a little and a lot

Friday, June 08, 2007

Favorite Five: Restaurants

Per Carrie Portis's tag, here are my
Top Five Favorite Memphis Restaurants
(cateogorized, but in no particular order)

1. Favorite Date Restaurant: Houston's (Poplar/Mendenhall)
Houston's is a chain, so I feel like I am kind of cheating on this one. But it's practically across the street from our neighborhood, which is always a huge plus! Although a bit pricey (hence the date-night categorization), I love everything on the menu at this restaurant. Among the notables: clam chowder, mexico city soup (although, I believe it has been removed from the menu...hopefully just temporarily!), crab cakes, BBQ ribs, any type of steak, and all of their specials!

* Honorable Mention: Paulette's (Madison Ave) & El Mezcal (Poplar/Perkins)
Paulette's is pretty fancy (they will bring you a black napkin if you are wearing black...ooooo....). Wonderful popovers, steak, and mashed potatoes. Romantic. El Mezcal is not necessary a "date restaurant," except that I could eat there every day and not get sick of it. The cheese dip is everything cheese dip should be. I ask for a bowl of limes and squeeze the slices into my water, salsa, and across my fajita chicken quesadilla (hold the peppers and onions). After my first two snooty picks, you might be relieved to know that my husband only has to pay $3 plus some cheese dip to make me happy at this place.

2. Favorite Breakfast Restaurant: Brother Junipers (Highland/Walker)
Yum yum yum. I used to eat here at least once a week when I lived around the corner. Bro J's is a small, homey cafe that serves up fresh, homemade breakfast & lunch--never greasy! My favorites: coffee, biscuits (& gravy), home fries, french toast (made from homemade cinnamon raisin bread), and any omelet (especially the spanikopita omelet or the pesto omelet).

* Honorable Mention: Gibson's Donuts, Bogie's, and Blue Plate Cafe
Bogie's is on the edge of our neighborhood and has fantastic homemade bagels (among other wonderful items, such as ridiculously awesome homemade caramel cake and chess cookies). Gibson's Donuts is right across the street from Bogie's...the best buttermilk drop donuts ever! Blue Plate is a quaint house-turned-restaurant whose menu is printed like a newspaper. Their food is greasy, but worth it.

3. Favorite Midtown Restaurant: Fresh Slices (Overton Park Lane)
One might assume this restaurant was a pizza establishment. Au contrair mon frere! (I have no clue if I spelled that correctly.) This restaurant was recommended to us by our friends Kevin & Angie Conway. Oh my, it is delish. Supposedly they have live jazz in the evenings on certain nights, but we haven't witnessed that yet. Fresh Slices' menu is very eclectic, with many vegetarian and healthy options. Everything is...well...fresh! (Note: I am NOT a vegetarian, and though I try to eat healthy, I fall off that wagon quite occasionally! For people like me: try the Monte Cristo. One word/letter: mmmmm!) Favorites at this restaurant (so far...we have just begun our dining adventures there!): sweet potato fries, the monte cristo (as previously mentioned), chicken fettuccine, thin crust mexican pizza, fish of the day.

* Honorable Mention: Buns on the Run, The Beauty Shop
Want some good home cooking? Buns on the Run is the place to go. One woman cooks all the food in a house-turned-restaurant. If I had eaten at The Beauty Shop more than once, it would probably be my number one favorite midtown establishment. This quaint restaurant looks just like a beauty shop inside! The food is heavenly. What I ordered the last time I ate there: tonic water with lime, parmesan pomme frites (homemade french fries), some kind of divine sandwich, and caramel cake.

4. Favorite Memphis BBQ: The Rendezvous
I'm sorry guys, I can't help it. I know The Rendezvous is touristy. I mean, when the president comes to town, he eats at the Rendezvous. On the other hand, when the PRESIDENT comes to town, he eats at THE RENDEZVOUS! In my opinion, it is that good! The atmosphere is half the experience. First of all, it's in a dark and dank alley. That is just cool. Then you walk down into the basement. Also cool. There is tons of old Memphis memorabilia all over the brick walls. The waiters are old-school...most of them don't even have to write your order town. The sweet tea tastes deliciously unique (though I've been told it's just plain old Liptons). Not many of you have probably seen The Rendezvous like I've seen it. Once when my parents came to town, we were able to see The Rendezvous' secret handicap accessibility. They brought out a ramp for my father to roll up the step, and then they led us back through the kitchen to a padded elevator. We went up to the attic, across the room (which was covered in tons of old banners from the Pink Palace, signs from lankmarks around town, and other wonderful pieces of nostalgia...the room also housed hundreds of Wonderbread rolls and thus smelled heavenly!), into another elevator, and down to the back part of the basement floor. What a tour! Many people thing The Rendezvous is overrated or not hole-in-the-wall enough to be the best, (to which I would argue, it IS a hole in the wall! It just happened to become famous!) but in my opinion, it is the place I will ALWAYS want to eat at when we visit after moving away. So, after my long defense of this classic Memphis dining experience: order sweet tea, the cheese and sausage plate, and split a whole order of ribs with your sweetheart (which comes with slaw, beans, and a Wonderbread roll. These are Memphis-style dry ribs, which I think are quite yummy. However, I am a sauce girl, so after eating a bite of "plain," I squirt that delicious Rendezvous BBQ sauce all over the rest of my ribs.

* Honorable Mention: Central BBQ & the ORIGINAL Corky's
We have just recently been initiated into the loyal fan club of Central BBQ by Brad & Ashley White. (Thank you, dear friends!) My first checkpoint for a BBQ place here: it must feel Memphis-y. Central BBQ does, in fact, and it strikes a hard bargarin. BBQ Nachos = big enough for 2 = 7 bucks and some change. Free drinks with a student ID. (Do I still use mine? As long as I'm paying off those loans, you'd better believe it!!) The live music on the porch is always a hit. Now, since it only receives honorable mention, I will just point you towards my soapbox about Memphis's ORIGINAL Corky's (for the life of me, I can't find that post, but you remember it...right, Kelly?). My meal of choice there: sweet tea, pulled pork plate made into sandwiches with those mouth-watering buttery rolls, and fudge pie if there's any room left. (Which there's usually not, but who cares?)

5. Favorite Dessert Restaurant: The Cheesecake Corner (Main St/G.E. Patterson)
This is my absolute favorite treat in Memphis. I am quite fond of cheesecake (we served it with different topping choices as the main part of our dessert reception at our wedding...I TOLD you I'm a sweet-tooth!), but even if you don't care too much for cheesecake, you might still find yourself liking this place. The atmosphere is romantic and artsy (dim lighting with votives on the tables, jazz music playing or live piano music, art canvases on the walls). Kevin Matthews, the restaurant's owner, creates each cheesecake from scratch on a daily basis. If you ask him which is his favorite, he will NEVER tell you. (He just says, "All of them.") Some flavors are more "normal" (oreo, strawberry, chocolate chip), while others are more "unusual" (mint chocolate coconut, maple pecan, white chocolate raspberry, coffee caramel, lemon pound cheesecake--the crust is poundcake). It is to die for. Really.

* Honorable Mention: There really is NO contest for the Cheesecake Corner, but I also like: Ben & Jerry's, PF Chang's (Great Wall of Chocolate), Houston's (Homemade Strawberry Shortcake), Bogie's (Homemade Southern Living Cakes), Fresh Market (Black & White Cookies), and Jerry's Sno Cones (their Sno Cone Supreme has several layers softserve vanilla icecream with sno cone, alternating)
Did I mention I have a sweet-tooth?

Since I have already exceeded my five picks, I will just go ahead and add:
  • Favorite Pizza Place: Memphis Pizza Cafe (an obvious choice if you are a Memphian)
  • Favorite Chinese Take-Out: Pei Wei & New Hong Kong (chicken lettuce wraps = a happy Jesse!)
  • Favorite Baja Mexican: Blue Coast Burrito (fruit tea is a must!)
  • Favorite Burger: Huey's (the chicken pita is actually my favorite there, though!)
  • Favorite Obscure Lunch Place: Mantia's (ohhhhh my goodness, if I could only recreate that potato salad...)
  • Favorite Special Occasion Brunch: Yia Yia's (truly delectable)
  • Favorite Girly Cafe: La Baguette & Davis Kidd's Bronte (this tomato soup hater LOVES the tomato soup from these places! paired with: chicken salad on baguette at LB & a pear/blue cheese salad from Bronte)
Geez...I LOVE to eat! How can I get a job as a food columnist? Now THAT would be a tasty job!


Ashley said...

1. Great Picks- I agree with most of them- Thanks for the shout out for inducting you into the Central BBQ hall of fame- we have a plastic Central BBQ cup (or 20) we'd like to give you as thanks for the mention
2. I haven't even heard of alot of those places... only a year left- we've got to get out more (so much for the budget!)- I guess its time for us to go beyond our usual ElPorton/Central/BlueCoast/MPC routine :(

Blessed said...

OH, Jesse, I just knew you would come through for me. And, your list is even better than expected! Going out to eat is by far my favorite thing to do. Colt does pretty good going out to eat, so we need to go with yall soon?

I agree with so many of yours (BCB fruit tea, PF changs Great Wall, Pei Wei, Rendezvous, MPC, and Houstons! I love all of them.

I am so excited that you posted because I just knew you would know of some places that I hadn't been, and boy was I right! I haven't been to half those places, but now we have so many places to try.

Brother Juniper's was actually featured on $40 a Day with Rachel Ray last week, so last Saturday I dragged Seth and Colt down there only to find out that they were closed (we aren't early risers) I was so sad, but ended up with some fruit tea across the street, so that was pretty good. Rachel got an omelet there too and it looked so good. I can't wait to try it.

Where is Jerry's Sno Cones? I've been searching for a good sno cone stand around here.

Julie said...

Okay, can I just come to Memphis and go on a city wide eating binge with you??

I would throw in Germantown Commissary for BBQ...

Kristy said...

I have such good memories of playing softball tournaments in Germantown and eating at the Rendezvous afterwards. I always thought it had such good mystery surrounding it from Grisham's The Firm as well. And I second your opinions on the Davis Kidd Bistro and Houstons. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!!!

Unknown said...

they'll make you a turkey burger at huey's if you ask... the patty melt with turkey meat is my favorite there. The bread is even whole-wheat.

Unknown said...

Have you had BBQ Shop on Madison? I love Central for the Nachos, but the tea and pulled pork sammy at BBQ Shop is tops.

Good show mentioning Jerry's -- now THAT'S obscure!

Can I toss India Palace (Poplar and Evergreen) into the mix? My favorite comfort food...

And finally -- shout out to Leslie for the turkey tip. I'm trying that!

Larissa Smith said...

I'm so plain. If we're really living it up, I'll want to go to Buckley's or Carrabba's. I haven't been to most of the ones you mentioned, just haven't been here long enough and out to eat enough to get around, I guess. Thanks for introducing me to Brother Junipers!

Ashley @ pure and lovely said...

wow! You put ALOT of thought into this!

the robertsons said...

I got so hungry reading this post- for real I'm salivating. There needs to be a warning for us pregnant folks. You even mentioned my favorite thing (for the moment)- Houston's strawberry shortcake. I call once a week to see when Eduardo will make it, and then I reserve 2 pieces because I won't share!!

the robertsons said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my first date with Justin was at Houston's in Nashville.

angie c said...

Yummy on India Palace, Kate. I second that.

I've GOT to try your cheesecake place...let's go together soon!

Amanda's News said...

I can't wait to try some of those places. This was an excellent post. Matt and I are pumped to try that Cheesecake Corner.

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