Memphis…thanks for the memories!

Our 2013 Memphis Bro Trip was epic! There’s really no other way to describe the 30-hour/18 restaurant extravaganza involving @MegaGee, @LRBartender, @Daniel_P_Walker, and yours truly.

Let’s get right to my rankings (from worst to first)…

18. Bangkok Alley: Without question, the bottom feeder on this list. From the comical name, to the disastrous sushi roll, to the 17-year-old manager, to the pregnant waitress fanning herself in the corner—Bangkok Alley was a complete train wreck. And I take full blame for the entire experience. I was brash and cocky, having just dined across the street at a 4-star restaurant and thought a Bangkok Alley pop-in would be harmless. Boy, was I wrong! Feeling complete shame for the entire experience, I picked up the check. I fully expect to be ridiculed for years to come by the group. Rating: Horrendous

17. McEwin’s: We ended up splitting cabbage and steak appetizers at McEwin’s—which yielded a completely forgettable experience. My whiskey sour was probably the worst I’d ever tasted and both starters were terrible. Dry steak, overly sweet cabbage, and bad bartending drop this place way down my list. Side note: absolutely nothing excited me about their menu. Rating: Bad

16. The Arcade Restaurant: At one time, I’m guessing Arcade was quite a spot. Sadly, those days seem to be long gone. The wait staff was disinterested and the overall atmosphere was depressing. Most diners pride themselves in fast, courteous service…but Arcade could care less. The only saving grace was the slightly above average sweet potato pancakes. Our peanut butter and banana sandwich wasn’t brought to an adequate temp and even my glass of water tasted funky. Rating: Sad

15. The Germantown Commissary: Not even fair to be ranked anywhere on this list, as we only sampled a small portion of the Brunswick stew. But I gotta say…I was pretty uninspired with my few bites of stew. The base was overly sweet from the barbecue sauce and there were just way too many lima beans for my liking. Rating: Incomplete


10:30 p.m. at Gibson's Donuts

10:30 p.m. at Gibson’s Donuts

14. Gibson’s Donuts: This place truly pissed me off. When you’re a 24-hour donut shop and it’s hopping at 10:30 on a Saturday night, please have some more fresh donuts available. This is a damn shame because even cold, my white icing with sprinkles donut was fantastic. Rating: Missed Opportunity

13. Cozy Corner: The rib tips ordered by MegaGee saved this entire experience. The rest of my food was a huge disappointment—highlighted by the much publicized Cornish hen. My first cut into dry breast meat was a huge turn-off, yet I still enjoyed it more than the ribs. And that’s saying something. Again, the tender ribs tips, along with hospitable service, are what vaulted the Cozy Corner into an average rating. Rating: Disappointing

12. Flight: It’s not that I hated Flight (think I enjoyed it more than my tablemates), there was just nothing about the place that motivated me to make a return visit. Things got off to a horrible start with Flight’s cookie-cutter, 3.5 minute menu rundown…delivered by the obviously already exhausted waiter. Things got even worse for the poor bastard when our resident drink expert (LrBartender) grilled him about the restaurant’s (inadequate) beer and wine selection. The dude literally about messed himself. I thoroughly enjoyed my well-prepared elk chop, but the other food on the table was just average. Rating: Mildly Disappointing

Cupcakes at Muddy's Bake Shop

Cupcakes at Muddy’s Bake Shop

11. Muddy’s Bake Shop: We have officially turned the corner on the list. Muddy’s provided a wonderfully hip atmosphere, while maintaining prompt and courteous service. The icing-to-cake ratio on their cupcakes was spot-on and I had absolutely no qualms with the cake’s moistness. I’d pass on the red velvet and favor of the plain jane. It’s also worth noting that our group made a return visit to Muddy’s for a late night, $1 cupcake, hoard fest. Thanks D-Walker. Rating: Good Job

10. Craig’s BBQ (DeValls Bluff, AR): Craig’s was actually one of two places we stopped on our way to Memphis. The stereotypical “bbq shack in the middle of nowhere” proved to be worth the detour. Our group split two pork sandwiches (one mild, one hot), and what the sandwiches lacked in looks, they made up for in taste. Smoked ham (sliced then grilled) was topped with sauce and slaw, making for a unique bbq eating experience. Rating: Uniquely Good

9. Central BBQ: These baby-back ribs certainly looked the part. The meat was tender and juicy with a perfect amount of fat. The insanely dark crust had me wondering whether the ribs were burnt and/or over seasoned. They were neither. Make no mistake, these were very solid ribs. In any other city, they might even be considered outstanding. But this is Memphis…and Central BBQ is a big name. The ribs fell short of expectations, largely due to an overall blandness. Our pulled pork sandwich fell victim to the same problem. All and all, I enjoyed myself at Central…just not as much as I expected. Rating: Good But Wanted Great

The Red Eye at Hog & Hominy

The Red Eye at Hog & Hominy

8. Hog & Hominy: H&H had a beautiful, casually cool setting, along with excellent food and top-notch service. We ordered cocktails, a gnocchi appetizer, and the red eye pizza. All were good, yet unspectacular…and certainly overshadowed by the attentive service. Again, given this place’s reputation, I was expecting a tad more from the pie. The crust didn’t “wow” me, but the sauce and toppings did. I’d go back to H&H again…next time, for a full meal. Rating: Very Solid Performance

7. Dyer’s Burgers: This is my type of burger—two thin, greasy patties thrown between soft buns and slathered with mustard and thin grilled onions. This is about as unpretentious as food gets and I freaking love it. Probably the thinnest patties I’ve ever consumed in my life. For people in Little Rock, think David’s Burgers but not quite as good. Rating: Greasy Great

6. Gus’s Fried Chicken: The list’s greasy goodness rolls on! This chicken was way over seasoned, but that first bite of fresh, hot chicken was still remarkable. I brought the rest home with me and devoured it cold…still excellent. I’m one of those people who happen to love cold fried chicken. Just walking into the original Gus’s was a memorable experience and I’m excited that we now have one in Little Rock. Rating: Joy to Eat

5. Las Tortugas Mexican Deli: I’ll be honest…I wanted no part of Las Tortugas. I’ve had my fill of Mexican food joints of late, and had no desire to screw around with one on this Memphis trip. But LRBartender practically threw a shit-fit when he suspected wavering on my part. Thank goodness for Lee’spersistence…this cafe brought it! Las Tortugas blew the group away with the chilindrina…tostada topped with guac, lettuce, cucumber, cotiga cheese and salsa Valentina. It was like nothing any of us had seen before. Chunky guacamole was smashed onto this thick flour tostada, which resembled and had the texture of a pork rind. Lee’s torta was also a highlight. Rating: Fantastic

A must stop if you're near Devalls Bluff.

A must stop if you’re near Devalls Bluff.

4. The Pie Shop: One day, I’ll tell my grandchildren about the day I went to the Pie Shop. The picture says it all. We ordered two pieces of pie from the little old lady who begrudgingly gave us five forks. Due to minimal lightning and just an overall creepy atmosphere, we ate our pie and got the hell out. But not before Walker almost crumbed on the lady’s sacred Bible and then asked if he could turn the lights on. The insane setting played second fiddle to only that heavenly chocolate pie. Rating: Memorable

BBQ Shop's Ribs

BBQ Shop’s Ribs

3. BBQ Shop: Without question, the BBQ Shop served up the best ribs on the trip. Smoked to perfection and seasoned with a unique dry rub, these ribs represented quintessential Memphis barbecue. It would have been nice to polish off a half-rack by myself, but maybe next time. Rating: Iconic

2. Brother Juniper’s: I rarely, if ever, endure a full, one-hour restaurant wait for breakfast. But we were out-of-towners and had heard great things about BJ’s…so were willing to ride it out. Smart decision. We ordered two open-faced omelettes, each coming with a side of cheesy grits. The San Diegan, with sour cream, home fries, portobellos, tomatoes, bacon, green onions, and feta and cheddar cheese, was probably the best omelet in the history of the universe. Rating: Want to Go Back, Now

Cappelletti from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

Cappelletti from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

1. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen: A|M turned out to be the consensus #1 pick by the group.  From the second we walked through the door, to the moment we left, we were treated like absolute royalty. Actually, all their guests seemed to be treated this way. The only thing that upstaged the service was the food. Our cappetlletti (beet filled ravioli), along with the A|M Breakfast (pork belly, polenta, and egg) were both outstanding dishes. I’ve come to the conclusion that A|M falls into my Top 10 of all-time restaurants. Bravo!

Great trip! We’re already planning our 2014 Bro Trip Kansas City.

*All images courtesy of Daniel Walker

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Kay June 6, 2013 at 8:47 am

BBQ Shop also serves an awesome barbecued bologna. Not to be missed. I’d recommend Interstate, as well, but ask for sauce on the side. Payne’s is no slouch, either.

Other not-to-be-missed Memphis destinations: Felicia Suzanne’s, downtown (she’s an Arkansan). Best meat-and-three in town, the Cupboard on Union (don’t miss the eggplant casserole and corn pudding).

Downtown is NOT the original Gus’s. The original Gus’s is in Mason, TN. If you want the same great chicken, but not as highly seasoned, try Uncle Lou’s, in the hood down in Whitehaven.

Mexican — should really try Las Delicias. And do not miss the pho at Saigon Le.

You want more Memphis recommendations, let me know.

    The Mighty Rib June 6, 2013 at 10:17 am

    My apologies, Kay. The Gus’s thing has been corrected…and thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    And thank you for the suggestions…in particular Felicia Suzanne’s. This place has come up a few times since we got back last week.

Kay June 6, 2013 at 10:51 am

In particular, the BLFGT appetizer at FS’s — Bacon, Lettuce, Fried Green Tomato. Pretty awesome.

Lived in/near Memphis for 30 years — it’s a great, great food town.

Kristin June 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Great list and love that you visited our fair city for its grub! One bone to pick…don’t mess with Gibson’s. Bottom line it’s a bakery and even though the doors may be open at 10:30 PM to sell you something, it’s common sense you probably won’t get anything fresh til around 5:30 AM. Come back, spend the night and jet over there to wait in line with me at 6AM next time. Guarantee you will not be pissed off!

The Mighty Rib June 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I appreciate your kinds words, but I’m gonna hold firm on my words about Gibson’s.

The place was filled with people…and they were making fresh donuts right behind us, but refused to bring them out. Said they were for a church group. That’s understandable…but the bottom line is that there should have been more donuts available to the many people coming in and out.

A standard fresh, glazed donut should always be available…especially at an iconic place like Gibson’s.

Kristin June 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I suppose Gibson’s is one of those iconic places where if you want it, you follow the rules they’ve set a la The Soup Nazi. I hear ya and empathize with you being a visitor, but hey, they’re a neighborhood spot. Those 24 hr open doors are for the neighborhood kids coming from the movies needing a safe place to go, old folks needing to commune and varied drunken Memphians going home and craving some Gibson’s, even if they are out of New Orleans Buttermilk Drops (my fave). That’s just how it is. Again, invite stands to come again and try the full array while standing in the line that might piss you off even more than not having a major selection!

Daniel June 9, 2013 at 7:03 am

Krisitin, we had Gibson’s on the list for months ahead of time and I was probably looking forward to them the most. It was a decent donut but clearly not fresh. I’d agree that going in the morning would have been wiser, but the place was full (and not just with kids) so we figured if they had the guts to run it 24 hrs, they would as least put out a decent product at all hours. I wasn’t pissed off, but it was disappointing. I’ll definitely go back, though. Next time in the AM.

Kristin June 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm

As I said, you just gotta go when they do what they do. I live right up the street so it’s easy for me to tumble over when they got the goods. I understand your disappointment just hoped it wasn’t turning you off for good.

Now. I’m coming to LR tomorrow and staying thru Tuesday in Hillcrest. What are your suggestions for me? Specifically coffee, breakfast and lunch?

    The Mighty Rib June 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    In Hillcrest, you must check out Boulevard Bread for breakfast. Their Breakfast Sandwich is wonderful. For lunch…Hillcrest Artisan Meats…another great sandwich. Prob the best in Little Rock. It’s a high-end butcher shop that does lunch. For dinner, Ciao Baci…small house in the heart of Hillcrest. Great menu and excellent chef.

Will Murray June 24, 2013 at 9:12 am

While the upper half of your list is legit, the rest of the list is nonsense. I don’t know who recommended Bangkok Alley but McEwen’s is a fantastic restaurant where I have never had even an average dining experience. This should probably be expected from a blogger who went to a famous BBQ restaurant and ordered stew…

Also, what kind of a pretentious jackass goes into a busy restaurant and “drills” the already slammed waiter about the drink menu? You are the reason restaurant people love to hate food bloggers. You picked apart Cozy Corner? I’m sorry, but those are fighting words.

Memphis is a large city with a lot of fantastic restaurants and I’m sure whoever gave you this list of restaurants probably didn’t figure you’d basically shit all over it out. How about you give me a list of Little Rock restaurants (aside from Red Lobster) and ill be sure to go there on a busy Saturday, order something obscure and drill the waitstaff so I can write about it in my blog.

You went to a bakery at 10:30 at night and expected fresh doughnuts…

The Mighty Rib June 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

Thank you for your comments. I’ll try to address each one of your issues:
1. Bangkok Alley wasn’t rec’d by anyone. It was right across the street from a 4-star restaurant and I just wanted to go in for a quick piece of sushi and add another restaurant to our list.
2. McEwen’s, on this night, was terrible. The entire group agreed. Hey, some restaurants have off nights.
3. Regarding stew…gave the place an incomplete grade and even addressed the fact it wasn’t really fair to list them.
4. The drilling the waiter thing was a bit tongue and cheek.
5. The hen at Cozy Corner was dry. Believe me, this was a place I was really excited about.
6. Not sure how I shit all over Memphis restaurant scene…very complimentary in many cases. I think Memphis is a great food town and can’t wait to go back.
7. List of great places in LR: Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Ashley’s, The Pantry, Local Lime, Natchez, Brave New Restaurant, Big Orange.
8. Do you have a food blog? Would love to read it.
9. They were making fresh glazed donuts in the back and refused to bring then out. Said they were for a big church group. Place was filled with people.

Will Murray June 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

I managed fine dining restaurants for 10 years in Memphis. Unfortunately, I hate restaurant blogs because most people that write them have never worked in a restaurant so they don’t understand that people’s livelihoods are affected by popular “bloggers.” They dont understand how fickle and complicated the business is. Over 90% of restaurants fail within the first 3 years so negative reviews from some blogger who may have just caught an off night do not help.

The Mighty Rib June 24, 2013 at 10:26 am

If you’re not busy, take a few minutes and scan through the site.

If not, I understand. But I try to take my writing as serious as possible & I understand potential implications associated with negative write-ups.

Keep in touch. Some of my best food friendships started with the person calling me a jackass.

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