Feb 242014
 

That’s what it says on the Green Beetle’s menu, in regard to the chili cheeseburger. I have been meaning to give it a try for a while. Yesterday, I finally did.

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It’s not the first time I’ve seen a chili cheeseburger so messy that picking it up is not an option (Westy’s has a really good one), but this is the first time I’ve seen a restaurant just put the chili and cheese on top of the burger, rather than inside the bun. It works though. Man was this thing good. It’s a huge 8-ounce patty, so you won’t leave hungry. The steak fries were delicious too. I will be back for another one soon.

Aug 192013
 

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After the Bardog alley party ended yesterday, I needed to get something to eat, having only had a small plate of jambalaya at the party. Bardog itself was super packed, and had a limited menu yesterday, so I didn’t bother trying to eat there. As I walked down Main Street deciding what I wanted, I noticed there were bar seats open at Aldo’s Pizza Pies, something that rarely happens because the bar almost always stays packed. I thought to myself, what better way to thank Aldo for all he does for St. Jude and the community than eating at another of his restaurants? So I went in.

The Slice of the Day was The Memphis, a BBQ pizza. Now, normally I am not a huge fan of BBQ pizzas, because I find most of them to be subpar. However, Aldo’s take on BBQ pizza comes topped with pulled pork from Central BBQ, along with mozzarella and onions on a base of BBQ sauce. With pork from Central, I knew the pizza was bound to be good. I was hungry enough to order two slices.

The pizza was as good as I expected it to be. I like it that they put the slaw on the side, because not everyone wants slaw on their pizza (or their BBQ sandwich for that matter). I myself have no problem with slaw and spread it atop my slices. The pizza was absolutely delicious and all the ingredients worked together perfectly. This is a pizza I would most certainly consider ordering as a whole in the 12″ or 18″ sizes that Aldo offers.

Thumbs up to Aldo and his staff for an excellent party followed by some excellent pizza. I’ll try to get the Bardog alley party photos up later today.

Aug 112013
 

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I have a bad tendency to find one dish I like at a restaurant and stick to it. I could eat the ropa vieja, the Cuban shredded beef, at Havana’s Pilon forever. Seriously, if I were on death row I might very well request it as my last meal. And for my third visit to Havana’s Pilon yesterday, I would have had it again if not for my friend Bob. He ate there Monday and told me “the ground beef dish is excellent.” Bob and I have similar tastes in food, so I decided to take his recommendation. I got Congri rice and boiled yucca as my sides.

Bob was correct. The ground beef dish, known as the picacillo, is excellent. The meat and veggies play perfectly with one another, and while it has some spice to it, it’s not melt-your-stomach spicy. Havana’s Pilon’s meals are probably your only chance to get a green olive Downtown outside of a martini or a Bloody Mary. And the sides… I could eat that Congri rice all day. I can’t even describe the consistency of the boiled yucca other than to say if you’re a fan of mashed potatoes, you must try it. Ten times better than mashed potatoes. I remember driving back to Memphis from San Diego and seeing those stupid plants all over the side of the road. They look like retarded palm trees. I had no idea they tasted so good.

I move into a place Downtown and a few years later, I find I have Bardog, Raiford’s, the Brass Door, the Mad Earl, and now a fantastic Cuban restaurant all within a one block walk. Am I the luckiest guy in the world or what? If you don’t live Downtown, Havana’s Pilon is worth the drive down here. Come check it out!

Jul 112013
 

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Havana’s Pilon is a tiny restaurant serving authentic Cuban food that opened in the Downtown core a couple of months ago. Located on Second just east of Madison, across from the Mad Earl, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Owner Maryalis Gonazles promises on the restaurant’s website to bring Cuban food to Downtown while saving her customers money and time. Based on my first experience today, she has lived up to that promise.

I checked out the restaurant’s menu before I went down there, and I really appreciated the photos of the food since I had never heard of some of the dishes before. However, I let Foursquare choose my meal. My friend Justin had left a tip about the place recommending the ropa vieja with rice and fried plantains. I decided that sounded like a fine lunch, although I selected the Congri rice (rice with black beans) rather than the regular rice as a side.

As I mentioned, the restaurant is tiny. I counted 18 seats, and you’re going to be real cozy with your lunch and dinner mates if you dine in. Since I live less than a block away, I asked for my food to go. With tax, it was only $8.19, very reasonable for quality Cuban food. They had my order out to me in only about 5 minutes. I expected a 10 to 15 minute wait and was pleased to get my food so fast.

Ropa vieja is shredded beef in a light tomato sauce with green and red peppers and olives. I first had this dish several years ago when the Rumba Room had a lunch buffet, and loved it. Havana’s Pilon’s ropa vieja was every bit as good, and the Congri rice complemented it well. The fried green plantains were similar in taste and texture to fried bananas, and their sweetness was a nice counter to the flavor of the shredded beef and rice. Overall, I was very pleased with my lunch in terms of both taste and value. I will be back soon. Next time I will probably try the picadillo, a Cuban-style hash made with ground beef.

I’m very happy this restaurant is here and I wish them success. If you haven’t tried Havana’s Pilon yet, you are missing out on some delicious food.

Apr 072013
 

It’s well known that I hang out at the Flying Saucer nearly every day, and my beer of choice there is Dos Equis Lager with a few limes. For a while the managers have been telling me, “When you want something different you should try Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1 and Local 2 beers. They’re a bit pricey but they’re really good.” This week I was in the mood to experiment.

“Which one should I try?” I asked, and got two different answers. Owen, who is one of the managers and who used to bartend the Cordova Saucer, thought Local 1 was better. Drew Barton, who is bartending part-time at the Saucer while he opens Memphis Made Brewery on South Cooper Street, prefers Local 2. “You don’t drink a lot of dark beers, though, so maybe you’d like 1 better,” he said after thinking for a minute. So I went to the UFO Club computer and printed off a ticket for Local 1.

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I probably can’t do a better job describing it better than the description in the Saucer’s computer, so I just took a photo of my beer ticket for you to read. (If you’re wondering why it says “Paul Ryburn #8,” it’s because I’m working on my 8th plate on the wall.) This beer was delicious and I enjoyed every sip of it. It comes in a large 25 ounce bottle.

Yesterday I decided to try the other one. “I may not like it as much as Local 1, but it still seems to be highly acclaimed by everyone who has tried it,” I reasoned. “And at any rate, I’ll knock out another beer toward my next 200.” I printed out the Local 2 ticket.

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The verdict: Local 2 was every bit as delicious as Local 1! It’s a much different taste, of course, but it tasted nothing like the porters and stouts I usually shy away from at the Saucer. As the ticket says, there are hints of chocolate and dark fruits. A thoroughly enjoyable beer!

If you prefer to try these at home, you’ll have to go to liquor stores to find them: Both are well over the 6.0% threshold that separates beer from liquor by state law. If you drink these while you fly the Saucer, keep in mind that large bottle + high alcohol means that you probably shouldn’t drive home right after drinking one of these.

After having both, I agree with the managers and Drew: When you’re in the mood to step up and try something a little bit nicer than your usual beers, Local 1 and Local 2 are good options.

Apr 012013
 

Lately I’ve been making an effort to explore all the items on the Flying Fish’s menu. Yesterday afternoon I tried something new. The Hula Poppers are jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and shrimp, and then wrapped in bacon.

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Just about anything wrapped in bacon is a hit in my book, and these were no exception. You get six of them for $8.99. With a name like “hula” poppers, you might expect a tropical ingredient like pineapple or coconut, but the Hula Poppers don’t have anything like that and don’t need it. They are excellent just the way they are. The jalapenos were hot but not enough to overpower the taste of the bacon and shrimp.

Seeing the Hula Poppers as an appetizer, I decided to order an entree too. I picked the jambalaya, one of the few remaining dishes at the Fish that I have never tried.

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Out came a big ol’ plate of jambalaya loaded with Andouille sausage, shrimp, and shredded chicken. It was pretty good, although thinking back, I wish I’d stirred in one of the several hot sauces on the tables at the Fish. I’m used to the level of spiciness of the jambalaya from Court House Deli, and the Fish’s version didn’t quite measure up. If you’re a fan of the heat, you might want to choose the Gumbo & Grits instead when you dine at the Fish. Their gumbo really has a nice kick to it. On the other hand, if you like milder, tamer dishes, I think you will find the jambalaya more than acceptable.

A fine dinner, and as an added bonus I became “mayor” of the Fish when I checked in on Foursquare. I now concurrently hold six mayorships in the Downtown core, the most I’ve ever had. (Edit: Oops, down to five, I lost Huey’s today.)

Feb 252013
 

Yesterday I got hungry mid-afternoon, and decided to take advantage of the 50 cent raw oyster deal that the Flying Fish runs on Sundays. I got a little creative with my oysters. Here’s what I did. I started, obviously, with a raw oyster:

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I remember when I was a kid in school, and it was chili day in the lunchroom. Some of the kids crushed up saltine crackers inside their packets, and then dumped them in the chili and mixed them in. I’d never thought of doing it that way, but it seemed good. Yesterday I decided crushed crackers would make a good topping for oysters as well as chili.

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Next it was time for a little hot sauce. The Fish has about five different bottles of hot sauce, in various flavors and heat levels, on each table. I selected Melinda’s Habanero Hot Sauce.

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Since habanero is one of the spiciest of all peppers, only a few drops were necessary to do the trick.

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I was by no means done adding peppers to my oyster, though. I had ordered a basket of fried jalapeno peppers for $2.99.

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The peppers came with a cup of ranch dressing. I dipped a pepper slice in a generous portion of ranch, and then placed it atop the oyster.

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Now the oyster was ready to eat. Pro tip if you do this: Make sure you get a good firm stab into the pepper as you pull the oyster out of its shell with your fork. If you don’t, the pepper will likely fall off the slimy oyster before it makes it to your mouth. I learned that on the very first one.

While at the Fish, I made note of a few other things on the menu that I want to come back and try.

  • Gumbo and grits, $7.99
  • Jambalaya, $8.99
  • 18 oz. jumbo margarita. Didn’t notice the price. I guess the Fish will be my new go-to place for margaritas now that Rio Loco has closed.

That’ll do it for now. I may reverse my usual running order of Saucer then Goose because I may need to talk about BBQ with some people. I will have some team info to post tomorrow. I know people have been waiting on it.

Made it to heads-up at poker last night but didn’t win. Perhaps tonight will be my night.

Feb 242013
 

I could not tell you the last time I went to a theater and watched a movie. I can tell you that it has not happened yet during this decade. I just am not a movie person. And therefore I couldn’t care less about the Oscars. Which is a problem because every damn bar in the city, it seems, shows the awards ceremony with sound on. You can’t get away from it.

It also seems like a different crowd comes out that night. I remember two or three years ago, I ended up at Bardog on Sunday night. Now, keep in mind that Bardog is a locals’ bar less than a block from where I live. It’s just about impossible to not know someone in there. But on that Sunday night, I knew not a soul, and everyone in the room had their eyes glued to the TV. Except me, that is. “Where did these people come from?” I wondered. “I’ve never seen any of them before.” The Oscars kill half of my Sunday Fun Day.

Last night I was in Blind Bear about midnight, and Jamie asked if I’d be playing poker today. At the time I was undecided, but now it seems like a damn fine idea. Poker is the anti-Oscars.

Although, I have met one Oscar I liked this weekend…

oscar

About 7 last night I went in the Majestic for dinner. I wanted to stick with something in the medium-priced range, as I’d already made a generous donation to the Flying Saucer Fund yesterday. I’d pulled up the menu on my phone and pretty much decided on the Majestic’s tender, juicy roasted half-chicken.

Before I could get the words out of my mouth, bartender Frank said, “We have a special tonight. It’s Filet Oscar, an 8 ounce filet topped with crab meat and Bearnaise sauce. It comes with sides of asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.”

SOLD!

I ordered it medium rare and it came out perfectly prepared. The crab meat/Bearnaise not only served as a delicious topping for my filet, but as a delicious dipping sauce for my garlic mashed potatoes. Although I spent a little more than I intended for dinner, I had absolutely no problem with it because I got a first-class meal. I had no idea the green Muppet who lives in a garbage can knew how to prepare such a fabulous steak.

(Apologies for mentioning a filthy garbage can in a food post. I’ve seen worse, though.)

I wish I’d asked Frank to recommend a nice red wine to go with the filet, but as I said I’d been hitting it hard at the Saucer for several hours. I settled for a Coke with my meal. That allowed me to keep going until 2 AM, something I haven’t done a lot of on the weekends lately. I caught about an hour of Jayna Morgan and the Sazerac Sunrise Jazz Band at Blind Bear. They were excellent, authentic ’20s speakeasy music. I wrapped things up at Bardog, taking a tip from my friend Pete who reminded me it’s really good in there very-late-night.

I didn’t get up until 10:30, so I won’t make brunch at the Majestic today. I’ll probably lead off at the Saucer, then migrate to the Silly Goose where I need to discuss a few things with people. Then on to poker at Blind Bear. Perhaps I’ll bring a set of earplugs so I don’t have to hear the Oscars while I play.

Jan 292013
 

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So, I think I told you, we’re in software training at work for day 2 out of 12. In order to get every bit of instructor time we can, we have barely more than 30 minutes for lunch rather than the hour I’m accustomed to. I’ve fought desperately to do my normal 8-to-5 job while still bringing you a semblance of a blog during my halved lunch hour. Monday I had nothing to eat at all. Today I had half a bag of Mexican Doritos that were rolled up like taquitos.

Tonight I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. It was after 8 and I hadn’t eaten yet. I wanted to eat dinner, and I wanted enough food left over for lunch tomorrow. I remembered I had seen a couple split an antipasto platter at Bardog a week before. Perfect!

Ham, salami, cheeses, mushrooms, cherry peppers, banana peppers, black olives. All the tastes worked well together and easily enough food for two. Or, if not two people, two meals. I ate as much as I could and asked for a to-go container. One of the bartenders, realizing the remainder would likely be scattered all over the 38103 zip code if I boxed it myself, expertly loaded it into the container. It looked as pretty to-go as it did in the picture above. I’m not at all surprised. Bardog once again proved why it was my vote for Best Service in the 2012 Memphis Flyer poll.

I beat the rain home and am ready for a stormy evening in bed. I just have to remember to take the food to work tomorrow, since I’m not used to that. I hope everyone stays safe in tonight’s severe weather. Rain is pounding against my living room windows as I type this last paragraph. My talent for barely avoiding storms has held up once again.

Jan 292013
 

Tonight I kicked it off at Pint Nite at the Saucer. By about 7:30 I hadn’t eaten yet all day (just didn’t have time at lunch at work) and was starving. I decided I’d earned a treat and headed to Bluefin, the popular sushi lounge on South Main. Friday night I had my plate party at the Saucer, and my friend Ciara who waited on us told me I needed to try the Gary Parrish roll at Bluefin.

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The roll is named for Gary Parrish, who is a radio host in afternoon drive-time for 92.9 FM in Memphis, and he’s also a columnist for CBS Sports. The actual name on the sushi menu is the “G. Parrish Anxiety Disorder.” The roll is topped with smoked salmon, avocado, sriracha and eel sauce as shown above.

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Inside the roll is shrimp tempura, crab stick, and cream cheese. If I had to describe this roll in one word, it would be “complete.” Complete in the sense that there’s not one thing that could be added to this roll to make it better. It’s the equivalent of going to a pizza parlor and ordering the super supreme with extra cheese. There are probably more toppings you could add, but it wouldn’t improve it anymore. I’m not sure if this is the best sushi roll I’ve ever had (I’ve had some good ones at Bangkok Alley as well) but this one is in the top three. You can get the Parrish Roll for $11.

Since one sushi roll is not enough to fill up, I decided a supplement was in order. I was leaning toward the edamame, but when I saw I could get a spicy crawfish roll for the same price ($6) I went with that, using the ginger to cleanse my palate as I went back and forth from one roll to the other. Despite the sriracha, one of my favorite toppings ever, on the Parrish roll, the crawfish roll was far spicier. I like spicy, though, so it’s all good.

I ate at the bar, located to the right of the restaurant, with its own entrance. Bartender David took fantastic care of me. If I had to find something minor to gripe about, it would be that their two HTDVs weren’t showing the Grizzlies in HD. Overall, though, first-class meal. I hear Bluefin recently changed ownership and I saw no sign that it had declined in quality.

David told me the Parrish roll was one of several new ones on the menu. It was his favorite of the new items, along with the Bengal roll (shrimp tempura, jalapeño  and cucumber, topped with spicy salmon, eel sauce, sweet chili sauce, and scallions).

They had some great music playing in the bar. It was all kinds of British Invasion classics including George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” some Animals and Kinks live, and some American bands from the period that fit in. I asked David what Pandora station he was playing and he said he searched for “Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks.” My friends Jeffrey and the Pacemakers would have loved it.

A fine dinner. Thanks David and Bluefin.