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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Squeal Street BBQ Team

Good Friends, Good Times

I want to give a shout out to my friends on the Squeal Street BBQ Team. They were gracious hosts to me during this year's Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (aka "BBQ Fest"). During the two nights that I visited (skipping Saturday), I had ribs and pulled pork along with unique side dishes like chipotle coleslaw. Everything was great, which isn't surprising because of Squeal Street's cooking expertise. If the team decides to start a restaurant, I'm confident that it will be very successful.

Forgive me for taking a bite out of the middle rib before taking this picture. I wasn't in "blogger mode" when I took it.
Repeating what said earlier, I liked Squeal Street's ribs. As shown in the picture above, the ribs are baby backs basted with a mustard-based barbecue sauce. Smoked to perfection, the ribs had a nicely charred exterior covering tender smoked pork. Although the barbecue didn't win any awards at the BBQ Fest (it came in 15th in the "Patio Porkers" category), I believe Squeal Street can hold its own with any barbecue team.
Squeal Street isn't just about barbecue. The team's culinary skills extend to things like hot wings, burgers and pasta. An example of this is the orzo risotto (prepared by Boo Gardo) that I had with my ribs. The pasta consisted of cherry tomatoes, olives, chickpeas and other vegetables. With the ribs, the risotto works well as an accompaniment. Given this and its other offerings, I'm surprised that Squeal Street didn't win any of the contest's non-barbecue awards.
Although Squeal Street's food is excellent, what I really like is the camaraderie of the team. Everyone on it collectively pitches in, doing whatever it takes to win. Unlike other teams I know, there are no slackers who only pay membership fees and do nothing else. Because of its focus on smoking award-winning barbecue (as opposed to partying and looking good), Squeal Street get things done and are always ready to compete. With the Patio Porker team capping its membership at twenty, opportunities to join are rare. If I had the financial means (membership fees are close to $300), I would have joined Squeal Street when I had the chance. Despite not being a member, I support the team in any way that I can.

I Know Where I Stand

I want to close by thanking Squeal Street for the hospitality shown to me during this year's BBQ Fest. Both the team and its guests welcomed me as one of their own despite my social status in Downtown Memphis. Speaking of that, I know that I've fallen from grace with at least one barbecue team. According to its "spokesman," I am "persona non grata" by its members. It seems that the insults and harassment that I've endured from this person over the years (often in the presence of "friends" who didn't tolerate my responses to them) represent the sentiments of at least some members of this barbecue team. Apparently, my relationships with many of them (some dating back several years) weren't as friendly as I thought. If they feel this way about me, I will respect it. I will also carry it a step further by keeping them at arm's length whenever I see them. Other than being cordial and polite, I won't have much to do with them. For me, I would rather be around people who will accept me as I am, a socially inept guy who just wants to get along. Like everyone else (including a retired government employee that I know), I have faults that turn off others. Fortunately, Bob Vichie (team president, aka "Bicycle Bobby") and the rest of Squeal Street can get past that, which is why I will always have their backs whenever they need it.

SIDE NOTE: Whenever I go to the BBQ Fest, I don't beg for invitations into team tents. Despite what a certain "spokesman" would have you believe, I'm not desperate enough to do it. Granted, I've asked a few friends if can visit them, but that's a far cry from begging. If this lard ass liar... errrrrrrr "spokesman" (who reminds me of a South Park character) can produce a video of me doing otherwise, I'll show one of him running on a treadmill (it might look like this). I'm more likely to see Bigfoot on a Main Street Trolley than, well, you know... (provided MATA overcomes its problems).

If you're lucky enough to get an invite from Squeal Street during BBQ Fest, cherish it. You will be around good people who will treat you right. By the way, Squeal Street also competes in the Smokin' Aces Festival and BBQ Championship that takes place every September at Harrah's Casino Tunica (MS). As you can see in the photo of trophies below, Squeal Street has been very successful there. I hope the team has continued success at Smokin' Aces and Memphis in May.


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LabelsBarbecue, Commentary, Downtown, Pasta

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Biggest Chicken Drumsticks I Have Ever Seen!

Mind Boggling!

Yesterday, I went to a Shell gas station on Summer Avenue at I-40 for quick takeout grub. I didn't give much thought in choosing the convenience store for lunch other than it being a quick in-and-out. With only thirty minutes for lunch during another "temp" assignment, I figured this was the best way to make the most of it. In doing it, my intention was eating and nothing else, like blogging. Abiding by "advice" from a loudmouth... errrrr "outspoken" retired Federal employee, I'm trying to put out good content on Ken's Food Find. So, despite what Andrew Zimmern (host of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods America") said about Mid-South gas station/convenience store food, this blog is steering clear of them. However, I will make an exception if it's warranted. In the case of the fried chicken at Shell, what I saw was eye-popping.

Air Traffic Mike is an asshole

When I saw Shell's drumsticks, the size of them shocked me. They were almost the size of turkey legs, measuring about seven inches long and over 3½ inches in width. Honestly, I have never seen drumsticks that large in my life. I don't know if they were the result of steroids/growth hormones, but it was impressive nonetheless. If the drumsticks were artificially enhanced, I'm not sure if it's either a good or bad thing. According to the laws of the U.S.A., use of growth hormones in poultry is illegal. Based on that, it would seem that oversized chicken legs are harmful. Still, I threw caution to the wind and ate them.
The drumsticks were decent for the most part. Far from being comparable to Gus's and Uncle Lou's, the chicken was good enough by convenience store standards. With light breading that wasn't too different from what anyone can make with a standard fried chicken recipe, I believe most will like Summer Avenue Shell's drumsticks. Because of the size, one chicken leg can make for a hardy snack for people with small appetites. In eating two with jalapeño chicken fried rice (also good), I got more than enough food for my lunch. Needless to say, everything was very satisfying.
Overall, my lunch experience was enlightening. Given my current status as a seasonal part-time worker who "temps" on occasion, I've been fortunate to discover the diversity of Memphis' culinary community. From plantain-wrapped chicken tamales to Dim Sum (served at Asian Palace, located behind the Shell station), I have eaten a lot of foods that I normally wouldn't have. I hope to continue with finding hidden gems that deserve recognition. After all, this blog is "Ken's Food Find."

Returning the favor

I want to close with offering some advice of my own. To the retired Federal employee who has so much concern about the women I like, he needs to get his own house in order before commenting on others. To my knowledge (and a personal encounter or two), it seems that he has a problem with alcohol that makes him very belligerent (more so than he usually is). I believe it is causing him other problems, including one (if the rumor I heard is correct) involving a restraining order. For an arrogant, self-righteous guy, that isn't a good look for him. By the way, I'm far from being a man of virtue because of my many faults. All I'm saying is that we all have problems, so be mindful of it when berating others.

SIDE NOTE: I have good relationships with women, especially with those whose names begin with my favorite letter of the alphabet.

LabelsCommentary, Fried Chicken, Gas Station/Convenience Store, Shelby Oaks, Summer Avenue

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Madea's Restaurant

Trying Something New

Earlier this month, I went to Madea's Restaurant for lunch. Although it wasn't my intention, my curiosity urged me to stop there. Madea's is a small restaurant on the corner of Overton Crossing and Delano Ave. in Frayser (close to I-40). It's easy to overlook if you're passing by, although the restaurant's logo is hard to miss. I've driven by this place often as I took care of personal business, promising myself that I will eat there someday. Fortunately, I had the time to do it, resulting in an enlightening experience.

As I was pulling into the parking lot, I noticed the restaurant's sign on the edge of it. It's purpose is to highlight Madea's daily specials, one of which piqued my interest. The special of the day was turkey necks, something that I mistook for neck bones (fortunately, Madea corrected me). The turkey necks and everything else is served from a "heated table" (if this isn't what it's called, can someone tell me what it is) in a manner similar to the former Melanie's on Watkins St. (now named Ms. Girlee's Soul Food at its new location where Best Kept Secret was). Initially, I assumed that the turkey necks would mostly consist of cartilage with a small amount of meat. To the contrary, it was as meaty as the pork neck bones that I had at Best Kept Secret. It was sort of like eating a turkey drumstick except the meat was on vertebrae as opposed to a "stick." Speaking of that, the roasted turkey neck was very tender, which made it easy to pull apart. In nibbling on the pieces of neck bones, I wasn't sure if any part of it was a choking hazard. Luckily, I didn't encounter anything other than the large neckbone nuggets. In terms of taste, the turkey neck wasn't different from other "dark" parts of the poultry. In the end, my first turkey neck was a good experience for me.
The tasty entrée was augmented by decent side dishes. The best of them was the cornbread that came in the form of a patty. It was fluffy and very buttery, comparable to restaurants like The Little Tea Shop and Mot & Ed's. The turnip greens and macaroni & cheese were decent although not as savory as the cornbread. Personally, I didn't feel that the mac 'n cheese was as cheesy as I'm accustomed to. Despite that, it and the other sides served well with my turkey neck.
After my initial visit to Madea's, I considered wrapping up my review (as if it means anything) of the restaurant. If I did that, my my summation of it wouldn't have been great because I wasn't that impressed. Before rendering my final opinion, I wanted to try something that I was familiar with.

For the follow-up meal, I got a takeout order of baked chicken with spaghetti, cabbage and cornbread. Other than the cornbread, everything was okay in an unspectacular way. However, the quantity of the food was eye popping. For nine dollars, I got a huge (maybe over a pound) of chicken breast (with a wing) with gravy. By itself, it was more than sufficient for my appetite. Combine that with the other stuff that I had, the chicken was more than I could handle. After knocking out two-thirds of it, I used the rest of the breast in a bowl of chicken soup. Overall, I was more impressed with my second meal because I really got my money's worth.
After two visits to Madea's Restaurant, my opinion of it is lukewarm. Everything I had was good but not exceptional enough to make special trip for. While I appreciate Madea's exotic Soul dishes like turkey necks, I'll likely eat closer to home (like at Cave's Soul Food and More) if I have a hankering for something like ox tails. Although the food was decent, the service and hospitality was outstanding. During both visits, Madea and her staff welcomed me and attended to my needs. There was nothing but smiling faces from everyone that served me, something that I really appreciate. For that, I won't say that I will become a "regular" but I will make a point to visit Madea's Restaurant whenever I'm in Frayser.

RIP, Dave

Before I close, I want to express my condolences to the family of David Fields, a former bartender at Max's Sports Bar. Dave was a good man that has left the world too soon. He will be missed by family, friends and anyone else who knew him. Rest in peace, Dave.

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LabelsCafeterias, Commentary, Frayser, Soul Food

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