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

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders, Part 4


Here I am again, with another “battle” of sliders. This time, I decided to pit two popular restaurant chains against each other. One of the “contestants” is Huey’s, a local favorite that consistently wins The Memphis Flyer’s “BOM” (Best of Memphis) award in the burger category. Personally, I've always felt that Huey’s accolades were nothing more than overhype of their burgers. Compared to places like Kooky Canuck and Sweden Kream, Huey’s doesn’t come close in my mind (or taste buds) as being the best. However, if I’m going to continue with slider comparisons, it was inevitable that Huey’s would be featured. Huey’s opponent is Hooters, a national chain known more for its Buffalo wings and the hot ladies who serve them. As far as burgers go, I have always liked everything Hooters offers. Although far from the best, I figured Hooters was very capable of competing with Huey’s. As I progressed with the “battle,” the results were somewhat surprising.

Combatant #1: Huey's

Unlike the other places I visited, Huey’s offers a set of three different sliders. Called the Little Miners “Trio,” it consists of a mushroom and Swiss, Pepper Jack and jalapeños, and bacon and cheddar sliders. With this variety, I assumed that at least one of them would be good. To sweeten the pot, barbecue and chipotle sauces were included, along with onion straws. Although my first inclination was to immediately begin dipping, I resisted the urge. I did it for the sake of keeping the comparison between the two restaurant chains as fair as possible.

I started with the mushroom and Swiss slider, which was far from being “BOM.” The best part of it was the beef patty, seasoned with a nice mix of spices with a heavy emphasis on black pepper. The mushrooms and Swiss cheese didn’t provide anything that I couldn’t get elsewhere. Overall, the slider was decent, but nothing to crow over. The bacon and cheddar slider was somewhat better. In addition to the beef patty, the bacon strips added good smoky flavor. The cheddar cheese was what it was, tying it all together for a nice slider. Last but far from the least, the Pepper Jack and jalapeño slider was the best of the trio. The jalapeños provided a spicy punch, aided by the tartness of the Pepper Jack cheese. On Huey’s beef patty, this combination works well for the slider. If I order the Little Miners “Trio” again, I will try to get three Pepper Jack/jalapeño sliders. I will likely have to pay more (only the bacon and cheddar slider are offered as a set of three at the “Trio” price), but it will be worth it.

To make this a well-rounded review, I also had Huey’s Texas Toast Burger. This sandwich wasn’t picked at random. Just about everyone I’ve talked to said it’s their favorite Huey burger. It’s the only sandwich that I will order there, because I like a lot better than anything else. The Texas Toast is loaded with jalapeños along with Pepper Jack cheese and grilled onions. If the two pieces of toast were substituted for a bun and came without grilled onions, it would be a bigger version of my favorite Huey slider. As good as that slider was, its big brother was better. With the caramelized onions coming into play, the result is a burger full of flavor. The spiciness of the jalapeños dominated, but it doesn’t interfere with the other elements that contribute to the burger. I could be wrong, but I believe the Texas Toast was cheesier that its slider counterpart. It felt that way as I ate it, one gooey bite at a time. The “toast” component of the burger was excellent. With a golden brown texture and infused with butter, it also played a big role in the goodness of the Texas Toast Burger. In all, this is a nice burger that stands out at Huey’s.
With the Texas Toast Burger, I got a side of steak fries. They had a light crunch that gave way to its interior tenderness. Although the fries weren’t salty, they had enough flavor to satisfy most. Even though I liked the steak fries, I might opt for the sweet potato waffle fries on my next visit. I recently had them with Huey’s West Coast Burger and was surprised at how well they complemented it. They are light on sweetness, having just enough to make the main dish better without overwhelming it.
After several visits to Huey’s, I’ve concluded that it makes good burgers but far from the best. However, a good marketing team (with fellow food blogger Shannon Little being a part of it) can make a huge difference in how anything is perceived. So even though its burgers aren’t the best on Second Street, good promotion will always keep Huey’s in the public eye. In that regard, “BOM” should stand for “Best Outstanding Marketing.” Even though the marketing team does a great job, it’s the product that ultimately wins me over. With regards to that, Huey’s makes a good burger but not Memphis’ best.


Huey's on Urbanspoon

Combatant #2: Hooters

The second “combatant” in the slider battle is a restaurant chain that I’ve been a fan of for a long time. Since 1990, when I went to my first Hooters in Denver, I have always had an affinity for it. During my travels, I've seen Hooters in all four Continental U.S. time zones (couldn’t resist the obvious double entendre). In just about all of them, I’ve met great ladies (and a few guys) who have worked there. In Memphis alone, I’ve met fine Hooters Girls who have always treated me right.

SIDE NOTE: A special mention goes out to former Hooters Girl Carol. She, while tending bar at Hooters’ Mount Moriah Road location (the Downtown location's predecessor), tutored me in accounting. Without her help, I’m not sure that I would have passed Accounting 101 (or whatever the course is called). I want to thank her for that and hope she’s doing well in her new career.

Hooters' Training Burgers are a lot like Krystal's (or White Castle, for those more familiar with that burger chain). The sliders are simple, consisting of ground beef, American cheese, mustard and a slice of dill pickle within a toasted bun. The only difference between Hooters' slider and Krystal's is the ground beef. The Training Burger’s beef patty is slightly thicker and better seasoned than Krystal’s. The seasoning is probably a simple combination of salt and pepper, although it wasn’t profound on my tongue. Like Krystal’s, Hooters griddle fries its beef until it’s well done. In hindsight, I should have told my server to have my beef patties cooked medium rare. Anyway, the sliders are decent and a step above fast food. However, they are far from the best that Downtown Memphis offers. But for $7.99 (not including tax) you get four sliders and curly fries, which is a good value if you're feeding small kids.

SIDE NOTE: Another great deal is Hooters' $5.99 Monday lunch special. It consists of a cheeseburger and curly fries that is only available to dine-in customers. Compared to nearby places like Dyer's, it's a bargain.

In addition to sliders, Hooters also has a version of a Texas toast burger. Called the Texas Melt Burger, it consists of a beef patty topped with bacon, sautéed onions, barbecue sauce and a lot of American cheese. Like with the Training Burgers, the beef’s seasoning wasn’t anything beyond average. In fact, I’ve done a better job of cooking them myself despite my lack of culinary skills (an example of this is a recent effort to cook hot wings); since then, I've created my own "Kenny Melt" that is very good). However, the meat was palatable enough to past muster with me. Everything on the burger was adequate, for the bacon and onions added some flavor and the cheese tasted as expected. The pieces of bread containing the sandwich were toasted to a dark, almost burnt brown. Unlike Huey’s version, the toasted bread of Hooters’ burger lacked butter that could’ve made the sandwich better. The barbecue sauce did nothing for me other than make the burger messy. On the whole, Hooters Texas Melt Burger fell short of my modest expectations but it wasn’t terrible. Whenever I go there again to eat, it might be an option for me. More likely, I will probably go with wings.
The curly fries were the best part of my meal. Not that they were the best ever, but they were good enough to complement my burger. Other than its shape, the characteristics of them are similar to Huey’s steak fries. If I had to make a suggestion to the bean counters at Hooters, I would ask them to look into the feasibility of offering smaller portions of it. I really don’t see the need to only sell fries by the bowl at nearly three dollars a pop. A smaller portion of fries (similar to what's included with the Training Burgers) at a lower price would have been a better option for me. The amount of fries that I had for my burger was more than enough. After finishing the burger, I had over half a bowl of fries left. While I thought about eating them with friends Bicycle Bobby and a guy who I will call Air Guard Mike (members of Squeal Street BBQ Team; "Air Guard" isn't referring to smart ass douchebag Air Traffic Mike, who I will talk about later), I wasn’t hungry enough to eat more. So, other than the quantity, Hooters’ curly fries were okay.
Upon reflection, I can’t say that I was impressed with what I had at Hooters. After eating sliders at places like Bardog Tavern and Felicia Suzanne’s, Hooters was a bit of letdown. I had hoped the Texas Melt Burger would redeem the restaurant, but it didn’t help. When it comes to food, I will have to accept Hooters for what it is: hot food served by hot chicks.


Hooters on Urbanspoon


After having sliders at Huey’s and Hooters, my decision was somewhat easy. With Huey’s offering three different sliders as opposed to Hooters’ single version, it had more latitude to impress. Although Huey’s Pepper Jack and jalapeño slider would have dominated the competition by itself, the other two sliders in its “Trio” also would have fared better than Hooters’ Training Burger. Like I said earlier, Huey’s doesn’t make the best burger in Memphis. As sliders go, all the restaurants featured in the earlier slider battles (except Flight) make better burgers than Huey’s. But that didn’t matter in this “battle” against a sports bar staffed by hot women with rocking bodies and great personalities. Huey’s is clearly the winner of this contest but it’s not a great accomplishment. If Hooters tweaked their burger recipes, it would be far more competitive. But burgers aren’t what Hooters is about, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to take the “BOM” title from Huey’s.
Hooters is what it is, and it has nothing to be ashamed of. Its target demographic (I’m guessing) is males aged 18 – 50 with incomes of $30,000 or more a year. Most of the guys that I meet are more into the girls than the food, which is a strategy that works well for the restaurant chain. As a self-proclaimed “foodie” who is over forty, my expectations for restaurants are more about culinary quality than hotties. However, there are times when I wish I could be a kid again. If I were, my attitudes about food would be entirely different. My guess is that a teenage version of me would be more than happy about the food at Hooters.

Other Matters

By the way, I want to respond to a comment made by a "fan" of this blog, Air Traffic Mike. If my grammar offends you so much, why do you read this blog? Instead of wasting time pointing out my grammatical deficiencies, you could impart your vast knowledge of the English language to the less fortunate. With all the spare time you have due to a very generous government retirement, it would be a nice way to give back to the community. To quote a comment made by Martin Sheen on the TV show The Colbert Report:

"We're called to be a voice for the voiceless and be a presence for the marginal and so, if you have capabilities and you don't have to work full time, you're required to be on the line and serve the common good."

That is great wisdom from a screen legend that I hope to emulate someday. Also ATM, if you can get a certain "professor" to join you in New Jersey, all the better. Despite your dislike of me and this blog, I will continue to write about restaurants and food that interest me, including "sliders."

LabelsBurgers, Chain Restaurants, Commentary, Downtown, Family Friendly, Multiple Locations, Wings

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Aldo's Pizza Pies

Great Addition To Downtown (and Midtown)

It has taken me awhile to do it, but I've finally gotten around to reviewing Aldo's Pizza Pies. I would have written about it earlier, but I wanted to take my time about it. I wanted to convey my thoughts about it and related issues in the right manner. Unlike most places, I feel that I'm a stakeholder in restaurants that are owned by Aldo Demartino because I visit them often. Two of my favorite bars in Memphis are Bardog Tavern and Slider Inn, known for serving great food and excellent customer service. Aside from a couple of annoying people (who I will discuss later), most of the patrons at both bars are people who I like associating with. They provide that intangible element that helps to define a bar's character as it relates to its social environment. This is why I like both of Aldo’s bars, because they are comfortable to hang out in. So when Aldo's Pizza Pies opened, my hopes and expectations were very high for a place that is a great addition to Downtown Memphis.
Before Aldo's officially opened this past summer, it held a "family and friends" party. The event was supposedly limited to a select number of people. Unfortunately, I wasn't invited despite knowing Aldo and most of the staff at his other bars. Still, like water off a duck's back, it didn't upset me in the least. Instead of crying about it, I went about my usual order of business that evening. First, I stopped at the Flying Saucer for a couple of beers, and then proceeded to Bardog for dinner. After looking over the daily specials listed on one of bar's chalkboards, I chose the Andouille sausage burrito. Loaded with sausage, rice, beans, salsa, cheese and other ingredients, it was huge enough to satisfy my appetite. As I expected, the burrito was spicy and tasted great. Along with a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) served by the lovely Amanda "Panda," my dinner was almost perfect.

SIDE NOTE: While eating dinner at the bar, I had to put up with an annoying guy sitting next to me. While I don't mind engaging in conversation (especially with a Vietnam vet), there's a time and place for everything. That said, if I'm eating and a white person tries to talk to me about his coolness with black people, he will never win me over. To me, he is an annoyance that is distracting me from my meal. You understand?

After I finished dinner, I left Bardog and proceeded back to the Saucer. As usual, I used Main Street as my route. In doing so, I passed Aldo's where many of my friends were enjoying themselves. Two of them were Gary, the real "mayor" of the Flying Saucer with twenty "plates" (an award for drinking 200 different beers) and Joe, the bearded attorney seen in the Jimmy McElroy commercials. Those guys invited me over to their patio table. Initially, I resisted because I wasn't invited, but both guys insisted that I come in and join them. After I refused again, Gary assured me that it wasn't a big deal because no one was checking invitations. He even offered to give me his invitation in case anyone questioned my presence there. I refused his offer but proceeded to go inside Aldo's. I figured if it was meant to be, I would be in and welcomed by Aldo himself. After entering Aldo’s, I hung out with my friends for a bit before going to the bar. Once there, I ran into a few more friends and a certain lard ass loser who resented me being there.

SIDE NOTE: With many of the "friends and family" attendees not being people who I normally see at either Bardog or Slider Inn, I assumed that I wasn't the only uninvited guest. However, this particular individual seems to be obsessed about my whereabouts and anything that I post on the Internet. As much as he would like me to go away, I'm sticking around for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, I am not a "beer goddess" that he dislikes. Being one of them would mean taking crap from a “mayor” who is allowed to do whatever he wants with impunity. I hope he never becomes a Grizzly “regular.”

While at the bar, I had two pepperoni pizza slices with a glass of Shiner Bock. The slices didn’t taste much different from other places that serve it. However, the slices made a good impression on me. After I finished eating, I walked around the pizza parlor to see what it was like. While doing this, I ran into the pizza parlor’s owner and namesake, Aldo. He greeted me and asked what I thought of the place. After giving a positive response, I believe I shook his hand and left soon thereafter. With my first experience being great, I was anxious to return.
It took a while before I was able to afford a pizza at Aldo’s. As some of you know, my job at FedExForum is seasonal, so my spending power is diminished during the NBA offseason. Because of that, I can’t afford to buy an entire pizza during the summer. However, I always have a few dollars on me, which most of the time is enough for a slice. As in the Slice Of The Day (SOTD), a daily feature of one of Aldo’s pizzas that cost four dollars. The SOTD is a great way to explore Aldo’s pizza menu without breaking the bank. Occasionally, the pizza parlor will also introduce pizzas that aren’t on the menu, which can be a wonderful surprise. An example of that is the slice I had on November 23, 2012. I got two slices with white cheese, Italian sausage and pesto sauce toppings on it. The combination of toppings was extremely good. The cheese had a strong zest to it and the sausage was greasy and flavorful. The basil and Parmesan of the pesto sauce tied it all together for a pizza that I hope to see more often. For the most part, the SOTD can be hit or miss, depending on individual tastes. However, there’s always the potential to find a gem, and it won’t cost much.

Eventually, I got around to ordering a whole pizza. Not knowing what to get, I went on Urbanspoon to see what was popular. After reading a few reviews, I decided to get the Willie Cheech and Bob. The Jamaican-inspired pizza's primary toppings are jerk chicken, jalapeño peppers, red onions and mango chutney along with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. The chutney and tomato sauce go great together, for they provided the fruity sweetness that is a key element of the pizza's flavor. This is balanced by the spiciness of the jalapeños and red onions. Actually, the onions were a bit much for me, so I removed them from the pizza. Despite removing the onions, the pizza was still very spicy. Borrowing a phrase Uncle Lou's, the pizza was "sweet spicy" and very good. I wanted to eat it with bruschetta (which is close to genuine Italian-style, something that’s hard to find in Memphis) but it never arrived. In spite of not getting it, the pizza was a very enjoyable and unique experience.

SIDE NOTE: If I order the Willie Cheech and Bob again, I won’t get a PBR as my beverage. The pilsner didn’t mesh well with the fruity flavor of the pizza. I believe that rye-flavored beers are better suited for the Willie Cheech and Bob. With Aldo’s offering sixty beers, I’m confident that I can find something suitable.

In addition to pizzas, Aldo's also has an array of sandwiches on its menu. On the night of my birthday (September 24, 2012), I got The Balboa. It’s a steak sandwich that I'm guessing was inspired by the meat punching scene from the movie Rocky. With a personality like the fighter, The Balboa is a no-frills sandwich consisting of slices of ribeye steak, onions and White American cheese, all within a hoagie bun. From what I can remember, the sandwich's taste comes mostly from its huge amount of ribeye steak. The meat seemed like it was seasoned with black pepper, resulting in a good flavor. The onions and cheese also contributed, but it's mostly a meaty sandwich. On a scale of five, I'll give it The Balboa a "3" for being a good (but not great) sandwich.

SIDE NOTE: A couple of days later, I gave myself a present in the form of a cheeseburger from Bleu. The “Build Your Own Sandwich” was delicious!

The Balboa came with sides of bow-tie pasta and kettle fried potato chips. It's not often that I say this, but one of my side items was better than the main course. The bow-tie pasta is mixed with pieces of salami cold cuts and marinated with vinegar (or vinaigrette). Unsurprisingly (given that it's from an Aldo Demartino-owned restaurant), the bow-tie pasta was great. In the future, I might order as a stand-alone dish. While I didn't get the same level of satisfaction from the potato chips, they weren’t bad. The lightly salted chips contributed well to my sandwich. It made eating The Balboa worthwhile.

SIDE NOTE: I want to thank everyone who celebrated my birthday with me. A special shout-out goes to Shawn Lilly for taking pictures of The Balboa and the bruschetta. It was a great night of food, beer and football at both the Flying Saucer and Aldo's. Even the crappy ending of the Packers-Seahawks game didn't ruin a good night with friends. I look forward to doing it again next year.
If you're looking for a legitimate panini instead, go to Aldo's Midtown location for a nice selection of Italian sandwiches. An example is the Harissa Chicken Panini that is quite good and very fulfilling. It would be nice if both the Downtown and Midtown restaurants stay consistent in maintaining the same menu, but maybe factors such as production capacity and consumer preference might have influenced the distinction between the two.
After several visits to Aldo’s Pizza Pies, I’ve concluded that it has a bright future. Overall, the quality of the food is great. The service, while not perfect, was good enough to meet my expectations. What I like best about Aldo’s is the atmosphere. Despite it being a family restaurant, I felt very comfortable there as a single guy. While not having the intimacy of Aldo’s other establishments, it is a relaxing place to hang out at. As far as the bar goes, my only gripe about it is that it isn’t big enough to handle a large group of people. However, I’m sure Aldo will counter by saying that it wasn’t meant to be just a bar. Given the layout of his place, it’s hard to argue against it. With Aldo’s catering to families, it seems that Demartino has most of Downtown Memphis covered, demographically speaking. I’m sure he will have a lot of success, which for him isn’t in short supply.


Aldo's Pizza Pies on Urbanspoon

LabelsBeer, Commentary, Cooper-Young, Downtown, Family Friendly, Midtown, Pizza, Sandwiches

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Little Tea Shop

Soul Food Awesomeness!

A few weeks ago, my friend Craig of the blog Memphis Que wrote that he was having trouble finding places to blog about. Given that his blog's focus is on barbecue and Soul Food restaurants, this surprised me. I responded by listing places that I either experienced or heard great things about. Among the restaurants mentioned, one of them is head and shoulders above the rest.
For me, The Little Tea Shop is one of the best Soul Food restaurants in Memphis. Located in the Downtown district, it is open for lunch Monday through Friday. Because of its hours, I'm not sure if Craig can fit it in his schedule. My anticipation of his review motivated me to provide my take on it. I'm happy to do it, and I should have done it sooner. Fortunately, a day off from the FedExForum allowed me to visit my favorite Downtown Soul Food restaurant.
The day of my visit to the "Tea Shop" was on a Friday. The featured entrées that day were corned beef, chicken pan (pot) pie, seafood gumbo and catfish fillets. With the objective of writing a Soul Food review, I felt that catfish was the most appropriate choice. Along with that, I got turnip greens and a sweet potato as sides. The latter was an atypical choice for me, because I feel that sweet potatoes are too sweet for catfish. Normally, I would go with something like green beans, mashed potatoes or that great Southern "vegetable," macaroni and cheese. Still, I didn't regret the choices I made for a lunch that turned out great.

SIDE NOTE: I'm with Craig about his fascination of finding macaroni and cheese as a "vegetable" on most Soul Food/Country restaurant menus. How did this come to be? Aside from the fact that macaroni pasta comes from durum wheat, I don't understand how people consider Mac ‘n Cheese a vegetable. It has more animal products in it (butter, cheese) than anything else. I'm not sure what this says about our society, but I find it amusing.

The catfish I had at The Little Tea Shop was delicious. It was mildly seasoned with spices that put it head and shoulders above the competition. The catfish comes with Tartar sauce, but it is good enough without it. Louisiana Hot Sauce, which was also available (along with Bruce's Green Hot Pepper Sauce), couldn't have made it better. I'm definitely glad I chose the catfish, for it made my day.
My turnip greens were absolutely magnificent. Cooked with ingredients that resulted in a slightly sweet flavor, the best part of the greens is what it lacked: pork. Unlike most restaurants and people like my Mom, The Little Tea Shop has made this Southern staple vegetarian friendly. Compared to other places, The Little Tea Shop's turnip greens are the best I ever had (including my Mom's).

SIDE NOTE: The turnip greens can be ordered as an entrée with cornbread sticks (AKA "cornsticks"), tomatoes and onions for $7.95. For vegetarians, this seems like a good deal for a great meal.

Unlike the other items I had, the sweet potato didn't impress me as much. It's not that I didn't like it, but it wasn’t as exceptional as the rest of my lunch. For the most part, the taste is similar to most Soul Food restaurants. By the way, for those who "love" to check my grammar, I'm sure they took note of the word "potato." Because it consisted of one huge piece, I felt it was appropriate to refer to it in the singular sense. In hindsight, I should've split it in half like a Russet baked potato and buttered it. Along with butter, whipped cream (in place of sour cream) might have gone well with the sweet potato. It's something that I will keep in mind if I order it again.
As much as I loved the main course, there is one item that The Little Tea Shop serves that keeps me coming back. The cornbread sticks that the diner serves as an appetizer are "da bomb!" The crispy crust contains a buttery texture that is delectable, especially when dipped in margarine. For me, the cornsticks are comfort food that I could snack on all day without tiring of them. Except for my Mom, I can't think of anyone or anyplace that makes better cornbread.

SIDE NOTE: Prior to visiting The Little Tea Shop, I had a few beers at Bardog Tavern, located next door. The bartender (Brittany, who's a real sweetheart) told me that she hasn't been to the diner. However, she has had the cornbread sticks which she likes a lot. I wonder if I could trade a few sticks for a beer? Hmmm...

In the end, my lunch at The Little Tea Shop was great. In all my years of eating there, I never had a bad meal. In addition to the food, the service is great. I never have to wait long (ten minutes max) for an order. The diner's waitstaff are very friendly and eager to serve. This hospitality extends from the owner Suhair Lauck (known to most as "Su"), who is always smiling whenever I see her. With great food and hospitality, I can’t see anyone not liking The Little Tea Shop. That includes my friend Craig, who's looking for another great place to eat. He can't do much better.


Check out The Little Tea Shop on

The Little Tea Shop on Urbanspoon

Labels: Downtown, Soul Food

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Three Angels Diner

Sinking Into Brunch

A few months ago, I got the chance to meet one of my favorite food bloggers. Craig, the blogger for Memphis Que, has reviewed many barbecue and Soul Food restaurants in and around Memphis. Whenever I'm yearning for those types of food, his blog is my go-to guide. If you follow my blog, I often refer to his reviews whenever I write about a dining experience. I was fortunate to meet him for Sunday Brunch last August at Three Angels Diner. It's in the Broad Street Arts District that's close to where we live (Midtown’s Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood).
During our brunch, we talked about a lot of stuff while we waited on our orders. For the most part, it was an enlightening conversation that I thoroughly enjoyed. Besides talking about food, I learned that Craig owns a wholesale automotive parts business that has him on the go. Like whenever I "temp," his job allows him to explore new restaurants. He seems to enjoy what he does, even when he's working outside on a hot summer day. Other than his job and food, we chatted about other things while waited for our orders. As a dining companion, Craig is a cool guy to hang with. If we ever have brunch at Three Angels again, I will bring my Peroni glass that Craig can drink out of (just kidding).

It didn't take long for our food to arrive. Craig ordered The Kitchen Sink, which is a huge plate of about every breakfast staple you can think of. Among the many items in it are fried eggs (2), beef brisket, bacon, sausage, cheese grits, potatoes, cheese and salsa. To me, it looked like Craig was eating for two, yet I could tell by the smile on his face that he loved it. I could only watch with envy because my order wasn't nearly as good.
While Craig ate a meal fit for a king, I had to eat like a pauper. I chose the frittata, which consists of three fried egg whites topped with bits of garlic, tomato, Gouda cheese, parsley and mint. Despite the toppings, the frittata didn't taste much different from most egg white dishes. It seems to me that no matter what you put on it, egg whites will always lack flavor. Of course, this is my opinion that some will disagree with. Personally, I should eat more egg whites to bolster my health, but I need a better incentive to do it. To make a somewhat lame analogy, Three Angels' frittata is to egg whites like the Toyota Prius is to hybrid/electric cars. Although the car is good for society, it doesn't stir excitement. On the other hand, a sharp looking Tesla with the same beneficial qualities could allow a person to do the right thing with style and panache. Someday, I hope to find an egg white "Tesla."
Before I go further, I want to stress that I wasn’t unhappy with the frittata. For what it is, it isn’t a bad breakfast/brunch entrée. It’s just that egg whites aren’t my cup of tea.
Fortunately, I ordered biscuits with my frittata. I’m glad I did, for the biscuits were extremely good. Although I could’ve eaten them “raw,” Three Angels’ homemade jam took the biscuits to another level. Combined, the frittata and biscuits made for a decent brunch. However, it wasn’t as good as my dining companion’s plate.
After watching Craig knock out his breakfast, determination drove me to get my own "Kitchen Sink." So, with the NBA season in full swing, I'm working enough hours at FedExForum to afford it. As I expected, Three Angels' premiere brunch entrée (available only on Sundays) was a lot to put down but it really hit the spot. Everything in it meshed well and tasted great. My only gripe was that I couldn't spice it up with hot sauce because the diner didn't have it. Instead, I got a bottle of hot salsa that didn't spice it in the way I wanted. My advice to Three Angels Diner: CARRY HOT SAUCE! It is the one thing that Southerners can agree on, regardless of race, class or creed. I hope the diner takes my advice and get a bottle of it. Other than that criticism, I really enjoyed The Kitchen Sink and look forward to having it again.

Colossal Grub

At this point, I would normally add my closing remarks about Three Angels Diner. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite item on the menu, The Colossus. This is a burger that many people are talking about, including a blog inspired by it. Seth Agranov, the blogger for Best Memphis Burger, said The Colossus inspired him to seek out Memphis' best burgers. If a burger can motivate someone to do that, it must be amazing. Well, I can assure you that The Colossus is as good as advertised.

The foundation of The Colossus is its grass-fed organic beef patty. It is very lean and seasoned with a mix of salt and black pepper and likely marinated in what I believe is Worcestershire sauce. I tried to confirm this with one of the servers, but he wasn't sure. Regardless of what's in it, the beef is among the best I've tasted on a burger. It's almost as good as a steak, something that is not on Three Angel's menu. For meat being this good is a great example of the high standards that Three Angels implements in its food preparation.
Topping The Colossus' great beef patty is a pile of fixings that make the burger worthy of its name. Most of it is a mound of lettuce mixed with vinegar and what a server called "oil" (maybe olive oil). Called Diner Slaw, it is more like a small salad that complements the burger well. The fried onion strings and bacon give the burger a crunchy element that meshes well with the creamy smoked Gouda cheese. As a whole, everything on the burger is excellent and I wouldn't change a thing.
The only thing missing from this burger is fries. I believe it is sacrilege for a restaurant to not offer fries with a burger (especially in Memphis, America's fattest city). The two go together like cookies and cream and should be inseparable. However, many restaurants (including Cafe Eclectic, where Craig and I considered meeting) offer food choices that cater to the health conscious. While I'm not opposed to this, it would be nice if fries were an option. Speaking only for me, I feel that potato chips (even made by Three Angels) just don't cut it when I'm eating a burger.
Other than the lack of fries, The Colossus is an outstanding burger that I recommend meat lovers to try. It is a culinary masterpiece and one the best burgers in Memphis. Personally, I've rated Three Angels 5th on my list of favorite burger joints based solely on The Colossus. Someday, I'll get around to trying Three Angels' other burgers like the Diner Steamie. If they're half as good as The Colossus, it will be worth the trip. One thing that's certain is Three Angels will never disappoint anyone with a bad meal. Because of that, I plan on making many visits there in the future.


Three Angels Diner on Urbanspoon

LabelsAmerican, Brunch, Burgers, Family Friendly, Midtown

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Riverview Buffet (Fitzgeralds' Casino)

A Thanksgiving To Forget

For this year's Thanksgiving dinner, the Rogers family continued a recent tradition: dining out in Tunica. With the ordeal of preparing a huge dinner being burdensome, we felt it was easier to let someone else do the cooking. Unfortunately, the dearth of available restaurants on Thanksgiving leaves few options, so turning to Tunica is a nice alternative (for a list of potential restaurants in Memphis, click here). The casinos there never close, and most of them offer top-notch service. Following that premise, we didn't give much thought about choosing one for dinner. Using the Urbanspoon Mobile App, I found a casino buffet that had a rating comparable to ones we visited previously. After conferring with the rest of the family, we decided to visit Fitzgeralds' Casino's Riverview Buffet. We chose it because the price ($16.99) was close to Horseshoe's Village Square Buffet and didn't have a long wait time. In choosing this place, we needed a little blind faith. Because no one bothered to review it, we relied solely on its rating. In hindsight, we should have interpreted this as a bad omen and avoided it. Instead, we regrettably forged ahead with our dinner plan.
When we arrived at Fitzgeralds (aka "The Fitz"), we immediately went to the buffet. As promised, it didn't take us long to get in and be seated. Once we got our table, we quickly went to the serving lines for our food. Upon first glance, the food looked like it had been there for a while. I didn't see much steam emanating from the food, which isn't good. In my opinion, this shows the lack of Quality Assurance measures that the casino could use to providev acceptable food service. By comparison, casino buffets like Harrah's Paula Deen Buffet constantly bring out fresh food, even at the expense of throwing out partially filled pots. I assumed that Fitzgerald's did the same (which adheres to an adage about assumptions). Despite our concerns, my family decided to stick it out as opposed to getting a refund from the casino.

As expected, most of the food was lukewarm and stale. The first underwhelming plate consisted of turkey and dressing with green beans. Everything was "off" about this plate of food, because none of it was fresh. When I asked my sister what see thought, she concurred with my opinion. She also added that the green beans were overcooked and mushy. I agree with that statement, which applied to most of our dinner.

My second plate mostly consisted of a smorgasbord of meats. Among them were ham, Chicken Alfredo pasta, baked chicken, pork loin and salmon. In the spirit of setting a good example for my twelve-year old niece, I also got turnip greens for my vegetable. For the most part, none of this was impressive. Both the salmon and pork loin (along with the turkey I had earlier) was dry and not tender. The seasoning of black pepper made the pork loin palatable, but I couldn't get over the fact that it wasn't fresh. The same could be said of the salmon, whose toppings of tomato and green onion bits gave it some flavorful heft. The ham and baked chicken were a little better. Both were tender and modestly seasoned, about on par with a typical school cafeteria. The Chicken Alfredo was awful, for the sauce was sour and overseasoned with black pepper. The turnip greens were okay despite its lack of freshness. Overall, this plate, like the first one, sucked.

SIDE NOTE: My sister also mentioned that the catfish had too much salt. Although I can't confirm this, I'm very confident in her opinion.

After my family finished our second helpings of food, we pretty much had enough. It wasn't because we were full, but rather we didn't feel it was worth it. Before we left, we took time to have dessert. For me, my sweet pastry of choice was the pumpkin pie. I expected something decent enough for me to say "that was a good pie." However, my initial reaction was (in the spirit of my Flying Saucer drinking buddy and Squeal Street BBQ Team President "Bicycle Bobby") "DAMN!" In exclaiming this, praise wasn't intended. While the pie had some cinnamon and nutmeg flavor, the filling itself wasn't thick. In chewing it, I sensed that the filling was watery and soupy. Combined with the food I had earlier, the pumpkin pie completed the worst meal that I ever had in Tunica.

Once we finished our dinner, we left Fitzgeralds as unhappy campers. None of us liked what we had for dinner and would've loved a do-over. Next year, we will be more selective about where we go for Thanksgiving dinner. With my siblings living in other cities, anytime that we spend together is special. That said, there will be no more leaps of blind faith into the unknown. From now on, we will either dine first-class (a term that doesn't coincide with most buffets, Texas de Brazil notwithstanding) or stay home. As long as the time isn't wasted, it will be all good.


Riverview Buffet (Fitzgeralds Casino) on Urbanspoon

LabelsBuffet, Dessert, Soul Food, Southern, Tunica

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Friday, November 23, 2012

The Cottage

Good Food, Great Hospitality

Last month, while on a "temp" assignment at a Binghampton church, I got the chance to visit The Cottage. This wasn't my first visit to the diner, but it had been a while since I last ate there. Fortunately, the generous furniture company that I worked for treated our crew to lunch.

During the visit, we could have ordered anything from the menu. Although the Steak & Eggs were tempting, my love for country fried steak lured me to it. I have always been a fan of the staple, even as a kid. Of course, most battered and deep-fried food will appeal to my Southern sensibilities. Within that group, country fried steak is near the top of the list.

Although finding a good country fried steak is easy, finding a great one is rare. My hope was that The Cottage's steak would be as huge and tasty as the one I had at The Port, a restaurant on Memphis' President’s Island. While it didn't measure up to The Port's standards, The Cottage acquitted itself well.

The country fried steak was average in terms of size (8 oz.) and taste. Like most places, it was "well done" and encased in a flakey breaded crust. Although the steak itself had seasoning, most of the flavor came from the brown gravy. It had a tangy taste due to The Cottage's mix of beef bouillon, garlic, onion powder, black pepper and salt. In thinking about it, the gravy wasn't different from most places. In all, The Cottage's country fried steak didn't "wow" me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The sides were a little more impressive than the main course. The turnip greens were okay. Its salty seasoning yielded taste similar to most restaurants that serve it. The mashed potatoes were thick and chunky due to the slices of red potatoes in it. It meshed nicely with the country fried steak and gravy, as did the yeast rolls. The rolls were fluffy with a strong doughy flavor. Even without butter and gravy, the rolls were the best part of the meal.

The day that I dined at The Cottage was a Monday. That's the day the diner offers free banana pudding with the country fried steak. This was a pleasant surprise that I took advantage of. It was creamy and sweet with flavor from the pudding and vanilla wafer cookies. Compared to other banana puddings that I've had, The Cottage doesn't stand out. Nevertheless, it was delicious and served as a nice ending to my lunch.

Overall, my impression of The Cottage is positive. It is a nice Southern diner with plenty of charm. The food is decent by most standards, and served by a delightful and friendly waitstaff. Although it will never fall into my rotation of places I frequent, I will always keep The Cottage in mind whenever I'm yearning good old-fashioned Memphis hospitality.

NOTE: About five years after I wrote this review, ownership has changed hands and has sorta become a Thai restaurant. It will continue to serve traditional Southern/Soul Food during breakfast and lunch, but will switch to a "Thai Cottage" for dinner. I'm curious about how this will work out.


The Cottage on Urbanspoon

Labels: Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Diner, Nutbush/Berclair, Soul Food, Southern, Steaks, Summer Avenue, Thai

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


My First Visit

Back in July, during a "temp" assignment for an irrigation company, I had lunch at Bosses. Located near Clark Tower in East Memphis, the restaurant primarily serves hot wings. Like with most reviews, I sort of came across Bosses by accident. On the day that my crew went to lunch, we headed down Poplar Avenue to a location that we assumed had a KFC (short for Kentucky Fried Chicken, who isn't changing many minds with its "healthier" image). As we arrived, we discovered that a Baskins-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts franchise replaced the chicken joint. With us having to change plans, one of my “bosses” suggested that we go to The Half Shell. Being the cash-strapped guy that I usually am, I quickly suggested that we go to Bosses because I felt it was more affordable. Although its prices were a little higher than I expected, I didn't have any regrets about choosing the place.
Once we arrived at Bosses, we placed and paid for our orders at the front counter and were immediately seated. We all got the eight-piece wing combo smothered with Buffalo-style hot sauce that cost approximately $8.72. While we waited on our order, I "checked in" to Bosses on Foursquare where I saw that first-time visitors get fifty percent off the price of their orders. I wished had known this ahead of time, because I could have gotten a complete order of wings instead of having to split them with my "temping" cohort. In the future, I hope the host/cashier advises diners of the special. Anyway, I immediately got a partial refund from the host and waited for our wings.

Ten minutes later, our orders of hot wings arrived. The wings came in the form of "cut" or "party" pieces rather than whole wings that are served at wing joints like Don Don's. In terms of size, they were slightly smaller when compared to other wing joints. Therefore, I had to make do with the four pieces that was my share of the order.
The hot wings themselves were a bit of disappointment. My gripe isn’t due to the size of the wings, but rather its lack of “heat.” While the wings had the requisite Buffalo flavor, it lacked the proper amount of "heat" needed to qualify as hot wings. I initially thought I had gotten the wrong order, but my server assured me that my order was right. Still not convinced, I went "Nuh-Uh" by mooching a wing from one of my "bosses" ("Nuh-Uh" is a reference to a "foodie" frequently blogged about by, "well you know"). His wings, like mine, were lukewarm in terms of spiciness. After asking all the guys what they thought, we agreed that the "hot" wings were mild yet good nonetheless. For me, it was a bit of a letdown although not the end of the world.
By the way, I later read the review by Best Memphis Burger about Bosses' hot wings. The review came to the same conclusion about the lack of "heat" in the hot wings. With six people coming to the same conclusion, it's safe to say that Bosses doesn't "bring it" when it comes to meeting expectations. However, owner John Yacoubian said that he doesn't want to cause discomfort by making the wings too hot. I see the logic in that but disagree with the tactic. I'll talk more about this later.
As I said earlier, I ordered hot wings as part of a combo that included seasoned fries and a soda. The fries were crispy and slightly salty due to a sprinkling of Bosses’ dry rub seasoning. Surprisingly, the best part of the meal was the blue cheese dressing. It was thick, chunky and very creamy (which seems different from what Seth at Best Memphis Burger had). I liked the dressing so much that I dipped everything in it, including the fries. In terms of taste, the cheesy richness of the dressing made a huge difference in my hot wings. The satisfaction that I got from it almost made up for the wings' lackluster spiciness. For me, the blue cheese dressing made a so-so lunch into something enjoyable.
After I finished eating, I left Bosses feeling slightly disappointed, but was anxious to give it another shot. I was curious if its hottest wings could provide the heat that I desired. Before I go on, I'm not a glutton for punishment, but I love spicy foods. However, my tolerance for spiciness isn't on the same level as a “heat freak” like the blogger of Burn My Mouth. Rather, I prefer food that balances spiciness and vibrant flavor in a way that makes for a well-rounded dining experience.

Round Two

After months of procrastinating, I finally got around to giving Bosses a second shot. To do that, all the stars had to line up with regards to my schedule. My visit was on a Friday when I worked a rare evening shift at FedExForum (the NBA season has kicked in so no more "temping" for now). I took advantage of this by getting a few errands done such as shopping for Halloween makeup (my character this year was a zombie). While doing this, I felt it was a good time to get a second order of wings from Bosses. This time, instead of getting wings with hot sauce, I stepped my game up a bit. I got the combo with half my wings in honey gold sauce and the rest of it in a sauce called "Pure Hotness." I didn't go all in with the heat because I feared the worst. For all I knew, the wings could have been as hot as Kooky Canuck's "Holy Smoke!" wings that kicked my ass. On the flip side, they could have been as weak as Flying Saucer's "Atomic" wings that are its hottest, although I didn't break a sweat eating them (when the time is right, I will talk more about it).

The wings arrived a few minutes after I placed my order. Just like the last time, the wings were small in size but it didn't matter. For me, I wanted to know if Bosses could live up to its name in the world of hot wings. The "Pure Hotness" wings didn't disappoint even though I wasn't sure initially. The sauce is Habanero-based and mixed with a good amount of vinegar. Like my experience at Max's Sports Bar, the heat didn't hit me at first. My initial impression was that it was spicier than Bosses' hot wings but not overwhelmingly strong. However, as I ate more of them, the heat increased significantly. The "Pure Hotness" definitely kicked in on the fourth wing that had me sweating. I managed to get through all five wings by drinking 1½ glasses of water and plenty of ranch dressing. I'm not sure if I could have made it through a whole order of "Pure Hotness" wings because of the spiciness. While they're not as spicy as Max's, the wings were more than hot enough for me. In terms of taste, the sauce and the wings were really good. For this portion of my meal, the "Pure Hotness" wings changed my view of Bosses in a very positive way.
As much as I liked the "Pure Hotness," Bosses' honey gold wings provided a relief from the "heat." In terms of taste, the mix of honey mustard and hot sauce made the wings very sweet while maintaining a small degree of spiciness. In my opinion, they were a little sweeter than most honey gold wings that I've had. Overall, I liked them just as much as the "Pure Hotness" wings.
The sides that I had during this visit were decent supplements to my lunch. The fries tasted the same as the ones I had earlier and were even better with dressing. Speaking of that, the ranch dressing didn't impress me as much as Bosses’ blue cheese dressing. Not that I had any complaints, but the ranch dressing didn't stand out in terms of taste like its counterpart did. Still, it was as good as most places that serve it and went well with my meal.
After I finished my lunch, the owner wanted me to try Bosses' other offerings, which are catfish fillets and chicken tenders (and a nice selection of beers). The catfish tasted as good as the servings I had at some of the best "Soul Food" restaurants in Memphis. The extremely thick tartar sauce was great with it although some (like my doctor) might object to the amount of mayo in it. The chicken tender, consisting of white meat and light breading, was well seasoned and tasted great on its own. However, the sauces that I got with it made the chicken even better.
Out of random, I chose the Hot BBQ and Honey Hot sauces to dip my chicken tender in. Even though I didn't give it much thought, I was happy with the choices I made. The Hot BBQ sauce seemed to have tomato and vinegar as its prime ingredients with a bit of chili peppers for added spiciness. The taste is somewhat similar to what I've experienced at places like Corky's that is famous for barbecue (personally, I believe it's overrated).
As much as I liked the barbecue sauce, the Honey Hot sauce really impressed me. While not quite as spicy as Bosses’ hot sauce, the perfect balance of spiciness and honey mustard sweetness made the Honey Hot the best sauce that I had at Bosses. The owner later told me that it is a favorite with kids. Although I don't think of myself as a kid at heart, the Honey Hot will be my choice of sauce for my next visit to Bosses.
During this visit, I got an opportunity to talk with the owner. We mostly talked about chicken wings and other stuff related to his restaurant. The most interesting thing that I learned was how to tell if a wing had been frozen prior to cooking. If the bones are dark and/or gray, it means that the wings were frozen. However, unfrozen chicken retains its white color. This is something I will remember when I review chicken in the future.

SIDE NOTE: Bosses' wings come straight from Tyson and Sanderson Farms (whose wings were the centerpiece of a recent cooking effort). The catfish, which is Mississippi pond-raised, is supplied by Delta Pride and Pride of The Pond.

We also talked about the lack of spiciness in Bosses ' hot wings. While I understand the logic in not making them too spicy, I'm not sure it is a good tactic. I am a firm believer in making good first impressions, something that Bosses’ hot wings didn't do for me or my co-workers. While we all liked the wings from a taste standpoint, the lack of spiciness tempered our opinion. While I was forgiving, I'm not sure if some of my cohorts did the same. If I were running Bosses, I would tweak the hot sauce a bit so it is slightly hotter. I believe there is enough room for improving it while maintaining a degree of separation from the hotter sauces.
Putting aside my mild hot wings, both of my visits to Bosses were great. Everything that Bosses serves is original, including the wing sauces, dressings and dry rub seasoning. The wings, tenders, catfish and fries are hand cut and prepared by an expert kitchen staff so there's no need to worry about quality. The service at Bosses is excellent, for it didn't take long to get my orders. Plus, the attentive servers made sure that I had everything I needed, including extra napkins. Overall, the professionalism of the staff at Bosses is top-notch and a cut above most so-called "wing joints." In closing, I want to thank John and his people for the hospitality I received. I appreciated it and hope to return the favor by encouraging others to visit Bosses.


Bosses on Urbanspoon

LabelsEast Memphis, Family Friendly, Seafood, Wings

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