Fri-yay update: A first visit to Ben-Yay’s

Yesterday I finally got the chance to visit Ben-Yay’s Gumbo Shop, the new Cajun restaurant at 51 S. Main, on the pedestrian mall between Union and Monroe.

They have something of an abbreviated menu, understandable for a restaurant opening in the middle of a pandemic.

They have three Cajun soups, which are red beans & rice, chicken & sausage gumbo, and seafood gumbo. Six po-boy sandwiches are on the menu, including sausage, catfish, shrimp, debris, oyster, and BBQ shrimp. Po-boys are offered in half or whole sizes and you can add a cup of soup to any po-boy for $2.50.

I had heard the gumbo is the thing to try here, so I ordered a bowl. I hadn’t noticed there were two, and my server asked “Which one?” I got the seafood gumbo.

I’ve only been to New Orleans one time so I’m not an expert on what gumbo from the reason should taste like, I suppose – but this gumbo was everything I hoped it would be. It was thick and loaded with seafood, and the side of bread that came with it was a nice touch.

The place certainly feels like a restaurant in New Orleans, with a couple of booths and about five tables lining the downstairs. There is also a very nice bar at which I look forward to sitting once the COVID craziness is behind us.

My server took care to make sure I was properly social distanced from other customers, one of whom praised the debris po-boy he had for lunch. I made a mental note to put that sandwich on my “to try” list. My server asked, “Where’s your little friend?” and that made Perjorie T. Roll happy as I got her out on the table and stood her next to the food. She is Memphis’ most popular troll, for sure.

Ben-Yay’s is an outstanding addition to Downtown and will fill a need for Cajun soups and sandwiches left empty by the departure of Court House Deli a year ago. I will be back as soon as I figure out which po-boy to try first, a difficult choice indeed because I WANT THEM ALL! Ben-Yay’s is open 11-10 Monday-Thursday, 11-11 Friday, 10-11 Saturday, and 10-9 Sunday.

(Disclosure: I’m friends with some of the folks there and they comped my lunch. That’s always appreciated but never expected.)

As your number-one source of news and information about The Edge District, it is my duty to inform you that an event date has changed. In celebration of National Bow Tie Day, Mo’s Bows (and Masks) was set to have a sneak peek of their fall collection this evening at BOXLOT. It was scheduled for today, but Mo didn’t count on a tropical storm coming through. The event will now be held on Saturday, September 5, with a meet & greet at 3, showcase at 3:30, and shopping at 4.

Fabulous news for Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers basketball program: Transfer Landers Nolley II from Virginia Tech is eligible to play this season. After years of giving it to Memphis up the ass, the NCAA finally cut the school a break, allowing the 6’7″ wing to compete for 2020-21.

The public is invited to Cordelia’s Market Saturday at 2:30 for Bob’s Burgers Trivia. From 11 AM to 3 PM they’ll grill burgers, with proceeds benefiting 275 Food Project. Beer and food will be available. Participation will be limited to 20 and teams of 6 or less are encouraged.

Here’s an idea for folks who visit one of Downtown’s full-service restaurants and who have to obey the stupid rule that you must order food in order to be allowed to drink a beer or cocktail… if you’re not hungry, why not take the food outside for one of our homeless friends? For restaurants on or near the Main Street Mall, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone who will accept the food. If you don’t see anyone around, place the to-go container gently on the lid of one of the green trash receptacles on Main Street. It will almost certainly be found in less than 30 minutes.

Too bad the Nuh-Uh Girl isn’t in Memphis right now. Can’t you just hear her? “If you don’t want your food, I’ll eat it.”

Downtown tech company Indigo Ag is teaming up with state agencies and Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Covington to offer a digital agricultural technology training program this fall. Students will learn about geospatial information, precision agriculture, and data integrity. It will be the beginning of a path to a Digital Agronomy Assistant diploma.

Memphis 901 FC is considering skipping its Saturday match in a show of solidarity in the protest against racial injustice.

That’s it for this post. Keep scrolling for coverage of yesterday’s COVID-19 task force press conference, including a very puzzling comment made by David Sweat from the health department on the county’s progress toward reopening. Probably taking a day off from going out – I don’t plan to get back to going out on a daily basis until the health department removes the shackles from full-service restaurants, allowing bar seating and eliminating the food requirement and the maximum stay of 2 hours. Besides, I have my newest side hustle almost ready to go – more on that next week. Back tomorrow with more news.