New Italian restaurant downtown

Tonight I was driving home from work down Second Street, and as I passed the light at Madison I noticed an “OPEN” sign in the Italian restaurant, Conte’s, in the space that used to be The Cupboard Too (on Madison between Second and Third, a couple of doors down from King of Wings). So I parked the car and walked over for take-out.

I ordered lasagna and a house salad. It was excellent! I could tell the lasagna itself, and the sauce on top of it, were homemade. You may assume that would be the case with all restaurants, but I’ve been told that several restaurants in town heat up a serving of Stouffer’s, or the Sysco equivalent, when someone orders lasagna. Not Conte’s – they did it right. Really fresh and really good.

Their menu is reasonably priced. You can get one of several pastas with your choice of marinara, gravy, or olio (garlic and oil) for $7, and you can add meatballs and/or sausage for $2.50 more. They also have several varieties of ravioli for $8, same sauce and add-meat options. And, they have Italian favorites like lasagna, fettucini alfredo, and chicken parmesan. Vegetarians will have lots of options here – they have some eggplant dishes, cheese manicotti, spinach ravioli, and sun-dried tomato ravioli among the choices.

They also have hero sandwiches – will give those a try and report back. In particular, I want to try the chicken cutlet parmesan ($7) and the hot Italian beef ($6) sandwiches.

For dessert they have cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, and something called “xanga” (not sure what that is). I had the chocolate cake – huge piece, too big to finish, complemented by a couple of miniature cream puffs. The menu price is $3.50, not bad at all for what you get.

They’re open Monday-Thursday until 6, so it’s a good place to stop by after work and pick up dinner. Friday and Saturday they’re open until 9. Seems like it would be a good spot to take a date, where you could both have a fine dinner and escape for under 30 bucks. On the downside, it doesn’t appear they serve alcohol, but there are plenty of places nearby you can walk to for an after-dinner drink.

Highly recommended. We need to support downtown eateries that stay open into the dinner hour, and this is quality Italian cuisine.

Out of stock

During the past couple of months, I’ve gone from “why do people need portable MP3 players?” to “I want an MP3 player” to “I need an MP3 player” to “I have to have an MP3 player.” It’s not so much for listening to music, although that would be a bonus. It’s more that I’d like to use it as a learning tool. For example, I could buy a foreign language study course on CD, rip it to MP3, and load it into the player. Then I could listen over and over while at work, and eventually, after hearing the entire tape set 10, 15, 20 times I’d pick it up subliminally. Seems like a good way to learn a foreign language – maybe brush up on the Spanish I’ve forgotten since high school… or I could learn German… or Chinese… or maybe even… Romanian.

So yesterday, I was at brunch at Sleep Out’s and I began going through the ads in the Sunday paper. The Circuit City ad caught my eye. They had a Creative Labs 6 GB MP3 player for $159. That’s an incredible value… for comparison, 2 GB iPod Nanos are selling for $199 and up. Over the course of the day, I talked myself into getting the MP3 player.

So this morning at work, I hit Circuit City’s site, prepared to place an order. “Out of stock for online delivery,” the site said about the MP3 player. But, it told me, I could order it online and pick it up at a local store. That’s no problem, I thought, there’s a store a couple of miles from where I work. It had a link where I could check the availability in each store. First I looked at the Germantown Parkway store that is close to my work… out of stock. Then I checked the Winchester store… out of stock. Then I checked the Southaven store… out of stock. Even the Tupelo store is out of stock.

If an item isn’t available for immediate delivery, and most of your stores are sold out of it, why feature it in a big color ad? That annoys me.

I guess for now, my laptop will have to function as my very large portable MP3 player.

Liquor recommendation

Disregard the beer recommended in the “Beer recommendation” post. The Saucer has already sold out of it.

However, I have a liquor recommendation. Yesterday I was up at the Tap Room, and one of the managers there recommended Tuaca, a brandy with vanilla and citrus flavors. So I bought a shot and it was really smooth. Normally I’m not much on straight liquor without a mixer, but I could drink this stuff all day long. Good after-dinner drink. Good way to reward yourself after a hard day at work. Give it a try, let me know what you think.

Beer recommendation

Harpoon Winter Warmer. They have it at the Saucer for 4 bucks a bottle. I was up there yesterday afternoon drinking the $2.50 Fire Sale (now that I’ve completed 200 beers and got my plate, might as well drink the cheap stuff). But this guy sitting at the bar kept raving about Winter Warmer, so I ordered a bottle. It’s an amber-colored beer with a gingerbread flavor and maybe a touch of cinnamon.

So anyway, it was a slow day up there yesterday, so I spent some time talking to the waitresses. One of them, named Angie, told me…

… hang on, let’s post a pic of Angie.


There ya go. That’s Angie, on the left. The other two are Micheal and Teresa, two of my drinking buddies from the Saucer and occasional readers of this blog.

Anyway, Angie told me that they’re shorthanded, and I guess that’s true, I’ve noticed that a couple of the waitresses aren’t there anymore. So, if you’ve ever thought about waiting tables at the Saucer, now might be a good time to fill out an application. Must look good in a miniskirt, must be willing to learn about about different types of beer, must be able to work at a place that closes at 2 in the morning or sometimes even later. ROMANIANS are especially encouraged to apply.

All right. It’s Sunday morning, so it’s time for me to head to “mass” (also known as brunch). That means I have to walk to “church” (also known as Sleep Out Louie’s), where the “priest” (also known as the bartender) will be serving “communion” (also known as mimosas and bloody marys). I’m looking forward to a day of fun and fellowship with the “congregation” (also known as the drunks). See you later!

Majestic

There was a good article in the Commercial Appeal today about the plans for the Majestic, the new restaurant which will open in the space on the Main Street Mall formerly occupied by Gordon Biersch. I have a good feeling about this place… neighborhood bistro, moderately priced, good wine list. And I know it will be a quality spot if Patrick is running it. I have a feeling this will become a place where I hang out several nights a week, as I used to do at the downtown Blue Monkey.

Don’t take my word on this, but I’ve heard it will open sometime around March if everything goes according to schedule.

Because of the way the Commercial Appeal has their website set up, I can’t link to the article. But here’s how to get to it… if you’re reading this today (December 17), go to their website and it will on the front page under the Business section. If you’re reading this within the next week (before December 24), click on the Business section and scroll down to the bottom, and look for it under the “December 17” links. If you’re reading this after December 24, try searching for “meet me on south main” or “patrick reilly majestic” in the CA’s search box.

I wish Patrick and his crew the best of luck, and I look forward to being a regular at the Majestic in 2006.

NYE: Avoid the Peabody

I’ve talked about this before in my blog, but since readership has increased since last year (averaging just under 300 visits a week these days), I want to issue a word of caution to people making New Year’s Eve plans: Avoid the Peabody!

I went 2 years ago with a group, and it was absolutely ridiculous. The line at the lobby bar was five-deep all the way around, and the Peabody managers didn’t have enough sense to staff it with extra bartenders. There were additional bars set up in the back ballroom, where bands were playing – these were the “short” lines, with only about a 25-minute wait. If I remember correctly, domestic beer was 5 bucks, import beer was 6-7, and wine was 7. I bought three glasses of wine and slammed them within about five minutes, hoping that would do the trick – I did NOT want to stand in that line again! So, combined with my $30 entry fee (it’s $35 in advance, $40 at the door this year), I spent $51 at that miserable party. Never again.

I also remember the lines for the bathrooms being 10-15 minutes, and that’s for guys. No idea how long the women had to wait. That was another disincentive to buy their ridiculously expensive drinks – I didn’t want to stand in another line to recycle them.

Even the fact that there were a lot of young, hot girls there didn’t make the party worthwhile. (I’d guess that the average age of the attendees was 20; make of that what you will, since they’re not supposed to be letting in people under 21.)

Could’ve been a great party, but it was terribly, horribly managed, and I have absolutely no confidence that they’ve taken steps to improve it in the two years since. Strong recommendation to avoid, if you’re looking for something to do New Year’s Eve. If you want to pay too much for drinks at the Peabody, wait until April when the rooftop parties start back up.

Real Mexican downtown? And other downtown news

A lot of people are waiting for Rio Loco to open on Union, in the spot that used to be Buckley’s. People are excited about finally having REAL Mexican food downtown (Pancho’s, with its cardboard enchiladas, doesn’t count).

Well, I just picked up the most recent copy of the Memphis Flyer, and it looks like we don’t even have to wait for Rio Loco to open (good thing, since they seem to be on the 2-year plan for renovations). There was an ad for “Quinto Patio Authentic Mexican Cantina” at 345 Beale. They listed fajitas, taco salads, carne asada, burritos, and enchiladas as being menu items.

However, the ad also says “and New York Style Pizza” (345 Beale used to be a pizza parlor). I have to wonder if they can do both well. However, I’m going to reserve judgment, and will give it a try soon. If anybody has eaten there, shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you think of it.

Tonight I went to get my hair cut at Sliver Salon on GE Patterson. As I walked out I was very sad to see “Going Out of Business Sale” signs on the door of Parallax, the DVD rental store. I’ve never been a big movie person, but it hurts to see a small business downtown close, especially one that embodied the passion of its owners the way that place did. I wish them luck in their future ventures. Meanwhile, good opportunity to pick up some DVDs for Christmas at sale prices.

Afterward, I walked around the corner and checked out the Midtown Artists’ Market Christmas sale. Great way to start your art collection without spending an arm and a leg. Then I went to Zanzibar for their Cuban Media Noche sandwich. Two girls asked the bartender for the time, and despite having a watch on, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the display. Sign of the times, I guess.

This is the last “normal” weekend for three weeks – Christmas is next weekend, and New Year’s the weekend after that. No plans thus far, other than returning to Sleep Out’s for Sunday brunch after a week’s absence.

And that’s the downtown news. See you later!

A deluxe apartment – er, condo – in the sky, and priced to the sky too

Last night there was a reception in my building for another building nearby that is being converted to condos. The units in the building will sell for $300,000-$600,000.

This reminds me of checking Yahoo’s stock price in 2000, seeing it at $250, and thinking, “I’ve got to invest in these Internet stocks! I’m buying!” Yahoo is a great company with fantastic management… ain’t no doubt about that. And one day, it will see $250 again, and higher. But that day is a while coming. (In case you’re curious… Yahoo closed at $41.75 today)

Same with this new building, and all the other new condos downtown (I see it’s the cover story of this week’s Memphis Flyer; haven’t read it yet). No doubt that these are some quality units they’re building/converting, and will be beautiful places to live. And if that’s where you want to be and you’re in for the long haul, go for it. But if you think you’re going to turn a profit in a few years on your investment, you’re out of your mind.

The condo bubble is about to burst.

Not all notebook sections are created equal

(Warning… most boring post in the history of this blog… no kidding)

I recently bought one of those Five-Star 200 page, 5-subject notebooks for a project I’m working on. You’d think that would mean 5 sections of 40 pages each. Not so.

I needed to keep track of page numbers, so I went through with a pen and numbered the pages 1 through 400, since each of the 200 sheets has 2 sides. The sections ended on pages 98, 176, 254, 336, and 400.

That means the sections contained 49, 39, 39, 41, and 32 sheets. I never would’ve guessed it. They all looked equal to me when I bought the notebook.

So for those of you taking classes in the spring, beware… not all notebook sections are created equal.

Internet dumbasses: You can tell by their typing

One of the web applications I’ve built at work requires end users, who are generally salespeople at appliance stores, to go in and register and set up accounts for themselves on our websites. Most of the people are able to register without problem, and log in and start using the application. But, as always, there are those who have trouble – there are people who don’t register properly because they fly through the screens too fast and don’t follow directions, and there are other people who just aren’t that computer-literate. They get frustrated and call for help, and I have to go into the database and find out what happened. Having done this for a while now, I’m beginning to notice some trends.

There are people who type EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS. They type their name in as BOB SMITH, for example, and their address as 100 SOMEWHERE LANE, MEMPHIS, TN, 38103. They type in their e-mail address as MYEMAIL@MYISP.COM. These people make up about 30% of all registered users, but they make up about 60% of all people who have trouble with registration. This subgroup is also the most likely to leave their e-mail address field blank because they don’t have an e-mail address.

Then there are people who never use caps. They type their name in as bob smith, and their address as 100 somewhere lane, memphis, tn 38103. They type their e-mail addresses in all lowercase, but that’s not unusual because most e-mail addresses are in all lowercase. Looking at the database, I see that this group makes up about 10% of registered users, but they account for 30% of all registration problems. They’re the most likely to have typos in their address, their e-mail, sometimes even their name.

And finally, there are people who use proper case when registering. They type their name in as Bob Smith, and their address as 100 Somewhere Lane, Memphis, TN 38103. Their e-mail address is usually typed in lowercase, but as I noted before, that’s a common convention. Approximately 60% of all registered users typed their info in proper case. These users account for at most 10% of the registration problems.

Who’s gonna screw up? You can tell by the typing…most of the time.