South Memphis Grocery

Tamale Jolly

In searching for another great burger, I went to a part of town that I rarely see. On the recommendations of friends, I paid a couple of visits to South Memphis Grocery (also known as Mallory Sundry & Grocery). Although it's better known for tamales, the grocery's hamburgers also has its fans. Personally, the good feelings I had about the place countered my usual skepticism about hype. Fortunately, my instincts were right on both the burgers and tamales.

The convenience store's burger (called the "Single Burger" for its single beef patty) isn't anything fancy or "gourmet," but rather a simple sandwich done right. It consists of nothing more than lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo (also onions that I rejected) on top of tasty ground beef. The meat has a taste similar to Tops' burgers but without the mess. Unlike the barbecue joint, the composition of South Memphis Grocery's cheeseburger (which I got with American cheese) isn't excessive in any components that can make it sloppy. In particular, I really like the sweetness of the dill pickles that stood out in the burger. I later asked the cook what he used, and his answer didn't surprise me. The pickles were Kroger's Hamburger Dill pickles (Oval Cut Chips), a grocery store brand that's widely available. Although the cook said that the pickles were a departure from what the grocery normally uses, I believe it can be a very good substitute. As for my overall opinion of the burger, I can't say anything other than positive things about it. It's something that I hope to have again, with some delicious tamales.

Speaking of that, this wouldn't be a complete review if I didn't say anything about South Memphis Grocery's feature item. Before I go on, I will admit that I'm not a fan of the Mississippi Delta tamale. I don't like the grittiness and taste of cornmeal, especially from a tamale with little pork in it. That wasn't a problem with South Memphis Grocery, for its tamales are both meaty and tasty (and greasy). What really won me over was the tamales' spiciness that permeated throughout them. It even makes the cornmeal palatable, something that I thought I would never say about a "Dirty South" tamale. If I can find more places that make tamales like South Memphis Grocery, it could change my opinion.In the meantime, I will keep it in mind that whenever I want a good Southern tamale (as opposed to Mexican versions served at places like Macon Texaco), I will go to the store on the corner of Mallory Avenue and Florida Street.
From my visits to South Memphis Grocery, my impression of it is very positive. This praise includes both the food and friendly service of everyone working there. It's definitely a place worthy of recommendation in spite of its location in a low-income neighborhood. By the way, "low-income" doesn't necessarily mean crime, but I know that a lot of people won't go there because of it. It doesn't help that the store lacks tables for in-house dining, so it's not for everyone. Fortunately, South Memphis Grocery is open seven days a week, from 8 AM until late night (I don't know the store's closing time) so I'm confident that there's a "safe" time for nearly anyone looking for good, inexpensive food. It's worth the trip.


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