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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cave's Soul Food and More

Best Burger in The Neighborhood (for a time)

I rarely use the word "incredible" to describe something, but that's the first word that came to mind when I bit into Cave's cheeseburger. It is a huge burger featuring a half-pound of beef infused with a secret combination of herbs and seasonings. Cave's cooks the ground beef "well done" to a juicy tenderness, although I'm sure that the restaurant can accommodate anyone's cooking preference. Along with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions (which I omitted), mustard and mayo, Cave's cheeseburger is a culinary masterpiece.

UPDATE: When I said the burger was "juicy," I didn't mean that it was overly greasy. What I was trying to say was that the meat had enough grease and "juice" to render a silky texture. In other words, the meat wasn't overcooked. For me, biting into the beef was like chewing on buttery cornbread. I know this is a terrible analogy but it's the best that I can do. I'm sorry if I misled anyone into believing that Cave's burger was overly greasy. When it comes to describing things, I'm not always accurate.

This picture was taken at my home, on the mini-bar. I'm pointing this out in an effort to not mislead readers into assuming that Cave's has a bar. Even though it doesn't have one, Cave's offers domestic beers like Bud Light by the bottle for those who want to drink alcohol while eating.

To give an idea of what eating a Cave's cheeseburger is like, imagine it as a bigger version of Alex's Tavern's Greek Burger. Not that the two burgers taste alike, but both have unique seasonings that captivate the eater. In place of using higher quality beef (20% fat or less), good seasoning can make a huge difference in a burger. Like Alex's, Cave's has perfectly followed this recipe to success.

When done right, a cheap, well seasoned burger can hold its own with those from great restaurants. At $7.10 (which used to be the price for all of Cave's plate dinners; it has a little more expensive since then), Cave's cheeseburger is both cheaper and better than a burger I had at the Beauty Shop several years ago. Although the bland decor inside Cave's is directly opposite of the chic eatery, it doesn't matter when eating an incredible burger.

Speaking of other restaurants, Cave's cheeseburger is, in my opinion, the best in Midtown Memphis' Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood. This includes notable burgers from places such as Alex's Tavern and Cafe Eclectic (although I haven't had its Pub Burger). I hope the word gets out about this awesome burger by other media. To that end, I challenge Seth Agranov of the blog Best Memphis Burger to try Cave's cheeseburger. If he doesn't feel it is worthy of a rating of at least four stars, I will buy his burger. I am confident that he and anyone else will love Cave’s cheeseburger.

The burger comes with a soda and steak fries. Cave's cook its fries to a golden brown, yielding a crispy crust and a soft potato texture in its core. Lightly salted (which is completely opposite of Cave's turnip greens), the steak fries are good on its own and are a great complement to the cheeseburger.

As for the other items on Cave's menu, everything that I've had so far was good but not on par with the cheeseburger. Except for that, just about everything on Cave's menu is prepared ahead of time and preserved in heated counter tops. The one item that stands out negatively is the turnip greens. The greens have TOO MUCH SALT in it and might be unhealthy for some people. Fellow Vollintine-Evergreen resident and blogger Craig of Memphis Que said the turnip greens have "a strong vinegar bite and nice spicy kick.” While most of his reviews are accurate, I will respectfully disagree with his take on the turnip greens. I won't say more about this because I don't want to kill the cheeseburger's buzz, but I couldn't write this review without mentioning it.

I Got Some Tail

I recently (April 2014) had the ox tails at Cave's which were really good. Well seasoned, it was roast beef around large chunks of bone cartilage. Fortunately, it was so tender that it literally fell off the bones and into the gravy as I ate it. It eventually turned into a delicious beef stew (which included chopped potatoes) that was better than anything that I could get from a grocery store. Along with Mac 'n Cheese and Cave's overly seasoned turnip greens (I forgot how salty it is), the first taste of ox tail turned out great. At over $12 (if my memory is correct), I'm not sure if I'll get a lot of this, but I will keep Cave's in mind whenever I'm craving exotic Soul Food in my 'hood.

The Barbecue Is Good, Too

Recently (March 2, 2014), I went back to Cave's for barbecue ribs that were quite good. As you might have guessed from the photo above, I got the meaty BBQ beef ribs with macaroni and cheese and cabbage. Everything, from the slightly sweet barbecue sauce to the moderately tender texture of the meat, was done right. The ribs also had a decent amount of "smoke" that should satisfy most. Putting aside that the ribs consisted of beef as opposed to pork (also offered by Cave's), I believe the barbecue can hold its own with most of Memphis' barbecue restaurants. For those living in or near the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood, it's worth checking out.

In closing, I want to say that the service at Cave's is excellent. I'm not saying this because of the obvious, but for a great gesture on the part of the owner. On the day that I ordered my cheeseburger, I was trying to catch a bus. To expedite my order, I called it in, assuming that it would be ready in about ten minutes. Unfortunately, it took over twenty minutes to prepare the order. As I walked out of Cave's with the meal that I wanted to eat there, my bus passed by. At that point, the owner (Cave) could have said this: "tough shit, bon appétit!" However, Cave took pity on me by offering to catch the bus via his pick-up truck. That was a very nice gesture that he didn't have to do, and it really got me out of a pinch. I want to express my gratitude for his deed as well as bolstering the neighborhood with his restaurant. I look forward to having many meals there in the future.

UPDATE: Since posting this, Seth tried the burger and gave it four stars in his review. I'm glad he took the time to try this great burger. I'm also happy that I didn't have to pay for it. Also, I have reassessed my neighborhood burgers, concluding that Cafe Eclectic serves the best, followed by Alex's Tavern. Although the uniqueness of Cave's fennel-tasting burgers wowed me initially, the quality of Cafe Eclectic's ground beef reminded me of the standards that a hamburger should meet. Still, I really like Cave's burgers (it's #19 on my best burger list) and encourage others to try it. :)

MENU (Courtesy of Memphis Que)

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Labels: Barbecue, Burgers, Midtown, Soul Food

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stone Soup Cafe

A Reason To Be Thankful

Thanks to my sisters, I've had the privilege to dine at one of Memphis' newest restaurants, the Stone Soup Cafe. Located in a converted house in Midtown's Cooper-Young district, the café is open six days a week (Tuesday thru Sunday) for breakfast and lunch. On two separate occasions, my sisters treated me to Saturday brunch.

During my first visit with my sister Kimberly, I decided to get the Western Omelette with hashbrowns and pork sausage. The omelette was really good by most standards. The egg wrapping the omelet was thick, fluffy and perfectly seasoned for a great taste. As for the contents inside the egg, everything was sautéed just right. If I had to guess, I believe it was all sautéed in olive oil, my favorite for cooking omelets. Vegetables such as onions and green peppers have a distinct sour sweet flavor when it's cooked in olive oil, and I love it. In closing, I won't say that Stone Soup's omelet is the best in town, but there aren't many places that can top it.

The two side items that I had with my omelet were good as well. The hashbrowns were crispy on the outside while keeping its shredded texture on the inside, and it wasn't mushy. In other words, they were properly cooked hashbrowns that weren't out of the ordinary. Once I added butter to them, the hashbrowns stuck together and tasted great. The pork sausage patties also weren't anything that I haven't had before. They were just a spicy complement to a really good meal.

Overall, my first experience at Stone Soup Cafe was a positive one. In addition to the food being great, the service and atmosphere (we ate on the front lawn) was excellent. I'm thankful to my sister Kim for treating me to brunch. Someday, I hope to return the favor.

About a month after my first visit to Stone Soup Cafe, my other sister Kathy invited me to brunch. When she asked where I wanted to go, the little café in Cooper-Young first came to mind.

For the second visit, I decided to do something different. Instead of getting an omelet or pancakes (which I will talk about later), I got a breakfast sandwich. I went big by getting The Big Rex with pork sausage. It consisted of scrambled eggs (two of them, I believe), two slices of American cheese and two sausage patties, sandwiched by slices of thick toasted bread. The spiciness of the sausage, the melted cheese and the crunchy toast combined for a savory and hearty “Sammy.” It tasted far better than similar "fast food" breakfast sandwiches, including Hardee's (aka Carl's Jr.).

By itself, The Big Rex can satisfy the appetite of most, but I turned it up a notch by getting hashbrowns and a cup of gravy. The gravy, I believe, is buttermilk-based with no meat in it. Although it's good on its own, I didn't like it when I dipped my sandwich in it. Fortunately, the sandwich was perfect and didn’t need it. Although it was a mismatch with my sandwich, the gravy complemented the hashbrowns nicely. The entire meal got a boost because of it.

While I had The Big Rex, Kathy had a pancake. Before I go on, you might be wondering why I'm mentioning Kathy's meal and not Kim's. Normally when I review something, it's based on what I ate and not on what others have had. If I'm dining with someone, I try not to bother him/her during the meal. The exceptions to that rule: 1) the entrée is unique like the French Toast Bananas Foster that Kathy had at Rizzo's Diner, 2) the entrée is huge. Kathy's pancake fell into the latter category, for it was big enough to cover a 10"-12" plate. The pancake was slightly under a half an inch thick, which is more than enough for most. In terms of taste, it's no different from the average pancake. Even though it was a meal by itself, Kathy also had scrambled eggs and bacon as side items. Needless to say, she had a full stomach after eating her brunch.

SIDE NOTE: I would like to see the café turn its pancake into an eating challenge, similar to the Kookamonga Challenge at Kooky Canuck. I would love to see someone eat a stack of those.

To sum it up, the second experience at the Stone Soup Cafe was even better than the first. Like with Kim, I want to thank Kathy for treating me to a wonderful meal. Someday when the time is right, I intend to return the favor.

In writing this review, I wanted to include something from Stone Soup's lunch menu but I won't for two reasons. The first is that I don't want to drone on and on like a certain New Jersey-based blog that I know of. The other reason is that I'm a man of meager means. Since I was laid off over 3½ years ago, it's been a struggle to make ends meet. Although I'm fortunate to work for the Memphis Grizzlies, it is seasonal work that leaves me at a loss during the summer. Of course this begs the question "why have a food blog if you are broke?" On the one hand, I agree that maintaining it doesn't make sense. However, like every living creature, I have to eat. That said, if I'm out anywhere and I "find" a restaurant, food truck or any other place serving good food, I'm sharing that experience with the rest of the world. With my limited resources, doing that will not be easy. I've thought about setting up a 'buy me a meal" link on my blog, something that I've seen on other blogs. Even though that might be a good idea, I don't feel comfortable with that. I'm afraid some people would accuse me of online panhandling, including a guy who ironically has a "buy me a beer" link on his blog (which I assume is successful, given the size of his gut). So despite my shortcomings, I will continue blogging for as long as I can. I appreciate the support I've received, which will continue to inspire me to write about restaurants in Memphis.


Stone Soup Cafe on Urbanspoon

Labels: Breakfast, Brunch, Cooper-Young, Midtown, Sandwiches, Soups

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