is my schedule, which this year has been very hectic. Although my spare time is scarce, I couldn't resist the call to be a judge at a hot wings contest. And especially if the contest was a benefit for the black... errr, "jubilee" Catholic schools of Memphis. As an alum of two parochial schools, I felt it was my way of giving back to the institutions that helped mold me into the person I am today.
The contest was the centerpiece of the Wings of Jubilee Hot Wing Festival, which took place on September 9, 2017 at the campus of Memphis Catholic High and Middle School, my high school alma mater. The festival is similar to others in that in addition to the hot wing teams, other attendees were either engaged in various recreational activities or checking out the live music acts. At the last festival, I felt awkward when I encountered one of my forgotten former classmates despite them knowing who I am (I was never social and a bit of a wallflower in school). This time, I was there for a purpose, so I headed directly to the judges' tent to get my instructions. Initially I was nervous, but after meeting some of the other judges (including fellow blogger Seth of Best Memphis Burger) who explained the formula for judging, I felt confident that I could do a good job of it. Speaking of the formula, the judging was "blind" in the sense that the competitors were assigned random numbers in order to prevent bias. I like that because the last thing a fundraising hot wing contest needs is a bunch of douchebags tilting the scales toward certain teams that they want to curry favor with. After all, the goal is for everyone to have a good time while helping a great cause, and if a few teams can take home a trophy and cash, then that's extra gravy (or wing sauce) for them.
Among the wings that I judged, there was a lot of variety in terms of wing sauce (or lack of it), cooking technique and presentation. The criteria used to judge the wings were appearance, taste, and texture. The categories were scored on a scale 1 to 10 which could lead to a top score of thirty for a really good team. For the most part, all the teams put in good efforts although some wings were a lot better than others. While I won't talk about every wing that I tasted, there were a few exceptional wings that really impressed me. The best among them was the hot wing that I posted in this post, a wing that could hold its own with some of the best wing joints in town. As you can see in the picture above, the chicken wing is breaded and that might not conform to the "naked" wing that most are accustomed to, but I had no problems with it (I'm not a purist about stuff like that). The breading was doused with enough sauce to make it soggy but not too messy, so its "appearance" points didn't take a hit with me. The taste was sweet and spicy, sorta like (according to one of my fellow judges) General Tso's Chicken in a good way. Again, I wouldn't say it was a genuine Buffalo wing, but from a creative standpoint it was outstanding. To whomever made those wings, I tip my hat to you for doing an awesome job and regardless of your standing in the festival, I wish you much success in future contests or other endeavors related to hot wings.
As for the winners, I was a little surprised at the results, given the participants. In third place, the winners were Central BBQ, purveyors of some of the best barbecue in Memphis. When I saw that, the first thought I had was "here we go again" with the same old barbecue/cooking teams winning everything. Even with blind judging, I assumed the same teams that I see at other contests would dominate the "amateur" competitors who don't compete regularly throughout the year. However, when the Jubilee officials announced the second place winner, the team taking it wasn't who I expected. The runner-up winner was an East European team (I believe they were from Poland) with a foreign name that simply meant "Hot Wings." The champions of the event were a team sponsored by a local Northwestern Mutual insurance agency, whose wings must have been outstanding if they beat out teams like Central BBQ and 901Q, a frequent competitor in many cooking contests. I'm not sure if the wings I raved about earlier were made by the Northwestern Mutual team, but if enough of my fellow judges felt the team was worthy, then it was the best. I want to extend my congratulations to them and I hope to see them again at the festival next year.
Overall, my first judging experience was a lot of fun and I look forward to other opportunities to do it again. I want to thank Angela Justice Fox for organizing the event (that included inviting me to judge) and for all the work she does as a fundraiser for Memphis' Catholic schools. With the rise of charter schools and other alternatives (such as families fleeing to the suburbs) for getting an education, attracting kids into the parochial system is getting harder than its ever been (by the way, why are most charter schools in jubilee... errr, "urban" neighborhoods). My hope is that the Catholic school tradition lives on, leaving a legacy for children yearning for a quality education that will benefit them throughout life.

Website: WingsOfJubilee.wordpress.com

LabelsCommentary, Midtown, Wings







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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cafe Pontotoc

For A Friend

In the spirit of Christmas, I decided to write about a place that one of my friends is fond of. Cafe Pontotoc is a "wine bar" whose owner is friends with a man that I've been tight with for well over a decade. "Captain Sparkles" is a good man whose opinion I respect a lot, so when he asked me to check out the cafe, I knew I had to do it. Granted, it took a while before committing to it, but with a week before Christmas, I made the trip to South Main to check out the restaurant.


Knowing that Cafe Pontotoc is a "tapas" restaurant, I knew I couldn't order a single plate if I wanted a complete meal. So, I started off with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls that I usually eat at Pho Binh. The spring rolls holds its  the quality of my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, the spring rolls were nice appetizers. Stuffed with shrimp, cilantro, lettuce and other veggies within rice paper wraps, the spring rolls were quite refreshing. My only gripes were the cilantro being a bit strong and not enough hoisin and chili sauce to dip the spring rolls in. The cafe's dipping (as in soy) sauce was okay, although it didn't pair as well as the other sauces. Overall, the spring rolls (which someone like my Dad might see as a salad in wraps) were quite good and made me anxious for my next plate.


For my next and final plate of the evening, I went with tacos. Because it was my first time having them at Cafe Pontotoc, I wanted to try a little bit of everything in order to survey the menu. I got one each of the blackened shrimp, blackened catfish and steak tacos (there's also a vegan option for those who prefer that). Of the three tacos, the steak was by far the best of them because of a combination of the quality of the meat and the sauce (probably hollandaise) it was garnished with. The other tacos were decent, but if I ever visit Cafe Pontotoc again, I'm loading up on steak tacos.


After I finished dinner and got home from Cafe Pontotoc, I did the usual in doing follow up research before writing this review. I do this to limit mistakes such the mispelling of menu items and to confirm what I ate. While doing this for Cafe Pontotoc, I came across the cafe's brunch menu on its website. At the time, I had no intention on writing about the cafe's brunch, but there was something on the menu that changed my mind. Before I go on, I want to preface this by stating that I love Mexican food, which was bolstered by my current employment at a Summer Avenue business near a lot of taquerias. In visiting many restaurants near my job, I noticed a few offer "desayuno" (Spanish for "breakfast"). Unfortunately, I never took advantage of getting a genuine Mexican breakfast, so I was delighted when I saw that Cafe Pontotoc offered a "Desayuno Mexicano" on its online brunch menu. So I decided to return to the cafe for what I hoped would be a unique experience. However, when I got a hold of the cafe's current brunch menu, the Mexican entrĂ©e wasn't on it. The disappointment of not getting a "desayuno" hit me like a Jim Rome manual buzzer, and left me at a loss as to what to do. Eventually, I settled for the Pontotoc Omelette that I saw other diners get. As a consolation, the omelet was okay, for it was cheesy despite supposedly having a lot of meat in it. I also liked the hashbrown casserole that I got with it, for the cheese and diced bell peppers really tasted great with the omelet. Although the omelet and hashbrown casserole were good, it didn't lessen the disappointment of not getting the "desayuno" that is listed on restaurant's website. Maybe this is much ado about nothing, but I hate being misled by something or someone that doesn't deliver on marketing, advertising or any other kind of promotion. Having said that, I don't regret going to Cafe Pontotoc for brunch, but I might have eaten somewhere else if I had better information. Now that I know what's on the menu, I might try the Steak Benedict if I visit the cafe again, provided if it's still on the menu (both online and at the cafe).
Well, my dining experiences at Cafe Pontotoc were pretty good overall. Although I like it, it's probably not a place that I could regularly frequent due to my penchant for sexy ladies serving beer (which unfortunately isn't the Flying Saucer anymore; there are many reasons why it lost favor with me and others). Even though I won't become a "regular," it's likely that I could stop there occasionally, especially if it's to rap with my friend Joe, aka "Captain Sparkles." Joe is one of my best friends that I currently have now, a man who has always been supportive of me and has had my back during both the best and worst of times. As I said earlier, he is a good man who I respect a lot and wish nothing but the best for him. As an extension of that, I am also rooting for the "Captain's" friend to have much success at Cafe Pontotoc.

Website: CafePontotoc.com

Cafe Pontotoc Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Brunch, Commentary, Downtown, Tacos, Tapas/Small Plates







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