At the Flyer, we are a mix of vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores, so we've been checking regularly on the progress of Dejavu, a new downtown restaurant offering healthy and affordable food for all types of eaters. "Call me if they're open," urged a co-worker as we headed out to find the restaurant, tucked behind D. Canale Beverages on Florida Street.
Apparently, plenty of other customers have been anticipating the latest culinary partnership between vegetarian chef Bastet Ivery and Creole chef Gary Williams, formerly of Java, Juice and Jazz.
"We're already serving 45 or 50 people a day," Ivery says, explaining Dejavu's daily menu of Creole soul food (grilled tilapia, shrimp po boys, smothered pork chops) and vegetarian specials (barbecue tofu pizza, citrus spinach, vegan crab cakes). "We know this: People follow good food."
Once a small church, the refurbished brick building already feels like part of the neighborhood, thanks to affable employees and delicious food. The prices help, too: $6.99 for one meat, two sides, and corn bread.
Entrées (both Creole and vegan) change every day, emphasizing seasonal foods, natural ingredients, and organic produce when possible. Side items offer a list of familiar favorites updated with the chefs' secret spices: greens, bok choy, okra, grilled cabbage, roasted garlic potatoes, and candied yams.
"We use quality ingredients for all of our food," Ivery says. "Even our Creole food is made without white flour or iodized salt. People are looking to eat healthy, whether they eat meat or not."
The same standards apply to the restaurant's desserts, including vegan choices such as carrot raisin bread and cheesecake, and more traditional selections baked by Ivery's mother, Lea Robinson. "My mom's a Southerner, and she knows how to make a coconut cake," Ivery says.
For now, the restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sundays. "We are hoping to expand our hours," Ivery says, "but we want to get a feel for the area first."
Dejavu Creole Soul Food and Vegetarian Restaurant, 936 Florida (942-1400)
Since opening Café Eclectic earlier this year, owner Cathy Boulden has been checking off her to-do list. Her latest accomplishment: drive-through service for customers.
The café's drive-through is simple. Check to see if the neon window sign is on, turn into the alley next to the dry cleaners, read the small menu boards, and order into the speaker box.
"Our intercom system is right out of the 1960s. The speaker dings inside like an old-fashion gas station," Boulden says, laughing. "Like everything else here, we put it together in the most affordable way we could."
Lo-fi or not, the café's drive-through is a hit, especially for to-go orders and customers purchasing coffee and homemade baked goods, including scones, lemon bars, and caramel and walnut brownies. Seasonal donuts are popular too. "We've added pumpkin, and we'll have apple spice before too long," Boulden says.
So what's next on Boulden's to-do list? "Pies," she says without hesitation. "Fruit pies, custard pies, and chicken pot pies. I'm not sure when, but pies are next."
Café Eclectic, 603 N. McLean (cafeeclectic.net, 725-1718)
More than 35 Memphis City firefighters gathered at Carrabba's Italian Grill in East Memphis last week for dinner with the restaurant's owner, Ed Parramore.
The dinner party was a thank-you for the group's fast and professional response to an early-morning fire at Carrabba's on September 23rd. "They saved the building, because they responded so quickly," says Parramore, praising fire-fighting teams from stations 21, 25, and 30.
Coals from Carrabba's wood grill were left on the dock outside the restaurant, igniting either the dumpster or the grease trap, according to Parramore. "Then the fire jumped to the back wall of the restaurant near the kitchen," he explains.
Fortunately, the restaurant's dining room and bar weren't damaged. "We're back on track," Parramore says. "We reopened two days after the fire."
At the October 8th dinner, firefighters were treated to a choice of entrées from the restaurant's seasonal specials, such as grilled trout breaded with hazelnut and topped with lemon-butter basil sauce. Customers also can try the six different specials through the end of the year. But sorry: The entrées won't be complimentary.
Carrabba's Italian Grill, 5110 Poplar (carrabbas.com, 685-9900)