Paul’s PBR Review: The Flying Fish

If you’re looking for a place to get some good, reasonably-priced seafood in the Downtown Memphis core, you can’t go wrong with the Flying Fish. The Fish is on Second Street, across from the Peabody Hotel. Not only is the Fish a great place to get seafood, it’s also a great place to get a PBR.

At the Fish, you order and pay at the cash register as you walk in. You are then given a “pager” that lets you know when your food is ready at the counter. As you stand in line to order, you pass a refrigerated cooler full of beer. You can pick out a beer to pair with your food, and you can even pop it open and drink it as you wait in line. For several years after the Fish opened, you could choose not only a PBR from the cooler, but the rarely-seen PBR Light which comes in a blue and green can, as opposed to the blue and red associated with regular PBR.

PBRNowadays, however, there are no PBR cans to be found at the Fish. That’s not a bad thing, for they have installed PBR on draft. You can get a PBR in a large heavy goblet for under $3. They pour your draft when you place your order at the cash register.

SIDE NOTE: Before I continue with the review, I should mention that the Fish is the “sister” restaurant of the Flying Saucer down the street. The Flying Saucer has over 70 beers on draft and another 130 in bottles. Unfortunately, none of those beers are PBR. I wish they’d carry it but “it is what it is” I suppose.

SIDE NOTE: I could take a note here to mention which of the girls at the Saucer are my “favorites” and how they are beautiful and their smile lights up my day, you know, the way some bloggers do. I could, but I won’t, because that would be unrelated to my review of the Flying Fish. Also, it would be rather creepy.

billybassAs you walk in the Fish, you will notice a large number of plastic fish mounted on the left wall. These are the singing, battery-powered Billy Bass (and his friend, Travis Trout and similar) that were once popular items for Christmas gifts. If you bring them a Billy Bass, they will put it on the wall with your name under it and give you a free fried catfish basket.

SIDE NOTE: The photo above is of my Billy Bass, one of the first to be brought and in the bottom row. It reads “Prof. Paul Ryburn” because manager John May called me “Professor Paul” when he called Flying Saucer trivia. That’s a carryover from the days when I taught at the University of Memphis. Technically, though, I was a full-time instructor rather than a professor.

SIDE NOTE: That’s also from where my “PROFPR” handle at Buzztime trivia at Max’s Sports Bar derives.

SIDE NOTE: Max’s, by the way, serves PBR.

Grilled salmon with sides at the Fish

Not surprisingly, the Fish is best known for, well, its fish. Some of my favorite dishes there are the grilled fish dishes, paired with rice and beans and grilled squash and zucchini. The tilapia and the salmon are perhaps my two favorites. One really cool thing they do is they give you a little cup of pico de gallo with your grilled fish. I like to shovel some fish, rice and beans, and pico into my mouth and then wash it down a sip of PBR, which I derive great pleasure from it.

In addition to grilled plates, they also have fried baskets available, with choices ranging from catfish to chicken to fried oysters. They even have frog legs, a Southern delicacy. For those who like to dip their fried foods, they have a condiment bar with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and ketchup.

The fries that come with the fried-food baskets are decent, meaning that they are average in taste compared to other restaurants that also serve fries. At your table you will find five different hot sauces you can sprinkle on your fries, if you prefer something with a little more “kick” than ketchup. They range from a mild green sauce to a super-hot habanero sauce. Just be sure you have a full PBR before you try the habanero sauce, for you will need it.

Whole red snapper Vera Cruz
Whole red snapper Vera Cruz

One day, exhibiting my adventurous side, I decided to go for something a little more exotic than the Fish’s grilled filets. I ordered the whole red snapper Vera Cruz, which is a whole fish covered in a delicious tomato sauce with peppers. As you can see in the photo, the fish’s eye is covered with a slice of lemon which tastes delicious when squeezed on the entree. Just be careful not to wash down this dish with your PBR too quickly, because you could very well be swallowing bones!

SIDE NOTE: I remember when I was a little kid and we got take-out from Long John Silver’s. I was told to chew each bite of my fish 32 times, to be sure that I wasn’t about to swallow the bones.

SIDE NOTE: That reminds me of KFC’s recent “I ate the bones! Oh my God, I ate the bones! I ATE THE BONES!” ad series to promote its new boneless Original Recipe chicken. Original Recipe, by the way, tastes great with an ice cold PBR, although you can’t get it at the fast-food chain. You’ll have to go next door to the gas station and buy one out of the cooler.

Hula poppers
Hula poppers

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try more than just the fish items at the Flying Fish, for there are many tasty choices that await you. One such choice is an appetizer, the Hula Poppers. This is jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and shrimp, and wrapped in bacon. The poppers come with two dipping sauces to complement your food. Of course, it goes without saying that PBR complements the poppers well. Anything wrapped in bacon is a perfect match with PBR.

There are also other non-fish foods that pair well with PBR. The ceviche and the Mexican cocktail will make you feel like you are on a cruise to Cabo San Lucas. A healthy choice is the grilled shrimp salad. By the way, when you order any of the grilled items (whether as an entree or as a topping on a salad), you can request that the cooks “make it snappy.” If you do, your fish will come out covered in a spicy rub, somewhat similar to getting it “blackened” at Cajun restaurants although the taste is not quite the same. The grilled tilapia is one of my favorite dishes to order “snappy.”

Fried jalapeno chips
Fried jalapeno chips

For an inexpensive treat, look to the fried jalapeno chips which are also on the appetizer menu. These are jalapeno slices which are battered and then deep-fried, and then served in a basket with a cup of ranch for dipping. You will need the ranch to balance the “heat” of the jalapeno chips; PBR also works well for this purpose.

There are two dining areas at the Fish, an inner room and an outer room. If you sit inside, the booths against the left wall are a good place to sit. There you will find “fishing tales” of Memphis dignitaries. It can be fun to read them while sipping a PBR. In the outer room, there are garage windows similar to those at the Flying Saucer down the street. When the weather permits, they raise the windows and you can sip your PBR in the fresh air and watch the tourists mill around outside on Second Street. No matter where you sit, the dining is casual, with paper towels provided instead of more formal napkins.

Be sure to look at the board for the daily specials. They will discount dishes like the red snapper Vera Cruz, a pound of boiled shrimp, and all-you-can-eat catfish various nights of the week. When in season (about mid-February to early June) they have fresh boiled crawfish with corn and taters. The crawfish taste great when washed down with a PBR.

SIDE NOTE: You know, another place I had crawfish was at the Overton Square crawfish fest back in April. The crawfish there were good, but they kind of gave me indigestion. Oh well, at least it gave me a story to tell anyone who would listen for the next week.

sundayoystersPerhaps the Fish’s best special of all occurs on Sunday, when they have the “Preacher’s Special,” fresh raw oysters on the half shell for only 50 cents each. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that raw oysters and PBR are a match made in heaven. You can get a dozen oysters and a PBR for under $10, although there’s no reason you should feel required to stop at just one PBR on Sunday Fun Day.

Gizmodo had a recent article on why, how, and where you should start eating bugs. They are a source of protein for people in 80 percent of the world’s countries. If you decide you’re ready to start eating bugs, you can do it at the Fish. They’ve been selling little packets of BBQ crickets by the cash register lately.

SIDE NOTE: However, the Fish does not sell worms. This proves the old marketing saying that you fish with worms because the fish like worms, not because you like worms.

SIDE NOTE: When I was a kid, we took the cat to the vet and she had worms and we had to pay for her treatment. It’s damned expensive to own a cat.

I hope this post has convinced you that the Flying Fish is one of the best places in Memphis to get a PBR. Whether you enjoy it by itself or pair it with items from the Fish’s menu, the PBR at the Fish is a sure winner.

Sat update: Memphis Oktoberfest, Miss Cordelia’s open house, Blind Bear menu

All right, let’s bang out a quick news update this Saturday morning. I have to be at Panda’s bar at Bardog at 11 and I want to try and get a Paul’s PBR Review online in addition to this post.

More details have been added about Memphis Oktoberfest, to be held next Saturday from 5 to 10 on Peabody Place, which will be blocked off at Second. Radio host Gary Parrish will be on hand to tap the celebratory keg. Krombacher Brewery will host a beer hoisting competition. The Flying Fish, Crazy Good specialty foods, and Grawemeyer’s will provide the festival food. Tickets are $15 and you can get ’em here.

By the way, here’s a fact that I learned as I drove home Thursday afternoon: Gary Parrish enjoys peeing in his yard.

Miss Cordelia’s, the grocery store on Mud Island, has announced an Open House on Thursday, November 7 from 6 to 8 PM. At least 8 vendors (and they’re adding more) will be on hand to give away samples and to discuss their products with customers. Some of the vendors already signed up include Tom’s Tiny Kitchen, Eggcellence deviled eggs, Guilt Free Pastries, and Pistache. Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl will show up.

Last night I had a beer with Chef David Scott Walker at the Saucer. DSW, of course, is my BBQ team’s pitmaster and the new executive chef at the Blind Bear. He wanted to show me the new menu but he couldn’t get it to pull up on his phone. “They have a copy behind the bar,” he told me, and with the Eric Hughes Trio playing at 10 it was a foregone conclusion that the Bear was in my plans. When I got there, Jeannette showed me the menu. I won’t spill the beans just yet but I will mention one thing. For years I have been saying kim chee is an underappreciated food in Memphis. It’s spicy cabbage that Koreans make, burying it in pots in the ground. I first learned about it on M*A*S*H when the kim chee pots would sometimes be confused with land mines. Finally, someone has had the vision to make kim chee a topping on a sandwich, and you’ll be able to get it at the Bear. Overall, the menu is a significant upgrade, taking the Bear from basic bar food to upscale cuisine on the level of what you would find down the street at Local or Bardog. The menu will begin late next week or early the week after.

Don’t forget that today is Downtown Museum Day, with museums offering free, half-off, or 2-for-1 admissions. I’ll be visiting the PBR Museum known as Bardog in a couple of hours to celebrate. Time to upgrade iTunes, figure out if I’m ready to go to iOS7 on my phone, and get this PBR Review done.

Fri update: Dejavu, Bass Pro timeline, comedy Groupon, Marc Gasol, Disney on Ice, Burger Fest tip

dejavuopeningWe now have an opening date for Dejavu’s Main Street location, and it’s soon. The Creole restaurant will open its doors Tuesday, September 24.

There’s a new timeline for Bass Pro’s construction on the Pyramid. Construction will be done by August 31, 2014, and the new Bass Pro location will open to the public in December 2014. There will be more than just retail space inside. There will also be an aquarium, bowling alley, hotel, restaurant, shooting range, and outdoor sky ride.

Comedian and CollegeHumor writer Steve Hofstetter will do standup at the Hard Rock Cafe on Thursday, October 3. Tickets are $21.50 but there’s a Groupon going on right now where you can get tickets for $10. Limit 8 per person, and there are 9:00 and 11:00 shows.

Yahoo! Sports has video of a ridiculous Marc Gasol full-court pass as Spain beat Serbia, 90-60.

There are Disney on Ice shows at FedExForum all weekend. The shows feature moments from BRAVE, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast. Even though I won’t be attending, I am very happy to see there are two shows on Sunday, at 1 and 5 PM.

Where I will be on Sunday is Best Memphis Burger Fest, and I have a pro tip for you if you plan to attend: Start stockpiling one-dollar bills. The contestants can’t sell their burgers, but they can give out samples and encourage you to put money in their donation boxes. All donations go to Mid-South Spay & Neuter. So start gathering ones like you’re planning a visit to the strip club. Except, not a strip club, but a burger festival.

Gotta run for now… I need to go to Target and buy a “thank you for all you do” greeting card to send to the Pabst brewery in Milwaukee. I’ll be out at the usual spots around 5:30.

Thur update: Bruce V mention, no pirate fest this year, Tamp & Tap brunch, Cotton Museum Groupon, Felicia recipe, Farmers Market and Farm to Fork dinner

I’ve been mentioned in Bruce V’s weekly column in the Memphis Flyer. He discusses targeted incentives to get guns off the streets. This is what he had to say about Downtown.

Downtown residents would get to choose from a free cornhole game set, a week’s worth of “no questions asked” pooping privileges for your dog, being the Peabody Duckmaster for a day, 14 Arcade breakfasts, or an “I drank every beer” wall plate at Flying Saucer and five mentions in Paul Ryburn’s blog.

Sounds about right! His column discusses targeted incentives for Midtown and Germantown as well.

The The Mid-South Pyrate Faire, which had been scheduled for this weekend, has been canceled due to a lack of funds. Today, by the way, is “smack people upside the head who talk like a pirate” day.

Tamp & Tap has announced that they will begin serving Saturday and Sunday brunch this weekend.

There’s a Groupon for admission to the Cotton Museum at 65 Union. There are three different deals, for admission for 2, 4, or 10.

Chef Felicia of Felicia Suzanne’s was back on Live at 9 this week with another recipe. This week, she taught how to make butternut squash and chorizo sausage.

Stock Up for Winter is the theme at this Saturday’s Memphis Farmers Market, at the Central Station Pavilion (Front at G.E. Patterson) from 7 AM to 1 PM. The market shuts down for the winter at the end of October, so now is the time to get extra local produce to freeze or can. Live music by Andrew Cabigiao 8-9:30; Misti Rae 9:30-11; Midtown Violets 11-12:30.

There will be a Farm to Fork dinner benefitting the Memphis Farmers Market next Friday, September 27 at Bleu. It will be a 3-course dinner with two choices for each course. Seatings will be available from 4 to 9 PM. Cost is $45. Call 901-334-5950 to make reservations.

Plans for tonight are yet to be determined. I could go play poker at Max’s Sports Bar. I could go get some of that $1 PBR Bardog is having all day today. I could just go with one of my regular stops of Saucer or Goose or Blind Bear. I guess it’s better that I don’t know what my plan is, because if I posted where I’ll be my “shadow” would show up just to prove that he’s going to be around wherever I am whether I like it or not. Ugh. Anyway, I’ll be out somewhere around 5:30.


Bardog Tavern had its birthday party last month, but tomorrow, Thursday, September 19 is the bar’s actual birthday. To celebrate, they will serve $1 PBR all day long. They’ll also have $2 sliders and $3 draft beers, although I can’t imagine anyone paying $3 for any other beer when they can enjoy a delicious PBR for $1.

Wed update: Dejavu sign up, Eric Hughes CD party, MGMT @ Orpheum, The Cake Madam @ Double J, Felicia’s patio, another Sunday Ticket spot, the first computer bug, Eggcellence

Walking down the Main Street Mall yesterday after work, I noticed that Dejavu’s sign is up for the new Main Street location. Here’s a pic:


The Creole restaurant appears very close to opening. If you’ve been to the restaurant’s Florida location and had its food, you know this is a very very good thing for the Downtown core.

(By the way: What is the official spelling? Dejavu? DejaVu? DeJaVu? I’ve seen all three.)

The Eric Hughes Band will have a CD release party Saturday, September 28 at 8 PM at The Warehouse. After the band’s set there will be a Memphis Bluesplayers jam.

MGMT, featuring Memphis’ own Andrew VanWyngarden, has announced a November 23 show at the Orpheum.

Double J announced yesterday that it is now carrying homemade desserts from The Cake Madam.

Voting to name the new patio at Felicia Suzanne’s is now happening on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

I’ve learned of another Downtown location that has NFL Sunday Ticket: Local Gastropub. They also just installed two 50″ TVs on the patio. The Overton Square location has the game package as well with two 55″ patio TVs.

So here’s the complete list of bars Downtown that have Sunday Ticket, as far as I know:

TJ Mulligan’s

Mad Earl
George Paul’s Last Call

South Main
Green Beetle
Max’s Sports Bar
Double J

Here’s a pic of the very first recorded computer bug from September 9, 1945. If you’ve wondered where the term “bug” came from, now you know.

The Flyer’s Hungry Memphis blog has a good post on Eggcellence, a company selling “deviled eggs with flair” whose products are carried by Miss Cordelia’s in Harbor Town. The photo shows company owner Sascha Parker at a sampling in Miss Cordelia’s. Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl showed up.

Fun night at Blind Bear poker last night. I met Matt who does the River Rat Rounders games around town. I am going to try and make his 8:30 game Monday at the Mad Earl. I told him, don’t expect me to be a regular at that game, because I have a long-standing Monday engagement (Pint Nite at the Saucer). I’m certainly willing to give it a try and blog about it though. Anyway, odd night at the Bear. I got the best starting hand in Hold’em twice (A-A) and the worst three times (7-2). I wasn’t able to cash in on Jamie’s infamous Seven-Deuce prop bet though. I wanted to win and pick up a $50 gift card to spend on food when Chef David Scott Walker starts next week. Unfortunately I came in fifth, but I have three gift cards from previous wins, so I think I’ll be okay.

Sitting here trying to download iOS 7 on my iPad. “About 6 hours remaining.” Ugh. I don’t dare update my iPhone until I know the release is stable. Signing off for now. I’ll be out at the usual hangouts after work, probably leading off at Silly Goose.

Tue update: New Flight chef, another Sunday Ticket location, Big Scoop ticket link, auditions for Grizzlies Blue Bunch dance team, best sports franchise

In case you missed the announcement I made yesterday afternoon, Chef David Scott Walker will start as executive chef at the Blind Bear next week. However, that is not the only new-chef announcement in the news. Flight has announced that Nick Scott is its new executive chef. Having won awards for his creations at Bluefin, Scott will work with chef-partner and culinary director Joshua Laban Perkins. Congratulations to both chefs on their new gigs.

I’ve learned of one more venue Downtown that has NFL Sunday Ticket, for those of you who live in the northern part of the area: TJ Mulligan’s in the Punch. They also host the Steelers Fan Club, and the bar has over 10 TVs. Never a cover and free parking.

I blogged about the Big Scoop Ice Cream Festival Saturday, September 28 at AutoZone Park, but I neglected to provide a link for ticket sales. Blog reader MILF2B inquired what the link was (I guess she’s never heard of Google) and I thought I’d share it for the benefit of other readers. Buy tickets here.

A new, high-energy dance team made up of kids ages 7-12, the Blue Bunch, will perform at Grizzlies games this year. Auditions will happen at SubRoy Studios on Whitten Road at 9 AM Sunday. This link has info about a pre-audition class happening Friday so your kids can learn the dance routine in advance and be ahead of the game for auditions.

ESPN Magazine has named the best franchise in sports. Find out who it is here.

The @JobsMemphis Twitter account is putting out some good stuff today if you’re looking. I’ve seen several Walgreens assistant manager trainee jobs, and a FedEx Ground package handler position.

Yesterday I mentioned that Squeal Street BBQ invited me to hang out in their booth for Best Memphis Burger Fest Sunday (for which they will temporarily rename themselves Squeal Street Burger). Last night I was hanging out with a couple of the team captains at the Saucer, and they asked, “Do you want a T-shirt too?” Awesome! I’m going to try to get there as close to opening as possible (10:30 AM) and take a complete photo spread, the way I do for my own BBQ team The Moody Ques at BBQ Fest. I’ve been told that the fest’s organizers pushed the awards ceremony back to 5 PM this year, so I’ll be sticking around all day. Of course, with a forecast of sunshine and temps around 80, the crowd should be much larger than last year (58 and misty). Should be plenty to see. Maybe I’ll snap a few late-season tube top photos.

I’ll be at poker tonight at the Blind Bear, 8 PM, with a likely Saucer stop before that. I need a good showing at poker this evening to accumulate points, because the burger fest will most likely cause me to miss Sunday’s game.

Chef David Scott Walker to join the Blind Bear

This weekend I learned some exciting news about one of my favorite bars, and I have now been given permission to make it public. Starting next week, Chef David Scott Walker will be the new executive chef at the Blind Bear. He was previously the chef at Jim’s Place and before that was sous chef at Rhodes College.

If that name sounds familiar to readers of my blog, there’s a reason why. Chef DSW was the pitmaster this year for the BBQ Fest team I am on, the Moody Ques. We were well-feed all week long and the food was excellent. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do with the menu at the Blind Bear, which by the way is one of the Moody Ques’ main sponsors.

Great move for all involved. Congratulations Chef!

Mon update: Stupid racist people hate Miss USA, Downtown Museum Day, Best Memphis Burger Fest, South Main logo contest

This first item makes me really sad. A lot of people are very upset that an Indian-American woman won the Miss USA pageant. As soon as she was crowned, Twitter was flooded with racist tweets, including some calling her an Arab. Really people? Whatever happened to the idea of America being a melting pot of cultures? I guess that’s the great thing about Twitter, though; it gives everyone an equal opportunity to prove how stupid and closed-minded they are. Congratulations to the new Miss USA.

Festival season is in full gear for the fall. Let’s look ahead to the coming weekend. This isn’t a festival but worth mentioning anyway: Downtown Museum Day is Saturday. Many museums in the Downtown area will offer free or half-off admission. In addition, Memphis Hop, the bus that shuttles riders to popular tourist attractions, will have half-off fares Saturday, and historian Jimmy Ogle will give two free walking tours of Downtown.

Sunday is the second annual Best Memphis Burger Fest at Minglewood Hall. This event is the creation of Seth of the Best Memphis Burger blog. It kicks off with a Best Bloody Mary contest at 9 AM. After that there will be several burger competitions, including veggie, anything but beef, extreme burger, and Best Memphis Burger. There will also be a Team Kookamonga Challenge where teams of two try to eat as much of Kooky Canuck’s giant burger in the allotted time. Four bands will perform throughout the day.

Last year I experienced the burger fest as a judge; this year I’m going to pass up the opportunity to judge to experience the festival from a competition team point of view. My friends at Squeal Street BBQ have entered, and have invited me to hang out in their booth. They’ve always been one of the most well-organized teams at BBQ Fest and it will be a pleasure to watch them operate.

There’s a South Main Logo Design contest that you can enter. Download a logo in .jpg or vector format, and put in what South Main means to you. Selected logos will be put on display at Trolley Night in September. Trolley Night attendees will vote for their favorite logo, with the designer of the top vote-getter winning $500.

People wonder why I wear my BBQ team rubber bracelet months after the festival ended. It’s a conversation starter. Yesterday it led to two people inquiring about the team who would be awesome additions. I’ll mention them next time I see one of the board members. Later in the day yesterday I crashed and burned at Blind Bear poker. There are some nights where I just show up to get my point for being there and my point for checking in on Foursquare, and I don’t really play to win. If I keep getting the points for showing up and playing well on the nights when I feel like it, I should be headed toward the league final table.

I’ll be at Pint Nite at the Flying Saucer after work, enjoying some $3 draft beers. Dos Equis Lager and maybe a few beers toward my next plate.

Paul’s PBR Review: Hoop’s Bar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn late 2006, word got out that a new nightclub was going in at the former Elvis Presley’s location on Beale, just west of Second on the north side of the street. It was to be called EP Delta Kitchen. The owners were aiming high: They brought in renowned chef Michael Patrick to prepare food, and after-hours they planned to transform the place into a nightclub manned by some of the area’s top DJs. The club started off as a huge success, with posh patio seating and multiple bars on two levels. They also had nightly specials which were generally a smashing success.

SIDE NOTE: I say “generally” because there were exceptions. For Monday Night Football they put out a food buffet for patrons who were ordering drinks. That sounds like a good idea but those damn chili dogs kept me glued to the toilet all damn day Tuesday. It may not be apropos to refer to defecation so near the beginning of a post, and if it offended you I apologize, but I’m not exactly the first person in the history of blogging to do it.

The one thing the place didn’t have, however, was buy-in from the locals. I mean, I’d stop by from time to time because I knew people who worked there, and occasionally other Downtowners would as well. However, it was not a gathering place for those who lived nearby. We went there on occasion – I had a birthday party on the upper level which was expertly catered by the Chef ¬†and which was one of the best birthdays of my life- but we weren’t there on a nightly basis. One veteran bartender, David Hooper, had plans to change that. He knew there was an entire separate bar on the second floor that was not being used. He worked with EP Delta Kitchen to renovate it into a neighborhood bar, something that I mentioned in an earlier post was something sorely needed in 2007. He decorated it with vintage record albums as part of the bar top and lamp posts as table decorations. Most importantly, Hoop decided to carry PBR in cans.

SIDE NOTE: Hoop’s Bar has been closed since Fall 2008. Some of my “detractors” will undoubtedly bash me for reviewing a bar that has been closed for five years, and I do understand their point. However, you know what they say. Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one. And while that may or may not be true, it’s my opinion that it’s perfectly fine to review Hoop’s Bar as a nod to the history of PBR in Downtown Memphis. Not everybody will agree but “it is what it is” I guess.

SIDE NOTE: Instead of worrying about “detractors,” I should be thanking those of you who have had positive things to say about this series. Things like “he’s trying as hard as he can” and “his writing really isn’t THAT bad.” Compliments like that make my day and are the reason I continue writing this blog.

The menu

The goal of Hoop’s was to give our Downtown neighbors a place to hang out near Beale Street. In fact, looking out the second-story windows, one could see directly into Blues City Cafe, one of Beale’s most popular destinations. Hoop wanted to offer a menu which was basic, yet in a nod to the gourmet fare served at EP’s, was a little more upscale than traditional bar food. He also wanted to serve menu items that paired well with PBR.

The hallmark of the menu was the “Badass Burger,” a large burger which was indeed badass. It was an 8-ounce burger cooked on the grill and served with the usual condiments. I cannot tell you how much a PBR set off the natural flavor of ingredients including mustard and tomato. I am normally not a fan of tomato on my burgers, but it is just such a natural fit with a 12 ounce can of PBR that I made an exception at Hoop’s Bar.

Another specialty was “Anna’s Egg Wolls,” a recipe created by Hoop’s wife. I took these home many a night as Paul’s Drunkass Food, and when I did I made sure to have a PBR in the fridge waiting for me, for the PBR greatly accentuated the Asian flavors found within the egg rolls.

The original PBRtini at Hoop's
The original PBRtini at Hoop’s

At the bottom of the menu (zoom in if you can’t see it in the pic above without the help of a microscope) was a classic cocktail that Hoop invented, and which I have since had at many other bars: The PBRtini. About four months after I started ascending the steps to the second floor to hang out at Hoop’s, I noticed it on the menu. I ordered one and Hoop popped a PBR and poured it into one of the bar’s special martini glasses. I have been addicted ever since.

Hoop’s Bar had a big-screen TV which was perfect for watching NFL football when it was on during the fall and winter. When there were no sports to watch, Hoop would put other shows on including South Park. Hoop had an assistant named Tony, and you didn’t want to miss a minute when the place was open because you never knew what the two of them might be up to. One day they had a new machine that would produce the foam in a freshly-opened Guinness can. They poked a hole in the top of a Bud bottle with a hammer and nail, and put it on the contraption. Budweiser sprayed all across the ceiling. (Of course, they would never do that with a PBR, which is too valuable to waste.) After Tony left, Hoop got two new assistants named Ross and Colin, who continued to keep the place fun.

SIDE NOTE: Colin is now one of the proprietors of Blind Bear, which serves PBR.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs 2008 rolled on, the owners of EP Delta Kitchen made some changes which proved to be unsuccessful. For one thing, they failed to emphasize the culinary expertise of their chef properly, and he left for greener pastures. They also changed the format of their nightclub music, causing the club to lose many patrons to the newly-opened Red Rooster down the street. Through it all, Hoop’s Bar continued to draw a solid crowd night in and night out. EP’s finally had to close its doors in Summer 2008. Hoop’s Bar lasted a couple of months longer, but the locals’ crowd in that upstairs bar simply wasn’t enough to pay the rent in such a massive space in a prime location. Hoop’s closed in the fall.

The space occupied by Hoop’s has not reopened since. The main EP space became Republic Nightclub in 2010. They did not serve PBR and charged $11 for a Captain and Coke. Not surprisingly, they were out of business in less than a year. The building has been vacant since.

Hoop went on to open a similar bar in the downstairs of a Cajun restaurant on South Front Street. When that business ran into problems similar to those at EP, Hoop accepted a manager job at Silky O’Sullivan’s, where he is to this day. When I go to Silky’s I drink Hurricanes, so I am not sure if they serve PBR. If they do, it is probably an ingredient in their Diver buckets.

Perhaps one day a commemorative plaque will be erected at Second and Beale denoting Hoop’s Bar as the place where the PBRtini was first served. Whether that happens or not, in less than a year it was open, Hoop’s Bar earned its reputation as one of the best places in Memphis to drink a PBR.