Memphis…thanks for the memories!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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