Rizzo's Diner reopened last week at its new location on South Main.
The menu at Rizzo's is one-of-a-kind; crammed with the kinds of crazy juxtapositions that could only come from the twisted brain of Michael Patrick. This, after all, is a man who became a chef only after he got kicked out of high school for fighting.
Take the Lobster Pronto Pup ($14). Even the name is a provocation, combining haute cuisine (lobster) with the lowest common denominator (carnival food). All right, it's a bit of a gimmick. But this tempura-fried treat lives up to the hype: It is plump and buttery, with a mustard aioli that is off the hook.
The same goes for the Lamb Belly Tacos ($9) and the Chorizo Meatloaf with Green Tomato Gravy ($18). Seriously, who charges $18 for meatloaf? But take one bite, and you'll know it's worth it.
As for the new space, it feels like Rizzo's has come home. For starters, it's a lot bigger. The new kitchen is almost as big as the old diner — big enough, says Patrick, for an enthusiastic chef "to do backflips on the line." And the décor — cherry wood, exposed brick, high ceilings, abstract canvases — feels just right for this arts district.
That's a relief, considering how long Rizzo's was out of commission. The old spot closed on November 1st, but a persistent, leaky roof at the new place meant that Patrick couldn't open until late February. Especially in the food industry, three months is an eternity.
"I was always told take when you think you're gonna open and add 30 days," says Patrick. "But realistically, we needed to add 60 or 75."
One other complication: Winter weather has delayed Rizzo's liquor license, so for now, it's BYO wine. But Patrick hopes to have booze in time for his grand opening on March 14th. He also hopes to celebrate by hiring a dozen bagpipers. And no, he's not kidding.
Rizzo's Diner, 492 S. Main, 304-6985
The other day, I was sitting at a booth in The Arcade Restaurant. Last one on the left, by the back door. I noticed that the confetti-colored tabletop was getting pretty worn, and I thought, Gosh, that has to be from the '50s. Why don't they replace it?
Then I remembered: Elvis used to sit here. Hell, it was probably Elvis' elbows that made those little marks. They're never gonna replace that tabletop.
The Arcade, Memphis' oldest restaurant, recently started staying open late on weekends: from 7 a.m. till 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. For now, they aren't changing the menu. But they have added a lineup of cocktails including build-your-own bloody marys and mimosas.
To me, the most promising is the "Shake it Like the King" ($9), a vanilla milkshake spiked with Bailey's, banana rum, peanut butter, and fresh bananas.
Back in the '50s, when Elvis was a regular, South Main was Memphis' answer to Times Square, crowded with neon signs and clattering trolleys. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive and well, and the train station at GE Patterson was still the most reliable way to get from here to there.
That's why The Arcade is staying open late. Because all of a sudden, there are people. There's even a bit of a nightlife. What better reason to order some sweet potato pancakes — for dinner?
The Arcade Restaurant,
540 S. Main, 526-5757