Bocce on South Main, plus Moody Ques results from Atoka

I’ve mentioned that we tend to reach new lows in standards of behavior every Sunday. Was this the week things finally went too far?

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Don’t worry, Boo didn’t go to jail. The Blue Crush truck just happened to be parked by the bocce court. Nice to see the truck there, though, to help keep South Main safe.

I started the day with D-RANKS with B-RAD at the Blind Bear, and there was cause for celebration. The Moody Ques cooks were home, having competed in the Atoka regional BBQ Fest. 49 teams participated. Can you guess where the Moody Ques finished in shoulder?

I know, I know what some of you are probably thinking. “Maybe one team didn’t show up and so they finished 48th.” Given past performances I couldn’t blame you for thinking that. But that’s not where we finished.

We placed NINTH in shoulder, beating some of the big names on the BBQ circuit.

Two of the three judges for whom we did the practice presentation were there and sampled our product. Back in January they told us, “You won’t win this year, or next year, but keep on doing what you’re doing and in a couple of years’ time you’re going to be one of the big dogs.” Their reaction this weekend indicates that we might be fast-tracking it to big dog status.

In case you’re wondering why I don’t have any photos posted to the team website yet, there’s a reason. “Any photo of meat in the grill is okay to post,” the team president told me. “But we don’t want any picture of the prep or of blind boxes. If you can see the prep table in the photo, don’t post it.” This is a high-class problem to have: We have secrets now. It’s going to take me longer to sort through the photos, but it’s worth it.

About 2 I headed south. There’s a public bocce ball court at Main and Talbot. You can check out a set of balls by leaving an ID at South of Beale across the street. My friend Bad Shane organized a game of bocce on a beautiful, sunny April afternoon.

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Here’s how it works. (Note: This is the way we played it; no idea if these are “official” rules.) Each team gets four balls about the size of softballs. You start off by throwing the pickle, a small white ball about the size of a golf ball, to the other end of the court. Then one member of each team throws one ball, trying to get it as close to the pickle as possible. If the ball hits the back wall it is disqualified.

Next, the team who got their first ball closest to the pickle throws their other three balls, trying to 1) get those balls as close to the pickle as possible; and 2) place their balls so it will be hard for their opponents to get their balls close to the pickle.

Then the other team throws their remaining three balls, trying to get balls closer to the pickle than the first team’s balls. In their throws, they can knock the first team’s balls out of the way, and they can also hit the pickle and move it.

With all the balls thrown, scoring is done. The team whose ball is closest to the pickle scores 1 point for every ball they have closer than the opposing team’s closest ball. So, in a perfect round you would score 4 points. Once the scoring is done, the pickle is thrown to the other side of the court and the next round begins.

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It took me a couple of throws to get used to the weight of the balls and how far I needed to throw them. I found that I needed to throw harder than I thought, because the gravel cuts down on the balls’ roll. After a little practice, though, I discovered I’m pretty good at bocce! I started getting balls near the pickle. On one throw, the opponents had a ball right next to the pickle and I knocked it away. It was interesting to discover I am good at bocce, considering I play cornhole with this same group of people occasionally, and I am bad at cornhole.

In any case, it was a nice excuse to be out in the sunshine.

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I left my tab open at the Blind Bear, so about 4 I walked back north for more D-RANKS with B-RAD.

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Late in the afternoon several of us made the trip over to Silky O’Sullivan’s. Russian Aleks, one of the regulars at the Blind Bear, bartends the outdoor patio. Another excuse to get out in the sunshine. I had a hurricane. I had forgotten that tequila is an ingredient in hurricanes. I could definitely taste it!

I got some Aldo’s pizza to go then came home and watched Wrestlemania on my iPad. Unfortunately I fell asleep right as The Undertaker had his match. Checking results this morning. In case you’re on the Network and have yet to see the show, I won’t spoil it for you by listing any outcomes here.

Well that was just about as perfect a weekend as I could ask for. Next weekend is the last one before April-May festival season kicks into overdrive. It’s an exciting time to live in Downtown Memphis.

Back at lunchtime or after work with a news post.

Papi Joe’s Tennessee Pepper Sauce @ Memphis Farmers Market

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Farmers Market, Farmers Market, let’s go to the Farmers Market! I took my own advice and went down there yesterday morning.

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The first thing I did was walk straight to the back and check out which food trucks were there. I have some good news: The tandoori truck is back! I didn’t get anything from the truck this week, but believe me, as long as they keep coming I will be a frequent customer. They have all sorts of dishes including multiple varieties of naan bread as well as dishes made with rice, chickpeas, and chicken. More than half of their offerings are vegetarian. Trust me, if you eat meat, you will not regret a vegetarian meal at this truck.

Of course, I had to be the bad, bad man with a smoothie in his hand, so a visit to the So Fresh juice truck was in order.

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I got my favorite smoothie the Berry 4 Ever, made with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, frozen yogurt, and cranberry juice.

Next door was the Rock n’ Dough food truck. That’s pepperoni pizza and breakfast pizza in the window.

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Also in the food court area was the Fuel food truck, serving its usual menu of bison tacos and other treats. Also there was Bluff City Coffee and Bakery, selling all kinds of baked treats. One of their items for sale was a kale and bacon loaf. “Well, that sounds half good,” I thought.

After leaving the food court, I walked around and sipped my smoothie and looked at the vendors. Remember that refrigerated food truck I mentioned earlier this week? I took a photo of what they had for sale. (Click to zoom in)

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If you thought the Farmers Market was just a bunch of termaters and kale, you got another think comin’. King crab legs!

It’s well known that I am a huge fan of fresh produce, but did you know that I am also a fan of spicy foods? One vendor caught my eye yesterday – Papi Joe’s Tennessee Pepper Sauce. I stopped to take a gander and Papi Joe offered me a bite of cheesy bacon dip with a dash of Papi’s on top.

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SOLD! I took out my wallet and bought a bottle. Papi Joe threw in two recipe cards. Not only was the recipe for the cheesy bacon dip on there, but also Spunky Warm Turnip Greens Dip, Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Pork Tenderloin Marinate, Devilish Eggs, Zippity Corn Dip, Pimiento Cheese, Tartar Sauce, Cocktail Sauce, Remoulade, and French Fry Sauce. There’s even a recipe for a sinfully spicy brownie. I have never heard of hot sauce in a brownie before but it sounds intriguing. Papi calls it “the gooey brownie with the surprise ending.”

Tonight I am going to stop by Huey’s for fries to go and make a mini version of Papi Joe’s french fry sauce recipe. He grows the highest quality peppers, slow-cooked in a country kitchen in Rossville, Tennessee.

In other market news, let me just say that the yoga pants watching is every bit as good as last year.

After I left the market, I walked north on Main, noticing a new business going into 414 S. Main that used to be a comedy venue:

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I led off at Bardog as usual after getting back north. Bloom is back for her usual Saturday shift and she asked me if I could pick up some mint for her at the Farmers Market next Saturday. Any recommendations for a vendor that sells mint? Hit me up at if you know of one.

While I was basking in the fresh produce at the Memphis Farmers Market, my BBQ team the Moody Ques were doing well in the Atoka Regional, taking 9th place in shoulder out of 49 teams competing. Pics are coming but I want to be careful not to give away any secrets, so I am going to have to go through the photos with a fine-toothed comb to determine what can be posted. I will be meeting team president Clay at D-RANKS with “Easter Dinner” B-RAD at the Blind Bear in a couple of hours to discuss this.

Although I was not at the Atoka regional with the team, I definitely had my Director of Public Relations hat on. We had a new team member join who is a very experienced bartender, and he and I are going to work on some ideas to streamline the bar and get the silver pig that sits atop it filled up more. I also have another idea, not yet approved by president Clay and vice-president Erik but I am pushing them, that will improve an aspect of team membership by 150%. More on that later.

From The Tab: Why people who drink PBR are right and everyone else is wrong

Kudos to Bluefin for encouraging the next generation of artists:

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It touches my heart that they were willing to pay for a 59 cent posterboard so a 7-year-old could design their sidewalk advertising. Let this be a lesson to other Downtown restaurants that it never hurts to open up the checkbook to spend a little on marketing.

Sunday Fun Day! Time to lead off with D-RANKS with “dinner for breakfast” B-RAD at the Blind Bear, then bocce. Our Sunday behavior seems to degrade to new levels each week, and I can’t wait to see what happens today.


Saturday update

The Downtown Neighborhood had several good stories in their monthly newsletter for April. First of all, many of you have met “Miss Sally,” one of the Blue Suede Brigade who greets visitors to our neighborhood and helps them find their way around. Sally had to retire this year due to health issues, but she will always consider it her duty to help those new to Downtown get the most out of their experience for however long they are here. Read Sally’s story.

Up until 1960, the Wolf River, not the Mississippi, was the river that flowed past Downtown. At that point, the river was diverted to empty into the Mississippi, creating the Wolf River Harbor.

The DNA also has a great feature on Quench co-owner Hamida who owns the wine and liquor store on Second along with her husband Sunny. Thank you both for bringing a badly-needed upscale wine and spirits shop to the Downtown core. I have written about Quench’s monthly wine tastings, but did you also know the store will do custom orders for locals? In addition, they will deliver bulk orders right to your door.

The DNA also got an update on what’s happening in the Medical District.

The Redbirds are having College Night every Thursday this year. $5 admission and $2 beer with valid college ID.

If you have an idea for a small retail business, High Ground News has some good news for you. Communities Unlimited, program manager for the MEMShop program, is taking applications for the second round of its MEMshop program on Film Row on South Second Street, a former filmmaking district just east of South Main. Benefits for the winning applicants include a pre-negotiated six-month lease, financial assistance, free, customized, managerial consulting and marketing consulting. Three businesses will be selected.

Hard Rock Cafe is hiring for multiple positions.

Memphis Brewfest needs volunteers. You can choose from a variety of things to do, including carding guests, affixing wristbands, handing out souvenir glasses, pouring beer, and assisting those in the brewer booths. Volunteers will receive a T-shirt and souvenir glass. Must be over 21 and attend a mandatory meeting. Brewfest is Saturday, April 16 from 4 to 7:30 PM.

Martin Lawrence brings his DOIN’ TIME UNCUT LIVE tour to the Orpheum tonight at 8. The comedian has recently made a triumphant return to the world of standup.

There will be a bridal expo at the Metal Museum 1-3 PM Sunday. Visitors will get free admission to the expo as well as to the museum and its grounds.

Felicia from Felicia Suzanne’s shared her cornbread recipe.

Blend burger meat with chopped mushrooms for a more nutritious burger that costs less money. Sounds delicious!

Plans for today: Farmers Market, Panda Time at Bardog, to be determined after that. With the BBQ cooks competing in Atoka and my “DAWG” John D helping them out, it’s not imperative that I arrive at Bardog right at 11. If I find reasons to stay a bit late at the Farmers Market, I will not mind that at all! As for the BBQ team, I realize there are some additional things that need to be under my Public Relations umbrella of responsibilities, so I will talk to them when they get back.

Local restaurateur latest to jump into Memphis’ food truck scene

Pizza comes in many different forms Downtown. There is the classic style served by Ferraro’s. You can find New York-style pizza at Aldo’s Pizza Pies. Restaurants like The Majestic Grille offer flatbreads. However, for a look back in time to your childhood, you have to take a trip to South Main, where Max’s Sports Bar offers square lunchroom pizzas just like the ones you ate in elementary school. Soon, though, that trip won’t be necessary; the lunchroom pizzas will be coming to you.

Sports bar owner Max Lawhon is expanding his operation by opening Max’s School Lunchroom Pizza Food Truck on Thursday, April 14. Customers will be able to get pepperoni, sausage, and cheese lunchroom pizza, and they can top their pizza with add-ons like extra cheese and jalapenos. The food truck’s debut will be at the weekly food truck rodeo in Court Square that day.

Max sees the truck as a growth opportunity for his employees. “This will open up an entire new world to Michele,” Max said of his head bartender. “By working in Court Square, she will be exposed to a whole new group of bums to chase around with her baseball bat.” Panhandler “June Bug”, a staple in the Downtown core, had this to say, “Mane, everybody down here heard about Michele, she a legend. She ain’t afraid of nothin’. Willie who works the south end told me to watch out. Hey, listen here, you got a dolla I can have?”

To absorb costs involved in operating the food truck, there will be a 50 cent upcharge on the lunchroom pizzas compared to their price at the bar. “I hate doing that, but as you know, food trucks don’t get the best gas mileage,” Max said. “I considered operating out of a Toyota Yaris, but the pizza oven wouldn’t fit in it, even with the back seat folded down.”

Max hopes that brewery owners will repay him for carrying their local beers in his bar by inviting him to park Max’s School Lunchroom Pizza Food Truck outside their taprooms. “Wiseacre Tiny Bomb and the pepperoni would pair well, I think,” Max said, “as would the sausage and Memphis Made’s IPA. For a vegetarian offering, I would pair High Cotton’s ESB with the cheese pizza.”

Some are surprised Max is focusing on the lunchroom pizza for his food truck rather than his bar’s signature sandwich line, but Max believes in the “less is more” philosophy. “Look at my bar itself,” Max said. “No one believed a tiny corner grocery could be converted into a sports bar with 10 TVs.” Max believes in keeping it simple, and no item on his menu is easier to make than the pizza.

A Facebook fan page and Twitter account for the food truck are “in the works,” Max tells me, and should be ready to go a week or so before the truck’s debut.

Congratulations to Max on his new venture! I will be back later today or tomorrow with more news.