Where am I in Memphis?

I was reviewing some of the photos from my iPhone and decided I would put some of them on here to see if anyone can guess where they are.  Some are easy.  Others are fairly difficult if you haven’t left your respective neighborhoods and really explored the city and county.   There is so much more in this city than what is portrayed in newspapers and on television.  Memphis is much more than Mid-Town, Downtown, Germantown and crime-ridden neighborhoods, though you would never tell by looking at the coverage across most of the media in town.

Next week: more pics and this week’s answers.

Muramasa The Demon Blade – Wii Review

Greetings Geeks!  Woller here.  This is what I hope is the first of many father-son reviews written by myself and my 12 year old son, Junior.   Enjoy our big geek-little geek take on a review.


Woller Sr.: So, I want us to start off with a brief description of the game. It’s a side-scrolling, hack-and-slash with over 100 different weapons to collect. There are also some very interesting light RPG elements to the game. This includes forging swords, learning to cook…

Junior: …and finding different Demon blades. Demon blades can destroy colored barriers ranging from red to white.

Woller Sr.: Some barriers open paths to different lands…

Junior: Mmmmm hm.

Woller Sr.: and some open gateways to optional sub-bosses. Do you take the side quest or not? This is but one type of choice in the game, for example, when you boot the game up, you immediately have two choices to make. Normal difficulty or hard (we chose normal) and…

Junior: to play as a boy or a girl, Kisuke and Momohime.

Woller Sr.: we chose to start with Kisuke’s quest, and the bulk of the review is based on it.

Junior: <starts reading from the instruction book in Espanol>

Woller Sr.: <raises eyebrow> …soooo, on the review. Continue reading Muramasa The Demon Blade – Wii Review

Profile for @memphisnews’ “Getting to know The CA” series

So, last week, Blake Palmer interviewed me, not as a Geek of Memphis, but as an Online Site Producer and UX Specialist for The Commercial Appeal. He filmed it using his flip cam, so, of course, I had to film my perspective on mine. Below are his final product and my raw footage.

Blake’s piece

Raw footage from my cam

You can follow Blake’s series as he learns more about the faces behind The CA and commercialappeal.com on The Memphis Blog.

Quetzal: A story of patience, decent food and a slightly high cost

Mediterranean melt and garlic potatoesWhen I try to think of my passions when it comes to food and what I truly enjoy, it always comes around to one topic: sandwiches. When looking for a lunch spot, my mind always springs straight to places that will serve me good bread with meat and veggies in between.

That led me invariably to Quetzal on Union on the edge of Downtown Memphis. The restaurant certainly has some atmosphere. With warehouse-esque ceilings, slightly deconstructed walls and computers everywhere, you definitely get the feeling that the owners are trying to make this a hip coffee house.

Before I get into the food, however, you need to know, the waitstaff isn’t particularly interested in serving you fast. When I entered, I took a seat against one of the booths lining the walls. It was more than five minutes before I had to go on a quest to find a menu. If a place is crowded, this is forgivable. I give servers the benefit of the doubt whenever I can. Quetzal, however, was dead.

With two other occupied tables and two servers to cover, I was a bit let down by a lack of attentiveness. I’m more than willing to give them another shot on this. Maybe they were having an off day. It happens to the best of us.

The food is mainly what we’re hear to discuss, anyway.

I ordered the Mediterranean Melt, a focaccia panini. The sandwich comes with chicken, sun dried tomatoes, olives, Feta cheese and pesto. As a point of full disclosure, I should tell you: If put Feta cheese and pesto on a sandwich, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to love it.

The Melt is no exception. The flavors meld quite well, though I could have used fewer olives. The focaccia is light and toasted to a nice crunch.

The one problem I have with the sandwich is that it’s way too easy to bite through the bread. This may seem an odd issue, “Why is ease of eating an issue?” you may very well ask. Well, once your teeth push through the nice crust their grill has left on the bread, there’s nothing else that stands in the way. I felt like I was in a Peanuts strip and Lucy was going pull the football away as I kicked at it.

You’ll be happy to note, I managed to escape without injury.

The sandwich comes with your choice of a side salad or garlic potatoes. The menu makes note that you should order the potatoes “while they last.” With scarcity like that, I had to order them.

The insides of a Mediterranean MeltThe potatoes were roasted perfectly. Just enough browning on the outside, fluffy potato on the inside. The seasoning isn’t quite right, though. Some bites were great with a larger amount of garlic (real garlic pieces, not garlic salt), others had no garlic on them and there was nothing to hold the garlic to the potato and no spices to help combine the flavors.

Overall, the potatoes are mediocre, but they’re definitely not meant to be the star of the show.

The food at Quetzal is pretty good, but definitely not worth the price point. With tip, my bill topped out over $17 for lunch.

And trying to cram Quetzal into an hour lunch break (even when in walking distance) is a push with the service.

Worth a try if you’re into sandwiches, but I can think of better sandwich shops in the area.

Quetzal on Urbanspoon

With Flip in hand, do we venture forth to video

It’s true. There’s now a video component to the site. This is just a goofball video of us playing around with the cam, as it came in today (woot!).

Enjoy some random bloopers and be prepared for some video reviews and commentary. I’ll get this up as a Vimeo video tomorrow for better quality. For now, enjoy some YouTube love.

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.

Very initial impressions of Guitar Hero 5

I’ll continue pounding the pavement on Guitar Hero 5, never fear, but after a night of playing through a decent chunk of songs, I’m ready to lay down some of the basics of the game.

And don’t worry, we’ll talk about more than just rhythm games on here, it just happens to be some of the first of the bigger titles that have come out since we opened up shop here.

I love rhythm games. I have since I played Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade and brought home a crappy pad and the first release for the original Playstation.

We’ve been playing using our Rock Band 2 controllers, and it’s been working rather well. At least, I’ve been pleased that I haven’t had to shell out the cash for a new set of controllers.

It looks like NeverSoft is attempting to make their game harder … by making the interface incredibly hard to use. When playing WITH anyone, the interface becomes so small that from anywhere beyond 5-6 feet away it becomes quite difficult to read where the notes are, especially once you enter star power.

The meter that lets you know if you’re about to fail out is tiny and quite subtle. I didn’t notice it until I was watching my roommate drumming by himself. The Star Power gauge is a bit easier to see, but just as small.

(As I’m writing this, as a matter of fact, the roommate has started playing. The game picked Ex-Girlfriend by No Doubt)

Enough with the negatives! I still have my favorite new feature to talk about!

Party Mode.

Party Mode allows you to start playing almost immediately after starting. That’s great, but here’s the kicker: people can join in halfway through a song. You can change difficulty halfway through the song.

This doesn’t require loading screens. It doesn’t require restarting the song. It’s a beautiful thing. In fact, after my roommate played Ex-Girlfriend, he went into Ring of Fire, which of course forced me to pick up a controller and play some. That’s dedication, folks. I stopped writing when a good GH5 song came on. Sue me.

Speaking of which, more impressions to come later. More research is needed, I think. We’ll talk avatars and career mode next.

Cooper Young Festival – From the Geeks

Emily and I are about to head out to #CYfest (Cooper Young Festival for those of you not following along from the Twitterverse.

This will be my first #CYfest, even though I’ve lived in the city since I was about six months old. I hear good things. I think I’ll need to hit up the ATM on the way.

We’ll write up some impressions when we get back.

Say hi if you’re there. I’ll be the one in the Legend of Zelda T-shirt.

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