Filled with an overabundance of love for Memphis

So, for lunch yesterday, some of the guys from the office and I decided we’d give Main St. Hound Dogs a chance.

We’d all seen him on Twitter and heard good things about him. We’d even stopped and talked to him for a few minutes while walking down Main St. on our way to another lunch destination downtown. Christopher McRae is genuinely one of the nicest guys you’ll find in Downtown eateries, and he spends his midday at a hot dog cart by the trolley tracks!

Open from “11ish to 2ish” Monday through Saturday, Chris sells his dogs (turkey and beef) and his fresh-squeezed limeades (regular and cherry) on the corner of Union Ave. and Main St.

Photo of Main St. Hound Dogs from : Main St. Hound Dogs blog

If I worked in Downtown proper, I’d be at his cart multiple times a week. The dogs are cooked decently, but are prepared with a good selection of toppings. One companion (@aranhia) got his turkey dogs with “all the standards:” deli mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, relish and onions.

My other companion (@blakepalmer of @memphisnews fame) went with two beef dogs, one with deli mustard, celery salt and salsa (I’ll be trying this next time) and one with sauerkraut, celery salt and mayo. Continue reading Filled with an overabundance of love for Memphis

Cordelia’s a must for Harbor Town dwellers

I have a confession to make. I hope this offends no one, but Harbor Town creeps me out a little bit. It’s just a little too pristine, pretty and picturesque.

It's Greek to Me sandwich casingThat said, if you live in Harbor Town, you have no excuse to miss out on Miss Cordelia’s. If you live or work within 15 minutes of Harbor Town, Downtown I’m looking at you here, you also have no excuse.

Nestled away in the back of the same-title grocery store, Miss Cordelia’s puts together good sandwiches, and, when I was there, had quite tasty Snickerdoodles (I can’t pass up trying Snickerdoodles).

So, I bustled over to Mud Island on my lunch break and brought the sandwhich (and cookies! don’t forget the cookies!) back to the office.

I was a little nervous about the size of the package I was handed for my It’s Greek to Me sandwich. It looked awfully small.

When I got it back to the office, I understood why it appeared small to me in the bag, while the sandwich was not wide or sprawling, it was stacked high! In point of fact, it was a bit too high and a little awkward to get my mouth around.

The flavor and mixture of ingredients was pleasant, though I wasn’t a big fan of the bread. The menu said it came on focaccia, but I’m fairly certain mine was on a wheat roll. Not bad, just wasn’t the best match for the sandwich.

I’ve written before of my affinity to feta cheese, which this sandwich has, but I’d like to also add that a well-roasted pepper is almost on the same level. Mix roasted red peppers, feta cheese, cucumber and chicken together with some pesto mayo and you’ve got Cordelia’s Greek. I wouldn’t have minded some olives or to have substituted hummus for the pesto mayo, but the sandwich was damned tasty (not to mention those snickerdoodles!).

photo-5All of their sides, displayed in a glass deli counter looked to be good quality, but I was unable to try them. They also sold these sides and certain entrees such as meatloaf by the pound.

I was also glad to see their presence on social networks. They have a twitter account (@MissCordelias), which they post specials or new local products (“We are happy to have a new local product. Going Nuts Pecans……Chocolate, Praline & Roasted…also their tasty peppermint bark.”).

Also, the ability to order it online is nice, and it seems to be function well (will have to try that out next time).

Cordelia's on Urbanspoon

A good lunch for a Bardog (oh the puns)

Sorry, I’ve been fairly quiet on posting recently, gang. Living life. Was ill for the better part of last week, too. I’m going to attempt to do better. – Note from the Geek Management

I hit Bardog for lunch with @rakuette not too long ago. The place has a lot of personality and it’s actually really welcoming as you walk in (I walked in from the rain, so perhaps that’s where the impression came from).

Meatball Hoagie and friesThe bar has two floors: the top floor is more of a bar and the bottom floor has no smoking and is more of the restaurant setting with more seating.

We sat at the bar on the top floor. Having a bar that’s nice to serve food on is a tricky business. Bardog’s misses the bill a little bit. It was a tad too high even for my 6-foot-3-inch frame and was even worse for my shorter lunch companion.

The fare is slightly upscale for a bar, including a $25 “Surf and Turf” entree.

We stuck to sandwiches, though.

I ordered the Meatball Hoagie and my compatriot ordered The Amazing Island Club.

I can’t speak for the club, but the Meatball Hoagie was quite delicious. Stuff with eight meatballs, provolone and parmagiano with marinara, the sandwich was perfect for the dreary October day. The problem lay in eating it without making a mess.

Innards of a Meatball HoagieThe bread was slightly too light to handle the dense meatballs and marinara. I had to eat the second half of my sandwich with a fork and knife, feeling distinctly British for some reason (who knows?). Flavor-wise, definitely a hit, but the bread was quite possibly a big whiff. I think a meatball sandwich needs a heartier bread. Not so stiff and crusty that you injure your gums, but something that the sauce won’t soak completely through.

Like the innards of the sandwich, the fries that came with our meals were a quite good. They’re seasoned with sugar. I love a good mix of savory and sweet and these were just right. Crispy, light and with the sugar, definitely something different, but lovely.

I’ll be giving Bardog another go in the coming weeks and will let you know. I think I’ll try the Sliders next.
Bardog Tavern on Urbanspoon

The long-awaited South Philly review

Cheesesteak and Water iceThat’s right, folks, I realize I’ve been slacking a little bit, but we’re back on schedule with a post about what has got to be the best cheesesteaks in Memphis (perhaps even the Mid-South).

I’ve eaten at what are arguably three of the best cheesesteak joints in Philadelphia: Pat’s, Jim’s and D’Alessandro’s. Although it’s been years since I had a cheesesteak in Philly, I’d put South Philly’s sandwiches right up there with those titans.

South Philly’s aim, according to their Web site, is “that the sound of the cook chopping the steaks on the sizzling grill, the savory aromas and the come-as-you-are setting bring the flavor of Philadelphia to you even before you take that first bite.”

This isn’t marketing hyperbole. When you walk into the restaurant, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scent of cooking beef, the clang of metal on an iron griddle and the symphony of good conversation that seems to always be there when I enter (maybe that’s because I always enter around lunchtime on a weekday).

Scattered about the walls are photos and memorabilia from around Philly and they even have a sign teaching you how to order your sandwich, starting with whether you want the cheesesteak “WIT” or “WIT-OUT” onions (you should definitely order it “wit”).

When the food gets to your table, it’s hard not to notice one key thing: cheese integration. This is what makes or breaks a cheesesteak for me, and South Philly’s has been perfect nearly every time I’ve been. Each bite has a perfect mixture of beef, cheese and onions (I’m a purist, so that’s all you’ll find on a cheesesteak I order).

They’ve also brought another staple of Philly cuisine: water ice. I’m far from a connoisseur of water ice, so I can’t speak to how good their ice is. I enjoyed the Strawberry Lemonade flavor I tried, but it didn’t blow my mind quite like their cheesesteaks.

The thing that really puts South Philly over the top is the dedication to service. Owner Mike Dinwiddie is in the shop most days and if anything is ever wrong, he does his absolute best to make it right.

I promised previously that I would get to the bottom of the recent drought in the TastyKake market. I e-mailed Mike, and he took time out of his day to let me know what’s going on.

Unfortunately, Tastykake does not have a distributorship near Memphis. To the best of my knowledge they only distribute in the Delaware Valley, and as far south as Virginia, and as far north as NY.

Mike mentioned that shipments to out-of-region vendors may have stemmed from one person trying to “help out cheesesteak joints” and that it may have become too much of a burden.

South Philly may begin to sell Hostess in the future.”They are local and local is good,” Mike sent about Hostess.

My hat’s off to Mike for replying to me so passionately (he also informed me that they’e just switched to a local water ice vendor “Parker’s Water Ice” and that they use Amoroso, a roll “Philly people go nuts over” and Ritter meats) and for running an absolutely incredible “cheesesteak joint.”

If you haven’t already, hit them up downtown. If you’re in the area, you can order on-line and they’ll even deliver to certain areas.

It’s completely worth it.

South Philly on Urbanspoon

Portrait of a nearly perfect geek lunch

South Philly Cheesesteak, Italian Ice, Geeks of Memphis and my laptop. Awesome
South Philly Cheesesteak, Italian Ice, Geeks of Memphis and my laptop. Awesome

I’ve got a lengthier review of South Philly on the way, but in the meantime, here’s my view from lunch today. It’s truly a thing of beauty.

Pristine MacBook with a meal delivered from South Philly downtown. Suffice it to say, I wolfed down the cheesesteak (almost forgetting to photograph it for my review later).

Lunch doesn’t get much better.

OK, it does get better. But only by replacing the Italian ice with some TastyKakes. South Philly may no longer be selling them. I’m going to be doing some investigating to find out why and where else in town one might find some.

Heaven in a Pita

Kabob InternationalFirst, let me apologize for being the perpetrator of the most heinous of restaurant-reviewer crimes: I forgot to take a photo of the food. But imagine with me, if you will, a 9″ soft, warm, pita generously stuffed with tender lamb, lettuce, Feta and Tzatziki sauce (not a tomato or pickle fan). It took up the entire basket and required a fork to eat, gargantuan and overflowing as it was…

But, before you get to drooling too heavily, let me rewind and start at the beginning. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Bryan and I decided to hit up Kabob International for dinner tonight. Tucked away on the south side of the Cordova Collection at Dexter, beside a laundromat and not far from Fox Ridge Pizza, KI’s storefront is understated, to put it mildly. I was put off, then amused, by the man sitting outside, head thrown back, eyes closed. Could business be so slow that the employees were sleeping on the job?

I was pleasantly surprised to see three other tables occupied inside. The dozing man greeted us as we walked by. And I was hit with the delicious aroma of rotisserie lamb as I passed over the threshold. What lay ahead was even better than all that though. The cashier / waitress was very friendly, totally understanding when I needed to upgrade my order from a standard 6″ gyro to a giant 9-incher (totally worth the extra $2). And I have never in my life had a better fountain Diet Coke. Ever. Don’t doubt me, people—if you love aspartame infusions as much as I do, I highly recommend getting one at KI.

Kabob International doesn’t stop at average-Joe gyros—the “International” part of their name suggests something special right from the start. From Euro to Arabic to Crispy Mid-South BBQ, KI’s gyro menu is rife with choices. Feta drew me to the Euro right away. But I was seriously tempted to try the Mid-South. Maybe next trip. Or maybe I’ll get a kabob, since it is the restaurant’s namesake after all.

Interesting quote above the register
Interesting quote above the register

From the first bite of tender lamb, I was hooked. They say any Greek restaurant with a vertical rotisserie is worth its weight in tahini. And Kabob International was no exception. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, the lamb melted in my mouth. And, although cucumber chunks typically aren’t my thing, the chunky Tzatziki was cool, light and satisfying. The pita was just the right consistency to break apart and make mini gyros: one piece of lamb, a small wad of lettuce, with Tzatziki all over everything. Mmm.

Kabob International’s atmosphere is mellow, with standard neighborhood-pizza-place tables and chairs, a few low-key decorations and a vibrant paint scheme in the rear of the eating area. Bryan imparted some knowledge:

“Someone told me once that you can judge a restaurant based on the quality of its napkins. If you have napkin dispensers with flimsy little napkins, chances are, it’s gonna be good.”

KI had the dispensers and the insufficiently sized napkins. They didn’t let me down.

The aftermath (next time I'll take one before devouring!)
The aftermath (next time I'll take one before devouring!)

I highly recommend Kabob International to anyone who’s out and about in Cordova and wants to hit up a solid gyro joint. They now have lamb shank on the menu, so I have a feeling it’s a good place for more than a quick bite too. And try the Diet Coke while you’re at it. You won’t be disappointed.

Kabob International
8050 Dexter Rd. #105
Cordova, TN 38016
(901) 755 – 9385

Kabob International on Urbanspoon

Uncle Lou’s truly is Sweet Spicy Love

Uncle Lou's window and logoI was first introduced to Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken as an alternative to Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken.  I think this was to convince a few of my coworkers to come along for the ride, we’re talking some die-hard Gus’ fans.

The truth of the matter is that a comparison between Uncle Lou’s does neither restaurant credit. They’re both amazing and some of the best chicken you can get in Memphis.

Uncle Lou’s has a wider range of delectables, however. And you can’t mention the differences without mentioning the Honey Butter Biscuits. These things are worth the drive from anywhere in Memphis. Words can’t quite describe them.

Featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Uncle Lou’s is every bit a staple of the Memphis community of which many have not heard.

With a fairly large menu, including everything from a fried bologna sandwiches to standard fried chicken, you’ve got to give Lou and company props for comfort food.

In my first trip, I knew I had to try the chicken, so I ended up with a fried chicken sandwich. It’s quite possibly one of the best chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Elevated in my mind due mainly to Lou’s Sweet and Spicy Love. Just the right amount of tanginess and very little real heat (yes, I went with Mild… sue me), but great flavor. To my great and quite pleasant surprise, it was far less messy than any sauced sandwich has any right to be.

I’d seen someone with their grilled chicken tenders, and they looked quite amazing. I told myself I’d indulge in an order of those next time I visited. The siren song of honey-dipped smoked sausage sandwich. I unfortunately didn’t have wax in my ears and the song led me directly into rocky waters.

It’s not to say the sandwich was subpar. It was actually quite good, but there’s only so much you can do with a smoked sausage that hasn’t been done before. The addition of Sweet Spicy Love was a major plus, but it just wasn’t mind blowing like the original chicken sandwich was.

I promised myself, next time, I would reach out for those grilled chicken tenders, and I would taste find out once and for all if you could judge this book by its cover.

Oh. My. God.

I think I’ve entered into an abusive relationship with these things. They punched me in the mouth, but I forgave them and came back for more. Seasoned with Lou’s “Corruption” a potent dry rub, they really pack a whallop and are incredible. On a plate with four tenders, the chicken looks as if it’s falling apart and really doesn’t need a knife to rip it apart. Even without the Corruption, these tenders would be great. They have all their juices locked in and a lot of the natural flavor comes through. As a “healthy” choice at Uncle Lou’s, it can’t be beat.

One last thing.

It may be cliched, but you know that you can expect something good at an establishment if you can find the proprieter there.

Lou’s there most days and is a distinct character. He’s always happy you’re there and wants you to truly enjoy his food. First-time customers are often welcomed with a hearty handshake.

You can definitely feel the love in the food and location, regular and Sweet and Spicy.

Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

First time at the Madison Ave. Kwik Chek

I was a Midtown Memphis guy for a year. I’ve lived in Memphis my entire life. I work Downtown.

I had never, before today, entered into the Kwik Chek on Madison Ave. between Rembert and Morrison.

A very nice lunch surprise awaited me.

Looking for a quick lunch to pick up and bring back to the office, a couple co-workers and I ventured forth with the Kwik Chek as a recommendation from Mr. Alex McPeak, one of those guys that is an absolute guru for local eateries (he has yet to lead me astray).

When walking into the store, keep in mind, this is no high-end restaurant. This is a convenience store that also sells sandwiches. Don’t let the surroundings confuse you, head right back to the deli counter and stand confidently as you look over the menu posted above.

I couldn’t resist a wrap named the Hey Zeus. With a name like that, who could? With parmesan and feta cheese, who could resist it?

I wasn’t expecting a toasted wrap, but a toasted wrap is what I received. It will be hard going back to lifeless, flabby wraps after this. The wrap had just enough crisp, but not so much that you’ll end up slicing your gums on it.

The meats, chicken and roast beef, lettuce, mustard and lemon pepper dressing all blended together beautifully, but I can’t stress enough, there was also feta and parmesan. They really had me at “Hello” on this sandwich.

My compatriots had a Bloody Valentine, a vegitarian delight with habenaro sauce stuffed into a pita, and a pita stuffed with corned beef and provolone.

This trip can fall under the category of “lunch success.”

See for yourself when you’re in the area.

Kwik Chek on Urbanspoon