Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'It's All About the Wood' - Down South

For lunch yesterday I had to chose between two barbecue places that are only a couple of buildings apart in a shopping center in front of a large industrial park along Brooks Road, just west of Elvis Presley Boulevard, where South Memphis transitions into Whitehaven.Tastee Bar-B-Q has been on my list to try for months now, while Down South Bar-B-Que just showed up recently. I ended up going with Down South, since it had more windows and it was an usually warm and sunny day for late January.

The little restaurant was laid out like an old-fashioned diner with a tall short-order counter and a combination of bar stools at counters and a few booths along the walls. There was only one employee working behind the counter. He was finishing up an order for the restaurants only other customers -- two women and a young boy in the booth next to mine -- but he said that he'd get my order in just a minute and that I was in for some "real barbecue."

I order a pulled pork shoulder plate with hot barbecue sauce, beans and slaw. The man behind the counter turned out to be the owner, Sam Wilkes, who said he'd recently moved his restaurant to Brooks from a previous location further south in Whitehaven on Raines Road. It may not be a great place to go if you are in a hurry, since it took him a little while to get my order together, but he was friendly the entire time and the food ended up being worth a ten or 15 minute wait. The pulled pork had a great smokey flavor with a deliciously bacon-like charred outer crust from the shoulder mixed in with the rest of the meat. The slaw was a little creamier than I normally prefer but it made a great foil for the excellent spicy sauce that was on the meat. The beans also had a nice kick to them, although they were fairly standard overall.

When Sam asked about my thoughts on the pulled pork and I complimented the mix of textures from the different parts of the shoulder he proudly said, "You know your barbecue. I'm going to get you a little bit of my beef brisket so you can try it." The chopped brisket ended up being perfectly tender and seasoned. He served it without any sauce so I could, "really taste the meat itself." I'll definitely come back in the future to try a full order of brisket. He said he uses wood, with just a little charcoal to get it started, for all his cooking and one of his secrets is that he uses more pecan than hickory in his smoker. "I don't stick to any traditions, I just do what I like best," he explained.

I was eating a late lunch at after 2 p.m. so I was only customer left in the store as we discussed cooking philosophies and I mentioned my barbecue-eating quest and my blog. This caused Sam to decide that I also needed to try a sample of his rib tips and ribs. He served both of them dry as well, which showed a tremendous, well-deserved faith in his cooking.

Keep in mind that my original plate had already featured a very large serving of shoulder meat. The rib tips and ribs were tender and flavorful, but I was in pain by the time I finished them. Before I left Sam gave me a tour of the piles of different types of wood that he keeps at the back of his store and showed me the pit where he mixes them together to make his carefully balanced smoke. Between Down South and my recent visit to the flagship Reggi's Bar-B-Q in Jackson, I've learned that a picky owner paying meticulous attention to selecting wood for the barbecue pit can pay big dividends in flavor.

Down South Bar-B-Que & Hot Wings on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Barbecue Pizza and Duck Confit - Skunx

In Memphis you never know where barbecue is going to turn up on the menu. Last night my wife and I went to dinner at the recently opened Skunx Chef's Pub on Young in Midtown's Cooper-Young neighborhood. The chef at Skunx, Duncan Aiken, was previously the chef at the Overton Park Pizza Stone. That restaurant, tucked into a residential section of Midtown's Evergreen Historic District, quickly built a following that frequently overwhelmed its small dining area. It closed with promises of reopening in a larger space Downtown, but that never happened. Instead Aiken brought his menu of specialty pizza's to a spartan pub in one of the city's busiest intersections for drinking and dining.

My wife and I live just north of the old Pizza Stone restaurant and were saddened by its departure, so we were eager to try Skunx. Where the Pizza Stone had a warm, inviting interior left over from the building's days as a high-end Italian restaurant; Skunx has plain, red-painted walls, a bar, a specials board and some wobbly tables that have stacks of coasters under their legs in an attempt to stabilize them. Aiken, who was our server on top of working in the kitchen preparing food, said that he gets a lot of late-night business from other people in the local restaurant industry. Since most food-service workers appreciate good food themselves and have a tendency to party hard after work until the early hours of the morning, a no-frills pub with simple but delicious food aimed at them seems like a great fit for what is already a booming restaurant district.

The menu only lists pizzas and salads, but definitely pay attention to the specials board. One of the specials on the night we visited was a divine serving of duck confit with goat cheese, polenta, cilantro and a pear reduction. We paired it with an arugula salad for our first course and the combination was outstanding. Don't write Skunx off as just a "pizza place." The luxuriously juicy duck was one of the best servings of meat I've had in this city.

From the pizza menu we ordered the "Memphis" which was topped with barbecue made from Newman Farm pork, goat cheese, caramelized onions, cilantro and jalapenos. Aiken said he smokes the barbecue at his house or, if he is running short on time, he borrows some space on the smoker at the nearby Central BBQ, where he is friends with the owners. The tomatoey barbecue sauce was a good match for the pizza, which had a tasty thin crust that was crispy on the outside, yet still pleasantly chewy.  The toppings were well-balanced and the pizza tasted as good as it looks in the photograph. After sharing the duck and salad, half the pizza ended up being plenty of food for two people.We'll definitely be returning to try some of the other pizzas on the menu.

Our total tab was a little less than $40 before tip. I was happy to find such great food in a completely unpretentious setting. It reminded me of the kind of unassuming yet deeply satisfying restaurants that make New Orleans so special, which is something we need more of here in Memphis. Skunx joins the also recently-opened Next Door, which is just down the street from them, in combining a casual atmosphere with food that shows far more skill and creativity than your standard pub grub.

NOTE: We just had water with our meal since the restaurant is currently in a bit of limbo on its beer license, but they are allowing people to bring in their own beer until the issue is resolved. Aiken said he hopes to be serving alcohol soon, but if you plan on visiting in the near future and want to drink you may want to call ahead and see if you need to bring your own.

Skunx Chef's Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pink Limousines and Graceland - Marlowe's

The last time I tried to stop at Marlowe's on Elvis Presley Boulevard I was thwarted by the restaurant's odd hours and ended up further down the street at Pollard's Bar-B-Q. The 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. operating hours, combined with the giant, pink pig-shaped trailer in front and the Elvis-themed decorations all made me curious about what the actual dining experience would be like. Since I was working in the neighborhood on a night that my wife was going to be out for a work-related dinner I decided it was finally time to find out.

It turns out that those are Marlowe's winter hours. During the warm months of the main tourist season the restaurant opens at noon since, unsurprisingly, a lot of the customers are tourists visiting Graceland just a few blocks to the north. In fact, when I asked my server about the pink limousines in front of the restaurant she said they offer free rides to and from any hotel around Graceland or the airport to anyone who wants to come to eat and drink.  

Beyond the Elvis-related decorations, you also encounter a fairly large collection of trophies from barbecue competitions when you enter the building. It was a welcome sight, since the actual food is frequently an afterthought at a lot of  restaurants with tourist-heavy customer bases. Also, the bar was crowded with local regulars stopping by on their way home from work who all seemed to know each other. It was like Cheers, except the guy at the end of the bar in a mailman's outfit was black and had a long gray beard. My server said that most of the customers are locals during the off-season, and that a lot of the regulars come by less frequently during the spring and summer when the place starts to get crowded with tourists. 

I ordered a Miller Lite and a rib dinner. They offered a choice between wet and dry ribs so I got my standard of dry with sauce on the side. The ribs were ultra tender and had a solid pink layer indicating smoke penetration, but I couldn't taste any smoke. The thick and hearty sauce had a good tang to it, which helped make up for the lack of flavor in the meat itself. The slaw was solidly good, but a little more mayo-heavy than I prefer. The beans were great; meaty, well-seasoned and the thick barbecue sauce worked well with them.  

I was intrigued by the little piece of bread that came with the meal. It appeared to be deep fried like the bread at Jack's Bar-B-Q Rib Shack. I tried a few bites and it was delicious. When I asked my server she confirmed that it was a fried sourdough roll. Most barbecue places just toast some hamburger buns or give you a few slices of white bread straight from the bag with their dinners. I usually avoid the bread since it is processed junk food, but a serving that small of something that tastes so good is the best way to get me to make an exception.

On my way out I did a quick walk through the gift shop, which was full of Elvis-themed gear. My dinner at Marlowe's was pleasant, but as a Memphian with plenty of great barbecue near my house there was nothing about it that would make me make a special trip there. However, if you are an Elvis fan from out of town, staying at a hotel near Graceland or the airport and craving barbecue along with some liquor or beer; don't hesitate to pick up the phone, call (901) 332-4159 and ask them to send the pink limo.

This looked like some top-notch journalism, and the price had been slashed down to $2.99 from the original $9.99, but I still passed. "Featuring the special relationship between Elvis and President Nixon."

Marlowe's Restaurant & Ribs on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back Where My Quest Started - Captain John's

My mad quest to eat at every barbecue joint in the Mid-South was randomly inspired by a visit to Captain John's Old Tyme Pit Barbecue in Collierville for lunch one day back in September. The store was originally a Coleman's Bar-B-Que back when that store was a chain. Today there are only two remaining Coleman's; one  in Hernando, MS, and one on Millbranch in Whitehaven. To read more about Coleman's days as a chain, and other long-departed Memphis-area barbecue restaurants, check out the excellent Ghost Pit Chronicles blog. I just discovered the blog and I don't who the creator is, but it is obviously someone who has spent decades living in Memphis and enjoying our slow-cooked pork.

My experiences with Captain John's Barbecue actually go back more than a decade, to my days working as a reporting intern for the Collierville Herald newspaper back when I still had delusions of print journalism as a viable career choice. Today Collierville is just a fairly affluent suburb of Memphis. But when I worked at the Herald it was fascinating to look at archived newspapers from the first half of the twentieth century and realize to what extent it had been an independent farm town at one time. The newspaper office was located just a few blocks north of Captain John's on the historic Collierville Town Square, where coincidentally, I married my wife years later in 2007 (Our reception was at the Beethoven Club in Midtown. We served barbecue. A few years later I celebrated one of my birthdays by barbecuing two whole pigs in my backyard).

When I recently began attempting to try every barbecue place I could it took me a couple weeks to realize my quest could make an entertaining, at least for me, blog. So today I decided it was time to return to Captain John's, both to give the restaurant a real review and to see what I thought of the food after more than four months of expanding my local barbecue knowledge.

I ordered the same thing I had on my original trip; a pulled pork dinner with beans, slaw and potato salad.  The pulled pork is really good, with a nice complex mix of tastes and textures. Good barbecue is supposed to be tender, but it is always nice to have some of the flavorful outer crust from the smoked shoulder included with the meat like this serving did. The sauce and slaw complimented the meat perfectly with touches of mustard and vinegar. They didn't offer any options like hot and mild on the sauce, but what they served me had a great flavor profile without being hot. The beans seemed like a standard canned variety. The portions were filling enough that I only ate half the mustardy potato salad, which impressed me during my previous visit. It was still good, but my potato salad standards have since been elevated by my visit to One & Only BBQ on the opposite side of Germantown from Captain John's.

Overall, the food at Captain John's was good enough that I can still see how it inspired me to find out what other hidden, smoke-infused culinary gems are hiding in other humble-looking roadside buildings that I pass throughout the day.

Captain John's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Coming Soon - Cordova Farmer's Market

[NOTE: The store finally opened in late May. For more current pics and info check my more recent post here.]

I've already blogged about my love for the Winchester Farmer's Market, The Hickory Hill store is actually a gigantic ethnic grocery, not a farmer's market. I'd heard rumors that the owners were looking to open an additional store in another former Schnuck's location, this time on Germantown Parkway in Cordova. Today I saw a new sign on the building that confirms that shoppers further east are about to have an incredible source for finding real, traditional foods.

It is depressing to walk through a regular grocery store in the United States and see how little actual food there is in the sea of factory-produced imitation food full of processed junk like vegetable oils, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar and unfermented soy products. That's not to say the the Cordova Farmer's Market won't still have industrial junk food like that. But if it is anything like the original store on Winchester, it will have far more space devoted to real foods like fresh vegetables, meat and animal fats than you see in any Kroger or Super Wal-Mart grocery.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Visiting the Wolchase location - A&R

Since I'd already tried the chopped pork at the South Memphis location of A&R Bar-B-Que, I opted for the rib dinner when I stopped by the Wolfchase-area location on Stage Road for lunch today.

Tucked into the corner of a strip mall, the clean, modern Wolfchase store lacks some of the character of the original location on Elvis Presley Boulevard. The walls are decorated with large, framed pictures of celebrities like Elvis and B.B. King instead of unframed posters of local rappers like Zed Zilla. And the barbecue is cooked in an indoor pit instead of a separate building like the one behind the South Memphis store.

The Wolfchase crew might be using an indoor pit, but they are still getting plenty of smoke. My ribs were pink to the bone and had actually turned red in places from the smoke they'd absorbed. Unfortunately, they were also dry, with a tough outer layer that I had to peel off in places. I'm not talking about the membrane that is commonly found on the back of a rack of ribs, which I frequently pull off and throw away when I eat ribs. I'm talking about the outside of the actual meat itself. I'm not sure if it is a common problem for the store, or if my batch just spent a little too long in the pit. Cooking ribs is a delicate art, since you want the meat to slowly absorb plenty of smoke flavor without overcooking.

The smokey interior meat on the ribs was good, and I'd enjoyed the chopped barbecue I had at the Elvis Presley BLVD location so I'd be willing to try it on a return trip to Wolfchase. Larger cuts like shoulder and butt tend to be a lot more forgiving than narrow racks of ribs. The beans and slaw were both as good, and the portions as generous, as I remembered from the other store. I also ordered the hot barbecue sauce again, and like my experience in South Memphis, it wasn't really hot but it did have a great flavor.

While I was eating I noticed a sign identifying the store's owner as Brian Pollard. Curious, I asked if he was related to the people at Pollard's Bar-B-Que in Whitehaven. The friendly lady working the cash register told me that the owners of the two stores are first cousins, which I found interesting since the two restaurants seem to take very different approaches to preparing their ribs.

A&R Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Visiting the Mother Store in Jackson - Reggi's

I've been really impressed by the ribs from the Reggi's franchise in Cordova. I knew that Reggi's Bar-B-Q originated in Jackson, TN, and I'd noticed that Reggi's barbecue was available around the city everywhere from an Exxon gas station to a mobile rig out on Highway 45. So I decided it was time to make a pilgrimage to the mother store that sits in front of Pringles Park.

I discovered that the mobile setup currently selling barbecue on U.S. 45 just north of I-40 is the same rig that Reggi takes to Memphis every May for the World Championship Barbecue Competition.

Pringles Park the home of the Jackson Generals Minor League Baseball team. It is named after the famous potato-crisps-in-a-tube snacks that are manufactured in the the city. The Jackson Generals were once based in Memphis, back when they were called the Memphis Chicks and played at the Memphis fairgrounds in the old Tim McCarver Stadium. The Memphis Redbirds also played in Tim McCarver Stadium before the completion of Autozone Park in Downtown Memphis.

There was some confusion when I pulled up to the flagship Reggi's in front of the ballpark and started taking pictures of the storefront. A man who turned out to be Eugene "Reggi" Pickett himself assumed I was working for the sign company that he had contacted about some wind damage to the sign on the front of his restaurant. I generally try to keep my blog fairly anonymous to make sure I get the same treatment at the restaurants I visit that any random person would receive. But, like with my visit to At The Bistro soul food, I also don't make any attempt to hide what I am doing if someone asks as part of friendly conversation.

When I told Reggi I'd enjoyed the food at the Houston Levee location he immediately wanted to know about the experience I'd had with customer service there. Apparently the Houston Levee location and the Exxon gas station location are both franchises and he worries about how they represent his business. When I went inside to the order counter at his restaurant the staff members all exuded the kind of friendly helpfulness that comes from having an owner who is serious about customer service. While I was eating I also noticed him making the rounds to ask customers how they were enjoying their food.

I never tried the pulled pork at the other Reggi's location, but the ribs I had there were too good for me to pass up a chance to try the ones that Reggi oversaw himself. So I ordered the pulled pork and pork rib combo dinner with his signature spicy hot barbecue sauce on the side. All the food met my high expectations based on my experiences at the Cordova franchise. Reggi came by as I finished my food and I complimented the meat's visible smoke line and smoke flavor. He ended up taking me into the kitchen to see his Ole Hickory smoker and talk about his approach to barbecue.

He said he cooks with a mix of hickory and oak and he is, unsurprisingly, a big believer in low heat, plenty of smoke and plenty of time. Since he is picky about the wood he uses he said he stocks up whenever he is able to. He currently has about a two-month supply.

Wood is loaded into the back of the smoker from behind the store.

Since the restaurant is just seconds away from I-40 in between Memphis and Nashville I'd highly recommend it to anyone traveling by. Just look for the exit for Pringles Park, head south and it will be on your left. You may want to pay attention to if there is anything going on at the ballpark, since Reggi said the place can get crowded on game days. I can understand why. Some barbecue from his restaurant followed by a big draft beer at a Minor League Baseball game seems like a perfect way to spend a lazy summer evening.

Reggi's Bar-B-Q & Wings on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 16, 2012

Battling Goodman Road Traffic for BBQ - Boss Hog

A little more than a decade ago I worked as a reporter out of The Commercial Appeal's DeSoto County office. At the time the office was on Goodman Road near Airways and I would occasionally enjoy a meal of pulled pork from Boss Hog B-B-Q, which was just down Goodman to the east of our office.

The pulled pork meal is still a good value at $6.89 for a plate with "beans, fries and slaw or potato salad." That part confused me a little. When the lady at the register asked if I wanted slaw or potato salad I just said potato salad without really realizing what she was asking. I just sort of assumed I was being asked if I wanted fries or potato salad. So my dinner came out with beans, fries and potato salad. When I said that I wanted beans, slaw and potato salad, but no fries, they quickly changed my order with no fuss even though a closer reading of the menu made it obvious that the mistake had been made on my part.

Besides assuming that customers want a double order of starches, I also had several staff members stress that I could have a fountain drink for just $0.10 more than the water I ordered and drank. I began wondering if the restaurant's owner is heavily invested in the stocks of drug companies pushing medications for type II diabetes.

The pulled pork itself was juicy and flavorful in a Memphis average sort of way. It was piled deep, so it looked like a small order when the plate first came out but it ended up being a generous serving, especially considering the low price. The sauce had a nice vinegar tang and wasn't overly sweet while the baked beans had a good thick, hardy sauce. But the slaw had more mayo than I prefer and I only ate about half the potato salad, which tasted suspiciously like the kind you can get in a tub at the Kroger deli. 

Once I finished my meal I had to navigate a left turn across Goodman out of the parking lot. I enjoyed being a reporter back when I worked for The Commercial Appeal, but I  dreaded having to deal with the most congested traffic nightmare in the Mid-South on a daily basis -- Goodman around I-55. A few years after I was laid off from the ever-shrinking local newspaper its DeSoto bureau relocated further south. I'm sure the move was at least partially driven by the constant traffic jams holding up reporters and photographers on their way to and from assignments.

The fundamental problem with the Goodman area is that Southaven, like most disposable suburban sprawl towns, had very few actual neighborhoods. What it has are lots of subdivisions full of houses in cul-de-sacs but none of the other elements that make a group of houses become a "community." If you want anything, you get in a car and drive to a big-box retailer on Goodman or one of the surrounding commercial strips. The problem is compounded in Southaven because the interchange at I-55 and Goodman is also used by a large number of commuters from the surrounding cities of Horn Lake and Olive Branch.

The unchecked, poorly planned growth that drives the expansion of sprawl in places like DeSoto County also sets the areas up for their eventual downfall. As a reporter there, we were constantly reporting on new bonds being issued to cover the infrastructure demands of new residents. Streets, sewers, schools, fire departments and police cars are expensive, and politicians don't get reelected by being honest about the true longterm costs of the things their constituents want. As taxes inevitably rise to cover the cost of infrastructure, which begins aging as soon as it is constructed, the most entitled-feeling residents are quick to throw up for sale sings and seek out the next unsuspecting rural community for the another round of sprawl.

That community's politicians are initially smitten by the siren song of short-term exponential growth, since they see waves of taxpayers clamoring to move in. They normally fail to recognize one simple truth of suburban sprawl; the average multi-child family moving into a newly constructed subdivision will end up costing more in municipal tax revenue than they will ever pay in. To see the end result, and the future of Goodman and I-55, take a drive down Winchester in the Hickory Hill section of Memphis and look into Shelby County's current level of debt.   

Boss Hogg Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pork Lard on NPR

NPR recently did an interesting podcast on the marketing campaign that caused American consumers to abandon natural, healthy pork lard in favor of cooking with toxic, industrial garbage like Crisco. Unfortunately, although the podcast does a good job with the historical facts, the hosts still buy into the myth that saturated animal fat is unhealthy. They also make the false claim that the trans fats have been removed from products like Crisco. In reality, the processed food industry successfully lobbied the government to allow them to put "0 grams trans fat per serving" labels on products that actually do contain the stuff.

Any food that has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat "per serving" can make the "no trans fat" claim. Keep in mind that the manufacturer can determine what a serving is based on that loophole. A little "four-serving" bag of potato chips with "0 grams trans fat" could easily contain two grams of trans fat. The best approach is to avoid foods that contain any refined "vegetable" oils like corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and canola oil. When did soybeans, cottonseeds and canola become vegetables anyway? Even corn is actually a grain. By replacing these laboratory-produced oils with natural, saturated fats in my diet I've made a substantial improvement in the ratio of "good" HDL to "bad" LDL in my cholesterol profile.

Friday, January 13, 2012

French Slow and Low - Homemade Short Ribs

I’ve mentioned before that the art of barbecuing is similar in philosophy to traditional French cuisine. Both combine time with low heat to render the fat in otherwise tough cuts of meat, turning them exquisitely tender and juicy.

One of my Christmas gifts from my wife was a copy of Molly Stevens’s excellent cookbook All About Braising. Braising is the French technique of browning a meat or vegetable by cooking it in fat, then slowly simmering it with liquid in a covered container. If you’ve ever browned a roast in a skillet, then cooked it in a Crock Pot with vegetables and a little water or beef broth, you were braising. 

Last Saturday Donnell Farms was having a sale on beef short ribs at the Tsunami parking lot farmer’s market. So it seemed like a great time to stock up and try the short rib recipe from my new cookbook. This recipe uses a bottle of red wine, so I used the Big River Red from the local Old Millington Winery. I’ve also braised short ribs in Guinness in the past. There is just something about cooking them with alcohol that seems to bring out the best in them. 

 My default cooking wines come from the Old Millington Winery. I use the Big River Red for recipes that call for a red and the Vidal Blanc for recipes that call for a dry white. 

I made a marinade for the short ribs the day before I braised them. Like most traditional French recipes, this one started with carrots, celery and onions sauteed in olive oil and butter. Then you add a bottle of red wine and a cheesecloth pouch filled with bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, garlic and ground allspice berries. 

The short ribs get seasoned with kosher salt while the marinade cools. Once it is room temperature, you add it in and let the ribs marinate in the fridge until the next day. 

The next evening you remove the ribs, pat them dry, and strain the marinade into a separate bowl. In a large Dutch oven you sear the short ribs, then remove them. Then you saute a chopped onion, add in some garlic, tomato and mushrooms followed by the now-strained marinade wine and a little water and bring everything to a boil. Now its time to add the ribs along with the spice sack from the marinade and a couple sprigs of rosemary. Then the lid goes on the Dutch oven and it goes into a 325 degree oven for nearly three hours. The recipe takes a lot of time, but most of it is just spent waiting. There is no charcoal or smoke involved, but like barbecue the ample time and slow, steady heat gives you tender, delicious rib meat.  

 By the time they look like this the smell in the kitchen will be making your mouth water.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Four Sisters Soul Food Place

I’d noticed the Four Sisters Soul Food Place and its hand-painted “No cans, straight from the pan" sign when I tried Reese's Bar-B-Q next door to them a few weeks ago. So when I was back on Winchester in the Parkway Village area today, with intense freezing-cold wind spitting snow flurries at me, it seemed like a good time to stop in and grab some hot, stick-to-your-ribs soul food.

The cramped restaurant shares a parking lot with an adjoining gas station and is definitely geared towards carry-out business, but it does have two tables squeezed into the front along with a couple barstools at the order counter. The menu for the day is written on a dry-erase board on the counter. Today’s two meat choices were calf’s liver and pork neck bones. The ultra-condensed menu made it kind of like eating home cooking at a close relative’s house -- “Here are your options, pick something and eat it.” It’s definitely not somewhere you should go if you’re a picky eater who demands plenty of “basic" options. The vegetable choices were greens, corn, yams and macaroni and cheese, which maintained the perfect streak of mac and cheese being offered as a vegetable at every soul food place I’ve visited in Memphis. 

I told the boisterously friendly owner that I’d take an order of neck bones with greens and corn. I also tried to order a hot tamale to go with my order, since there was a sign saying they were a $1 side item, but she said they were out. When she realized I was eating in the restaurant she turned off her car that was apparently warming up in front of the store in preparation for her to briefly close down and run an errand. “Bitch got the nerve to call and ask for a ride from Olive Branch after I gave her broke ass a dinner for $2 yesterday. She can wait anyway,” was the cheerfully-delivered official explanation.  

The generous serving of neck bone was extremely tender and flavorful. The greens had a good flavor, and plenty of pork in them, but they were a little cold. The buttered corn tasted like buttered corn. I’m not sure if it came from a can or not, but it isn’t really a dish that varies much from one restaurant to the next either. All together, it was a satisfying meal for just $6 and I’ll probably be stopping by again when I’m in the neighborhood, but I wouldn’t make a special destination out of it like I would the Four Way or At The Bistro.