Sugar Grits

An Unneeded Substitute

A few weeks ago, I attempted to have lunch at one of my favorite Downtown watering holes. Unfortunately, it's opening time changed to a later time that was unfeasible for me. With that surprise throwing me off, I had to go somewhere else to get my grub on. Initially, I thought about going to Tamp & Tap, but another place attracted my attention. Across the Peabody Place parking lot was a new restaurant that I heard about through the grapevine, arousing my curiosity. Despite the negative things I heard, I wanted to check it out to see what Sugar Grits was about. After all, I'm a food blogger who's always looking for something new, even when it's unintentional.

Sugar Grits is located on Second Avenue in the Peabody Place location that was formally occupied by the short-lived "new" Sleep Out Louie's. Far as I could tell, the rustic interior décor didn't seem any different from when the previous tenant had it, contributing to a nice dining atmosphere. To be more accurate, Sugar Grits' dining room is spacious with a balanced amount of tables and booths. After being seated, it didn't take long to decide what to order.

Taking from a debate among my friends about whether adding sugar to grits is appropriate (and by extension, whether "Sugar Grits" is a good name for a Southern restaurant), I decided to get Sweet Shirley's Grits. It is the only "grits" option that mentions sugar in its description, featuring "maple brown sugar red popcorn grits" (that's a mouthful of a name).

Despite the implication of sweetness, the buttery grits didn't taste any different what I've had in the past. I'm not saying that a more refined expert couldn't detect subtle sweet flavors in Sweet Shirley's Grits that would make it unique, but I don't believe the average person would know the difference. In order to get that sweet flavor, I added sugar to my grits that gave me the same familiar taste that I'm accustomed to. If Sweet Shirley's Grits is indicative of the restaurant's offerings, then "Sugar Grits" is more of a marketing ploy than an authentic take on the corn-based porridge.

As for the meal itself, it was decent. The braised collard greens were tasty with a bit of zeal and the fried chicken breast was flavorful. Overall, it was a good meal but it would have been nice if there was more of it. Particularly, if the "grit bowl" had a slightly bigger piece of chicken that would've justified the $14 price tag (plus 20% tip that the restaurant adds to the bill). Compared to the place I wanted to dine at earlier that occasionally has similar chicken entrées as specials, Sugar Grits falls a bit short on substance. Of course, the restaurant's lease has to be paid by somebody, ergo pricey entrées. This is not to say that I won't dine at Sugar Grits again (or that I won't order the same thing again) but I will consider other options that I hope will include a certain bar that hopefully will resolve its issues.

Not helping Sugar Grits' argument in changing my mind is the Country Fried Steak N Eggs that I had. The reason I chose this was to find the best thing that would least likely disappoint. Given that Sugar Grits is a Southern-themed restaurant, I assumed that my country fried steak would be a decent sized cut that would satisfy my appetite. Unfortunately, what I got was two thin patties that looked more like side items rather than the main course. From that standpoint, it unfortunately was a letdown. With so many other places in Memphis serving bigger portions at nearly the same price (including the nearby Miss Polly's on Beale Street and that other place that wasn't open for me), I felt that I could have gotten a better deal for my meal. In terms of taste, it was as good as most places that serve the entrée so it gets good marks for that. Still, the next time I'm yearning for country fried steak, I hope one of my favorite bars has it on special, provided its open and not dealing with other issues.
As for the rest of my "country fried" brunch, it was a mixed bag of joy and letdown. The hash brown was a bit paltry, measly as a Christmas tree in a Charlie Brown special. Despite being good, it wasn't much to munch on although it was proportional to the serving of the country fried steak. The scrambled eggs were by far the best part of the meal, for it had great texture and was perfectly seasoned. Along with the cheese, it was best cooked eggs that I've had in a while. But while everything else was at least decent, I can't say the same about the "yellow" grits that came with it. Told that it was cheese grits, I expected something that was, well, cheese grits. Until that point, I never had a bad bowl of cheese grits, served at some of my favorite restaurants like Brother Juniper's and a place that was closed because someone couldn't stand getting a vaccine. Anyway, my experiences with cheese grits has been all positive until I tasted Sugar Grits' grits. Well, at least the grits were "yellow" so it can't be criticized for appearance. However, I couldn't taste a bit of cheese in the grits. If there was cheese in it, it was overwhelmed by black pepper and other seasonings that made it some of the worst grits I ever had. It was so terrible that I didn't bother sweetening it with sugar. Overall, my second meal from Sugar Grits was worst than the first and I'm not likely to go back for a third. Maybe I might try something else like pancakes or burgers, but I can't imagine another session at Sugar Grits would be better. If someone can prove otherwise, I'm open to it.
I hate to say it, but Sugar Grits did not impress me as a Southern restaurant. While the food is decent for the most part, its meager portions just isn't worth the price. If the food was better, it would make sense to dine there. It would be especially cool if its namesake dishes were crazy delicious but they aren't. With so many better Downtown Memphis restaurants to choose from (including a certain group of restaurants that are still short staffed), I can't see myself picking Sugar Grits over them. However, if you like decent Southern food served in small potions (envision tapas, y'all), Sugar Grits is your place. For me, I would rather have my favorite bar back at its normal hours.


It's Time To Vent...

Alright, the reason why I ended up at Sugar Grits in the first place was because one of my favorite dining places had to cut its operating hours due to a lack of staff. This happened from a positive COVID test from one of the employees at one of restaurant/bar's sister locations that had to close because of it. Given that the establishments and others within its "family" share staffing, that one individual who was too hard headed and selfish to not get a coronavirus vaccine shot has single handedly hobbled a restaurant chain. If the argument for that person's decision was "my body, my choice," how can he/she justify to his/her co-workers, bosses and patrons why? Does he/she believe COVID-19 is a hoax despite millions dying around the world? Does he/she believe the coronavirus isn't that bad despite the millions who have been hospitalized? Does he/she believe the vaccines are some government plot to implant microchips in order to track and control the population (If people were that concerned about privacy, why use smartphones)? I could go on and on with all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccines that people are using as an excuse to not get vaccinated, but I rather talk about the consequences of not doing the right thing. For anti-vaxxers, their stubbornness and dickish attitudes about COVID are the reasons why America can't get back to normal, with the country regressing instead of progressing. Because of them, Americans still have to wear masks despite many of us being vaccinated. We're being inconvenienced because of a few assholes who insist on being free to do what they want. For those who make the "my body, my choice" argument, this isn't about whether or not to carry a fetus to term, something that affects only the mother, "baby daddy" and a few others including obviously the potential baby. In contemplating an abortion, a woman's decision won't affect my ability to eat an omelet at my favorite restaurant, nor will it cost me my life or child support by merely being around her. However, not getting vaccinated can endanger my life (and for pregnant women, their unborn babies) and many others in the community and actually affect the economy (as in taking money out of my pocket and food off my plate). The anti-vaxxers don't have the right to make a "choice" that affects my life and many others. So please, just get vaccinated and stop being a burden on others. By the way, for those who aren't getting vaccinated because they want to "own the Libs" and screw with the current White House resident, just know that the only thing you might be owning is a coffin (ironically, the death rate in some "swing" states is reducing the margin of voters of one particular political party, making it easier for their rivals to win elections). It's really dumb and counterproductive, so just get your shots and end the foolishness.

SIDE NOTE: What I mean by "shots" is of the coronavirus vaccines and not the antibodies shot that some are getting. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but the COVID vaccines are the best defense against the coronavirus. Also, those who are are taking the equine drug Ivermectin (I'm looking at you, Mississippi), stop horsing around and get with the program.

I hope things will eventually get back to normal. Especially at a couple of my favorite bars where I heard the owner is giving an ultimatum to his employees: get vaccinated or get gone (this guy resembles a Marvel MCU character who knows how to "punish" those who mess with his businesses). I hope they take heed and do the right thing, for it benefits no one in being unvaccinated. The sooner the rest of the world does this, the sooner we can all breathe free.

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