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

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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