Alcenia's is in the Pinch District near the Pyramid, the former home of the Memphis Tigers and Grizzlies basketball teams before the Fedexforum opened. Alcenia's is one of the many Pinch District businesses hoping that the Pyramid's redevelopment as a gigantic Bass Pro Shops location will replace a lot of the foot traffic the area lost when the the building was shuttered.
Last Thursday I tried again and finally got to experience first-hand what all the fuss was about. I talk about the friendly service at a most of the restaurants I write about. That Southern hospitality is something I've come to expect from local barbecue, country cooking and soul food joints. But Alcenia's takes that Southern charm to the next level. As soon as I walked in the door to the brightly decorated dining room the owner welcomed me with a giant hug and assured me all the food she served was "fixed with a lot of love."
Keep in mind that I never identify myself as a blogger when I initially visit a restaurant. I was just a stranger in work clothes stopping in for lunch.
When my server came out and gave me a menu I was about to order the grilled tilapia I saw listed with the regular Thursday options since the excellent version of that dish offered by Dindie's Soul Food in Raleigh has become a regular staple of my diet. Then the server mentioned that meatloaf was available as well, although it wasn't listed on the menu.
I've heard incredible things about the Alcenia's meatloaf, with one friend saying he'll call the restaurant a day or two ahead of times he plans to eat there specifically to request that they have it available. Apparently the grandmotherly treatment from the owner extends to being able to call before visits to ask for a favorite meal to be waiting for you. As soon as I heard there was meatloaf in the kitchen I ordered it with greens and black-eyed peas.
I've also come to expect the duo of Louisiana Hot Sauce and Bruce's Green Hot Pepper Sauce to be sitting on the table at any soul food restaurant. I didn't see either on any table at Alcenia's. I didn't see any condiments at all. And I didn't ask if any were available. Everything came out perfectly seasoned.
The delicious meatloaf was packed with peppers and onions. As much as I love the meatloaf from Southern Hands, I think Alcenia's may top it in flavor. My sides of greens and peas came in comically large plastic bowls. As big as all the portions were, everything was so good I ate all the meatloaf, all the greens, about half the peas and most of the two hot-water cornbread cakes before tossing my napkin on the plate completely satisfied.
While I was eating I got to witness another moment of Southern hospitality. The Main Street Trolley stopped to let off an older woman who came into the restaurant. A few minutes later the trolley suddenly stopped again, after only moving a few feet, and the trolley driver trotted into the restaurant to give the woman a package she had accidentally left in her seat. She barely had time to thank him before he was back in the trolley rolling down the street.
According to the menu Alcenia's also offers an epic Saturday brunch for anyone who wakes up Saturday morning, or afternoon depending on your Friday night, craving a giant Southern breakfast feast.