Ah, Music Fest weekend, hurry up and get over. I left my apartment for Bardog at 10:50 AM yesterday. It’s only a 1 minute walk, but I knew people would get there early and wait for the door to open. Was I ever right; there were already 4 people in line at 10:51. By the time 11:00 rolled around, the line had increased to 15. Unfortunately Bloom didn’t put a “reserved for John D, Clay and Paul” sign on the three corner seats and the people ahead of me beat me to them. We ended up at the far end of the bar, which had completely filled up by 11:05. On a normal Saturday, the bar doesn’t fill up until noon or later.
By 11:30 there were tourists hovering behind me, reaching over me to order drinks. I got more and more annoyed and finally tabbed out, making one of my earliest Saturday exits ever.
Now, here’s what was weird. Bardog was packed to the gills, but as I walked past Local, there was no one on the patio. Aldo’s Pizza Pies had two people on the patio. When I walked in Blind Bear, I found that they had brought in a second bartender, to help serve the grand total of 0 people who were there when I arrived. How is it that one bar can be so busy and others so empty?
I guess the patios may have been empty because of the wind, which was strong enough to blow out a window at Family Dollar.
My favorite pair of librarian glasses and Mary were bartending. My fav pair of librarian glasses gave me some news worth passing on: Maciel’s Tortas and Tacos has homemade tamales on Friday and Saturday. They have chicken tamales, and for the information of any vegetarians reading this blog, they have bell pepper tamales too. These are off-menu items, so I am not positive they have them every Friday and Saturday, but I was told that generally they do.
(Edit 9:50 AM: I just found out that Maciel’s is OPEN today. Usually on Sundays they are closed.)
About 1:00 I was checking Facebook on my phone, and I noticed three photos of a counter holding pastries and a cooler posted by my friend Chef Michael Patrick, who said he was “checking out the new place.”
“Where?” I replied.
“It’s a new donut shop,” the Chef replied. He said it’s open 24 hours Music Fest weekend, and he wasn’t sure but he thought it might be 24 hours every day.
A donut shop anywhere Downtown is good news. However, the Chef had even better news for me.
“Walk out your front door, hang a right, walk 10 feet, and you’re there. It’s at 8 South Main.”
Donuts a 1-second walk from my front door? That’s what I call a top-quality tenant for my building!
I bet I have quite a few out-of-towners reading my blog this morning, trying to decide where to go eat before you walk down to Tom Lee Park for Day 3 of Music Fest. Here are a few suggestions from a local who has been doing Sunday Fun Day down here for 13 years.
Rizzo’s Diner – This is Michael Patrick’s restaurant, the chef who told me about the donut shop. He is one of the best chefs in the city and he makes a fantastic brunch. I recommend the catfish Benedict (they have a vegetarian version too). Really, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Rizzo’s is in the South Main district, at the corner of Main and Butler, across Butler from the fire station.
Majestic Grille – This restaurant in the Downtown core is located in an old movie theater, and they still have a big screen on which they show movies and cartoons from the 1930s. Their menu is “dramatic dining,” which I interpret to mean upscale American cuisine. Again, you can’t go wrong here, but I’ll give you a few picks: The smoked salmon hash, the breakfast flatbread, and the Filet Mignon Benedict. In my opinion the Majestic cooks the best filet Downtown. If you want a more basic start to the day, try John D’s Breakfast, with two eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, grits and biscuits. The Majestic is owned by my friends Patrick and Deni Reilly, two Downtown stakeholders who are active in the community. The restaurant celebrates its 10th birthday later this spring. It’s on the very southern end of the Main Street Mall, just north of Peabody Place (the street, not the abandoned mall). This place has one of the best patios in Memphis.
Blind Bear – If you’re looking to lead off the day at a place that is more bar than restaurant, this ’20s style speakeasy is the spot for you. It was opened in 2011 by my friends Jeannette and Jamie West and Colin Bergstrom. The Sunday brunch bartender, Brad Wilson (known as “B-RAD” to the regulars), is in my opinion the best bartender in the city. The bar has a colorful group of regulars – including me, so if you go there between 11 and 2ish it is possible you will meet me. The regulars seem to hit new standards of behavior every week, and notice I did not say high standards. I only have one recommendation for food here – not because everything on the menu isn’t good, it is, but because this one item is an absolute must try: Crawfish mac & cheese. As for drinks, they have a full menu of craft cocktails, and on Sundays they have Bloody Mary, mimosa, and Fireball specials. If you just want a beer, may I recommend the PBR? The Bear is on the same block of the Main Street Mall as the Majestic, near the intersection with Gayoso Avenue.
On a side note, I think back to last Sunday, when Brad received a coveted invitation to Squeal Street BBQ’s booth at BBQ Fest in a couple of weeks. If my name comes up, that could be an eye-opening conversation indeed for members of that team.
Oshi Burger – An Asian take on a burger joint, this restaurant is on the Main Street Mall between Union and Gayoso. I’ll start off with two words: alcoholic milkshakes. The chocolate mint one is my favorite. They have an array of gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and sides. The namesake Oshi Burger is my favorite of the burgers. It melts in your mouth like butter. For hot dogs, I like the Danger Dog (wrapped in bacon) and Mary HAD a Little Lamb (with lamb sausage). The kimchi fries are good too.
Aldo’s Pizza Pies – If you need to grab something quick that you can eat on your way to the river, Aldo’s has a by-the-slice to-go case that usually has pepperoni pizza, sausage pizza, cheese pizza, veggie pizza, and the Slice of the Day. They also have whole pies as well as sandwiches and salads. The pizza is New York style that you can fold over and eat. My whole pie recommendation for non-Memphians has gotta be The Memphis. It’s topped with Central BBQ pulled pork and sauce, mozzarella, red onion, and cole slaw. You can also build your own pizza with a wide array of sauces, cheeses, and toppings. You can even get an anchovy pizza here. They have a bar area with 30 beers on tap and PBR and 29 other beers in cans or bottles. Aldo’s is in the same block of the Main Street Mall as Oshi, between Union and Gayoso. They also have a great patio. Main Street is an absolute freak show during Music Fest so this is a great day for patio dining.
Bardog Tavern – It seems most of you have already found this one, but for the few who haven’t, this is a true locals’ bar in the Downtown core. It has been there 8 years but it feels like it has been there 30. The food is unusually good considering it too is more bar than restaurant. They have breakfast sliders and a few other items on the menu, but what you really want to do is look at the board above the kitchen window. They have Bloody Mary, mimosa and screwdriver specials for brunch. They also have PBR on tap and I believe they also have at least one beer on tap from every Memphis craft brewery (Ghost River, Memphis Made, High Cotton, Wiseacre). Upstairs is smoking and downstairs is nonsmoking. (By the way, of the others on this list, only the Blind Bear allows smoking.) Bardog is on Monroe Avenue between Front and Main. It’s owned by Aldo who also owns Aldo’s Pizza Pies. By the way if you are staying out in Midtown, check out Aldo’s other bar Slider Inn or the Midtown Aldo’s Pizza Pies location.
Not even 6:30 yet and I’m publishing this long post. The reason for that is I was woken up at 3:50 in the morning by people screaming and engines revving. So ready for Music Fest to be over.
We almost had a BBQ team board meeting today, but Music Fest prevented it. We couldn’t meet Downtown, because the people who don’t live down here would have had to pay $25 to park. We couldn’t have it anywhere else, because the people who live down here would either lose their parking spaces or pay an upcharge for an Uber. So the meeting has been postponed until tomorrow, leaving me free for D-RANKS with B-RAD at the Bear. I may hit South Main later in the afternoon.