My Last Meal at Rizzo's

Long Live The Chef

Recently, one of my favorite restaurants closed its doors for good. Rizzo's Diner, owned by renowned Chef Brian Michael Patrick, was a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked global economic havoc through quarantines, regulations/restrictions and other measures. Given the difficulties of running a restaurant even in the best of times, adding an infectious virus to the mix can make things really challenging. Chef Mike did his best under the circumstances but the challenges of running a restaurant when he had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, labor shortages and increased costs related to that were too much for the brilliant chef. So after over a decade of success, the era of Rizzos Diner has sadly come to a close.

Cheeseburger Soup from Rizzo's Diner

Before the Rizzo's finally closed, I stopped by to have one last meal. Initially my sole intention was to get the restaurant's famed Cheeseburger Soup that has gotten great reviews. I'm not sure if I had it before, but given how good it is, I'm pretty sure I would have had a memory of it if I did. The soup was as cheesy as it looked, with a thick creaminess that just melts in your mouth. That's combined with ground beef,  tomato, lettuce, mustard and other ingredients to simulate the "burger" in this amazing soup that seems like a puréed version of an actual cheeseburger without the buns (by the way, I know it isn't a puréed burger, and I'm saying this in case some "scholars" believe I'm talking nonsense). It even had a slice of pork (bacon?) on top to complete one of the best soups that I've had in a long time. Although I will miss this, Chef Mike has kindly shared his recipe so others can make it.

Slow Roasted Beef Brisket from Rizzo's Diner

After the soup, I was about to call it a night but I was still hungry. Not feeling like cooking at home after working a Grizzlies game, I stayed around and got an entrée. Sticking with beef, I decided to get the Slow Roasted Beef Brisket. Just like the soup, the brisket didn't disappoint, for it was tender with a nice amount of smoke flavor. Although I won't dub it as barbecue, the brisket holds its own with places like Elwood's Shack and Bain BBQ (it recently opened a "brick & mortar" restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the Stone Soup Cafe in the Cooper-Young neighborhood). The brisket was great with mashed potatoes and green beans. Overall, my last meal at Rizzo's was excellent and memorable, a nice ending for a great restaurant.

SIDE NOTE: A couple of weeks after I had this, I had a very similar meal (sans soup) at Wolf River Brisket Company. Although it prides itself as serving genuine Texas brisket, it wasn't nearly as good as Rizzo's. It seems like Chef Mike could lend his expertise to that restaurant but...

As I was finishing my dinner, Chef Mike came out to greet the diners in his restaurant. When he got to me, I congratulated him for his run in the restaurant business and offered condolences for it coming to an end. Although Chef Mike will no longer be in the business as an owner, he will be moving on to The Capital Grille restaurant chain as an executive chef. I'm glad he has landed in a good place and hope that one day he will get the courage to go out on his own again. I wish my good friend the best of luck (although he won't need it) and hope to have the good fortune to experience his culinary expertise again.


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