Last night was my apartment building’s Christmas party, and this year was a real treat – we had it in the soon-to-be-open Cafe Keough at 12 S. Main, in the Number 10 Main building just south of Madison. The space had been vacant for years, last occupied by the artist Dr. Bob who temporarily relocated here from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It looked very different since the last time I had been in, elegantly decorated with candlelight and roses. There was a long bar, which is good because I prefer bar seating to table seating. Up front there was a stage where Amy LaVere performed.
I was one of the first guests there, and as a result I got to talk with Kevin, the owner of the cafe, before it got busy. He explained his philosophy about the place. “I don’t want to do haute cuisine,” he told me. “Everybody’s doing that. If you want a steak, there are plenty of good places nearby to get one. You can go to Felicia Suzanne’s, or McEwen’s, or Local for that. I want to do something different. I want you to come in here and feel like you’re in Paris, or Brussels, or Prague.” Having never traveled to Europe, I can’t tell if he got it right or not, but I liked the vibe of the place for sure. I commented to Kevin that it feels like the kind of cafe that belongs in a 100-year-old building.
Cafe Keough is a coffeehouse as opposed to a coffee shop. Starbucks is a coffee shop, whereas a coffeehouse serves beer, wine and liquor as well. They have their beer license and are currently waiting on their liquor license. Last night they were serving Memphis Made Fireside Ninja, which they will carry on tap. Kevin showed me the menu and I liked its simplicity, with salads, sandwiches, and tapas.
Given that it was a Christmas party, there was a food buffet for Number 10’s residents. About 8:00 the Nuh-Uh Girl came in. “RIP buffet,” I posted to Foursquare. Before long she’d come back with a plate of food.
She told me that her sister the Nuh-Uh Sister will be in L.A. to tape an episode of Jeopardy! on January 15. The Nuh-Uh Sister was one of the strongest contributors on our old trivia team at the Flying Saucer, and I have no doubt she’ll do well and score her third game show win. When I find out when the show will air, I will be sure to post it.
Back to Cafe Keough for a moment. I was very interested to compare the place to Tamp & Tap, a place that also serves both coffee and beer. While I like Tamp & Tap very much, it feels like a coffee shop. It’s a place I might go for one beer while reading a book on my iPhone Kindle app, but it just doesn’t strike me as a place I’d stay for several hours, the way I do the Saucer and the Blind Bear. Cafe Keough, on the other hand, is a place where I would hang around and socialize. It has hit that delicate balance between coffee shop and bar, and actually I’d describe it as neither. It’s a place like no other, and when it opens, you have to come see it for yourself.
Having that place 10 feet from my apartment building’s front door is going to cause me to make a major change to my schedule once it opens. You know, back in 2003-05 I knew probably half the people in my 112-unit building. Now I know maybe 15% of my neighbors better than “Hi, how’s it going” on the elevator. Part of the reason I knew so many people was that there was a coffee shop, Empire Coffee, on the corner of Madison and Main in the spot that is now Winfield’s. I hope to spend significant time at Cafe Keough and get to know my neighbors better. I was pleased to meet a few of them last night at the party.
You know, since I mentioned Winfield’s, let me talk about it for a minute. It’s a clothing and shoe store at 2 S. Main, and my buddies Pete and Josh used to work there. One Sunday I was at the Blind Bear beating Pete in yet another game of pool, and he told me, “You know, Pauly, a lot of people walk by Winfield’s and don’t realize what they have there. But we get tourists from Europe and they walk by and see the stuff in the window and they know that’s the real deal.” Tourists from places like London and Paris spend quite a bit of money in Winfield’s, according to Pete. He mentioned singer Robert Plant among the famous people who have shopped at the store.
All right, let’s get on to the news. The House of Grace charity Christmas show has been rescheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, December 15, starting at 2 PM. This is a fundraiser for a house that protects battered women and their children. Admission is free, but you are asked to bring an unwrapped toy, new women’s clothing, or a cash donation. Entertainment includes Lance Strode, “The Piano Man” Gunnar Sansom, Nancy Apple, RT Scott, Jack Rowell, Nick Garrison, Brady Riales, Chris Scott, Delta Joe Sanders, and special guest Keith Sykes. Silent auction 2-9 PM. The event is at the Double J Smokehouse and Saloon on G.E. Patterson Avenue.
John Elkington, who has managed Beale Street for 30 years, is parting ways with the street this month. The city will take over management. For the short term the city has asked the Downtown Memphis Commission to manage the street until a long-term manager can be hired. Excellent move on the part of the city. Managing an entertainment district isn’t easy though – I bet Paul Morris who runs DMC will be putting in a lot of extra hours the next few months.
A Downtown bartender, Austin Moore of Felicia Suzanne’s, was featured in this week’s “Meet the Bartender” column on GoMemphis.com.
After the Christmas party last night, I walked over to the Flying Saucer, where I noticed this flyer:
My friend Bicycle Bobby who owns over 150 Hawaiian shirts will be very excited about this. Or maybe not, because I think he has to work that night. Good to see live music back at the Saucer for one night, and FreeWorld is a fine choice.
Southern Creed, a band that was popular in Memphis many years ago, has a reunion show tonight at the New Daisy at 7 PM.
That’ll wrap it up for now. I’ll hit Bardog about 11 as usual. Panda is off on Saturdays until after she has the baby, but nevertheless, Bardog is still a fine place to hang out. I’ll probably stop by Blind Bear after that then figure out the rest of the day.