Saturday, September 25, 2010

Top 5 Sushi Restaurants

I think I could eat sushi for every meal of the day if I had to (or if I had the money). I love, love, love sushi!!! My sushi cravings may be my strongest cravings, next to my chocolate cravings of course. Here is a list of the places that I think deserve to be ranked in the top 5 restaurants to get sushi in Memphis, being the landlocked city it is (well, except for the mighty Mississippi, but we're not going to go there). Now, I will say the first three could pretty much all tie for first, but I had to rank them somehow.

1. DO : Owned by the same peeps who own Mollie Fontaine's and the Beauty Shop, this small sushi establishment sits comfortably in the heart of Cooper Young. I'm a HUGE fan!! Love the artsy Cooper Young feel, great front patio so you can watch people walk the streets of Cooper Young, and delicious, fresh, and funky sushi creations. I highly recommend this place. But, call to make reservations because they are usually packed on the weekends. Great date place if you're for sure that your date is a sushi lover. When you go, you must try the Kona Strawberry (white fish and strawberry with other yummy goodness) and the Surf & Turf roll. These are my two favorites! Also, the Beauty Shop sits right next door and I hear you can order their desserts while dining at DO....yummy strawberry cake and many others.

2. Edo : Talk about authenticity! This place makes you feel like you just walked into Japan. I love how authentic the atmosphere, experience, and sushi is. The sushi is fresh and sooooo good! And, the prices can't be beat for sushi. Now, it is located on Summer Avenue, but don't let that stop you. Sushi on Summer sounds shady, but is actually wonderful! Click here for our review on Edo.

3. Sekisui : Well known among Memphians, Sekisui always has fresh, authentic sushi. There are multiple locations in Memphis - Humphrey's Center, Midtown, Bartlett, Cordova, Collierville, and the gas station at Poplar and Ridgeway. And, yes I have had their sushi there. Though it sounds dangerous and appalling to order sushi at a gas station, it is quite delightful and lives up to the Sekisui standards. My favorite Sekisui establishment would have to be the Midtown location on 25 S. Belvedere. Great midtown feel, good for big groups, and fresh, delicious sushi! Click here for our review on Sekisui Midtown.

4. Sakura : If you are absolutely STARVING and you want sushi, go to Sakura. I don't think I've ever seen sushi this big. I'm not so sure about Sakura's authentic sushi method, but I can reassure you that you'll leave that place with your taste buds singing and your belly stuffed. Lots of deep frying and rich sushi rolls, but you can also choose from a wide selection of simpler rolls. I have liked every roll I've ordered. They have a ton to choose from and a long menu of various sushi concoctions. Mmmmm.

5. Bluefin : This is a great place to eat sushi if you want a downtown kind of night. It's downtown on Main street and has a techno feel if you know what I mean....lots of blue lights, random geometric videos, clean lines, loud techno music. The sushi is fresh, delicious, and funky in a good way. It's perfect for sushi and cocktails!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mollie Fontaine Lounge (Take 2)

Click here and you'll find our first review of Mollie Fontaine's. You'll notice that I never rated it. I've only been to Mollie Fontaine's for drinks and at that point had never tasted their scrumptious tapas. Now, I can say I have indulged in a few of their yummy small plates and am ready to rate :) This past Thursday, I went with three other good friends for a fun de-stressing girls night. Though we did not go until 9pm, I purposefully postponed my dinner so I could order some of their famous tapas I've been hearing about. First of all, I ordered the Key Lime Pie Martini and took on another one due to it's yummy candy-like experience....Mmmm. You must get one of these or one of their superb cosmos. In case you forgot, it is quite the girly place as you can see from the drink choices ;) Between the four of us, we split 3 tapas (Everyone but me already ate dinner so it might be wise to order more if everyone in your group is hungry). We ordered the parmesan french fries with truffle oil; warm ricotta with organic honey, urfa chile, and grilled bread; and the fontaine sliders (three mini hamburgers with gruyere cheese, arugula, bacon, pickles, onion, mustard, and mollie sauce all on warm buns). All three dishes were WONDERFUL, but the sliders and fries were definitely my favorites! This place is one-of-a-kind with delicious tapas. You must go! Fabulous girls night! For more info on the lounge, you can also check it out here. I give Mollie Fontaine Lounge 3.5 stars.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cafe Eclectic

Life is a lot like a video game. Think about the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo. True, in life we don't often jump on moving mushrooms threatening to kill us or dodge turtle shells or have a super cool soundtrack spurring us on, but the metaphor works because, just as in video games, there are numerous levels in life. Things change in both life or video games, whether moving from adolescents to college to post college, or moving from the above ground Mario level with bricks overhead to the level with the clouds in the sky or the dangerous castle level with the ominous music going on. Of course, this gives me a great excuse to post the following:

And like in Mario Brothers, in life it's all about managing to get to the next level. You've got to get to the next level. You can't just stay on one level. That's pointless. It's like living with your parents until your 50 years old or staying in college for 15 years or sitting on that first level in Mario killing all those mushroom creatures. Ahh, but when you move to the next level, what a great feeling! You feel like you've accomplished something and grown up. Of course, some people hate moving to the next level (having kids or hitting middle age for example), but you've got to do it, and you might as well do it with skill and grace. To those wishing to just hang around, my only advice is from Chamillionaire: Get on My Level!!!!!

Ok, so here's the transition. Sometimes, you visit a restaurant and you're dining and everything is pretty standard and expected, then you get to a new course and boom!! The restaurant just takes it to a new level --- to the next level. This can happen in a good or bad way, and when it does, you're blown away. When this happens in a good way, it's exactly like getting to that next level in the video game: you feel excited, relieved, encouraged to keep going, and you want more. Well, I think this pretty well describes my experiences at Cafe Eclectic.

Cafe Eclectic is pretty true to its name: a cafe with a pretty random assortment of choices ranging from omelettes for breakfast, to cupcakes for dessert, and almost everything in between. There are two locations, one in midtown near Rhodes and one downtown in Harbortown. The one in midtown is much bigger with a much larger selection and is in fact the only one I've actually eaten at. Yes, I know I just ended a sentence with "at", but I'm guessing that is allowable since this is a blog.

Though Cafe Eclectic has breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options, Neel and I often go for lunch/brunch after church. And that's what we did on our most recent trip, along with my parents and one of my nephews. The midtown location seems to have been undergoing some renovations, so there was some mild construction in the restaurant. But the construction didn't ruin the cafe feel and that classic, laid back midtown vibe that stems from the employees and the bevy of Rhodes students eating there. (hopefully my use of "bevy" compensates for my use of "at" earlier). Cafe Eclectic is always pretty busy, but never too busy where you have to wait for a table too long.

As for the food, all of us ordered some type of breakfast/brunch dish. Neel and I split the Breakfast wrap and the smoked salmon and bagel + cream cheese course. The wrap was pretty good and quite large, with a wide variety of things in it: cheese, eggs, veggies etc. It tasted pretty fresh and homemade, and so I was completely satisfied with it, as was Neel.

The smoked salmon was good too, but the bagel and cream cheese left something to be desired. It seemed like they just took the bagel and cream cheese from a package and slapped in on the plate. Not that it was bad. It just wasn't that special and not something that I would pay $7.50 for, when I could make it at home for a lot cheaper. That of course is a general rule for me: If I can make a dish at home given my combination of laziness and (lacking) skill set, then I know it takes absolutely no time, skill, or effort for anyone else to make, much less a cook whose job it is to cook food.

Anyways, overall, everyone enjoyed their food. My Mom probably got the best looking dish, the French Omelette, stuffed with spinach and a little creme fraiche. She said it was really good, quite fresh, and one of the better omelettes she's had. It definitely looked very good and oozed out with spinach. I think that's what I will get next time I go. My Dad is a rather picky eater, but he was satisfied with his waffle and bacon. Note that he demands to have his bacon burnt to a crisp or he won't eat it. But the Cafe Eclectic staff was up to the challenge, and they sufficiently charred the bacon until it was almost unrecognizable. My Nephew got the Breakfast Croissant with Bacon, Egg, and cheese --- basically a breakfast sandwich. The most amazing thing about it was that it was absolutely huge. What was also amazing was that my nephew (age 6) scarfed the whole thing down. He seemed to like it, but I couldn't get too much out of him in terms of an in depth analysis. He was distracted by his Nintendo PSP. (quite the Ninentdo theme for this post). So in terms of brunch, it was pretty solid. Everyone enjoyed their food, and I would happily go again, but it didn't absolutely blow me away. The prices are very reasonable too, which is also a plus. Pretty much everything is below $10. So you can get out of there without losing your wallet.

But Cafe Eclectic steps up its game and goes to the next level when we're talking about desserts. It's like Mario jumping on that flag at the end of each level with the fireworks and the thrilling music. It's time to step it up and Cafe Eclectic does that with its desserts. Put simply, they have the best milkshake I've had in Memphis. I usually get the Strawberry Malted Cow Milkshake, and it is awesome. It has that perfect combination of real ice cream and malt. Neel doesn't even like Strawberry milkshakes and she loves the one at Cafe Eclectic. My only complaint is that it isn't larger because I usually chug it in about a minute since it's so good. Ice cream is my probably favorite dessert, and so I feel like I can judge a good shake, and this one is one of the better shakes I've had ever, anywhere. Period.

Now, their dessert menu isn't just limited to shakes either. They've got a wide variety of other ice cream desserts, gelato, and non-ice cream desserts too. Neel and I have tried the Charlie Brown in the past, basically vanilla and chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate fudge and peanut butter morsels. It's also amazing. I've also heard that their cupcakes are very good and made there fresh, but I've yet to try them. Trust me, it's on my to-do list. Some of the ice cream desserts are a tad pricy for the quantity you get, but you are paying for quality, and it's truely worth every penny.

So my analysis of Cafe Eclectic really has two parts. The food is solid and enjoyable. If just for food, I would probably give them 3 stars. Ahhh, but the desserts are amazing and take Cafe Eclectic to a higher plane, to that next level. Cafe Eclectic is a perfect place to go for just dessert or to take a date there post-dinner for dessert or even for kids who need to have their sweet tooth satisfied. But the food is pretty decent too and it's someplace I always enjoy going. Thus, in light of their excellent dessert execution and in honor of their ability to take it to the next level, Cafe Eclectic gets a slight bump for me, and so we give Cafe Eclectic 3.5 stars.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top 5 Breakfast Places

Ok, now remember this is my list. You, like my husband, may have some differing opinions regarding this list, which is totally fine. But, it's my turn to list my top 5 favorite breakfast places in Memphis :) I will say, unfortunately, when I was thinking of my top 5 breakfast places, I could practically count all the Memphis breakfast places on two hands. :( Why are there so few breakfast joints in Memphis? Anyone have an answer? It is the most important meal of the day and I must admit my favorite meal of the day. So, why are we neglecting it so ??!!

Now, before I go on to my list I would like to explain to you what I think is a good breakfast place. A quality breakfast menu must offer salty (e.g., eggs, biscuits, home fries, bacon, sausage, etc) and sweet (e.g., pancakes, waffles, french toasts, fruit, etc) options. I do not like it when they offer only salty or only sweet. I also love it when breakfast places try to set themselves apart from the eggs and bacon you can make at home....e.g., when they decide to put brie in your omelet instead of boring cheddar cheese or when they add smoked salmon to your eggs benedict. Mmmmm :) Innovation is the key to a delicious and satisfying first meal of the day. On to my list.....

1. Arcade : Three words for you.....SWEET. POTATO. PANCAKES. Um, can we say YUUMMMM?!! My mouth is watering just thinking about these delicately fluffy pieces of heaven. Ok, that may be stretching it, but seriously, these are some of the best pancakes I have ever put in my mouth. Also, I love their make your own omelets and the endless's one you should try - brie, spinach, and artichoke hearts. I got that last time and it was divine! Arcade is the oldest restaurant in Memphis - they're obviously doing something right here. Check out my post and love for this place here.

2. Cafe Eclectic : Another one of my faves. If you haven't discovered this jewel....vwallah, you've discovered it now! Jon and I have been here a few times and have never been disappointed. I do love how this place likes to focus on local and healthy ingredients. That's always a major plus for me. Some of the dishes we've gotten and highly suggest are....Rachel's Breakfast Wrap, Eggs Florentine, chicken sausage, biscuits, and any of their desserts or soda fountain options. I've also heard their buckwheat pancakes and french omelet are delicious as well. [Check out our post/review of Cafe Eclectic here].

3. Cockadoos : Jon and I discovered this place not too long ago. It's relatively new in the Memphis area. It occupies the space that formerly housed Cafe 61 on Second Street. Check out our post. The atmosphere is WONDERFUL! It's very quaint and cozy....makes you want to grab a hot cup of coffee with your favorite balance of cream and sugar, a fresh out of the oven scone of your choice, and a newspaper, book, kindle, or laptop. We need more places like this. I loved their pancakes and scones. Their omelet left much to be desired, but the place is still relatively new and will improve over time.

4. Brother Juniper's : I like the local, homey feel of this place. You almost feel like you're having breakfast and coffee in your own home. It's one of those "regulars" places - it has its regular customers. The food is good, but definitely not worthy of qualifying for the top 3. I'm a fan of the mission and story behind the whole joint. Check out my post on it.

5. Bryant's : Talk about regulars. This place definitely has its regulars. It has that truckers stop feel. I've only been to Bryant's once. I know that's crazy especially since I'm a born and raised Memphian. I went with my dad a few years ago. Biscuits and gravy are delicious! The servings are huge so be hungry when you go! My husband says their chicken biscuit is wonderful - possibly even better than Chick-fil-A's.....hmmm....I'm skeptical of that statement, but will try someday.

Others worth trying...Pancake Shop on Summer, Blue Plate Cafe, Bagel Company of Memphis, Beignet Cafe, Bosco's.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trolley Stop Market

Our culture is all about hype. In fact, we probably prefer potential performance over actual performance. It's probably indicative that there is an energy drink called hype (yet I do find the name of that product strangely funny). The importance of hype and potential is also exemplified in the sports world where we are always on the look out for the next big star. We are truly tantalized by potential. And I totally fall for this. That's probably why I love the NFL and NBA drafts. Think about it. Teams almost always draft the athletic guy who's got potential and has "amazing length" over the guy who actually performed in college (go to the one minute mark in the video below).

We love to hype up the new, unknown thing. And just like that "extremely athletic" power forward with "great length," Trolley Stop Market has also been receiving its fair share of hype. For that reason, Neel and I joined some friends from church for dinner at Trolley Stop. Though the place has only been open for around 2 months, it has getting rave reviews. These reviews were confirmed to us by friends who told us that their pizza is amazing and their burger is great, one person even claiming that it's the best burger in town. Because of these bold words from multiple sources, Neel and I were both pretty excited to try this place out and our expectations were set relatively high. Oh, how we love the hype around a new restaurant!

The whole stick of this place is fresh, seasonal food. Their menu changes constantly depending on what they can get fresh, but it seems their one constant is pizza. The best place to check out their daily selection is their facebook page. Of course, this theory of fresh, seasonal food is right up our alley.

Trolley Stop actually contains a market in it where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies. For this reason, it really doesn't have a restaurant feel, at least for dinner. Instead, it has more of a market feel with a by-the-way-we-have-a-restaurant-too option. It also has a strong mid-town feel with retro art work everywhere and benches. Unfortunately, it seems that all the hype about this place flows from its lunch, not its dinner. While the lunch menu is apparently diverse with offerings of sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc, the dinner menu is basically limited to two choices: pizza and the special. The special changes each night. When we went, it was taco night. Other nights include vegan night and burger night.

I didn't want to get pizza because I knew I was going to eat pizza at an event this upcoming weekend; so Neel and I both opted for the tacos. I got the veggie (mushrooms, beans, and peppers), and Neel got a steak & chicken combo. The meal was accompanied by fresh peach salsa and chips as an appetizer and then black beans, and corn on the cobb as sides. Unfortunately, the place kept on running out of things: they ran out of chips and they ran out of one of their desserts that we requested later. Not a good sign. After our meal, I talked to someone who explained that this place is basically a lunch place and often runs out of food later in the day. So a good strategy might be to call before you go for dinner. But supposedly, lunch is crazy busy.

Anyways, back to our meal. The peach salsa was very good, and you could tell it was very, very fresh. Unfortunately, the tacos left much to be desired. They were way too dry because they basically contained nothing except black beans, very little mushrooms or peppers. It just needed that something extra, whether it be more seasoning or salsa or perhaps guacamole. The same was true for Neel's chicken and beef tacos. Though the meat was tasty, they too were way too dry. It was almost as if they were confusing fresh and organic with plain and tasteless.

The black beans were ok but nothing to write home about either. The best part of the meal was actually the corn, and I don't even like corn on the cobb! But this corn was different because it was covered with a cream cheese glaze and with some feta. It might sound shady, but it was probably the best corn on the cobb I've ever had. We tried to finish the meal with a chocolate & peanut butter pie, but they were out. So we opted for the lemon ice box pie, and it was pretty good, sufficiently tart and the crust was awesome. I would definitely get it again just for the crust. As for the price, each taco meal was about $9, so not too expensive which was a plus.

Overall, the meal was pretty disappointing. I think that largely had to do with the hype the place had received though. But, just as with the NFL draft, I'm a sucker for the hype and want to give the place another shot at redemption, especially at lunch time. I'm going to avoid dinner again, however, and especially avoid dinner on taco night. With their limited menu and inability to keep items in stock, it seems like dinner is an ad-on anyway. I wonder why they do dinner at all rathan than scrap it and just focus on lunch and breakfast? Anyways, I'm highly ambivalent about Trolley Stop Market, disappointed with our own experience but willing to try it again. For these reasons, we give Trolley Stop Market 2.0 stars.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Top 5 Memphis Fast Food Places

Yes, fast food is food. I guess. Readers of this blog know our disdain for fast food places, but some fast food places are a lot better than others. And people eat there commonly and have strong opinions about which fast places are good or bad. So, it's time to give fast food its due and conduct a top 5 list of the best fast food places in Memphis.

Here are some ground rules for this top 5 list. The place has to be in Memphis. So sorry In and Out Burger, you don't qualify (though I wish you did). Second, when we say fast food, we mean it in its classical sense and not just a place where you get food fast. Think McDonald's, Burger King, etc. I think intuitively this means that a place must have a drive through to qualify or be extremely nationwide and offer extremely inexpensive meals. So that means places like Pei Wei, Jason's Deli, Panera Bread don't qualify. But Subway does.

Now, I admit my definition is partly contrived and gerrymandered. But if anyone can offer a better definition of a fast food place then please do. In a sense, I feel like Socrates in the Euthyphro asking the title character to define piety. Eventually, Euthyphro storms off, mad that he can't give an adequate definition. Alternatively, however, the Supreme Court may provide a way out. In one famous case, the Justices were asked to define what obscenity is. In a concurring opinion, Justice Potter Stewart noted that "hard-core pornography" is hard to define, but "I know it when I see it."

I think the same principle probably holds for fast food too. And let's face it, hard core porn and fast food have a lot in common. They are both horrible for you, they both ruin people's lives, people are addicted to both, and there are huge industries out there devoted to convincing/encouraging you to consume these products. But I digress. Now onto the list! (also, rather than link to their website, I'm linking to their wikipedia page for interesting historical facts).

1. Chick-fil-A: This is an easy #1. Chick-fil-A is pretty awesome. Great chicken nuggets, great chicken biscuits in the morning, the fries are good, and the shakes are pretty good too. Even setting aside the great food, the staff at Chick-fil-A are always super nice and the place is almost always very clean, well organized, and efficient. Who doesn't like Chick-fil-A? The real debate is not whether Chick-fil-A is #1, but which Chick-fil-A in Memphis is the busiest. My vote is the Poplar location near Mendenhall. Have you ever tried to go by that place at lunch? It's crazy busy. But a testament to how good Chick-fila-A is. Just remember, eat mor chicken.

2. Back Yard Burgers: this is where the list starts to get hard. I didn't choose BYB because of its burgers. I actually am not a huge fan of their burgers since I like my burger cooked med-rare and that ain't happening at BYB. Probably a good thing though, when you think abou it. On the bright side, at least you can tell it's real meat, and they actually put a moderate amount of meat on the burger, rather than give you mostly bread. The key at BYB is the chicken sandwiches, especially the blackened chicken sandwich. I'm a big fan. They also have the best fast food milkshakes. No doubt, real ice cream. Other good products include their cobblers and lemonade.

3. Sonic: Sonic's a summer classic. The large variety of limeades and milkshakes and ice cream desserts are the big appeal at Sonic. I'm always in the mood for an Oreo Sonic Blast. Neel and I often hit up Sonic on road trips in the rural south because they seem to be the fast food place of choice in small towns. Sonic's food isn't too bad either. I think the big plus here is the large variety at Sonic. They just seem to have some classic foods that other fast food places don't, like tater tots, onion rings, and a breakfast menu served all day. And the first few times I saw their commercials, I enjoyed them.

4. Dixie Queen: Not to be confused with Dairy Queen, Dixie Queen is a burger joint with a wide variety of frozen treats. I've only encountered it in Memphis. This selection is a bit of a shout out to my youth when I would go with friends in high school. The appeal of the chocolate malt, breezes, freezes, and other ice cream desserts was just too much. The burger and fries were above average, like their other food products. It's been a while, but I also remember this place being even cheaper than other fast food places. Thus, cheap, above average food + good ice cream = a top 5 fast food place.

5. Wendy's: Wendy's always has had a special place in my heart as my favorite, nationwide burger chain. I do like their square burgers more than any of its nationwide competitors like McDonald's, Burger King, etc. But what put Wendy's on this list are its other unique products. Though it sounds gross, Wendy's chili is actually pretty good and not awful for you. The frosty is also a classic, though it's fake ice cream. And what can top that great combo of dipping fries into your frosty? Trust me, it's good. Finally, the chicken nuggets are better than most places. So there's some good tasty selections at Wendy's. Their new jingle is also catchy.

Addendum: I didn't put Jerry's Sno Cone on the list because I've never actually eaten any food there. And who actually goes to Jerry's for the food anyway? Ok, that's my list, how do you rank them?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Blog Design

As you can probably tell, we changed our blog layout and colors a bit --- not too big of a change though. We didn't want to shock the system. I think the layout will make for easier navigation and allow us to post more information. You should especially check out the right side and the top 5 lists. Let us know if you like the change! Cha...cha...changes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

YoLo Frozen Yogurt

So cupcakes are no longer the hot thing. (Don't worry Muddy's, I'll stay faithful to you). Instead, it has apparently been replaced by frozen yogurt. The rest of the country has known this for a while, as a variety of yogurt places have opened up outside of Memphis, places like Pinkberry, Yogurtland, and Red Mango. Memphis is a bit behind schedule, but just recently, we jumped on the train as YoLo Frozen Yogurt opened in Collierville square. In an effort to conduct a review of this hot new place, and to please our growing blog audience, Neel and I trekked all the way out there to try YoLo out. No worries though, another location in East Memphis is scheduled to open in a few weeks, near the Huey's on poplar. YoLo also has a facebook page, which probably has more info on it than their website does.

The gimmick at YoLo is very similar to Yogurtland: you serve yourself and control how much yogurt and toppings you want. You are then charged based on the total weight of your selection. Basically, you walk in and pick up a generous sized cup. I'm pretty sure you can only get one size. That is part of their strategy to make you buy/spend more. Of course you don't have to fill up the cup, but for most people, it's hard not to. The cup is probably equivalent to a large or extra large at TCBY.

After grabbing your cup, you then proceed along the wall where there are yogurt machines with about 8 flavors of yogurt. You "pour" it yourself. So you determine how much yogurt you want, and you can also mix and match yogurt flavors. Then, you keep walking and there is a huge selection of toppings from all over the map: fresh fruit, cereal, granola, chocolates of all kind, candy of all kinds, etc, etc. Basically, if you can imagine it, they have it. So, you pick which toppings you want and how much of each topping, mixing and matching to your heart's desire. Finally, you get to the cashier, put your cup on the scale, and you are charged appropriately. It is a flat rate, X cents per once. I forgot the exact amount.

Now, in light of this set up, there is a huge strategy element to getting your money's worth. You shouldn't just fill up your cup to the brim with yogurt because you won't have room for toppings. You might want to think about which items weigh less than others. You are charged the same thing for every flavor and every topping. It is all based on total weight and that's important to remember. Now, besides stategy, there is also a time factor because there is a line and who waits to back up the line? Ah, the joys of self-imposed social pressure. (See below, with the humerous facial expressions).

Anyways, when Neel and I went, it was pretty crowded. It seemed everyone was excited about the place because of the concept and because it had just recently opened. The yogurt flavors were Vanilla Bean, Strawberry, Triple Chocolate, Blueberry Tart, Birthday Cake, Pomegranate, and Mango Sorbet. One flavor was out of order. I had already been to Yorgurtland; so I was somewhat prepared for the experience. I got a blend of Strawberry, Pomegranate, and Blueberry Tart. I filled up my cup with too much yogurt but not all the way. Thus, I left room for my toppings: strawberries, blackberries, and gummy bears. Unfortunately, I failed to mention any of my strategy tips to Neel. So she filled up her cup with almost all yogurt --- triple chocolate and vanilla bean --- and had little room left for toppings. But she added what she could, a few chocolate toppings. At the cashier, we rang up a total price around $13. Now that is clearly much more than we would have spent at TCBY, but that is partly our failure to understand the process and to be efficient as possible.

Now, onto the evaluation. I love the concept of YoLo. It's genius on their part because they have invented a way that is guaranteed to get people to spend more on their product. By using one large cup size and then having the customer select their own toppings, they are basically banking on the gluttony of the American consumer. There is no way the average person is going to say no to all those toppings they have laid out there.

Kids are also going to love this place. But this place isn't just for minors and the incompetant. I'm a big fan too because I'm relatively self-disciplined, and I love the fact that now I can mix and match yogurt flavors and choose my topping to yogurt ratio. That is a huge advantage over TCBY.

As for the actual yogurt, YoLo is good but not amazing. It's on par with TCBY but maybe a tad better. I think the big advantage will be the tart flavors. When I went, they had blueberry tart, and it was good. I'm guessing/hoping they are mimicking Yogurtland in this regard and will vary their yogurt flavors on a regular basis and always have a variety of "tart" selections: tart blueberry, tart strawberry, etc. To give you an idea, I would suggest going to the Yogurtland website and checking out the wide variety of flavors they have, including many funky flavors and tart flavors. Of course, this is just my hope; so we will have to wait and see how they execute. But overall, the yogurt quality was good.

Ironically, the draw of this place is not the yogurt per se but the toppings. You can tell all their toppings are very fresh and, as a result, are very good. A special shout out needs to go to their fruit selections. These are not your standard yogurt fruit selections: ie frozen and syrupy. Nope, they actually tasted like fresh fruit, and they had a great variety: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, etc, etc. Moreover, the topping selection is huge. Even bigger than the Yogurtland that I want to. Thus, you are guaranteed to find numerous toppings that you will like. Once this great variety is combined by your unlimited control, you can make your experience different each time, from fruity to sweet to everything in between.

As for price, it's a bit of a mixed bag because it all turns on self control. I'm pretty sure you can get out of there at a reasonable price if you are wise about about much yogurt used and how much toppings, etc. Of course, the whole system is set up to get you to spend more. So, if you just go in there and add stuff uncontrollably, then it's going to be more than most other yogurt/ice cream places. But even then, you are probably getting what you pay for.

Overall, though, YoLo is a great concept and it is executed very well. For that reason, I can heartily endorse the hot new yogurt trend and am excited that it has finally reached Memphis. Thus, we give YoLo 3.5 stars.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Brother Juniper's

Does anyone know who the original Brother Juniper was?? I didn't until I looked it up - he was a humble cook for St. Francis of Assisi. Even though the Brothers were poor, Brother Juniper always made delicious and nutritious meals for the Brothers. I strongly encourage you to click here for more history on how Brother Juniper's came to Memphis and its mission. Great story, purpose, and love for the community. Last Friday, I enjoyed an early breakfast with a good friend at Brother Juniper's. I've been to Brother Juniper's once before and thought it was good, but wasn't super impressed by the food. I just figured I ordered the wrong thing. Since everyone raves about this place, I thought I would give it another try. This time I ordered the #3: Two eggs scrambled with pesto, roasted red peppers, spinach, tomatoes and topped with mozzarella cheese.

It was good, but definitely not the best breakfast I've had in Memphis. I rarely ever reach for the salt and pepper shakers at restaurants, but this time I felt like I couldn't stop. The food was healthy and good, but lacked a little flavor in my opinion. But, when I'm hungrier, I want to go again and possibly get one of the open face omelets, which I here are delicious! The atmosphere is very charming and almost makes you feel like you're eating at home. In my opinion, the mission, story, sweet staff, and atmosphere outweigh the food, but I'm still convinced I'm not ordering their best dishes and wish to keep going back. I give Brother Juniper's 3 stars.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boscos Squared

Beer + pizza + patio = Boscos Squared. A few weeks ago , I gathered a group of our closest friends and we all surprised Jon on his 30th birthday at Boscos. Why Boscos? Sentimentally, because it is one of the first places Jon and I hung out. Practically, because it can accommodate large groups and takes reservations. Aesthetically, it has a fabulous patio - if not, the best in Memphis. And, of course the food is good and has enough variety for everyone's tastes. First, let's talk about the patio. I think Boscos has one of the best patios in Memphis. To be honest, their patio is what draws me most to the restaurant. (Unfortunately, we didn't get to sit out on the patio for Jon's birthday due to previous thunderstorms, but it was still a great time.) Memphis does not have many patios :( It's something I've always been disappointed about and has lead me to desire an explanation behind our patio-less city. When the weather is right, this is one of my favorite places to come get a few drinks, enjoy some pizza, and indulge in great conversations with friends. To me, the patio and atmosphere make up for what the food does not. Even if you aren't able to sit on the patio, the atmosphere inside is wonderful as well! It's got that rustic brewery feel. Now, I'm not hating on Boscos food - it's just not something I would rave about. However, after frequenting Boscos, aka "the" patio, I (this is just my opinion) think you're best off ordering the fried artichoke hearts for an app and then sharing one of their delicious pizzas - the California (Chevre cheese, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and pine nuts on an olive oil crust) is my favorite. I've heard many of my friends rave about the Gorgonzola Pear Salad. I'm not a fan of pears so I usually stay away from this, but if you're a pear lover I say "Go for it!" The fried artichoke hearts are scrumptious! They come with a buttermilk garlic dipping sauce - mmmmmm :) Also, Boscos also has a very delightful Sunday Jazz Brunch with all kinds of omelets, various egg benedicts and hash dishes, waffles, burgers, etc. It's a good hearty brunch, but once again the atmosphere may make the food taste just a little bit better. Another plus, the prices are pretty reasonable....$10-$15 range.
And, how can I blog about Boscos and not mention their BEER - what they boast about! I'm not an obsessive beer lover like some I know. Honestly, when I eat out rarely do I order beer over a glass of wine. However, I have tried Boscos beer sampler and it was a lot of fun and tasty! I recommend it for you beer connoisseurs. Oh and those aren't my blue plaid shorts....I took the pic off the world wibe web.

So, there you have it - Boscos Squared has some positives and some negatives. I'm happy to say that I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I'll keep going back for more. I give Boscos Squared 3 stars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Local is a gastropub located on South Main Street - former "Sauces" residence. What the he** is a gastropub, you say?? Straight from Wiki - A gastropub concentrates on quality food. The name is a combination of pub and gastronomy and was coined in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, London. The concept of a restaurant in a pub reinvigorated both pub culture and British dining, though has occasionally attracted criticism for potentially removing the character of traditional pubs. Personally, I'm not criticizing. I like the idea. I like the idea of going to a rustic, casual bar atmosphere with some friends and having a break from your typical bar double fried potato skins food. Instead, you get that chill atmosphere with good, quality food like grilled flatbreads, shrimp and grits, seared ahi tuna, seared sea scallops, chorizo bacon burger with sweet chipotle get the idea. Now, the food is a little more pricey than your average bar, but trust me, it's worth a couple of extra bucks. At Local, you have plenty of options in the $10 range, but you can also decide to splurge and order one of their $25 range steak, chops, or fish entrees. This past week, some friends and I attended a free kickoff event with Bravo Arts downtown. Afterwards, we left around 9ish with growling stomachs. So, we just strolled on down to Local, which was only four or five doors down on South Main. Now, I've been to the only other gastropub in Memphis - SOB (South of Beale) - and I really liked it! It's actually on South Main as well, but more toward the arts district. I went before the birth of our blog so that's why I have not reviewed it yet. Yet being the operative word here. Anyway, in comparison I liked Local almost just as much. The food was very tasty, reasonably priced, and creatively a little more upscale than your average bar food. However, I thought Local's atmosphere was a little more dull than SOB's. It seemed less friendly, colder, and not as fun, for lack of a better word. We did go to Local on a Thursday night and I believe I went to SOB on a Friday or Saturday night so that may have something to do with it. At local, I split the goat cheese, asparagus, and pancetta grilled flatbread with a friend (not just any friend, the ballllllin' Katie!) and it was delicious!! A must order if you go. Everyone else got a hodge podge of stuff - burger, fries, iceberg wedge salad, bbq chicken flatbread, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food. I would recommend visiting both gastropubs because you get delicious food with a fun, chill, and stay-a-while atmosphere. Oh and girls, they also have fun and spunky cocktails - a nice choice if you're tired of your typical bar beer. Oh and boys, with the big flat screens, I can imagine both of these places being fun to watch some big football games this fall. If you want a more "hoppin" atmosphere, I would try SOB over Local. Regardless, I'm a big fan of the gastropub idea. And, whoever decided to bring them to Memphis...well, I want to be your friend=) I give Local 3 stars and will be back someday to review SOB. Here's a peek inside Local until you go....


For a long time, Neel and I would recurrently drive by Humdingers, and Neel would comment how she wanted to try it. But I was skeptical. First of all, the name didn't inspire confidence. Second, the idea of a fish place located in a strip mall also didn't get me too excited. I imagined some greasy, poorly cooked fish place that was shaded out. But I concede. I was completely wrapped up in my own box, unable to perceive the true reality that was out there. It was like I was trapped in Keanu Reeves body, unable to stop my bad acting and unable to "free my mind."

Thankfully, like Morpheus, Neel was able to convince me to jump, and we finally went to Humdingers. Ok, I admit, that complete analogy was pretty bad, but I was looking for a reason to embed a youtube clip. Sometimes, you got to appeal to the masses and the masses love movie clips! Anyways, Humdingers wasn't at all what I imagined. So here we go. In print. Neel was right, I was wrong. Since giving Humdingers that initial shot, we've gone back numerous times, and I've enjoyed eating crow every time.

Humdingers is a cross between a fast food and sit down restaurant. A bit along the lines of Swanky's and Pei Wei. You go up and order at the counter and they deliver your food to you. Thus, the food is usually pretty fast getting to you, and the atmosphere is nothing too special. Definitely a chill, causal environment. But everything is nice and clean, with some convenient flat screen TVs to watch. But this place is not so much about the ambiance but the food. Humdingers is devoted to healthy and fresh, yet tasty food. The menu mostly consists of grilled fish dishes, along with chicken and veggies. You can read about the story of the owner's and their restaurant philosophy here. I love not only the idea/concept, but I love the execution too. It is also much needed considering our obesity problem in the country and especially in the south. And though Humdingers looks like a chain, it's not. Memphis born and raised, which is always a plus.

My most recent visit to Humdingers was for a work lunch. Besides their standard menu, they also have specials to change it up. This most recent trip, their special was a seared Ahi tuna and avocado salad. I was very tempted to get it. But instead, I opted for the more tried and true grilled tilapia entree. For the fish entrees, you get a grilled or blackened fish along with your choice of sauce (such as pineapple salsa, cucumber lime and yogurt, etc), rice, and a choice of side. The grilled fish they do is always very light and tasty. My tilapia was no different.

I opted for the pineapple salsa as my sauce. All their sauces are also very light and don't drown out the taste of the fish. They simply do a good job of complimenting the fish and adding that little something extra. I needed a pretty light sauce to go with my tilapia, and the pineapple salsa fit the bill, though I think I prefer the cucumber lime and yogurt sauce in general. For my side, I chose the grilled zucchini strips. I think this is the best side if you looking to be extra healthy. They are good but a bit bland. They could use a bit more seasoning. A bit tastier side is their black bean and corn salsa. It's a bit more filling than the zucchini but makes up for it in taste. Of course, for sheer taste, the best call is their sweet potato fries. They are really good and, as fried go, not to greasy or heavy. In fact, I think they are some of the better sweet potato fries in Memphis. The entree also comes with rice. I'm really not a rice fan. I usually try to avoid it, but Humdingers' yellow rice is not too bad.

A special shout out needs to go to Humdingers' fish tacos. I usually get this and I think it's great. You can a 3 taco meal where you pick a combination of either fish, shrimp, or chicken taco that comes with Asian slaw and Humdinger's special sauce. You also get a side. I love their tacos because the slaw and sauce don't overwhelm the fish. Moreover, their tortilla's are also very good and taste homemade. In fact, it's hard for me to think of any fish taco's in Memphis (except for Deli Mexicana) that outdo Humdingers'. As for which taco option to choose, I say opt for the shrimp and/or fish. The chicken's good too but just doesn't compare to the seafood options. Humdingers also offers wine and beer if you so desire. So, they've got some good options on the menu.

But Humdingers doesn't just come through on taste. It's the price that really puts it over the top. The tilapia entree or the fish taco combo is just $8.99! Pretty much everything on the menu is in that price range. So basically, you are getting a pretty healthy and light fish dish for a pretty good price. You leave not only feeling good in your stomach (without that feeling of I just put something crappy in my stomach) but also in your wallet. Thus, in its niche of causal, quick, economical restaurant places, Humdingers comes out on the top of my list. For this reason, we give Humdingers 3.5 stars.

I also take solace in the fact that others seem to agree with me. When I went at lunch, it was absolutely slammed with people who work nearby. It's not as busy at dinner, but beware you don't arrive at 12:00 and expect a short line. Humdingers has also opened a newer location in Cordova. I haven't been to that location yet but I'm guessing it's very similar to their East Memphis location.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interim: Restaurant & Bar

"Consistency is the foundation of virtue." --- Francis Bacon

"Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead." --- Aldous Huxley

So is consistency good or bad for a restaurant? It obviously depends. Like anything, a restaurant can be consistently good or consistently bad. Overall though, I think consistency is a high virtue for restaurants. At least if a restaurant is consistently bad, you can avoid it! But to find a consistently good restaurant, one that you can really bank on, one that is consistently good, that is a true virtue and a true find. Mayhaps even the foundation of all restaurant virtues? And consistency is probably the best adjective I can use to describe Interim --- consistently good. I've been to Interim at least 6 times, and I've never had a bad meal. In fact, I've never even been disappointed. It's always been good to great. When I went recently with Neel's extended family, it was no different.

Interim is located in East Memphis, on Sanderlin. A pretty good location, considering the wealth of restaurant goers in the area. Thus, Interim is easy access for numerous people willing and able to spend coin on a restaurant. And Interim is pricey. Not the priciest by any means, but with entrees in the $20 to $28 range, you're not going to go everyday. The first thing you notice about Interim is the decor. It is very modern with clean lines. You can see into the kitchen as the meal is prepared. Definitely a chic feel, which I enjoy. In fact, it might have the chicest decor of any restaurant in Memphis.

As you enter, you can tell everyone is enjoying themselves, since it is somewhat loud. But not too loud where you can't carry on a serious conversation at your table. The service has always been great, and my recent trip was no exception. In fact, the quality of the service was even better this most recent trip, considering we had a reservation for 20! They basically gave us the entire back room which is usually open to everyone.

Ahh, now on to the food. This past trip Neel and I started with the Mac and Cheese casserole, which was pretty awesome. You can definitely tell that it --- like everything on their menu --- is made from scratch with the freshest ingredients. In fact, the menu changes regularly to reflect the freshness of seasonal ingredients. (Note: sometimes the menu on the website is out of date, so don't rely on it religiously). I think a key to the Mac and Cheese was not only the freshness of the melted cheese but also that little bit of salty ham that balances the cheesiness quite well. Neel then got a Caesar salad which was also good. Unlike many restaurants, they did a good job of not dousing the salad in too much dressing. For entrees, Neel and I both got the pan seared salmon with a pesto orzo and finished with a tomato vinaigrette. It was accompanied by fried eggplant sticks. The salmon was cooked perfectly. I do wish that they put a bit more tomato vinaigrette on there though. My favorite part was probably the eggplant sticks. They were super crunchy and quite tasty, and I generally don't even like eggplant that much. But the crunchiness of the eggplant balanced out the tenderness of the salmon.

I got the salmon this time because I've tried so many other things on their menu. Their duck and beef tenderloin entrees are both home runs. And Neel usually gets their scallops. In fact, it might be her favorite scallops in Memphis. They do a great job of not overcooking them. But, a special shout out needs to go to their burger. I usually don't get a burger when going to a fine dining restaurant but WOW. I generally don't even like burgers that much. But this is the exception. It's the best burger in the city. In fact, I'm not sure if it's even close. They always cook it perfectly, and it melts in your mouth, literally. The size of the burger is quite generous and their fries are also great, not too greasy but still super tasty. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. In fact, at our table, most of the people had been to Interim before, and I think about 10 people got the burger. It's that good, and the restaurant is worth going to again just for the burger. It's also the cheapest entree on the menu, so another huge bonus. Basically, the Interim burger is one of my favorite entrees in the city. Strong words, but hey, the burger lives up to the hype.

Anyways, back to our most recent meal. For dessert, Neel got the warm chocolate cake and, unbeknowst to me at the time, ordered the vanilla bean creme brulee for me. She did that because she hates creme brulee, but knows I love it. The creme brulee was pretty good, but it didn't knock my socks off. Definitely worth ordering though. I thought the real standout was her chocolate cake. Served warm, with melted chocolate on the inside. The key was the vanilla gelato. The whole dessert was heavenly with that perfect blend of warm and cold, vanilla and chocolate. I left quite full because I couldn't stop eating all the great food. Overall, a great experience.

Now, I've had as good or even better meals at other Memphis restaurants. But often times, I go back to that restaurant and feel a bit disappointed. Not so with Interim. It seems that it is a restaurant that you can bank on for a high quality meal, every time you go. (or at least every time I've gone!). Therefore, in light of such consistent goodness at a time when that is so hard to find, we give Interim 4 stars.

Interim Restaurant

5040 Sanderlin #105

Memphis, TN 38117

(901) 818-0821

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lucchesi's Ravioli and Pasta Company

Doesn't this big guy make you want to walk right in and eat a big bowl of homemade ravioli?? :) Last week, I step foot in the famous Lucchesi's for the very first time. Pretty pathetic for someone who has lived in Memphis for 23 years. I've heard people talk about this place for years! I stopped by because I was picking up lunch for my grandmother so we could have lunch together at her home. She wanted the already made Caesar salad with croutons and dressing and I decided to order a chicken Caesar salad. While I was waiting for my order, I perused the Italian market and frozen ready-made entrees. As I looked at all the delicious homemade pastas, raviolis (including duck ravioli!), gelato, lasagnas, meat sauce, bread, and soups I was a little disappointed that I was in the mood for a salad. But, I just kept telling myself "I'm coming back here and when I do I'm going to make sure I'm REALLY hungry." Everything looked so delicious! They also have a little deli section where you can order all sorts of yummy Italian sandwiches, salads, and soups. Looks like a great place to go especially when it's really cold outside and your tummy is crying out for some steaming pasta or hearty warm soup. Additionally, I'm a big fan of the market and deli combo - always have been. I guess it makes the food and grocery shopping seem more authentic and personal. Anyways, I loved my chicken Caesar salad! Their Caesar dressing is homemade and it's delightful! Nice and light. Love that stuff! I cannot wait to go back to this place for some homemade pasta and gelato!! Since my visit was short and sweet, I feel like I can't give a completely accurate rating because I have a feeling when I have their pasta that my rating will increase. So, for now I give Lucchesi's 3 stars until I return :)

Jim's Place East

Jim's Place East has been serving Memphis fine Greek food for a long time. It recently made the news by announcing it is moving from its present location (off Summer) to a much more accessible location near Poplar and Perkins, next to Babcock. I'm actually excited about the move. The new location is much, much more accessible. I'm sure they will do much better business. They are also going to update their menu a bit and make it a bit more casual.

However, the old/present location does have a certain charm. It's at an old, very large house like structure. It makes for a very unique dining atmosphere. My parents really wanted to go before Jim's Place moved because they really liked the current location as well as the food. So, Neel and I went with them, in sort of a celebration of their upcoming 41st wedding anniversary.

We ate on a Wednesday night, and so we got there pretty early, around 6. Essentially, there was no one there. I'm betting that is because of the out of the way location. Who wants to drive to the middle of no where to eat on a weeknight? Weekend, maybe. But definitely not a place you just pick up and randomly go.

I've been to Jim's Place numerous times, and it has a been a bit up and down. At one point, it was one of my favorite restaurants since I love steaks and Greek food. But one time, a while back, Neel and I went, and it was horrible. Before that, it was great, but we hadn't been back since our bad experience. So, we were a bit hesitant and our expectations were low. Thankfully, it at least partially returned to its old form.

Though Jim's Place is Greek and has many Greek items, the menu is basically American with standard steak, fish, and chicken entrees. I kinda wish that they would have more Greek influence throughout their menu. I got the shrimp stuffed with crab and broiled in lemon-butter sauce. It was good and pretty tasty but not great. Neel got the scallops broiled in butter sauce. Again, good and tasty but not great. For both dishes, you got the feeling that the butter sauce was over-compensating for slightly lower quality fish and/or sloppy cooking technique. Rather than broil, most restaurants seem to pan sear their scallops and shrimp. I think that is the way to go. Both dishes at Jim's Place were really dripping with the sauce, but the fish/scallops themselves were a bit tough. Nevertheless, both dishes were still good, and they do give you quite the large portions. Not only are the entree portions large, each entree comes with a choice of two sides. I got the Greek salad, which was a bit above average. It's so hard to find a good Greek place in Memphis; there is really not much competition for a good Greek salad. My second side was the eggplant parmesan casserole. This was a bit unusual. I generally don't like my vegetables drenched in red sauce but they managed to make it work.

My mom got the salmon and it was good. Nothing to jump out in traffic for though. I thought it was a tad overcooked. My dad got the gumbo and it too was ok. I've definitely had better in Memphis though. Looking back over my past experiences at Jim's Place (including this one), I'm generally disappointed with their ability to cook fish. However, I've had their steaks before and they were usually pretty good. So, as a general recommendation, I think I would go with the steaks there in the future.

So, the entrees and appetizers were pretty average. However, for some unknown reason, the four of us decided to split three desserts. Bad for the waistline, but good for the taste buds because these desserts were really, really good. We got a slice of key lime pie, a slice of midnight layer cake, and the special dessert for the night, strawberry cake. No doubt, this was the best part of the night. I think that midnight layer cake was one of the better chocolate cakes I've ever had. It was pretty standard in appearance, with about three layers of cake with icing in between and on the top and bottom. But it had a great balance between cake and icing. The cake was moist and the icing was delicious. It also had mini chocolate chips in the icing, so another bonus. The key lime was very good as well. I thought the strawberry cake came in third but it was still pretty good. We managed to destroy all 3 desserts since they were so good, even after eating our entrees and sides.

Apart from the food, the service was good. The atmosphere is a bit strange though. The restaurant is so large and so old. Coupled with the fact that no one was there, it made for an intimate dining experience. It definitely appeals to the older age group. For that reason, I definitely am looking forward to their new location and hoping for a bit more updated look and feel and menu selections. But as far as fine dining Greek restaurants go, Jim's Place is a slightly above average choice that gives healthy size portions without executing those choices in an exception manner. Moreover, their menu and atmosphere clearly needs updating, and I was a bit disappointed with their fish execution. For that reason, I'm a bit ambivalent to the experience overall, with clear positives and negatives. In light of all these factors, we give Jim's Place East 2.5 stars.

Buckley's Lunchbox

Buckley's on poplar ave. has been around for as long as I can remember. I've actually never been there, but I have been to Buckley's Lunchbox. Though they are in two different locations (quite close to each other though), they are the basically same restaurant: Buckley's Lunchbox is only open for lunch and regular Buckley's is only open for dinner.

Buckley's Lunchbox is quite the popular work lunch spot, probably because of its location, right off of Poplar. It's usually a good idea to get there a little before or after the noon lunch craze since it always crowded. Along those lines, I went there on a work lunch recently. I've been numerous times, and it's always good, and I always look forward to going. Buckley's is known for good but relatively inexpensive steaks and burgers, and they really don't disappoint. The Lunchbox's menu has a selection of sandwiches and salads, along with steak, chicken, fish entrees. It's not the lightest of fare, but everything is very tasty. But hey, ever once in a while you must give in to that burger attack.

I usually get the black & bleu burger salad. Basically, it's a salad with a burger on top. It sounds somewhat strange, but I really enjoy it. I usually don't like to get salads at restaurants. You think you are getting something healthy but in reality not because the salads are usually drenched in dressing and other crappy cheeses, etc, etc. I appreciate the burger salad though, because it's basically a way to eat a burger without the bun . They also do a good job of not drowning your salad in cheese. But the key is the burger. It really is seasoned very well and it's very, very tasty. Combined with the blue cheese and balanced by the lettuce and tomatoes, and you've got a winner. Though I've never gotten it, I bet the regular burger is very good as well as the steak.

Everything at the Lunchbox is between $9 and $11. So, it's not dirt cheap, but it's very reasonable and well worth it considering the taste. It is also a great way to get your Buckley fix at a cheaper price than the dinner only Buckley's. With respect to other factors, I don't really pay attention to the atmosphere that much at lunch places. Given the businessy clientele, the Lunchbox definitely has a business, efficient feel. The service is good, and they are always pretty fast, so you can get in and out and back to work pretty fast. Overall, it's a pretty good experience: very good food at a very reasonable price. For that reason, we give Buckley's Lunchbox 3.5 stars.

Sekisui Midtown

Sekisui Midtown
25 S Belvedere Blvd
Memphis, TN 38104-3705
(901) 725-0005

Click Here for Google Map

Neel had her birthday at the beginning of July, but her friends wanted to have an official dinner celebration with a bunch of our friends. Neel as the birthday girl, of course wanted sushi, her #1 food option. She also to go hang out downtown post-dinner. For that reason, we first tried Blue Fin, but they were booked and couldn't take reservations for 10 people. So, we settled on Sekisui's Midtown location.

When we got there, it was pretty packed. It's not a very big restaurant. In fact, we had to wait before sitting even though we had reservations. Overall, it was a fun pretty time. Everyone enjoyed their sushi, and they did a good job of handling a rather loud crew of 10+ people. Compared to the other Sekisui restaurants, the midtown one has that classic midtown feel. I probably prefer it and Pacific Rim to all the other locations, in terms of ambiance, etc. The midtown location would be a good date place if your date likes sushi. Though we took a big group, reservations are key. In fact, the other sekisui restaurants could probably handle big groups better.

Ok, back to the food. Neel and I of course split some sushi. Here's the lineup. We got the tornado: a fried roll with salmon, cream cheese, and sweet soy sauce. Normally, I don't like the fried rolls that much, especially when the rolls are really big. But the tornado was pretty small and complimented the other non-fried rolls well. Next up, the Memphis: crab, tuna, salmon with whitefish on top. This was a raw fish roll and is very fresh and light. A good, fresh choice that balances out the fried roll well. It is a tad bland though. Our third roll was the Jacksonville. This one is crunchy crawfish with seared tuna on top. This was probably my favorite. It's always tasty yet pretty light. The final roll was the staple, Philly: salmon with cream cheese. A classic combo if you like cream cheese.

All the rolls were good. It is pretty hard to make sushi we don't like though. I've always thought the real separator for sushi places is the price to freshness/taste ratio. Sushi is generally pretty expensive, so if you can find a bargain, that's the way to go. I put Sekisui in the middle on this scale. They have some pretty pricey rolls but also some more inexpensive ones. Along those same lines, they have a pretty broad selection, compared to some other Memphis sushi places. So that lets you mix and match rolls depending on your budget and tastes. Thus, Sekisui might not be my first or second choice for sushi in Memphis but it's always up there and always a place I would be excited about going. For that reason, we give Sekisui Midtown 3 stars.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cafe Ole

A few weeks ago, Neel and I went to a work related dinner with a few others at Cafe Ole. Cafe Ole is a staple for Mexican food in Memphis. Everyone has been and knows about it. But we haven't reviewed it yet, and we don't want to be anti-traditional. There's something to be said for the old staples.

We chose Cafe Ole for the work dinner because of its convenient location in Cooper Young. That location allows you to go somewhere else in Cooper Young post-dinner for dessert or for a post dinner drink. Cafe Ole also has a great patio on the side of the restaurant. I actually think it's one of the best patio's in Memphis. And it seems, others agree. Of course, you always have to ask yourself can you stand the patio in the summer when it's 95 degrees at 8 p.m. But a good margarita can go a long way to counter the heat. We also chose Cafe Ole for our dinner because they can usually handle large groups quickly and you don't need reservations, also a plus. On the other hand, there's probably a reason, you don't need reservations and can sit quickly with large's because of the food!

Don't worry, I'm not going to torch them for gross food. It just is what it is: average to below average Mexican food in Memphis. Neel and I split chicken fajitas and they were nothing to write home about. Strangely, they gave us four large strips of chicken and laid them on top of the grilled onions, peppers, etc rather than cut up the chicken into smaller strips. Not sure if the cook was just being lazy or what, but I think that cutting the chicken in smaller pieces may have added more flavor. On the plus side, the white cheese dip was pretty good, the margaritas were good, it was relatively cheap, and the patio was great as always. On the down side, I thought the salsa was watery and just plain bad. Nothing else really stood out as bad but nothing stood out as that good either. So basically, Cafe Ole is a moderately cheap, average Mexican restaurant in a good location with a great patio. For that reason, we give Cafe Ole 2.5 stars. But I will say, that it is a good option for large groups who want to quench that margarita fix.


Kind of wish they had chosen a different name, but this is a wonderful place!! And, it's about time downtown Memphis gets something like this. Jon and I joined a couple of friends for Sunday Brunch at Cockadoos on South Second Street (the former residence of Cafe 61). We loved it! Delicious scones, pancakes, biscuits, bacon!! I loved my pancakes, bacon, and Jon's biscuit. However, Jon nor I were too impressed by his made-to-order omelette. Arcade's omelettes definitely beat them in that category! And, the waitress did come to our table three different times to tell us they have run out of something we just ordered and that we needed to pick something else. Memphis doesn't have many breakfast/brunch places so I am always thrilled when someone decides to venture out and add to our slim breakfast choices. The atmosphere is fun, charming, spunky, and inviting.

The hours are also a great attribute! If you'll notice on their website, they are open M-F 7am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday midnight-3pm. So, there you go downtown clubbers. Next time you have a few drinks and are craving some sweet pancakes or hearty biscuits and gravy, all you have to do is walk on down to second street and devour :) These Cockadoo people are smart. If I lived downtown, I would frequent this place for breakfast and coffee as much as I could. Go there now! So, due to a few setbacks but some great perks as well, we give Cockadoos 3 stars.

Edo Japanese Restaurant

Sushi on Summer. Frightening? Shady? Skeezy? Sleazy? Possibly. But not if you've had sushi at Edo Japanese Restaurant. Edo is a Japanese Restaurant located right next to the famous Charlie's Meat Market. I have to slip in here and mention the sign on Edo's front door - "PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR." Thank you, Summer.

Jon and I ate there with a friend a couple of weekends ago and were delightfully surprised. The atmosphere is totally different from a Sekisui atmosphere. Don't expect the sleek and che che surroundings of Sekisui. Supposedly, Edo is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Memphis, which you can gather from the outdated decor. However, I grew very fond of Edo's appearance. Right when you walk in, you get the sense that you are in a very traditional, authentic Japanese restaurant. Here's a glimpse....
It's very simple, traditional, and somewhat homey. The tall booths help to make it easy and pleasant for conversation. Which makes me want to say that it would be a good date place. Not a first date - maybe a 2nd or 3rd. And, of course, only if your date likes sushi, Japanese food, and is daring enough to like authentic/non-chainy cuisine. Edo is suppose to have great Japanese dishes; however, we were craving some "sushi on summer" :) We ordered the Banzai (salmon, crab, cucumber, radish sprouts, spicy mayo), Rainbow (crab, avocado, mayo, tuna, salmon, white fish on top), Spicy Tekka (spicy tuna), Philly (classic salmon and cream cheese), and the signature Edo Roll (BBQ Catfish). We ate every bite! It was light, fresh, simple, and VERY tasty. Jon and I both agree that this is our new go-to sushi. Not only because of the deliciousness, but also because it's the best deal we have found on sushi in Memphis! For three people, we ordered the tempura vegetables as an appetizer (don't recommend - nothing special), 5 sushi rolls, water, no alcohol and our total bill was around $30!! That's hard to beat. Jon and I still love the other sushi places in Memphis; however, due to the lower prices and freshness we're able to make Edo our regular sushi go-to. One downfall is that there's not a very big/diverse sushi selection because they do not have a sushi bar. But, I'm OK with finding what we like and dropping in everytime we crave it. Also, the alcohol selection is very slim. We never found a wine menu and they offer about 5 different kinds of beer. Never saw Sake on the menu either. I want to go back and try some of the Japanese entrees. You must give this place a try!! We give Edo 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Old Venice Pizza Company

Last night, I enjoyed some pizza and wine with great company! I decided to ask all the girlfriends/wives of my husband's good guy friends to grab dinner together at Old Venice Pizza Company on Perkins Ext. Between the fun company and yummy food, it was a wonderful time. (Bare with me as I turn into cheesy Neel for a second.) Last night is why I love to get people together!! As it says at the top of our blog, "We think that nothing brings people together like good food and good atmosphere." Thanks girls for a fun evening. Ok, I'm done with the cheese :)

I've been to Old Venice, but it was probably 3 years ago and I wasn't very impressed. However, after hearing people rave about their pizza I decided to give it another chance. After last night, I found out I just got the wrong thing when I first went. Last night's meal was very delightful. As an appetizer, all the girls split the fried calamari and crawfish rolls. They were both tasty. I recommend both when you go. I also ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Their wine menu is a big plus! You can get most of them by the glass or bottle and at VERY reasonable prices!! Check it out on their website. I loved my Chardonnay! For my entree, I ordered the individual Margherita Pizza. This is another big plus - you can order any of the pizzas with thin crust or hand tossed and you can order the individual size or regular size. Of course, I ordered the thin crust (I despise thick crust pizza.) and the individual size since we were all getting our own things. I really liked it! It was very tasty with spices you don't normally find on a Margherita Pizza. The cheese was oozing. The crust was thin, but not as thin and crispy as Memphis Pizza Cafe's crust. I definitely think MPC has them beat on the crust. The size was bigger than I would expect for an individual sized pizza. I could only eat half and brought the rest home for Jon. Now, let's not forget that Old Venice is a chain with locations in Oxford, Tupelo, and Starkville. Though you can kind of tell it's a chain through the food's taste and appearance, it's still delicious and I'll be going back.

In addition to the pluses I've already mentioned, Old Venice is a great medium-priced restaurant in Memphis. These are hard to find! I feel like Memphis has a lot of great Ma and Pa cheap but great eats and then we have a lot of expensive but great eats. There's not a whole lot of middle ground. Old Venice is a great place to go with friends for that very reason. Old Venice is one of the few Memphis restaurants that stands in that middle price range.

To comment on the service and atmosphere. The service was great! Our waitress was very attentive, but not annoying. We received our food pretty fast, but not too fast. The atmosphere is where they could probably use some updating. The fake window scenes on the wall kind of make me cringe and are the only thing that prevents me from saying this is a great first date place - definitely give you that cheesy, chainy feel.

I think a more sophisticated and simpler look would really spice it up a bit. But, overall the atmosphere was very pleasant.

Another plus, yes another, is that I hear this place has great specials on drinks and apps! I want to say they have the deal on Wednesday nights?? Not sure. If anyone knows, please feel free to post.
I give Old Venice 3 stars.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Arcade Restaurant

To continue our Memphis flavor last weekend, my parents, Laurence, Spencer, and I got an early start (at least earlier than usual) Saturday morning and headed downtown to the Farmer's Market at Central Station. If you haven't been to this farmer's market, you must go at least once. Here are all the details. It's small, but it's a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning and you can pick up some fresh fruit, veggies, baked goods, or what my mom is always thrilled about - organic, grass-fed beef from Neola Farms (a local farm where a lot of nice Memphis restaurants buy their organic food). We usually lose her in the crowd at some point, but can always find her at the Neola Farms truck conversing with someone as much as one can converse about organic beef. If those aren't enough good reasons to go to the Farmer's Market at Central Station, well then go so you can follow it with a hearty breakfast at the Arcade Restaurant like we did. I've eaten breakfast here a few times and have loved it every time! Everyone should try it at least once! It's the oldest restaurant in Memphis - founded in 1919!! Elvis ate here often during his lifetime. Arcade was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (means it is worthy of preservation). Arcade has been featured on TV Networks such as The Food Network and The Travel Channel. Arcade has been featured in publications such as Travel, Esquire, Southern Living, and Sports Illustrated. Scenes from Hollywood movies such as Great Balls of Fire, 21 Grams, The Client, and Walk the Line have been filmed at this restaurant. More important to us foodies, the food is fabulous and the service is super duper speedy! I usually get the sweet potato pancakes (a Food Network favorite). They are divine and probably the best pancakes I've ever put in my mouth! You need to go just to try these.

However, after walking in the heat at the farmer's market, I just wasn't feeling the pancakes this time. Instead, I chose the "Make your own omelet" and I was pleasantly pleased :) I ordered an omelet with brie, artichoke hearts, and spinach....mmmm. It was perfect! So, there you have it....lots of reasons to go to the farmer's market and lots of reasons to go to the Arcade Restaurant....and, no one's even paying me to say all of this! I give Arcade Restaurant 3.5 stars. Go soon and go hungry!