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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Elwood's Shells

Out With The Old, In With The New

As someone who loved Jasmine, the Thai and Vegetarian (along with good Chinese) restaurant in Midtown's Cooper-Young neighborhood, I was saddened when it went out of business. From the time I moved back to Memphis twenty-two years ago, Jasmine was one of my favorite go-to places for a nice dinner in an intimate, homey setting. I loved being served by Cindy (I believe that was her name), who always greeted me with a cheerful smile and gracious demeanor. She would recommend a great entrée that I enjoyed immensely, consequently making my dining experiences memorable. Despite the wonderful times I had there, Jasmine did not endure the rough economic times of the past several years. Now what I'm about to say next is only a theory, something that's based solely on my observations. After the Great Recession of 2008 where millions of people (including me) lost jobs, homes and other worldly possessions, I noticed changes at my favorite Vegetarian restaurant. First, there weren't as many diners there as there were in the past. Consequently, the restaurant had to let go of its servers, leaving only the old lady (probably the owner; I wish I knew her name) as the only person serving customers. With so few customers, it was only a matter of time before the restaurant went out of business. I'm not sure if this happened because of the recession or not, but it was nonetheless sad to see the restaurant go away.
For awhile, I would mentally reminisce whenever I drove by the former restaurant, longing for a day when it would reopen. In the meantime, I became acquainted with another charming little restaurant: Elwood's Shack. For those who don't already know, the "Shack" serves some of the best barbecue in Memphis. Known for its brisket that is great by itself, on a burger and in a taco. Speaking of tacos, one of best non-barbecue meals you can get at the "Shack" is the Steel Trout Taco, a behemoth that's loaded with trout, creamy horseradish, Pico de Gallo and other veggies that make it great. So if you're a fan of the "Trout" and other piscine things that Elwood's serves, you might think "what if Elwood's opened a nice, quaint seafood restaurant?" Well, you end up with Elwood's Shells in a place where Jasmine used to be.
Like its Asian predecessor, Elwood's Shells is small with only a few tables so seating might be a bit of wait if one were to arrive during peak dining hours. Unlike both Jasmine and the "Shack," the "Shells" has a bar for those waiting for a table although it isn't serving alcohol yet (from I noticed, you can go B.Y.O.B. if you're yearning for that glass of Yellow Tail Chardonnay wine that was my favorite at Jasmine). The overall decor of the "Shells" is more colorful than Jasmine, with the walls painted sky blue and its very colorful tables. From an intimacy perspective, Elwood's Shells doesn't quite have the homey charm that Jasmine had, although that might be a bit premature given the place was full of diners during my visit (the first week of its opening). That said, I don't know if this will be my new favorite restaurant to chill on a Saturday night or an upscale version of the Soul Fish Cafe. Regardless, I'm a fan of the "Elwood's" brand who was really anxious to dive into the menu.


For the main entrée, I had the Croaker and Olives, which is a mix of black and green olives, crawfish tails, crab and croaker on top of white rice. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the croaker, it is a saltwater fish that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, spanning from Massachusetts to Texas (I was never aware of it during my six years on the Florida Gulf Coast). In terms of texture and taste, it is comparable to catfish even though that is a freshwater fish. As for the Croaker and Olives, it was great. The croaker, maybe having a slight touch of garlic, was very tasty, and when mixed with the buttery rice and the flavorful olives and the other seafood made for an outstanding meal. Although I consciously wasn't aware of it at the time, the fish and rice dinner was a bit of déjà vu as it relates to the many meals I had at Jasmine. Just like the Hunan fish I had many years ago, the Croaker and Olives is an entrée that will be memorable for a long time.
Leading up to this wonderful meal, I had a couple of appetizers that are very noteworthy. The first was the Gator Eggs, which are jalapeño poppers stuffed with cream cheese, shrimp and crab and served with ranch dressing. While it was spicy and flavorful, it lacked one key ingredient: gator. As a former Floridian, I can attest that alligator meat is pretty good, especially when cooked in spicy seasonings. The taste is similar to frog legs in that the texture is comparable to chicken even though the taste is more like seafood. I hope that in the future, Elwood's can incorporate gator meat in either the "Eggs" appetizer or some other menu item. Pulled Pork TacoThe other appetizer that I had was the Citrus Crab Fingers, which were crab claws served with citrus butter and homemade garlic bread. Eating this was an interesting experience, for the "fingers" didn't have a lot of meat that you can sink your teeth into, but the orange-tasting crab claws were succulent and delightful. Also worth noting is that the garlic bread was fresh and very tasty when dipped in the citrus butter. I want to note this appetizer was complimentary due to my waiting for the main course (personally, it wasn't that long but I appreciate it anyway).
Overall, my first experience at Elwood's Shells was great. I'm anxious to go there again for the po' boy sandwiches that I'm confident will be very good. I might wait until the fanfare surrounding the restaurant's debut dies down, although that might be awhile if its popularity is as strong as Elwood's Shack. Then again, I frequently go the "Shack" despite getting only a thirty minute lunch break so I probably won't be deterred by crowds at the "Shells." So although it might never be "Jasmine," it could be my new home away from home.

Website: ElwoodsShells.com

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Cajun/Creole, Commentary, Midtown, Sandwiches, Seafood


I'm "Free"

Speaking of new businesses, I am embarking on an endeavor of my own. I decided to pursue projects as a freelance graphics specialist, emphasizing on graphic design and areas that involve prepress production. "Prepress," for those unfamiliar with the term, involves various techniques used to prepare a document for print. Depending on the document, it could require anything ranging from retouching and resizing photos, cleaning up low-resolution images (and converting them to scalable, high-resolution vector graphics) and color separation for plates used in non-digital printing (screen, offset lithography, etc.). When dealing with printing companies, it can be as daunting as dealing with an auto mechanic, especially if you're trying to get quality printing. In my experience, most printers will either take your project as is and print it with no regard to quality, or will charge exorbitant fees to make your project print ready. By contrast, my rates are very reasonable and I know what to ask and expect from printing companies regardless of the medium it uses to print. I can be your guide to help you meet your printing goals.

For more information and to get a quote, go to www.kenrogers.net



I am a graphics specialist with over twenty years of experience in the printing industry, providing support for artists and graphic designers in producing large-scale artwork.







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Friday, September 21, 2018

Lucky Cat Ramen

Bliss In A Bowl

As you might have noticed, I haven't been blogging as much as I used to. Due to a combination of a lack of time and money (with heavy emphasis on the latter), my ability to blog is limited. Although my commitment isn't what it was, there are rare times when I come across something so good that makes me want to scream about it. Well, the food at Lucky Cat Ramen meets that criteria in a big way. Located on Cooper and Peabody (next to my favorite bar Slider Inn), this restaurant got high praises from my friends for having some of the best ramen in Memphis. Personally, I love the fusion of Asian and American Southern cultures that makes Lucky Cat Ramen special. So, coming out of literary semi-retirement, I want to tell you about it.
When I went to the restaurant on September 14, 2018, I pretty much knew what to expect. Most of my drinking buddies at the Slider Inn were impressed with Lucky Cat's use of pork in most of its ramen dishes. Specifically, they raved about the pork belly (the part of the pig where bacon comes from) that highlighted their dinners. This really aroused my curiosity, because I never thought of pork belly being a centerpiece in any facet of Japanese cuisine. Of course, I'm far from being an expert in that and I'm sure that some people will call me out on it, but I've never seen pork belly on any ramen menu until my latest visit to Lucky Cat.


Although it wasn't my first visit to Lucky Cat (I will talk about that later), I was anxious to see what the restaurant was serving. Among the ramen dishes, nearly everything on the menu had pork in it (the one exception was strictly vegetarian). Pork belly was the main player in most of the ramen dishes, but I chose the Tan Tan that had pulled pork. Not to be deprived, I also added pork belly to it for the purpose of experiencing what my friends had. Not to go all "Memphis Que" about it, but the Tan Tan had some of the best smoked pork that I've had in a while. The pulled pork was tender while not being mushy in the pork bone broth, with a tastiness that could hold its own with barbecue joints like Central BBQ. As for the pork belly, it was a display of culinary excellence. It had a fatty and firm texture with a little bit of char to give it some barbecue flair. By itself, I believe the pork belly would have been awesome, but combining it with a pork bone broth with cilantro, peanuts and sesame in it resulted in something that blew my taste buds away. As for the ramen noodles, all I say is that it complemented a wonderful meal that I will remember for a long time.

SIDE NOTE: If you look at the upper left corner of the first picture, you'll see that I'm drinking water. For those who know me, that's a little out of character for me. Unless I have to go without it for either health or legal reasons, I'm usually eating dinner with an alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately, Lucky Cat doesn't serve alcohol of any kind, not even Sake. If it was available, I would have had wine (particularly a Chardonnay or a Riesling) with my ramen (or a Japanese beer like Asahi that is a good pairing too). But despite not having that, I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Lucky Cat and look forward to dining there often. By the way, if you really can't go without a drink, Lucky Cat will allow you to bring an alcoholic beverage into the restaurant (for convenience, there's both a CVS and a Fresh Market grocery store within walking distance of the restaurant).



As I said earlier, my latest visit to Lucky Cat wasn't the first. Over a year ago, I went to the restaurant for something that departed from my usual Friday night dinner at the Slider Inn. Although my expectations weren't much, I heard through the grapevine about the uniqueness of its ramen dishes, particularly as relates to Soul Food. With that in mind, I referred to the restaurant's chalkboard menu to see what it offered. Among the many ramen dishes listed on the menu, the one that stood out for this Southerner was the Bacon-Collards, a fusion of Japanese cuisine and Soul Food. Simmering in a pork bone broth was pulled pork, collard greens and smoky bacon along with a boiled egg and other veggies and noodles. From a creative standpoint, the Bacon-Collards was the most interesting dish I had outside of an Andrew Michael restaurant. In terms of taste, the Bacon-Collards didn't disappoint, for the collard greens, bacon and pulled pork made this a unique experience as far as ramen goes. The collard greens were definitely good enough to hold its own with the best Soul Food restaurants in Memphis (as an aside, I'm not a fan of many restaurants that serve it). I hope someday that Lucky Cat puts the Bacon-Collards back on the menu, for it is a dish that will make even the most skeptical of ramen critics believe.

NOTE: After doing a follow-up check after posting this, I've learned via Wikipedia that pork bone broth is called "tonkotsu" in Japanese. It seems the Japanese has more in common with Americans than I thought.

To sum it up, Lucky Cat is an extraordinary restaurant that serves cutting edge ramen that dares to go beyond traditional boundaries. Despite not serving alcohol, it is a huge hit with my drinking buddies as well as many others. I hope more people discover Lucky Cat because it really fits in with Memphis' culinary culture. If my late Mom was still alive, even she would like Lucky Cat despite an aversion to Asian food (of course, I could use the love of our favorite cat as a sympathetic appeal for the restaurant). As a Memphian, I highly recommend Lucky Cat Ramen to my fellow citizens because I believe they will embrace it as one of its own.

Website: www.LuckyCatRamen.com

LabelsAsian, Japanese, Midtown, Soul Food, Soup, Southern










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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 (although the Sands is a slightly more robust (as in hoppy) version of a 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.

NOTE: Because of Wiseacre's limited brewing capacity, finding a grocery store that carries the Memphis Sands might prove difficult. After searching for it in places like Cash Saver, Raffe's Deli and other beer-friendly stores, I eventually bought a case directly from the brewer at Wiseacre's Tap Room.

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 it's my mission to highlight restaurants that are noteworthy and point out places that most aren't familiar with (including restaurants in the "hood" and other undesirable places). 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, The Vault 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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