Hypothetical question to myself

I just returned from eating at Rio Loco for the third time in five days. Today’s selections: Combo 16 (chile relleno, chalupa, enchilada) and Rio Loco Dip (white cheese dip with pico de gallo and taco meat mixed in). A real chalupa, served by a fine Mexican restaurant, is nothing like the chalupas sold at Taco Bell (although I eat those too). Their chalupa was a flat tortilla topped with beans, lettuce, guacamole, and tomato.

Now, sometimes I like to torture myself by posing hypothetical questions to myself. And I thought up a good one at lunch.

But first, a little background: Up until this month, the only option downtowners had for Mexican food (and I use that term loosely) was Pancho’s. I mean, I don’t have a problem with them calling their fare “Mexican,” but it’s the word “food” that I consider questionable. Every week, they receive shipments from Sysco, cardboard boxes full of tortillas and taco meat. It tastes like they throw that stuff away and cook the cardboard boxes instead.

But now, Rio Loco is here, which has excellent food even compared to Mexican restaurants in other parts of the city, like Cafe Ole and El Porton. I see myself hitting Rio Loco 2-3 times a week as long as they and I are both downtown, which hopefully will be for a long time.

So, here’s the hypothetical question: Let’s say that one day I walk out the front door and head down the Main Street Mall toward Rio Loco, trying to decide what I will have to eat. Shrimp nachos? Tilapia? Carne asada? Hmmm… And then, suddenly, off in the distance, I hear, “Paul!”

I turn around and see two girls, a brunette and a blonde, running toward me. As they get closer I realize that it’s the Romanians!!!! They’ve come back to Memphis!

The brunette reaches me first. “Oh, Paul, you are one of the people I have missed most about Memphis,” she tells me as she gives me a big hug. Then the blonde gives me a similarly big hug. Just to tease her a little, I turn my head slightly as though I am going to give her a kiss. Her face turns bright red, and her eyes get big as saucers.

I tell them I’m thrilled to see them, and ask how long they are in town. “We are once again here for our college break,” they tell me. “We are living downtown and working at Pancho’s. You are going to come in and visit us, yes?”

So, here’s the question: If that were to happen, would Rio Loco ever see me again? Would I sacrifice my taste buds and become a regular at Pancho’s?

I have a feeling I already know the answer to that question.

Saturday update: Trolley Tour report and more

Had a good time at the South Main Trolley Tour last night. It was warm outside (for January – about 55 degrees) and it was nice to walk around without a jacket.

As I was walking down Main I thought I saw Rachel from Rachel and the City. At least I assumed it was Rachel because this was the girl who appears in more pictures posted to her site than anyone else. So I figured I should introduce myself since she called me “the downtown version of her.” Well, it turns out it wasn’t Rachel – it was a friend of hers named Amy. She and her friends laughed, like she gets this all the time. She was very nice about it though. Rachel needs to post a pic of herself on her site where she isn’t dressed up in a Halloween costume.

Hung out for a while with my hairstylist, Silver, whose shop Silver Salon is in the South Main district. Several women have asked me where to go downtown to get their hair cut. “I don’t want just a haircut, I want an experience,” they have told me. Silver is the experience. He has art hung all around his shop, and the guy is more intuitive than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He has some specials going on (check out his website) and they now offer manicures/pedicures there too.

Had an interesting discussion with one of the art gallery owners. He told me that downtowners look but they don’t buy. He said 60% of his business comes from Midtown and East Memphis and another 15% from tourists. He also said that there are many people who live right down the street who walk past his shop every day but have never come in. I don’t get that. Why would you live in an arts district and not even come in to the galleries?

I feel bad for not buying more on South Main. There are a couple of pieces in Universal Art that I would love to take home, but they’re big pieces. Didn’t see a price tag on the one that was my favorite but I’m sure it was well into four figures. Similarly, I see pieces at Jay Etkin Gallery from time to time that I’d really like to have. There was one last year, picturing flamingos and pigs riding a roller coaster, but it was $3,500. I guess I just have expensive tastes in art. I need to find stuff I like in the $200-300 range, which is the level that I can comfortably afford to spend at the current time. Actually, I’m a member of a young art collectors’ club that Jay’s gallery has been involved with, that teaches its members how to find pieces in that price range, but the person who organized it got promoted and moved to Atlanta so I’m not sure it’s still going on.

The Folk Alliance drew a crowd last night, with a band and mojitos. They packed the place out – but then, given the size of their building, that only took about 15 people.

I learned that the clothing store at the corner of Main and GE Patterson will be American Apparel. I checked out their website and I gotta tell you, I’m not real impressed with their clothing line. I’ll give them a chance once they open though.

So that was last night. No set plans for tonight, just whatever I can find to get into. I’ll probably stop by Swig for at least one drink to check out their ’80s night.

One of my blog readers e-mailed to inform me that she is going out dancing on Beale tonight in a cute new top that she bought – a TUBE TOP. I’d like to think it was my influence that caused her to select a tube top on her most recent shopping spree.

And finally, here’s a tidbit for you pro wrestling fans: The Royal Rumble is tomorrow night, and I’m betting on a longshot: I’m picking Matt Hardy to win the thing. That will give him a shot at the title of his choice at Wrestlemania, and he’ll use it to jump back to Monday Night Raw (he lost a loser-leaves-town match there a few months ago) and get revenge on WWE champ Edge.

Read my blog. Get free stuff. part 2, and more

So today, I walked to Walgreens at lunch and bought an issue of Cosmopolitan. Several of my female friends have told me that all men should read Cosmo to better understand women. So I decided to see what it was all about.

I’m only 40 pages through (and the first 26 were ads) so I can’t post a review yet. But I’ll say this: I had a subscription to Maxim for a year, and already it’s more entertaining than that magazine. I typically would flip through each Maxim issue in about 5 minutes and then toss it in the garbage.

FREE STUFF: The Cosmo issue contained a coupon good for a free panty from the “Pink” collection at Victoria’s Secret. Good until February 14, for a bikini, string bikini, thong or v-string up to $7.50. Obviously this is not a coupon I plan on using, so first female blog reader to e-mail me and ask for it (paul at paulryburn dot com) gets it. You don’t have to model the free panty for me, although I probably will be picturing you in it in my mind.

I e-mailed a friend of mine, and commented, “If there’s an Italian version of Maxim, it’s too bad there’s not a Romanian version of Cosmo.” Well, it turns out there is.

I went back to Rio Loco tonight, and had the tortilla soup and an a la carte order of cheese enchiladas. And, of course, margaritas. Tasty. I want to add a couple of more menu items to my list of stuff to try:

  • Juliza and Kristy Special: pork ribs, slices of steak, chicken, shrimp, Mexican sausage and bacon cooked with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. Served on a hot skillet, with a side order of Mexican rice and beans. Garnished with lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, and choice of flour or corn tortilla.
  • Pollo Loco Tapatio: Grilled breast of chicken topped with bacon, mushrooms and cheese, with beans and rice, garnished with lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, pico, and flour tortillas.

Not going there tomorrow night though. I have officially busted my budget for the week. Looks like tomorrow is frozen dinner night in front of the TV.

Other stuff going on around town:

Drinking Liberally has moved their weekly meetings to dish on Thursday nights. They’re still at 6:30. I haven’t been in a while but it’s a good group.

– The International Blues Challenge is this Thursday-Saturday in various clubs on Beale Street.

– The South Main Trolley Art Tour is this Friday night from 6 to 9.

– Swig is doing ’80s night this Saturday. Looks like this will be a recurring theme on the last Saturday of every month.

– And the new East Bumblefuck Flying Saucer is now open on Germantown Parkway. I’ll try to stop by there next week after work for a beer, since it’s only a couple of miles from my office off Whitten. I don’t have high hopes for the place, but if it runs the Fox & Hound out of business I’m all for it. And it will give the people who live in Cordova/Germantown/Collierville a Saucer to go to so they don’t come downtown and annoy me. I know Downtown Saucer regulars who are going out there and buying a UFO card so they can drink another 200 beers and have a plate on the wall at both Saucers. To me that ranks right up there with making a 5-foot ball out of rubber bands in terms of accomplishment.

All right, time to go read my Cosmo and see what I can learn about women. If there are any major insights I’ll post ’em.

Rio Loco!!!!

I went to Rio Loco with frequent blog reader Carmel tonight, and it totally lived up to the hype. First of all, let me tell you that they have $6 happy hour jumbo margaritas, and one of those got me approximately as drunk as an entire bottle of champagne on Sunday. Then we ordered entrees and they arrived in about 7 minutes – fast!!! I had the shrimp fajita nachos. Really good, grilled shrimp, vegetables. Carmel had a dish with a chile relleno, enchilada, and burrito. Before it came out she said she was picky about Mexican food, but once it came out she gave it a big thumbs-up.

Afterward we went to the Saucer for trivia, to discover that our team the Rapscallions had won yet ANOTHER first-place victory in our absence. They entrusted me to hold on to the grand-prize $25 gift certificate, which I almost lost on the way home but later found in my pants pocket.

It’s going to take me at least a month to roll through Rio Loco’s menu. I’m probably going to alter my plans and skip the Mpact event and go to Rio Loco again tomorrow night. I’ll definitely be there before happy hour ends.

Next on the list to try:

  • Nachos Rio Loco: slices of beef and chicken cooked with green onions, mushrooms and bacon.
  • A la carte: 3 cheese enchiladas, and maybe a side order of meat – a beef burrito, or Mexican sausage
  • Enchiladas supreme: one each of chicken, bean, beef, and cheese enchilada topped with special homemade sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream.
  • Combo #16: one chalupa, one chile relleno and one enchilada.
  • Tilapia Rio Loco – tilapia, shrimp and carrots in a cream sauce, rice, avocado salad
  • Le Preferida – a chalupa jalisco with beef burrito, cheese sauce and rice.
  • The Special Dinner – one taco, one chalupa, one enchilada, one tamale, one chile relleno, rice and beans. I’ll have to be hungry for this one.

And that’s 7 of the 100 items on the menu.

On the way out, I asked them if they were open on Sunday. They said yes, so ATTN DRUNKS: We’ll still meet at Sleep Out’s (gotta have one of Lisa’s homemade bloody marys) but we may have to make a field trip down the street at some point in the afternoon. There’s no football this weekend (not that I would care) so we have plenty of time.

The Most Annoying Woman On Planet Earth saw my Saturday night post and e-mailed a response. To which I reply: STFU

Two ways to get me to become a regular at your downtown restaurant: Have Mexican food, or have Romanian waitresses. I have a feeling I’ll be talking about Rio Loco quite a bit in this blog in the future.

Quick Tuesday morning update: new look, Fresh Slices

This one’s gotta be extra quick because I’m at work…

I received feedback that Fresh Slices is not a pizza place. According to my reader, it’s more of an all-purpose, cozy neighborhood deli. Pasta, burgers, sandwiches, and live jazz several nights a week. She’s not even sure pizza is on the menu.

And yes, I agree, the font is too small. This is a blog template named Beckett that I grabbed from some site. I’ll go in and bump up the font size when I get a chance, but it looks like I’m going to have to dig through a stylesheet to find it, so it may be a day or two.

All right, back to the rat race.

Monday evening update: New look, spam, Rio Loco

Well, I finally updated this blog with a new look. And I even bothered to upload a pic of myself, although it’s a pic that’s about 2 years old. At least the shirt I was wearing that day matches the template of this blog.

So I logged into the control panel of my website today. “Total space: 1 GB. Space in use: 587 MB.” WHAT???? Last I was aware of, I only had about 25 MB of files uploaded to my web server. Then I remembered that I have an extra e-mail account where I redirect all my spam. So I logged into that account (last login was around December 15). “You have 57,681 new messages.” Oh goody. And I have to delete them 1,000 at a time. And it’s a webmail interface which is slow as molasses. Guess I have something to do at work tomorrow.

I walked by Rio Loco tonight. I didn’t go in – it looked like there were tables open but I usually prefer to sit at the bar when I’m by myself, and the bar was packed. But, I did get a menu. It’s run by the same people who own El Patron out in Bartlett, and the menu looks very good – quite extensive with combo and enchilada plates in the $7-8 range, fajitas around $10-11, seafood from $9-12, house specials $10-15. And they have a full bar! As I walked down Union a guy staggered down the street and pointed to the place and said, “Their margaritas are strong.” Actually he said, “sshhherrrmargariiiaaaserrrshtrong.” Good to hear. They’re open seven days a week, which means Rio Loco will probably become a regular stop for me on Sundays.

I think tomorrow I’m going to skip trivia and give it a try. Tuesday is the slowest night of the week for dining out, so surely I’ll find a seat at the bar. Soon as I try it I’ll provide a report.

Monday update: Nashville blogger, Mpact, cars

Saturday night after my drunk post, I wandered down to Earnestine & Hazel’s for a beer. There I ran into a guy who calls himself Mr. Roboto, who writes a blog called Thursday Night Fever which is somewhat of the Nashville equivalent of my blog. Apparently he has been aware of my site for a while and checks it out from time to time. Enjoyed talking to him… he told me that at one point, his blog was averaging 500 visits a day (this blog currently averages about 60). He said if I wanted to attain “celebrity blogger” status, he had some tips – a lot of it I agreed with, like more pictures for one thing. He also suggested that I come up with a catchy name for the blog, as he did for his site. Hmmm…. that one I’m going to have to think about… I kind of like it being MY blog, rather than a blog about going out downtown (which it frequently is). I’ll think about it.

I do need to redesign the look of this blog, though. That’s on my list of things to do in the next month and a half or so. I’ve always referred to winter as “The Sleepy Season” and have considered it a good time to catch up on personal projects. Because if I don’t get them done now, they sure won’t get done once it starts to warm up outside (which in Memphis, tends to happen in March). Once that happens, I’ll want to start going out every day of the week like I did last summer.

That means that I may be missing some regular weekly outings (like Tuesday night trivia) a little more often between now and March. Don’t worry, once it warms up I’ll be a full-timer again.

One weekly outing that will definitely NOT be affected is Sunday brunch at Sleep Out’s. You better believe I’ll still be there. Yesterday they asked me to fill out a comment card suggesting changes to the place – they’re thinking about things like adding a mezzanine area above the bar with couches, or replacing the tables with booths, or getting rid of the ties that have been hung. Here’s how I responded: DON’T CHANGE A THING. Keep the big-screen TV, but otherwise leave it alone. The regulars are happy there. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Actually, after I turned in my card someone else had an interesting suggestion… crawfish night. Boiled, cooked crawfish by the pound. Now, I would be all over that. As one of the other regulars pointed out, no other bar downtown has a crawfish night, and crawfish are so cheap that it would be a sure money-maker for SOL’s. Hope they decide to do it.

I haven’t talked about Mpact in a while. I rolled off the board of directors in November, but am still a member. I’ve decided that this year I’m going to be a “consumer” rather than a “producer,” to use terms coined by our Membership chair. Meaning, I’m just going to go to the events and enjoy them, rather than take an active role in planning them (unless someone specifically asks for my help).

One event coming up is the annual Non-Profit Expo, scheduled for Thursday, February 2 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens from 5:30-8:00. There will be about 35 nonprofits there, providing info on how you can volunteer and help them out, be it on a one-time or ongoing basis. Great way to get involved in the community and meet people. You don’t have to be an Mpact member to attend. Last year I believe it was $5 for non-members; not sure about this year.

Another event that I’ll likely attend is the After Hours/Mpact 101 at Fresh Slices Cafe, at 1585 Overton Park Avenue in Midtown, this Wednesday, January 25 from 5:30-7:30. After Hours is a chance for members to hang out and get to know one another socially; it’s one of my favorite recurring Mpact events. They will also be doing Mpact 101, which is an opportunity for people who want to find out about the organization to get some information. Non-members are encouraged to come – no fee other than your tab. Never been to Fresh Slices and am looking forward to see how they stack up against other local pizza joints.

Okay, I want to get on my soapbox for a minute. The address above (1585 Overton Park Ave.) came from BellSouth’s yellowpages.com website. It certainly didn’t come from Mpact’s site – their event listing shows the address as “Overton Park.” Come on, guys, you can do better than that. Overton Park is a park. Overton Park Avenue is a street. They’re two different things. Fresh Slices is a building on Overton Park Avenue, and like all the other buildings, it has a street number. Hopefully people will find the correct address on their own and won’t be driving through the park looking for a pizza place.

This kind of stuff has been happening too often in the organization. I remember last year, when I showed up at the Blue Monkey for a 6 PM pillar meeting. Three other people and I were sitting there for 45 minutes wondering where everyone was. I made some calls and discovered that an e-mail had been sent out at 4:44 PM that day saying that the meeting was cancelled. Hey, you know what? A lot of people have already left work by 4:44 and won’t see the e-mail until the next day… This kind of stuff shouldn’t be happening. There are a lot of people with great ideas, but sometimes the implementation of those ideas falls apart at the detail level, and it makes us look bad.

Okay. Rant over. Let’s talk about something else.

I take walks every day at work to break up the monotony of sitting in a cubicle. One thing I’ve been noticing lately is all the different types of cars in the parking lot. When I was a kid I used to know all the makes and models of cars, what types of engines they had, length/width, options, etc. But since the last time I bought a car (11 years ago) I’ve been out of touch. I need to buy a book on the 2006 cars and catch up.

Last week I went to the mall and they had 2006 Buicks on display and I was really impressed with the product line. Recently Buick had been putting out some really boring cars. Their entire line – Century, Regal, LeSabre, Park Avenue – all looked alike, just shorter or longer versions of each other. So for 2006 they made a bold decision. They scrapped the entire line and started over. There are now only two cars – the Lacrosse is the LeSabre’s replacement, and the Lucerne replaces the Park Avenue as the top-of-the-line luxury sedan. These are really sharp looking cars, and very distinctive. With Cadillacs becoming gaudy ghetto status symbols more and more every year, Buick may turn into the true upscale model line for GM.

All right, that’ll do it for now. It’s Monday and I’m going to need about a gallon of caffeine to get through the day. Haven’t yet decided if I’m going to hit Rio Loco for their grand opening tonight. Hope your week is off to a good start, and I’ll see you later…

Saturday night drunk post

Hey, the computer at McGuinness is free! Let’s post. I’ve had 5 beers so I take no responsibility for typos.

Let me explain how I got here. I went to the Saucer tonight and the crowd SUCKED. So I walked out and went to the Tap Room. There I actually ordered a beer and drank it and thought about how much the crowd SUCKED. Then I went back to the Saucer and the crowd still SUCKED but I drank several beers anyway before I decided I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Then I came here. Ran into a guy I knew and he said, “So, did you go to the monster truck show at the FedExForum tonight?”

Okay, that explains the crowd.

I was so bored tonight that I actually called The Most Annoying Woman On The Planet and left a message on her voice mail. Earlier on I had thought about going to Raiford’s and figured I’d invite her to meet me up there. Then I realized, if she agreed to meet me at 11, she’d call back at 12:50 and say, “Sorry, I went over to a friend’s house to complain about my ex-boyfriend for a while. But I’m on my way”

There’s still a chance she could return my call. Hang on…

Okay, I put my phone on Silent mode.

Anyway, I’m at McGuinness and that’s not a bad thing at all. I came in here last week and there was a guy on the public-access computer playing Texas Hold’Em. I recognized him as the brother of one of the Romanians who worked downtown this summer. Which I guess would make him Romanian too. I never officially met him but I knew who he was because a bartender at Blues City pointed him out one night. So anyway, I was sitting at McGuinness’ bar and he was sitting next to me playing Texas Hold’Em. I felt like I should say hello, but I couldn’t really think of anything to say other than “Hey, your sister’s hot.” So I just sat and drank my beer and let him play.

Some of the guys in my building have a weekly poker game. Maybe I should invite him.

Coming up on midnight. God this town sucks tonight. I have a feeling I’ll end up drinking cans of PBR at the Black Diamond 4-5 hours from now and that’s never a good thing. By the way… several weeks ago I asked a trivia question asking the significance of the PEA VINE RAILROAD and no one got it. There’s a painting on the Diamond’s wall of a train station from that railroad company. I’m sure many of my readers have seen it, but am not surprised none of them remembered it.

All right, guess I’ll get off now and let the other drunks use the computer.

More Mexican: Rio Loco opening, Sgt. Jalapeno’s Tortilla Company review

– Today I was walking down Union, and I noticed a new sign in the window of Rio Loco, the Mexican restaurant that is taking over Buckley’s old building: “Grand Opening Fiesta Monday, January 23.” That’s this Monday! Hmmm… anyone want to go? I’d be up for it… e-mail paul at paulryburn dot com if you’d be interested.

– Well, that got me hungry for Mexican food, so I walked down to Adams to try the other new Mexican place, Sgt. Jalapeno’s Tortilla Company. So here’s my review…

They brought me a basket of homemade tortilla chips and homemade salsa. The tortilla chips were not the typical Tostitos-type chips you find in most restaurants – looks like they were made with flour rather than corn, fried golden brown, lightly salted. Very tasty. Salsa was very good too. I ordered a bowl of cheese dip, which was about halfway between yellow and white and I’d rate it as average.

They have a TV over the register, and they had basketball on. Good addition – I don’t remember that being there when I passed by a couple of weeks ago. Duke lost today. YEAH!!!!

For my entree I ordered the Houston Solution – two cheese enchiladas topped with red sauce and meat ($7.95). It came with rice on the side, a jalapeno pepper (a whole one, not sliced) and on the side was a bowl of pintos with bacon. All the food was homemade and very good.

To use the restroom, I had to get a key and walk down the hall to the Comfort Inn. I know they can’t do anything about that but it reminded me a bit of a gas station.

What else… they had La Prensa Latina by the door, for those of you who like to read Spanish-language news while you eat. Overall, food was quite good – far, far better than Pancho’s, and cheaper. I recommend paying them a visit.

I hear they do a booming lunch business from the nearby federal buildings. When I was in there I was their only table, but it was 3:00 on Saturday, so what would you expect? They had a party of 25 coming in later in the day so it sounds like they’re doing all right. Hope they stick around for a while.

– And that’s it for now… time to go enjoy another Saturday night in downtown Memphis. And tomorrow will be an exciting day of drinking mimosas and watching Team I Don’t Care About and Other Team I Don’t Care About battle it out for the conference championship on Sleep Out’s new LCD wide-screen TV. If anything interesting happens, I’ll write about it. And if nothing interesting happens, I’ll write about it too. See you later…

Deal of the week

Walgreens is selling 7×50 Vivitar binoculars, suggested retail price of $49.95, for $9.95. I bought a pair and tried them out tonight – they seem to work very well, much better than I’d expect for ten bucks. They have glare-resistant lenses and come with a very nice case.

Since a lot of my readers live or work in downtown high-rises or other buildings with a view, I figured I’d mention this. People in the Suntrust Building might especially want to take heed, since I hear there is sometimes “activity” worth watching in No. 10 Main’s rooftop hot tub.

Not sure if the downtown Walgreens carries these. I’ll look the next time I go in. I got mine at the Walgreens near my work, at Macon and Whitten Roads. This does NOT appear to be a weekly ad deal – looks like they will be $9.95 until they sell out, although I’m not 100% positive.

(Edited Saturday morning 11 AM to add:) Just checked the downtown Walgreens and did not see the binoculars. So I guess you’ll have to make a trip out east if you want a pair.