Black bean burger @ Huey’s

If you don’t want a traditional beef burger at Huey’s, they can accommodate. You can make any burger a chargrilled veggie, black bean, or turkey burger for 50 cents more. Vegetarians and non-red-meat-eaters have options.

I’m a meat eater, but after hearing numerous good things about the black bean burger, I decided to give it a try. I got it with Swiss cheese. And bacon. On the side I got fries, and I requested ranch instead of the usual ketchup for dipping. It is seriously damn good. It doesn’t taste that differently from a beef burger.

I didn’t take a pic (it’s half eaten as I type this) but what a delicious sandwich. Huey burger lovers, open your mind to the black bean patty.

Just be sure to top with bacon. And for bacon, there is no substitute. Bacon.

I would get it again.

Downtown Dining Week @ Bardog Tavern

Last night I made plans to meet three friends for Downtown Dining Week at Bardog at 7 PM. I grabbed a beer at the bar, and got a text that they were running late because they were watching the NASCAR race. Suddenly I found myself faced with a decision. Melissa the bartender came over. “Paul, we’re down to the last steak for Downtown Dining Week,” she told me. “Do you want it?” I hated to not wait on my friends, but I wanted to try Downtown Dining Week at least once. So I put the order in. This was the menu:

The blue cheese stuffed filet had actually been replaced by a flatiron steak topped with blue cheese, but that was fine with me. I ordered that, along with the Cornish hen as the appetizer. Here’s the Cornish hen:

The stuffed Cornish hen was delicious, and despite being an appetizer was bigger than the entrees many of the Downtown Dining Week restaurants served. Next came the main course:

Blue cheese topped flatiron steak, cooked medium rare at my request, with mashed potatoes and cauliflower. As I took the first few bites of steak, my friends showed up and we moved to a table. I apologized for not waiting on them, but they all agreed I made the right move by ordering before the DDW menu was gone.

So, as I was eating my steak, guess who showed up and sawed off an entire quarter of it to “sample?”

She hasn’t appeared in the blog lately, but yes, the Nuh-Uh Girl is still out eating off other people’s plates. I wonder how many Downtown Dining Week menus she tried last week? Usually the count is about 9 or 10. If you add in other people’s food “samples,” it’d probably be up around 20.

Dessert was carrot cake:

My friends missed the DDW menu and ordered off the regular menu, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Two of my friends washed down their dinner with a shot of Fireball:

A few days before, I’d been discussing the menu with executive chef John Haley. “Really?” I expressed my surprise. “You’re going to offer a Cornish game hen as an appetizer? And a steak? For $20.11, how are you going to make any money off that?”

“We’re not trying to make money off it,” John said. “We’re doing it as a thank-you for our customers who have been there for us for three years.” They were also hoping to get a lot of new customers in the door, who’d never been to Bardog before, and who hopefully would be impressed enough with the place to come back. That’s what Downtown Dining Week is all about.

Downtown Dining Week has wrapped up, except for Chez Philippe, which will be offering their DDW menu Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 10. From what I saw, it looked to be another successful year. Hope they do it again in 2012!

Krispy Krunchy Chicken

Yesterday afternoon I got to-go food from Krispy Krunchy Chicken, the new restaurant at 51 S. Main. It’s been open about a month. It’s one of 600 stores in the Krispy Krunchy chain. You can view their website here.

I got a 3-piece white meat deal – a breast, two wings, and a biscuit – for $5.49. I added a side of jambalaya. The pieces of chicken, especially the wings, were huge. Really, the two wings were so big, they would have been a meal without the breast. The chicken is spicy – the spicy chicken at Popeye’s would be a good comparison, although Krispy Krunchy is a better value for the money. Biscuit was light and fluffy. It had a honey flavor. Jambalaya was really good, and I wouldn’t mind going back for a large order of it as an entree sometime soon. I also want to try the Boudin bites and red beans and rice on a future visit.

Past incarnations of restaurants at 51 S. Main have been dreadfully slow. I remember days sitting there bored out of my mind waiting 15 minutes for my food. That’s not the case with Krispy Krunchy. Service was so fast that I was standing outside with the restaurant with a bag of chicken before I got around to checking in on Foursquare.

I published my checkin to Twitter, and immediately got a response: “Gus would roll over in his grave.” I wouldn’t put the chicken at KKC on the level of Gus’s, but it was a good value for the money, and it’s one block from my front door. I support and agree with the “eat local” thing, but I also believe Downtown needs to have a few more fast food chain restaurants in order to be a well-rounded neighborhood. I’m happy KKC is here and plan to make a second visit soon.

Lobster roll @ Slider Inn

Usually I feature the food of Downtown Memphis in my Paul’s Food Find posts, but this is a worthy exception. After the Cooper-Young Beer Festival yesterday, I walked up Cooper to meet my friend John D for a beer at the Slider Inn. Slider Inn, in the old One More space at Peabody and Cooper, is the second bar opened by Aldo of Bardog Tavern. Many Downtowners consider it “Bardog East,” so in a way this is a Downtown food post.

I chatted with John for a while, then he tabbed out and I decided I was hungry. The guy to my left had just ordered the lobster roll, and it looked so good that I couldn’t resist. Several people have told me that Slider Inn is the only place where you can get an authentic lobster roll like you would find in New England. Realizing I might not be back in Midtown for months, I decided to take this opportunity to try the roll. It normally comes with fries but I asked for potato salad instead.

The consistency is similar to seafood salad, but it’s lobster salad. The bread was firm enough to hold the lobster in place, yet chewy enough to really complement the lobster. Absolutely delicious. It’s the most expensive item on the menu – $15.95 I think – but worth every last penny.

Service was excellent too, not a surprise since it’s one of Aldo’s bars. Megan (could be spelling that wrong; there are about a million different ways to spell that name) made sure I had everything I needed, and that my PBR glass was never empty.

If you like seafood, this is definitely a sandwich you need to try. Another excellent experience at Slider Inn.

Abita dinner @ Flying Saucer

Thursday night I attended the Abita beer dinner at the Flying Saucer featuring Cajun and Creole food. I got a $5 discount on the price of the dinner for being a member of their UFO Club. They shut down the Garden for two hours and laid white tablecloths. I took a seat next to my friends Eddie and Jake, and found an Abita beer guide describing each of Abita’s beers in-depth.

General manager Kirk welcomed everyone, and then introduced regional beer rep Shawn, who was our host for the Abita dinner.

After a brief introduction, the servers started bringing out the first course. Prior to the dinner, Ciara had rounded up the regulars and said, “You have to sit at my table,” which was fine because it was the one with the window view.

First course: Char-grilled oyster and Abita Andygator

I was happy to see Andygator, because it is one of my favorite beers. Last summer when I went on a business trip to New Orleans, Saucer server Lil’ Kim made a list of things I had to try, and Andygator was on there. It has since made its way to Memphis, and has become my second-most-consumed beer at the Saucer, after Dos Equis Lager. With 8.0% ABV for $4.50 a glass, it’s an excellent value.

Second course: Gumbo and Abita Amber

Okay, they cheated a little. The gumbo came from their sister restaurant the Flying Fish down the street. I didn’t have a problem with it though; the Fish makes good gumbo.

Third course: Flank steak with crawfish and mashed potatoes, with Abita Jockamo IPA

The third course was my favorite by far. They gave us a generous portion of flank steak cooked medium rare, topped with a crawfish sauce. Creamy mashed potatoes were on the side. The steak was delicious and called for a beverage with some “oomph” to complement it. Jockamo IPA was a good call.

Fourth course: Abita Purple Haze and beignets

Beignets were surprisingly good (I had no idea the Saucer knew how to make them) and paired well with Purple Haze.

Fifth course: Abita Root Beer float

My only complaint about the root beer float is that it didn’t come in a 32 oz. Big Gulp cup. I wolfed down the float in record time.

Dessert beer: Abita Turbo Dog

If Turbo Dog had been planned as a part of the menu, you’d see a rant in this space. Many of the regulars consider Turbo Dog to be the worst of all of the Saucer’s 200 beers. It wasn’t supposed to be on the menu, though. Abita is brewing a specialty beer to celebrate its 25th anniversary, with vanilla beans and high alcohol content. It was supposed to be the closing beer for the dinner, but it wasn’t ready in time.

Overall, I’d give the beer dinner 4 stars out of 5. I had a very good time, enjoyed the food, and was glad I bought a ticket. However, I have to deduct a star for three reasons:

1) Other than opening remarks, the Abita rep really didn’t guide us through the dinner. He didn’t talk about each beer, how it is brewed and why it pairs well with the accompanying food.

2) Abita brews many beers (somewhere around 17 I think), the majority of which are not available locally. I wish some of the ones not commonly seen in Memphis had been brought up for the dinner. After all, Abita Springs is only a 5 1/2 hour drive… give us reasons to come visit!

3) I just can’t give five stars to a menu that includes Turbo Dog, planned or not.

Those minor criticisms aside, though, I still highly recommend you buy a ticket the next time the Saucer has a beer dinner. Beer is said to pair with food even better than wine does, and this and the previous dinners demonstrated that fact well.

In other Saucer news: They’re giving away a bike.

Drink Magic Hat products to enter to win this orange and black bike, to be given away Halloween night. Since Halloween is on a Monday, most of the parties will happen Saturday the 29th, and you can get to the Saucer to see if you won while drinking some Pint Nite beer.

I’ve got enough news items to do a “Saturday update” post, so check back in a while. I’ve got to get it done before the Hogs play at 11 though.

Pork belly sandwich @ Flying Saucer

I didn’t eat lunch today, so a nice dinner was in order. “What do you think?” I posted on Facebook. I asked if I should try one of the two new Flying Saucer menu items I hadn’t tried yet, the hummus and pita bread or the pork belly sandwich, or go somewhere else.

I got several replies. One of the replies said he eats the pork belly sandwich all the time. Granted, it was from a very biased source – the GM, Kirk. But I’d heard from several people at the bar, as well as the bar’s staff, that it was good. I decided to give the pork belly a try.

It was very good, but I discovered a secret that I don’t think even Kirk knows. Rather than getting it with fries, I asked for a side salad (there’s a third option, hot German potato salad, as well). I got it with the jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. I dipped the sandwich in the dressing. It was pretty awesome. It consists of shredded pork belly, ham and bacon with lettuce and tomato on a sandwich bun. Pig x 3, how can you go wrong?

Time for bed. I have 18 hours to change my mind, but I’m leaning toward poker at Max’s tomorrow evening.

Best bowl of soup I’ve had in my entire life!

I’ve never really been a big soup eater. I wasn’t growing up, and as an adult I’ve tended to pass over soups at restaurants in favor of more substantial choices. However, yesterday I made an exception when the Brass Door posted its specials to Facebook. They have a sandwich of the day and a slider of the day, as well as a Hot Pot, which is a soup or stew of the day. Yesterday’s Hot Pot consisted of smoked ham hocks, chicken, black-eyed peas and collard greens. “That sounds delicious,” I thought. Late in the afternoon, I took a break from the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival and wandered north to the Brass Door. Here’s a pic of yesterday’s Hot Pot.

It was even tastier than it sounded on Facebook! It was seasoned with just the right amount of pepper, and the ingredients complemented each other for a delicious experience. It was so good that I contemplated ordering a second bowl. This was easily the best bowl of soup I’ve ever had, and it has convinced me that I need to try more of their Hot Pots of the Day.

They usually have the same Hot Pot for 3-4 days before changing to a new special. This one was first seen on Friday, I believe, so it’s possible it may return today. You can find out by “Liking” the Brass Door on Facebook or following them at @TheBrassDoor1 on Twitter. They usually post their specials around opening time of 11 AM. If this Hot Pot returns, I highly recommend you stop in and give it a try.

One more post to come. Time for me to look through today’s lineup at the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival and make “Paul’s Picks.”

Atomic wings @ Flying Saucer

Yesterday for lunch I decided to try another of the Flying Saucer’s new wing sauces. I like my food spicy, so the hottest variety, the Atomic wings, seemed like a natural pick. There was a warning on the menu about how hot these were, but I wasn’t scared.

The wings were slightly crispier than the average hot wing, which is just fine with me because it’s a sign that they’re well cooked all the way through. Like the Mojo wings I tried a couple of weeks ago, they were lightly sauced. That’s good too because you won’t go through an entire roll of paper towels eating them.

How hot were they? Well, they definitely stung, and three minutes after eating a wing it still stung. On the usual hot wing scale of mild-medium-hot-extra hot-suicide, I’d rank these as extra hot. They’re fiery, but not quite as much as the Holy Smokes wings down the street at Kooky Canuck.

The wings came with generous amounts of carrots and celery, and blue cheese for dipping.

Would I get these again? Yes, in the future when I’m at the Saucer and get hungry, the Atomic wings will be one of my go-to items on the menu. On the other hand, I don’t know if I’d make a special trip there just for these wings. The reigning champion of wings Downtown, for those who like the super-hot variety, in my opinion is still the Honey Habanero Wings at Max’s Sports Bar. Rich in flavor, and yet they set your mouth on fire at the same time.

One variety left to try: The Saucer’s new Asian wings. I’ll try to get to those in the next week or two.

A critical review of my salad bar plate at Texas de Brazil

Today I met a group of friends at Texas de Brazil for Sunday brunch. Earlier this year I bought a VIP card, entitling me and my friends to 12 half-off dinners (or brunches), not valid Friday and Saturday night and holidays. I was getting worried the expiration date (9/29/11) would hit before I got to use any of my 12 stamps, but today we got a group in there. Sunday brunch is similar to dinner at TdB, except there are a couple less meats, and the salad bar has brunch items. In particular, it had bacon, eggs, sausage, and au gratin potatoes. Here’s a pic of my salad plate. I want to do a critical review of what I did right and wrong at TdB today. I’ve been there a number of times, and every time I learn more what works and what doesn’t.

What I did right:

1) Unlimited mimosa: For $3 more you can get unlimited mimosas (champagne + orange juice). Normally they serve them in champagne flutes, but the servers recognized us and just went with the wine glasses. They knew if they didn’t, they’d be refilling us constantly. I think I had 7 wine glasses of mimosa for 3 bucks. Can’t beat that.

2) Bacon. Clearly bacon is the centerpiece of the plate pictured above. My only regret is that I should have taken one more piece. Maybe two more.

3) Au gratin potatoes. These are the best potatoes in the world. If I had a constant stream of these potatoes for free I would wear an “I ♥ Cubicles” shirt. I would go to karaoke at the Monkey. I would cheer for Bruce Pearl. I would move to Cordov… well, let’s not go that far. I do love these potatoes, though, and the au gratin sauce is excellent for dipping the bacon.

4) Lobster bisque. Pictured at top. Also excellent for dipping the bacon, the cheeses, and pretty much everything.

5) The jalapeno. You’ve always got to get one jalapeno. This is a roll of the dice. Maybe it’s hot, maybe it’s not. You can eat it with your fingers or fork and knife. Either way is fine.

6) I didn’t waste any plate space on salad. Yes, they have it, lettuce, croutons, dressing and all that. It’s a waste of valuable plate real estate. Skip it and leave room for more worthy choices, like more bacon.

7) Chocolate mousse (not shown). Get a BIG bowl of this after you get done with the meats. Sometimes they have fruit salad instead; recommendation still stands.

What I did wrong:

1) Mozzarella ball. Should’ve gotten two.

2) Didn’t get asparagus, which was on the salad bar. Helps you metabolize alcohol faster. Given that I had ~7 mimosas, I needed asparagus.

3) The sausage. This was a “banger” as the Irish call it. Not bad but I would have done better to skip it and get another piece of bacon instead.

4) A few more shrimp than I needed. Don’t get me wrong, the sauteed shrimp on the salad bar are top-notch. If I’d gotten three less, though, there would’ve been room for another piece of bacon.

After I finished my salad bar plate, I turned my indicator green and the servers started coming around with meat. Recommendation here: The house sirloin. Try everything once, but try the house sirloin, or picanha as they call it in Brazil, two or three times. I didn’t take pics of the meat, because meat isn’t that pretty.

As always, an unforgettable meal. It’s not an every-week thing, but if you haven’t been to TdB for brunch, you need to go at least once. I tweeted that I’m going to form a band called the Meatles and sing about their meats. The restaurant retweeted it. That made me happy.

Only downside is that I got in trouble with the Saucer waitresses, who follow me on Twitter. They knew I was there and were very displeased that I didn’t bring leftovers.

A second recommendation: If you normally order meat medium well or well done, consider backing it up to medium rare or at least medium. It’s all you can eat, so if you don’t like it, just ask for a clean plate. If you give it a chance, I think you’ll find medium rare/medium has a lot more flavor than medium well/well done.

Pretty much a perfect Sunday Fun Day. Next Sunday will be nothing like it, but will be close to perfect too, because it will be Bardog’s 3rd birthday alley party.

(Edited to add: A couple of people ordered dessert. My friend Moody’s cheesecake arrived while she was outside smoking, and I snapped a pic.)

Pla-Dook @ Thai Bistro

I’ll admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of fish in general. Growing up, when we ate out my mother often wanted to go to Catfish Cabin, and I’d recommend “anywhere else” as an alternate suggestion. So when Thai Bistro opened Downtown and I checked out its menu, catfish dishes were not at the top of my list to try.

A recent blog post by Kerry changed my opinion. She and a friend went to Thai Bistro last week. The friend raved about the Pla-Dook, a dish of deep-fried catfish and mixed vegetables topped in chili sauce. It seemed to me that a nice, spicy sauce would accentuate the taste of the fish, so this afternoon I gave it a try. As with most of their dishes, you can order it mild, medium, spicy or fire. I was very tempted to go with “fire” but held back because it was a Saturday. With a long night ahead, I didn’t need an upset stomach if the fire sauce turned out to be too hot to handle. I went with my default setting of spicy.

I’ll say the same thing I said about the Seafood Pik Pow earlier this week: Darn near perfect. The catfish came with carrots cut in the shape of flowers, green and red peppers, broccoli, onions, squash and zucchini, as well as a bowl of rice which I used to soak up the sauce. The fish was absolutely delicious and the sauce had exactly the right amount of spice: Enough to make my nose run a little, but not enough to make me breathe fire like a dragon. Service was excellent as usual, with my server bringing my a new Coke halfway through my meal because he thought the old one might be getting warm.

I would absolutely get this again. If, like me, you’ve gone through life with a prejudice against fish, put it aside when you visit Thai Bistro. You will be rewarded, trust me. Their other spicy fish dish, Fish Supreme made with tilapia, is now on my list of things to try next.

By the way: They don’t have their liquor license yet, so no dollar mimosas tomorrow. If all goes well, they will have it Thursday, so Sunday a week from now will be a Fun Day indeed.