Sunday, February 21, 2010

Memphis Restaurant List

Jon and I have long been compiling a Memphis restaurant list. It started on a little piece of paper, which I kept in my purse for any spur of the moment dining desires. However, it has grown so much that we had to convert it to a google doc. We decided to share it with ya'll hoping that you would find it helpful in trying to find a place to satisfy your cravings. We have been to about half of these and are still working on going to the rest. You'll see us blog about them as our funds allow us to visit each place. However, if we have not blogged about it yet, I would suggest you google the restaurant to find it's website and/or visit Urbanspoon to see any ratings, reviews, menus, hours, and articles about the restaurant. Bon Appetit!

Jon & Neel Scruggs

Automatic Slim's
Bardog Tavern
Beauty Shop
Belmont Grill
Café Society
Carmela's Caffe (only lunch)
Cheffie's Cafe
Curb Side Casseroles
Dyer's Burgers
Earnestine & Hazel's
Erling Jensen
Escape Alley Sundry
Felicia Suzanne’s
Fresh Slices
Fuel Cafe
Grove Grill
Harry’s Detour
Hi Tone Cafe
Itta Bena
Local (gastropub)
Majestic Grille
McEwen's on Monroe
Mister B's
Napa Cafe
River Oaks
RP Tracks
SOB (South of Beale - gastropub)
Sweet Grass
Three Angels Diner
Thyme Bistro
Trolley Stop Market
Young Avenue Deli

Bar-BQ Shop
Central BBQ
Germantown Commissary
Neely's Bar-B-Que
Tops BBQ

Au Fond Farmtable
Bardog Tavern
Beignet Cafe
Blue Plate Cafe
Brother Juniper's
Café 1912
Cafe Eclectic
City East Bagel
Inn at Hunt Phelan
Majestic Grille
Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe
Owen Brennan's
Pancake Shop
Republic Coffee

Bayou Bar & Grill
Beignet Cafe
Owen Brennan's
Restaurant Iris


Bluff City Coffee
Java Cabana
Republic Coffee

Big John’s Shake Shack (Marion, AR)
Big Ono Bake Shop
Cafe Eclectic
Cheesecake Corner
Gibson's Donuts
GiGi's Cupcakes
Jerry's Sno Cone
La Baguette
Muddy’s Bakery
Sweet CeCe's
Yogurt Mountain
YoLo Frozen Yogurt

Café 1912
Cafe De France
Chez Philippe
Presentation Room at L'Ecole Culinaire

India Palace

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
Brooklyn Bridge
Café Toscana'
Capriccio Grill
Ciao Bella
Coletta’s (Germantown)
Cortona Contemporary Italian
Dino's Grill
Judd Grisanti's Trattoria
Pasta Italia
Pete and Sam's
Russo's New York Pizzeria
Uncle John's (West Memphis, AR)
The Villa

Do Sushi
Edo Sushi
Fuji Cafe
Sekisui Pacific Rim

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant
Casa Grill
Jim's Place East
Jim's Place Grille
Kwik Chek
Petra Cafe
Pho Hoa Binh
Pho Vietnam
Raffe’s Deli
Saigon Le
Sean's Cafe
Vietnamese Lotus

Blue Coast Burrito
Cafe Ole
El Toro Loco
Happy Mexican
La Guadalupana
La Michoacana
Las Tortugas (Deli Mexicana)
Las Delicias Mexican Bar & Grill
Los Comales
Molly's La Casita
Swanky's Taco Shop

Exline’s Pizza
High Point Pizza
Little Italy
Memphis Pizza Cafe
Movie & Pizza Company
Old Venice Pizza Company
Overton Park Pizze Stone
The Pizza Shack
Russo's New York Pizzeria

Bogie's Delicatessan
Caritas Village (Binghampton)
Carmela's Caffe (only lunch)
City East Bagel
Front Street Deli
Market Cafe
Miss Cordelia's Table
Paradise Cafe
Super Submarine Sandwich Shop - "Chinese Sub Shop"

Bonefish Grill
Flying Fish
Pier Restaurant
Sharky's Gulf Grill
Sole (Westin Downtown)
Soul Fish Cafe
The Reef Restaurant

Dixie Cafe
Gus’s Fried Chicken
Little Tea Shop
Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe
Slim Skillets
Soul Cafe

Buckley's Grill
Buckley's Lunchbox
Fleming's Steakhouse
Folk's Folly
Grill 83
Ruth's Chris

Mollie Fontaine Lounge
Safari Tapas Bar
The Cove

Bangkok Alley Thai
Bhan Thai
Jasmine Thai

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
712 W Brookhaven Cir

Memphis, TN 38117-4504
(901) 347-3569

Click Here for Google Map

We had already heard good things about Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. So we were looking for an excuse to go. We also needed to catch up with my parents because we hadn't gotten a chance to hang out with them for a while. These two needs converged and were satisfied quite nicely last night when Neel and I went there with my parents. All four of us came away highly impressed with the restaurant.

AMIK is located in Brookhaven circle in a house-looking structure that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it. Inside, it was quite elegant with some great art work and appropriate candle lighting. It would be great for a date, but the mood really was suited for all occasions. The layout of the restaurant was done well: the tables weren't packed too close together and so it facilitated some privacy/intimate conversation but you could still hear and see everyone and the conversation level was not too hushed.

The service was great. Our waiter made helpful suggestions and really knew the menu. We always felt like we had what we needed but no one was hovering over us.

Ahhh, but now to the meat of it all: the food. The food was really, really good. Our waiter describes many of the items on the menu for us and emphasized the freshness and organic-ness of all the ingredients. And you could definitely taste what he was talking about. For starters, we all four got salad and it was very good and light. For entrees, I got the duck. It was really good. I often get duck at restaurants because I just love the taste but often restaurant's cut is just too fatty. Not true for AMIK. The cut was great, the fig reduction (sauce) complemented it perfectly, and the polenta underneath balanced it out.

Neel got the ravioli with meat sauce because it was the house special. She was partly afraid that it would be too rich, an entire serving of pasta. But she loved it. It was a great balance of sauce to pasta ratio and pretty light for a dish that would normally be heavy. You could definitely taste that the pasta was homemade. As for the sauce, it was really good too. Classic meat sauce and I'm pretty tough on meat sauce since I'm 50% Italian and that's my mom's speciality. My mom tasted the meat sauce as well and thought it was great.

Though my dish and Neel's dish were great, I actually think my parents got the best thing: the snapper. I usually prefer duck/beef to fish, but this snapper was seasoned so well that it blew me away. But it wasn't over seasoned by any means. It was a great balance that allowed the freshness of the fish to come out with the flavor just exploding in your mouth. I think the next time I go, I'm going to get that. In fact, even thinking about it makes me want to go back and order it right now.

We ended the meal with two desserts: cannoli and homemade smores with a small nutella milkshake. I think my only complaint (and it's a minor one) is the desserts. The cannoli was pretty good and I enjoyed it. But I think the problem with the smores was not the execution as much as the idea of it. It's pretty hard to make smores great. It is what it is: smores. The accompanying milkshake was pretty good. But, if I had to do it again, I think I would have gotten the apple doughnuts. Unfortunately, nothing really grabbed my eye on the dessert selection. I kinda wished they had a bit more variety.

But that really is a minor complaint. I don't really go to a nice restaurant to get desserts. Even more importantly, the high quality of the atmosphere, service, and entrees easily overcomes my disappointment with the dessert selections. There is no doubt that Neel and I both want to return to AMIC as soon as we can and experience the other enticing choices on the menu. For that reason, we give Andrew Michael Italian Kitchin 4 stars.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Top 5 First Date Places

Valentine's Day is over but its spirit lives on in this post. In light of that romantic holiday and our romantic dinner at River Oaks, we thought that it would be appropriate to throw out the best places to initiate a romantic relationship.

Now, you might be asking how is this list different from our most romantic restaurant list? The simple answer is that the standards and goals are different for this list. You don't necessarily want to take a first date to a place where you would take someone you have been dating for a long time. For example take price. You want go to a nice place on a first date but not too nice. You have to leave room for upping the ante later on in the relationship. Besides, what if the first date remains just that, just one date? Another problem is the information gap. You probably don't know what food your date likes and she might be too embarrassed to tell you. For that reason, it's imperative that you don't try something too funky (i.e. Ethiopian food). Probably need something with a relatively broad and safe menu. Nor do you want to go to a place that is too romantic. That could be perceived as cheesy, presumptuous, and a bit over the top.

With all that in mind, here are the standards for good first date places: mid-level price range, place that allows for intimate conversation but is not cheesy or over the top, good quality food and service, safe menu with moderate to wide selection. Perhaps, the ambiance and price could be described as up-scale causal. Here we go.

1. Cafe 1912: This is an easy selection as #1 since it was the place I took my wife on our first date. So, at least it has a history of success. We like this place so much that we have gone back countless times and have never been disappointed. The menu is a mix of American and French. Everything we've gotten has been great including the goat cheese ravioli, scallops, and duck. Price range is pricey but not too much. There is also a fair price range; so you can see if your date orders the most expensive thing on the menu. Finally, the atmosphere is great. It really allows for good conversation without being too romantic or cheesy. It is also located in midtown, and so it gives you some flexibility whether you want to go back out east or go some place downtown after the date.

2. Harry's Detour: There are actually two Harry's Detour(one downtown, one midtown), but here we are speaking of the one downtown, on G.E. Patterson. This is another restaurant that fits nicely into the medium range of pricey but not too pricey. It's menu features mostly American food. The restaurant itself is very quaint and somewhat small, mostly a long hall. That makes it great for conversation. You also get to bring your own wine which makes the price even more affordable and allows you to wow your date with your wine knowledge. Another huge bonus is the location. Located on South Main, you can go and walk around the south main area after dinner and go into some art galleries. Even better, it is located right across the street from the Cheesecake Corner, a great dessert location to go on a first date.

3. Bosco's: I admit. I am somewhat hesitant to put any chain on any list that we do. But Neel and her friends all agree this would be a great first date place. And I can see why. It's definitely a safe option with a wide menu selection and a great beer selection. I think the food is good, not great, but everything I've gotten there has been good. In this respect, it's much like Houston's. But what separates Bosco's from the others is the patio. The patio is awesome in the summer and it really makes for a cool environment. The atmosphere is pretty good on the inside too, with a definite midtown feel. I also really like the location too (midtown) that gives you flexibility to either go downtown or go hang out in the cooper-young area.

4. South of Beale : A relatively new restaurant in the downtown area located on Main St. Oh and excuse me, it's not technically a's a gastropub - Memphis' first gastropub. What is a gastropub, you ask? On its stylish website, South of Beale has a window that offers a series of definitions for gastropub: "combining a pub with the concept of gastronomy"; an "environment with a strong emphasis on chef-driven food, paired with good ale & wine, in a casual setting"; a "public house with high quality food a step above the basic 'pub grub'." So, in my opinion, it's basically a bar with fancier and funkier food. SOB is a perfect place to take a first date because of its casual bar atmosphere, affordability, fun and out of the ordinary menu choices, delicious food (sesame seared tuna and five spice seared duck), and rustic and relaxed setting. And if the conversation is going extremely well, it would be a great place to stay for a few after dinner drinks or walk around downtown along main street.

5. Do Sushi: Ok, I know that in the introduction I said that you need to pick a place with a "safe" menu. And sushi is a bit risky. Not everyone likes sushi; so beware. On the other hand, most girls love sushi. Therefore, Do offers the potential to impress. Regardless, I think the potential reward is great compared to risk. I know that there might be "better" sushi at other places. The sushi is good at Do (highly recommend the kona strawberry and the surf & turf), but again the atmosphere sets it over the top. It's classic cooper-young. Real cool atmosphere and laid back. After dinner, you can then walk around the cooper-young area or grab dessert at a nearby restaurant.

Runners-up: Bhan Thai

Sunday, February 14, 2010

River Oaks Restaurant

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I have decided to blog about where Jon took me to celebrate. Before I start blogging about this let me reference our take on Valentine's Day. It's a sweet holiday, but nothing to go all crazy about. We simply celebrated it with spending time with each other over a great meal, good wine, and great conversation. We decided to celebrate Valentine's on Friday night as opposed to Sunday night, the actual day of Valentine's. We did this simply to avoid any crazy crowds and to taste a restaurant's typical menu and not some pre-fixed Valentine's menu where they have over-priced what they have decided you're going to eat. Sweet Jon was trying to surprise me on the place; however, I guessed where he was taking me a few nights earlier. I was thrilled whether it was a surprise or not because we have been talking about going to this place ever since they hired their new chef. Let's talk about the chef first - Master Chef Jose Gutierrez (pictured above). Most Memphians have heard of this chef. Many know that he is one of an elite few who have earned the title of Maître Cuisinier de France. (By the way there are only 52 Maître Cuisiniers in North America.) Likely most think of his 22-year reign as head chef over the dining institution, Chez Philippe. Neither Jon nor I experienced Chez Philippe while he was chef there. However, numerous times we enjoyed his food at Encore Restaurant & Bar downtown when it was open. José Gutierrez became the chef at Encore after he left Chez Philippe - whether it was right after or a while after, I am uncertain. Encore was one of our favorite Memphis restaurants and unfortunately it closed sometime in 2009. Of course, there was rumor Gutierrez was going to open up a new restaurant so we kept our ears open. Then, about a month or two ago I received an email from River Oaks Restaurant saying they have hired a new master chef - Jose Gutierrez! Don't ask how I got this email - especially since I have never been to this restaurant before. But, I have been on countless Memphis websites and have signed up for all kinds of restaurant newsletters so who knows. Great way to stay updated in the Memphis culinary arts :) So, yes, you guessed it. For Valentine's, Jon took me to River Oaks Restaurant .

River Oaks Restaurant is located right next to the Poplar Avenue and I-240 overpass. I have grown up around that area and I can remember when this restaurant was Cockeyed Camel with big screen TVs, the constant flow of cigarette smoke and whiskey, dart games, and all other sorts of bar games. So, it was kind of weird walking into it Friday night and being welcomed with fine art on the walls, Reidel water glasses, soothing light music, bread and butter plates, the sound of fine silver and crisp white china clinking, wine, men and women dressed in their business casual attire, etc. Definitely a change from Cockeyed Camel:) You get the idea. Ok, here we go with the review. To start with the positives.... All in all, Jon and I enjoyed our experience at River Oaks. The service was great - even though our waitress commented on how young we look and did not believe we were over 15 and politely carded us. We get that a lot. I guess we'll appreciate it when we're in our 80's and look like we're in our 60's. Right. The restaurant was pretty packed, but died out early and not too far after we sat down for our 7:30 reservation. So, it's a little bit of an older crowd. One thing I loved about it is that Jon and I did not have to scream at each other throughout the meal. The music nor the other customers were too loud. Where we sat was not secluded, but definitely intimate and private enough to where we didn't feel like the people next to us could here our conversation. Another perk....the best before-dinner bread I have ever put in my mouth! I have no idea what kind it was, but it was divine. And, I like how the waitress just served us one slice of bread each instead of giving us a whole basket. This way we did not fill up on bread and therefore not able to enjoy our main course ahead. The menu definitely looked familiar. Practically Encore's menu with a few additions. Jon and I got the warm goat cheese salad to start of with and then he ordered the duck and I chose the pan seared grouper. We both enjoyed our meals, but they were nothing to write home about. His duck was rich, but a little too fatty. My grouper was light, but could have used a little more flavor. Being such wine lovers, I think it's almost impossible for Jon and I to sit at a restaurant and not order a bottle of wine. Jon perused the wine list and unfortunately found that the cheapest bottle was $28! A little disappointing about the lack of selection - at least for inexpensive, good wines. With all of this said, we give River Oaks Restaurant 3 stars.