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

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Momma's Roadhouse

Deja Vu at the "Crow"

A few months ago, I reviewed The Dirty Crow Inn that at the time was one of the newest acquisitions by Aldo Dean and his business partners. In it, I talked about the food and the bar itself as being a cool place to hang out while watching exciting music acts. I assumed that the "Crow" would be synonymous with chilling and relaxing on Crump Boulevard after a hard day of work on President's Island or a long day of driving for truckers passing through on I-55. Well, about a week after I posted this on my blog, I found out that the former "Dirty Crow" was no more. It turned out that Aldo wanted to go in a different direction for his new bar that includes a change in name and menu (by the way, the "Crow" owners will reopen the bar in a new location sometime in 2020, but not in Uptown). Needless to say, I didn't see that coming and my lack of info about it was embarrassing, given the timing. Hopefully, despite being an outsider in the local blogging community that doesn't have the readership or legitimacy of websites like "I Love Memphis" and others, I would appreciate it if my friends and others that I'm close to will apprise me of happenings in the local restaurant community. I'm not asking for much (like an invite to a "soft opening" that I've never gotten in the nine years of this blog's existence), but when something notable happens regarding restaurants, chefs or anything else associated with Memphis food, please keep me in the loop. Look, I know I'm not a local celebrity like Michael Donahue or Jennifer Biggs, but I hope that I've gained enough respect with at least some in the restaurant community, particularly from those people and places that I associate with the most. In the long run, I believe this blog is mutually beneficial to both restaurants and diners who rely on Ken's Food Find for the "411" on Memphis dining.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I want to talk about one of the many delicious burgers served at Momma's Roadhouse, the Southwest Memphis Burger. I chose the cheeseburger because I was looking for something interesting and memorable. The Southwest Memphis Burger checks all the boxes in that regard because it comes with jalapenos and Ghost Pepper cheese, which by all appearances should make for a spicy burger. Given my past experiences with Ghost peppers, I made sure to have a glass of water on hand (along with a 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer). Because I'm a glutton, I also added bacon, avocado and a fried egg to get the maximum "Southwest Memphis" experience. Not to my surprise, the burger was extremely spicy, so much so that I stopped after a couple of bites. As my mouth burned, it made me think back to when I tried to put down a bag of Nikki's Hot Ass Chips that had me weeping. Fortunately the "Southwest" doesn't pack that kind of punch, although it not a burger that I can quickly grub because I'm a wuss when it comes to extreme spiciness. In the end, it turned out to be a very good burger that I enjoyed to the last bite.

If you're not into spicy cheeseburgers, Momma's Roadhouse offers other burgers and sandwiches for milder palettes. For cheese lovers, there's the Wisconsin burger with white cheddar and fried cheese curds along with poutine aioli that's yummy. If beef isn't your thing, you can go with sandwiches like the meaty chicken breast Bluff City Slaw that isn't as sappy (and possibly canceled) as the TV show it's based on or The Fake Girlfriend that has, lo and behold, catfish (for guys like the manly NFL football player Manti Te'o). Personally, I don't think you go wrong with nearly anything on the menu, with one exception.

The Big Rig Grilled Cheese is a very impressive name for a sandwich that should carry a lot of expectations. Given how the grilled cheese sandwich has evolved into a feature item on menus of many restaurants in Memphis and beyond, I assumed that Momma's version would be a doozy. Unfortunately, my expectations were dashed the minute I took the first bite of what turned out to be a sandwich without much substance. The sandwich wasn't cheesy and for the most part, it seemed that I was eating mostly bread. After finishing the first half, I gave up on the sandwich and got wings (and on "Wing Wednesday" its two for one wings is a good deal). While waiting on my wings, my curiosity led to further examination of the sandwich. It was then that I discovered it lacked one the two things that I added, a fried egg (the other addition was avocado). So when eating the sandwich "plain" without adding anything else, it's almost like eating two wheat bread slices (with hardly any jalapeño flavor despite how its described in the menu) with little else in between. In the end, I advise anyone ordering the "Big Rig" to get it with all the add-ons (including bacon, despite having it already) for a decent sandwich that isn't in the upper echelon of grilled cheese sandwiches.

SIDE NOTE: For guidance, Momma's Roadhouse should refer to the premier grilled cheese sandwich at its sister bar, Bardog Tavern. Bardog's Deluxe Grilled Cheese gives you a good helping of ham, bacon and tomato smothered with a lot of cheese. The Deluxe Grilled Cheese cost a dollar more than Momma's sandwich, so there must be some truth to the saying "you get what you pay for."

From my few visits to Momma's Roadhouse, I will say it is a nice little bar that has a lot of potential. While I won't repeat what I said earlier about the other aspects of The Dirty Crow (all of that review applies here, including the music acts on the weekends), I will say that if things go the way that other "Aldo" owned establishments have turned out (such as Slider Inn's new Downtown location), I'm sure "Momma's" will be a success. As the far as the "working menu" goes, it definitely needs to fine tune some things like the "Big Rig" sandwich. I'm sure the bar staff will eventually get it right because Aldo always hire great people. Speaking of that, I want to give a shout out to one of its bartenders. On Thursdays, go there when Diana is running the bar. She and her regulars really livens thing up, which makes Momma's Roadhouse an even more fun place.

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LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Commentary, Downtown, Sandwiches, South Memphis, Wings

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Dirty Crow Inn

A Lot To Crow About

As a long time wings aficionado, it has always been my intention to stop by The Dirty Crow Inn to try the chicken wings that my friends have talked about. It's taken awhile to get there, mainly due to a combination of procrastination and the fact that the restaurant is a little off the beaten path for me. Located on the corner of Kentucky Street and Crump Boulevard, it's just outside Downtown so getting there meant passing by a lot of other places that I like to dine at. However, one evening while heading down Peabody Avenue from the Slider Inn, I was at the point where I usually turn the corner onto Martin Luther King Boulevard when I had a sudden epiphany. With my intention to engage in something different, I decided to turn left instead of right and headed down Crump to The Dirty Crow for some delicious wings.

For my choice of wings, I went with the ones that are the favorite among my friends. The Soy Ginger with Wasabi wings are definitely a departure from typical hot wings. In terms of taste, they were more about flavor than spiciness, for the balance of wasabi, soy, ginger and other ingredients combined for a unique experience that was memorable. In fact, I liked the wings so much that I got a second helping to go along with fries and a 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). My friends were right about the wings and I look forward to getting these often.

SIDE NOTE: The Dirty Crow has several wing flavors to choose from, ranging from Sriracha Honey to Dry Rub Seasoning to Jerk wings that a lady sitting next to me ate with a big smile on her face.

Despite being known for chicken wings, The Dirty Crow Inn also serves a variety of food that you can find in a typical dive bar. Given that a go-to item for most is a burger, I decided to go with the We Don't Bluff burger. It consists of a quarter pound of beef along with cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon and onion straws. Because I'm a man who really likes to grub, I got my burger as a "Double Stack" of two beef patties to satisfy my appetite. While the burger hit the spot, it wasn't as good as I expected, with the onion straws and BBQ sauce overwhelming the beef that was decent yet ordinary. Unlike the wings that I had earlier, I can't see myself ordering it again but I won't discourage anyone from trying the burger.
Overall, I have been impressed with my experiences at The Dirty Crow Inn. In addition to good food, I like the overall vibe of the place. The dive bar is small and cozy that is very easy to relax and chill (I wish this place was around when I working on Presidents Island). It also has an outdoor patio with additional seating and (on weekends) performing acts. In comparing the bar to other places in Memphis, The Dirty Crow is a lot like the Slider Inn with a little bit of the charm of Alex's Tavern. It's a fun place that will be even better now that my man Aldo Dean, owner of the Slider Inn, Bardog Tavern and Aldo's Pizza, has bought The Dirty Crow. With Aldo constantly expanding his restaurant empire, he is going to be a tycoon in the near future. It will be interesting to see how the "Crow" competes when Aldo opens a second Slider Inn in Downtown Memphis' South Main District that will have a similar setup to The Dirty Crow. Although it's possible that the two bars could cannibalize each other, I'm sure Aldo will make it work in a very profitable way.

SIDE NOTE: It's not often that I talk about non-food stuff on the blog, but I was really impressed by the act that I saw during my second visit to The Dirty Crow Inn. After eating my burger, I wandered outside to the patio to enjoy some music. It seemed that everyone was really getting into it and for good reason. Mallory Everett really put on a show, with a robust country voice that livened the audience. What made me take notice was a line in one of her songs that, and I'm paraphrasing, that she banged (substituting the f-word she used) a black girl so hard that it made her an albino. Damn! That definitely put a smile on my face as I sat back and enjoyed a very good show that featured a combination of her songs and classics like Dolly Parton's "Jolene." I would love to see her play again, especially at the Slider Inn where she will be an instant hit. Ms. Everett can be heard on most musical platforms including Spotify and Apple Music. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Before I close, I want to mention that the Monroe Avenue Festival is coming up this month (August). It's a festival that benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in a fun way. It kicks off with the Breakaway Bardog 5K (an exhilarating run that I participated in; I know, it's hard to believe) and continues with raffles, concerts and plenty of food and beer. It will have plenty of games and other fun stuff, including the dunk tank for folks with a strong arm that can accurately hit the "dunking plate" (I'm hoping Magyn will be one of the "participants"). The festival ends with a meatball eating contest that's fun to watch and isn't as serious (as in grotesque) as the hot dog eating contest in New York. It's all for a good cause that will help kids get the help they need. I hope you come.

UPDATE: About a week after I posted this, I was informed that Aldo has changed both the name and menu for this iteration of The Dirty Crow Inn (now called Momma's Roadhouse). Although the "Crow" is gone for now, the original owners (not Aldo) have announced that the bar will reopen in a new location sometime in 2020. However, it won't be going Uptown as was posted on its Facebook page but will possibly reopen somewhere in Downtown Memphis. Follow the bar to stay updated.
UPDATE: Starting December 13, 2020, The Dirty Crow will sell food, including its famous wings, at the 40 et 8 Club (a bar for veterans)  in West Memphis every Sunday. Curbside pickup is available, although you can dine there while having drinks and listening to live music. The Dirty Crow will reopen somewhere once the global pandemic known as COVID-19 is under control.

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The Dirty Crow Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Burgers, Charities, Commentary, Downtown, Sandwiches, South Memphis, Wings

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Simple Fried Chicken Recipes

NOTE: The following is a recipe review that I posted on my Tumblr "mini" blog over two years ago. Unlike the other recipes that I have written about, I really like the fried chicken recipes that have become one of my favorite go-to meals when I'm cooking at home. The recipes also work for other meats such as country style pork ribs (which are actually boneless) that I've been eating a lot lately. I love these recipes, and I'm sure you will too.

Even A Monkey Can Do It

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to cook fried chicken. Up to now, I had put off doing it despite finding easy recipes to use. I assumed that the process was time consuming so I just kept telling myself “someday” while never committing to doing it. Especially now because of work and other reasons that I won’t go into, finding some “me” time is really hard. In spite of that, I managed to find simple recipes that allowed me to expand my culinary skills.

Real Simple Fried Chicken

The first recipe that I tried was from “Never Enough Thyme …When Lana’s Cooking” that didn’t require many ingredients and consisted of only a few steps. For me, that was a relief because I hate spending hours in the kitchen for a meal that I will spend minutes eating. To prepare for cooking, I only needed to get chicken, because most of  the other ingredients (black pepper, salt, cooking oil) are things I normally keep on hand. For flour, I used Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour that I originally bought for frying pork chops. I don’t know if it’s “self-rising” or not, but it okay for what I was doing. As for cooking oil, I chose canola oil over the recipe’s recommendation of peanut oil because the latter burns hotter (I didn’t want my chicken looking like charcoal nuggets). In addition to the recipe’s ingredients, I also added D.C. Gibbard’s Sophisticated Gourmet Habanero Seasoning by sprinkling modest amounts on the chicken. I did that to make it spicy and (because the seasoning has paprika in it) taste like traditional fried chicken. Speaking of poultry, I sorta went non-traditional by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs from The Fresh Market, which for me was a healthier alternative given the amount of cholesterol that I normally consume in meals. Prepping everything was very easy and only a took a few minutes, then it was on to my Teflon pan for frying.

In using a pan to fry the chicken, I poured enough canola oil to give it a half-inch of depth for the chicken to fry in. Following the recipe’s directions, it took about thirty minutes to fry the chicken. During the process, I feared that I would burn the chicken or worse, but everything turned out great.

The flour that I coated the chicken with turned into a spicy golden brown thin crust that was delicious. The chicken itself had great texture and was very juicy without the grease. Overall, my effort proved successful and I was anxious to fry more chicken.

Skillet-Fried Chicken

Feeling confident after my successful first attempt in cooking fried chicken, I went at again with a different recipe. From searching the Web, it didn’t take long to find a recipe on Betty Crocker’s website.

The ingredients and directions for this recipe are very similar to the one that I used earlier, with the only differences being that the ingredients in this recipe are measured and the chicken itself, consisting of a drumstick and thigh from Charlie’s Meat Market. So, following the directions almost precisely (I subbed the paprika for the same habanero seasoning that I used earlier), my results were about the same as before, more or less. The “less” part concerns the spiciness of the chicken, which was slightly milder than “Lana’s” recipe. Other than that, the chicken was very good.

It’s not often that I give myself an “atta boy” for a good effort, but given my minimal cooking skills, I deserved it. Of course, I can’t take all the credit, because both recipes were very easy to follow and didn’t require much time or skill to execute. I guess my trepidation to frying chicken stems from watching my Mom do it when I was growing up. Although I will never come close to matching the tastiness of Mama’s fried chicken, the recipes that I have now will more than suffice. Now if a novice like me can do this with the recipes mentioned here, I can confidently recommend them to anyone looking for a simple way to cook fried chicken.

SIDE NOTE: If you use any of these recipes, I advise you to reuse the cooking oil that you fried your chicken with. Although it might be a little brown in color, it’s fine to reuse a couple of times. Doing this will save you money in cooking oil, which can be expensive if you cook a lot. Anyway, good luck and bon appétit!

 Real Simple Fried Chicken:
 Skillet-Fried Chicken:

LabelsCommentary, Fried Chicken, Recipes

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Elwood's Shells

Out With The Old, In With The New

As someone who loved Jasmine, the Thai and Vegetarian (along with good Chinese) restaurant in Midtown's Cooper-Young neighborhood, I was saddened when it went out of business. From the time I moved back to Memphis twenty-two years ago, Jasmine was one of my favorite go-to places for a nice dinner in an intimate, homey setting. I loved being served by Cindy (I believe that was her name), who always greeted me with a cheerful smile and gracious demeanor. She would recommend a great entrée that I enjoyed immensely, consequently making my dining experiences memorable. Despite the wonderful times I had there, Jasmine did not endure the rough economic times of the past several years. Now what I'm about to say next is only a theory, something that's based solely on my observations. After the Great Recession of 2008 where millions of people (including me) lost jobs, homes and other worldly possessions, I noticed changes at my favorite Vegetarian restaurant. First, there weren't as many diners there as there were in the past. Consequently, the restaurant had to let go of its servers, leaving only the old lady (probably the owner; I wish I knew her name) as the only person serving customers. With so few customers, it was only a matter of time before the restaurant went out of business. I'm not sure if this happened because of the recession or not, but it was nonetheless sad to see the restaurant go away.
For awhile, I would mentally reminisce whenever I drove by the former restaurant, longing for a day when it would reopen. In the meantime, I became acquainted with another charming little restaurant: Elwood's Shack. For those who don't already know, the "Shack" serves some of the best barbecue in Memphis. Known for its brisket that is great by itself, on a burger and in a taco. Speaking of tacos, one of best non-barbecue meals you can get at the "Shack" is the Steel Trout Taco, a behemoth that's loaded with trout, creamy horseradish, Pico de Gallo and other veggies that make it great. So if you're a fan of the "Trout" and other piscine things that Elwood's serves, you might think "what if Elwood's opened a nice, quaint seafood restaurant?" Well, you end up with Elwood's Shells in a place where Jasmine used to be.
Like its Asian predecessor, Elwood's Shells is small with only a few tables so seating might be a bit of wait if one were to arrive during peak dining hours. Unlike both Jasmine and the "Shack," the "Shells" has a bar for those waiting for a table although it isn't serving alcohol yet (from I noticed, you can go B.Y.O.B. if you're yearning for that glass of Yellow Tail Chardonnay wine that was my favorite at Jasmine). The overall decor of the "Shells" is more colorful than Jasmine, with the walls painted sky blue and its very colorful tables. From an intimacy perspective, Elwood's Shells doesn't quite have the homey charm that Jasmine had, although that might be a bit premature given the place was full of diners during my visit (the first week of its opening). That said, I don't know if this will be my new favorite restaurant to chill on a Saturday night or an upscale version of the Soul Fish Cafe. Regardless, I'm a fan of the "Elwood's" brand who was really anxious to dive into the menu.

For the main entrée, I had the Croaker and Olives, which is a mix of black and green olives, crawfish tails, crab and croaker on top of white rice. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the croaker, it is a saltwater fish that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, spanning from Massachusetts to Texas (I was never aware of it during my six years on the Florida Gulf Coast). In terms of texture and taste, it is comparable to catfish even though that is a freshwater fish. As for the Croaker and Olives, it was great. The croaker, maybe having a slight touch of garlic, was very tasty, and when mixed with the buttery rice and the flavorful olives and the other seafood made for an outstanding meal. Although I consciously wasn't aware of it at the time, the fish and rice dinner was a bit of déjà vu as it relates to the many meals I had at Jasmine. Just like the Hunan fish I had many years ago, the Croaker and Olives is an entrée that will be memorable for a long time.
Leading up to this wonderful meal, I had a couple of appetizers that are very noteworthy. The first was the Gator Eggs, which are jalapeño poppers stuffed with cream cheese, shrimp and crab and served with ranch dressing. While it was spicy and flavorful, it lacked one key ingredient: gator. As a former Floridian, I can attest that alligator meat is pretty good, especially when cooked in spicy seasonings. The taste is similar to frog legs in that the texture is comparable to chicken even though the taste is more like seafood. I hope that in the future, Elwood's can incorporate gator meat in either the "Eggs" appetizer or some other menu item. Citrus Crab Fingers from Elwood's ShellsThe other appetizer that I had was the Citrus Crab Fingers, which were crab claws served with citrus butter and homemade garlic bread. Eating this was an interesting experience, for the "fingers" didn't have a lot of meat that you can sink your teeth into, but the orange-tasting crab claws were succulent and delightful. Also worth noting is that the garlic bread was fresh and very tasty when dipped in the citrus butter. I want to note this appetizer was complimentary due to my waiting for the main course (personally, it wasn't that long but I appreciate it anyway).
Overall, my first experience at Elwood's Shells was great. I'm anxious to go there again for the po' boy sandwiches that I'm confident will be very good. I might wait until the fanfare surrounding the restaurant's debut dies down, although that might be awhile if its popularity is as strong as Elwood's Shack. Then again, I frequently go the "Shack" despite getting only a thirty minute lunch break so I probably won't be deterred by crowds at the "Shells." So although it might never be "Jasmine," it could be my new home away from home.


LabelsAppetizers/Bar Food, Cajun/Creole, Commentary, Midtown, Sandwiches, Seafood

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