Dec 312011
 

The sign that greets people as they cross the I-40 from Arkansas into Memphis will come down soon. ABC 24 reports that the Memphis sign, with a guitar in place of the “i”, will have to be removed as part of the Bass Pro renovations to the Pyramid. CVB head Kevin Kane hopes to replace it with a new sign, possibly an LED sign on the side of the Cook Convention Center. More info here.

Downtown Memphians will have to do without one of their favorite bars for a few days. Bardog Tavern is closing the 1st through the 5th for renovations. They’ll re-open Friday morning at 8 AM.

Dreaming about opening a restaurant? The Memphis Business Journal reports that the Riverfront Development Corporation is looking for a restaurant to operate in Beale Street Landing. They want something moderately upscale, comfortable, that has reasonable price points and appeals to both tourists and locals. Read the article here.

The Memphis Daily News blog reports that two buildings at Main and Union will be turned into revolving art galleries. The Downtown Memphis Commission will showcase the works of local artists in the vacant buildings at 82 and 85 S. Main, in an effort to beautify Downtown. The first two artists to have their work exhibited will be Chip Chockley and John Henry. Their work will be rotated out in February and two new artists will come in. This is a non-paying gig, but it’s a big opportunity for artists to get exposure.

When Local Gastropub emailed to tell me they’d be open regular hours on New Year’s, they also told me about a new thing they are doing – $10 “Blue Plate Special” lunches, with huge portions, from 11 to 3 Monday-Friday. They especially recommended “Meatloaf Thursdays.”

One more to add to the “open New Year’s Day” list: Rizzo’s Diner will be open for Sunday brunch tomorrow.

Also add Kooky Canuck to the open New Year’s list. They’ll open tomorrow at 11 AM.

eighty3 will be open for brunch 10:30-4:00 tomorrow. It’s the former Grill 83 in the Madison Hotel, for those who haven’t been yet.

Tigers’ sophomore guard Joe Jackson has been given the night off from tonight’s game against Charlotte (FedExForum, 8 PM) to deal with “a personal matter.” CBS Sports writer Gary Parrish reports that a transfer is possible for Jackson before the beginning of the spring semester. Sad to hear it; I’ve enjoyed watching Joe play for us. An unhappy player can’t perform at his best, though. However it works out, we owe Joe a debt of gratitude for hitting those two key free throws that sent us to the Big Dance last year.

There is one good thing that I think could come out of it if Joe leaves. In my opinion, sophomore guard Antonio Barton is the most underrated member of the team. He didn’t come in with the hype that Jackson and his older brother Will did, but he goes out there and gets the job done when he’s asked. If Joe leaves, maybe it will give Antonio the chance he deserves to shine.

Shout-out to the douches from Cincinnati who ran up a $37.50 tab with car bombs last night at the Saucer, then tipped a whopping $2.50. If there was any doubt I’d be rooting for Vandy in the Liberty Bowl today, that made up my mind. I stayed at the Saucer until about 9, then moved over to the Blind Bear. Stayed there until about 1 and had a great time chatting with friends.

Tonight I’m going to take my own advice: I’m staying away from Amateur Night at the bars, and going to a house party at friends’ condos in the Downtown core. “We picked up the keg,” they told me when they saw me at the Bear last night. “Just for you, we got PBR.” Do I have wonderful friends or what?

The amateurs won’t be out until the evening, though, so it’s time for some day drinking. May wait a little closer to the Liberty Bowl start time of 2:30 to give the college crowd time to get out of here. Everyone stay safe this New Year’s Eve!

 

Dec 302011
 

On New Year’s Day, many bars don’t open until 5 PM, giving their staff time to recover from Amateur Night/New Year’s Eve. In an attempt to plan my day, I asked my readers and Facebook, what Downtown bars and restaurants will be open earlier than 5? These are the responses I got.

Majestic Grille will be open for New Year’s brunch from 11 AM to 3 PM. Final seating is at 2. Reservations are highly recommended. Each table will get a complimentary bowl of black-eyed peas for good luck.

Downtown Huey’s will open at noon.

Max’s Sports Bar will be open and will have all the NFL games on. Lauren will be bartending.

All of River City Management’s places will be open normal hours. Those include Papa Pia’s, Mesquite Chop House, Spindini, The Pig on Beale, King’s Palace Cafe, Tap Room, Absinthe Room, Rum Boogie and probably a couple of others that I’m leaving out.

Local will be open and doing brunch 11-3, then switching to the dinner menu after that.

Peabody Lobby Bar will open at 11, Corner Bar at 4.

That’s what I have now… if I missed anything, email me at paul@paulryburn.com or hit me up on Facebook, and I’ll revise if needed.

Dec 302011
 

Last night I made my usual stop at the Flying Saucer. I noticed there was something new on the shelves underneath the beer taps that hold the glassware – several copper mugs. I wasn’t sure why they were there until I walked around a bit and saw the new flyers that had been posted – one of which advertised a new cocktail at the Saucer, the “Moscow Mule.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard of this drink. My friend Air Traffic Mike enjoys a good Moscow Mule from time to time up East where he lives now, and he has texted me photos. According to the Wikipedia entry for Moscow Mule, the beverage is made of two parts vodka, one part lime juice, and three parts ginger beer (although this can vary from 2-4 parts). It’s served on the rocks, in a copper mug. The Mule was invented in 1941 and became popular during the vodka craze of the ’50s. Despite the name, the drink was invented in the United States. It’s called the “Moscow” Mule because of people’s tendency to associate vodka with Russia.

In honor of Air Traffic Mike, I ordered one.

This was a really tasty beverage. As you know, I like drinks with lime in them, and the ginger gave it a “zing.” It took only a couple of sips for me to realize that this beverage is really strong, and not to be gulped down the way I would a Dos Equis Lager. It took me well over an hour to finish it. Cost was $8, but considering there was as much alcohol in this cocktail as you’d get in two beers, this was not a bad value at all.

Thanks to Air Traffic Mike for turning me on to this tasty drink. ATM is back in town next weekend for a visit, so maybe I’ll get to have a Moscow Mule with him.

Dec 302011
 

When I’m out at the bars in the evening, I check Facebook and Twitter on my phone to make sure I’m not missing any news for the blog. When I run across news I can use, I make a quick note, either by emailing it to myself or using Evernote. So this morning I woke up and saw this email to myself:

“FS doing liberty bowl brunch sat see twitter”

And I thought to myself, “WTF? I don’t remember anyone at the Flying Saucer saying anything about a brunch. It just doesn’t seem like brunch would work at a bar known mainly for beer.”

After about 5 minutes of puzzlement, I realized what was going on – I was misinterpreting “FS,” which actually meant Felicia Suzanne’s. Yes, Felicia’s is doing a pre-Liberty Bowl brunch Saturday from 11 AM to 2 PM. Brunch will feature classic eye openers like Ramos Gin Fiz, Milk Punch and housemade Bloody Marys. Specials will include grillades and grits, fresh lump crabmeat and goat cheese omelets, and french toast. For more info visit the restaurant’s website.

Speaking of food and the Liberty Bowl, good luck to my friends on the Squeal Street BBQ team who will be participating in the first annual BBQ Bowl. Looks like the weather will cooperate well for this Memphis Barbecue Network competition. Eating BBQ is always more fun when it isn’t sleeting.

If you’re off work this afternoon, head down to Beale Street at 3 for the Liberty Bowl parade.

It’s the last Friday of the month, and that means South Main Trolley Tour is tonight. It’s usually done on a smaller scale in the winter months, but it is happening. Many shops and galleries in the South Main area will be open from 6 to 9. If you got Christmas money, this is a good chance to spend it locally. Some of the shops put out free wine, beer, or hors d’oeuvres. Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl will show up.

I made my first foray into the Blind Bear’s food menu last night. I tried the Half A’ Dozen Deviled Eggs from the “Nifty” appetizer menu.

I was going to do a separate food post on them, but really, they’re deviled eggs, there’s not a whole lot to say about them, other than they were good. BP Riverside sells deviled eggs, but they’re rarely seen as an appetizer on a bar menu, so I’m glad Blind Bear has them. The bar area was packed last night, with post-Tiger game people wanting to give the place a try.

Still working on my “What’s open during the day on New Year’s?” post. Should have that ready to go this evening.

Dec 292011
 

A lot of bars and restaurants don’t open until 5 on New Year’s, if they open at all. What will be open during the day? If your Downtown bar or restaurant will, shoot me an email at paul@paulryburn.com and let me know. Making a list for the blog. If you’ve already responded to me on Facebook, no need to do it again.

Dec 292011
 

A restaurant that Downtowners have been eagerly awaiting for over a year is finally on track to open. The Memphis Daily News blog reports that Aldo’s Pizza Pies will open by March. The pizza parlor will be opened by Aldo DeMartino, who opened Bardog Tavern in 2008. He has planned to open Aldo’s Pizza Pies for some time now, but was delayed while he opened Slider Inn in Midtown first. The restaurant will serve New York-style pizza by the pie or by the slice, for dine-in, pick-up, or delivery. Those of you familiar with my late-night “Paul’s Drunkass Food” Foursquare checkins will see many of them at Aldo’s in 2012.

In other food news, the Memphis Flyer’s Hungry Memphis blog has a good post about A&R BBQ. They were out of nacho chips for BBQ nachos, so they put the BBQ nacho ingredients on top of crinkle fries. Looks yummy! A&R is slightly off the beaten path at Third and Court, but the food there is worth the trek.

I went to the Blind Bear last night. I got there at 6:20 – only 20 minutes after the speakeasy opened – and every seat at the bar was full. For a place that has been open less than a week, that’s a good sign. I didn’t mind standing – there’s a lot of open space behind the bar seats, plus there are the poker and blackjack tables. It’s very comfortable. As people left to go to the Grizzlies game, seats opened up and I got to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

At 8 Charles started calling trivia. It’s the exact same format as Silly Goose on Tuesdays. Jeannette told me they’re working on getting a better sound system – it’s one of those things they just happened to overlook in their rush to get the bar open. I had friends on two teams but decided to just sit back and watch the Grizzlies rather than play. I don’t want to get in a situation where I play with a team there every week, because some Wednesdays I’ll feel like going to Bardog instead for poker. About 10 I paid my tab and walked down the street to the Flying Saucer, where I ordered Dos Equis Lager and did my part to control the lime population.

I walked (really, staggered) home about 11:30 and checked Facebook one last time before bed. My favorite dead rock star had just posted on my Wall, “I’m coming out to the saucer in 30 min…..I better see you drinking on some limey dos equis.” I tried to put my clothes on and rally to go back out, but I realized it just wasn’t happening. I knew that if I drank one more (ONE…more) I’d cross into the danger zone regarding making it to work today on time and in good condition. Dammit I hate being a responsible adult. Hate it that I missed seeing my favorite dead rock star, haven’t seen her in 2 months.

Plans for tonight: I’m weighing two possible options:
1) Go to the Saucer, and then the Blind Bear
2) Go to the Blind Bear, and then the Saucer

Both are very attractive plans. There’s a Tigers game tonight at FedExForum – they host Robert Morris at 6 – so Downtown will be busy this evening.

Dec 282011
 

It’s time for my annual “what to do Downtown for New Year’s Eve” post. Now, before we get started, I want to make something clear. This is Paul Ryburn’s Journal, my personal blog that happened to get popular as a source of Downtown news. This is not “The Official Downtown News Blog” where only positive things are said. I say what I feel, positive or negative.

And there’s negative stuff to say about New Year’s Eve. Downtown is invaded by people who don’t know how to party, don’t know how to handle their liquor. People who think paying $20 for parking, standing in line 15 minutes for drinks, yelling “WOOOOOOOOOOOO!” all night and getting in fights is their idea of “partying.” Those people are amateurs. Those people suck. My goal in this post is to tell you how to have fun on New Year’s Eve while avoiding the amateurs, because there’s also plenty of positive, good, fun things going on Downtown that night and that weekend.

More than any other place Beale Street will suck on New Year’s. Thousands of amateurs will crowd the street, most of whom got drunk before they came there because they didn’t want to deal with Beale Street drink prices. Highest possible recommendation to avoid. Partying on Beale (both the street and inside the bars and clubs that line the street) is a great idea, but do it one of the other 364 nights of the year.

If a Downtown bar charges a cover in excess of its usual Saturday night cover, that’s usually a bad sign. I’m going to make a few exceptions to that rule below, but in general it means it’s amateur night inside. I don’t blame the people who run the bars – they know there are enough people who will pay a $10-15 cover to fill the place up, so why should they pass up that revenue stream? But they also know they generally won’t see locals in their bar on New Year’s Eve. Many people who live Downtown refuse to pay triple the cover on the 31st to have a worse time than they’ll have if they go on the 30th or 1st instead.

Downtown bars within two blocks of Beale Street that upcharge their cover on New Year’s Eve should especially be avoided.

Bars that are new, and bars that are farther removed from the tourist district, are generally going to be better and it’s OK to pay the upcharge for cover. These places are less likely to be “discovered” by people from Collierville, Cordova and Germantown who are making their one venture Downtown per year. In particular, two that are charging a cover that I think will be OK: Blind Bear and Brass Door. Blind Bear is a speakeasy that allows smoking; Brass Door is a smoke-free Irish pub. Blind Bear will have a DJ; Brass Door will have John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives.

Also, Paula & Raiford’s Disco usually ups their cover on New Year’s Eve, but I’m giving them a pass too, on the grounds that it’s impossible to have a bad time at Raiford’s.

Then there are the smaller “neighborhood bars” that don’t charge a cover on New Year’s Eve. Max’s Sports Bar and Bardog would be examples. Surprisingly, these are far less likely to draw the amateurs than places that charge big covers. Not bad places to go if you want to be at a bar on New Year’s Eve, but a word of advice: GET THERE EARLY. These places will fill up. If you get to Max’s Sports Bar at 11:55 PM with your ten friends, I hope you enjoy ringing in the New Year beerless on G.E. Patterson Avenue.

Kooky Canuck is another spot not charging a cover. Shawn and Lana throw great parties, so this is a good option. Its proximity to the Peabody may draw in a few amateurs but overall it should be fine.

Rehab Disco is not charging a cover on New Year’s Eve either. If you want to dance to modern DJ music, this would be a good bet. I haven’t been enough times to get a good feel for the crowd, but JJ and his crew create a good vibe in there. They’ll have $15 champagne. The club is on Front, far enough removed from the tourist district that the amateurs won’t find it.

If you want something quieter and more peaceful than a bar or club, look for a restaurant that serves New Year’s Eve dinner – either their regular menu or a special menu or both, without a significant upcharge because of the date. My friends and I have done the Majestic Grille a few times and have never failed to have a wonderful experience there. It’s the regular menu plus a few special items Chef Patrick Reilly is whipping up. South of Beale also has a New Year’s Eve menu, and that seems like it would be a really good choice as well. I saw a tweet by McEwen’s that they’re still taking New Year’s Eve reservations.

Then there’s the Peabody. I last went in 2004 and it was horrible in terms of drink prices, and waits in line for drinks and restrooms. Since then they’ve taken quite a few steps to improve customer service. I’ll go as far as “neutral” on this party but I just can’t move it into the “recommended” column. If you want to go to a huge party with thousands of people at an elegant hotel, it’s worth giving it a try and forming your own opinion.

My best advice of all would be this:

  1. Go out Friday night the 30th to the bar or club of your choice. The amateurs will be resting up for New Year’s Eve, and you’ll have an awesome time.
  2. Arrange a house party with your good friends on New Year’s Eve, Saturday the 31st.
  3. Go out Sunday night the 1st to the bar or club or your choice. It’s effectively a weekend night, since most people have Monday off. The amateurs will need 77 days to recover (they’ll be out again for St. Pat’s) and you’ll have an awesome time.

One more bit of advice if you go to bars or restaurants on the 31st: When your check arrives, examine it closely to see if a gratuity has already been added. Many spots will automatically charge an 18% or 20% gratuity that night, because they know it’s Amateur Night and amateurs don’t tip. If you want to tip in addition to the auto-grat, by all means do, but just be aware you may have already tipped without knowing it.

And finally, there’s the subject of driving drunk to address. Just don’t do it. AAA is offering free tows home, whether you’re a member or not, from 6 PM to 6 AM New Year’s Eve/Day. 800-222-4357 is the number. There’s also this post by Memphis Yellow Cab on the easiest way to get a taxi home.

Hope this post helps some of you plan your evening Downtown. I get emails every year saying “I went to _______ for New Year’s Eve and it sucked,” and I hope this post helps you find a New Year’s celebration for 2012 that doesn’t suck.

Dec 282011
 

Kooky Canuck is throwing a New Year’s Eve party for those who work in the service industry tonight. Those who tend bar and wait tables usually don’t get to celebrate on the 31st, because they’re busy working. Thanks to the folks at Kooky, they’ll get an early celebration this year. $3 you-call-its from the party start time (10 PM) until at least midnight, DJ Mark Anderson, party favors, champagne toast to ring in the 29th at midnight. No cover with proof that you work in the service industry (pay stub, uniform, work ID, name tag, etc.). $5 for non-industry folks.

As for the real New Year’s Eve, or as I call it, Amateur Night, I’m preparing a post on things to do (and things to avoid) Downtown that evening. In the meantime, check out Kerry’s list of 13 things to do.

The SEC has released their 2012 football schedule, with new members Texas A&M and Missouri now part of the mix. View the schedule here.

The Peabody is starting a new brunch option on Sunday, January 1. Chez Philippe will host a Memphis Blues Brunch from 11 AM to 2 PM. It will be an upscale, four-course a la carte brunch with a 3-piece band playing Memphis blues. $48 includes valet parking but does not include tax and gratuity. Here’s the menu:

APPETIZERS

Shrimp and Grits with Orange Blossom Mimosas Burre Blanc

Citrus Salmon Gravlax, Bonnie Blue Goat Cheese Terrine

SALAD

Poached Pear, Roquefort, candied walnuts arugula salad
Champaign vinaigrette

Beet Salad Goat Cheese Mixed Green Salad
Chez Philippe Vinaigrette

ENTRÉE

Crab Cake Benedict, Crab Cake served on a Fried Green Tomato
Soft Poached Egg, with Béarnaise Sauce

Columbia River Salmon
Tarragon Red Skin Potato Hash
Spinach and Citrus Burre Blanc

Free Range Chicken Breast
Herbed Bacon Cheddar Grits, Asparagus,

Steak Au Poivre Neola Farms NY Strip,
Fingerling potatoes, Carmelized Onions
Truffle sauce

DESSERT

Peabody Vanilla Brulee
Rich Vanilla Custard, Caramelized sugar and Almond Macaroons

Warm Apple Terrine
Apple Golden Raisin in Brioche
Calvados Sauce and French Vanilla Ice Cream

Southern Banana Pudding in a Jar
Layered fresh Bananas, Wafers and Banana Cream in a Jar
Butterscotch Cream Topping

For those of you who love the Peabody’s brunch buffet in the Skyway, don’t worry, they’re not getting rid of it. Rather, they’re adding the brunch at Chez Philippe as a second option.

I had a good time at the Blind Bear last night, really the first normal weekday night since they opened. I got to see my newly-married friends the Bartons, and my BBQ teammate Uncle Paul who was in from Denver. Good to see many South Mainers at the bar too. At 8 I got down to business at the poker table. Jamie hosted and the structure is similar to Jon’s games at Goose and Bardog – 2000 starting stack, blinds start at 25/50, 1000 chip bonus at 100/200, 2000 chip bonus at 400/800. I came in third. The glass jars don’t fit in the poker table’s drink holders, but they’re working on a solution to that.

Tonight is the Blind Bear’s trivia night. It’s hosted by Charles, who does trivia on Tuesday nights at the Silly Goose. Start time is 8 PM. (Not sure if that means the actual start time will be somewhere around 8:25 like it does at the Goose)

The Grizzlies host the Oklahoma City Thunder in what many are calling “Game 8 of the playoffs” tonight at the FedExForum. Game time is 7 PM. The Grindhouse should be packed to near-capacity for this one.

All right, time for an unsatisfying Taco Bell lunch, then back to work. New Year’s Eve post will be up sometime around 6 PM.

Dec 272011
 

Last month I went on a tour of the Launchpad, the coworking space LaunchMemphis provides for startup businesses. Well, this Thursday and Friday, the 29th and 30th from 9 AM to 6 PM, they are holding a holiday open house, where mentors will be on hand to offer free advice for your startup. Here’s a list of what they’ll be doing (pasted from their email because I’m short on time):

“–Are you applying for investment from Seed Hatchery on January 7th? We’ll help guide you to make your application stronger.
–Even if you aren’t applying to Seed Hatchery, do you have just an idea? That’s perfect. Most people that come to us are at this stage.
–Are you looking to raise capital for your startup business? We’ll review your pitch and give you some tips on raising money.
–Are you building a product and want some advise on talent or project management? We’ll guide you in using lean and agile methods to do your build.
–Do you need to build your elevator pitch or other asset? We have various tool sets we can share with you to help you get started correctly.

There is no need to schedule up in advance, but if you want to get a specific time reserved, then email us up at info@launchmemphis.com. If you just want to drop in, it is no problem, our team will be waiting.

The office hours will be held at the Launchpad, 516 Tennessee Street, Suite 133, Memphis, TN 38103.”

Pretty sweet deal, and if you’re starting a business these folks are good contacts to have. Check them out.