Friday, May 25, 2018

Porcellino's to Move

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:54 PM

  • Porcellino's Craft Butcher/Facebook
Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman
Porcellino's Craft Butcher will soon close and relocate from its Brookhaven Circle spot and fill that space with a new restaurant.

Porcellino's will close on May 27 at its spot at 711 West Brookhaven Circle.

"We are going to disclose the location as soon as plans get finalized," said Andy Ticer, who owns Porcellino's with Michael Hudman. "It's an opportunity we're excited about. It made sense to where we want to take Porcellino's in the future.

"City Block Salumeria, the butcher shop, will remain in the butcher shop space. We also have an exciting announcement as to what will go in the restaurant space. We will release that information in a couple of weeks."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Margarita Fest

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 3:59 PM

We can just about guaran-damn-tee you it's going to be hot as hell on June 2nd, so how about a little something to chase the heat away.

Doesn't a super-frosty margarita sound good?

The Flyer's annual Margarita Festival is set for June 2nd in Overton Park, and tickets usually sell out and are going fast. (The cost is $38.) Get 'em today or be sorry.

Guests can sample up to 15 Margaritas from area restaurants and vote on their favorite to win the Best Margarita in Memphis.

Get Yer Tickets 


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pete & Sam's returns!

Posted By on Sun, May 20, 2018 at 6:35 PM

Pete & Sam's restaurant reopens  at 4 p.m. May 21. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Pete & Sam's restaurant reopens at 4 p.m. May 21.

The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived — if you’re a Pete & Sam’s lover, like I am. The restaurant re-opens at 4 p.m. May 21st.

And, I have to say, I love it. It’s beautiful. And it still feels like Pete & Sam’s.

The beloved restaurant closed after a fire December 12th. Now — with new plumbing and electrical work and a decor facelift — the restaurant is ready to start serving its signature spaghetti, ravioli, steaks, pizza, Beacon salad, fried chicken (one of Jerry Lawler’s favorites), and other favorites.

“Over $1 million was put in the restaurant to get it up and running,” says Michael Bomarito, who, along with his brother, Sammy Bomarito, are owners of the restaurant.

Some people, including myself, were afraid the restaurant would reopen with a modern, contemporary look.


“The goal was turn it back into the Pete & Sam’s in the ‘60s,” Michael says. “The classic Italian restaurant feel.”

The restaurant, which still seats 280 people, evokes “the old Italian restaurant you see in a movie,” Sammy says.

They searched to find just the right type of carpeting with a “retro-groovy ‘60s feel,” he says.

Booths now replace the tables that used to line the South wall of the dining room, but they fit in just right. An extra booth was added toward the front after a wall was lengthened when they got rid of the old busing station.

The old gray ceiling now is black, which, as Sammy says, gives more of an intimate feel to the restaurant.

The old chairs and booths remain, but they’re now covered with a vinyl fabric called “Red Rover,” which fits perfectly with the decor.

Redd Kirk Design Studio was the restaurant’s design firm, but it’s almost like Pete & Sam’s fans had a hand in the design. For instance, the old take-out window now has a marble countertop, but the 60-year-old spindles were kept on either side of the window, Michael says. “The hokey spindles on top. Cause they’ve always been there.”

Vintage ceiling light fixtures, which survived two fires, now grace the front dining room. “They’re so good looking, we had to bring them back,” Sammy says.

The old cast iron grapevine wall hangings were repainted and refurbished and now can be seen framing oversized photos of the late Sam Bomarito, who, along with the late Pete Romeo, founded the restaurant in 1948, and Vita Gattuso, Sam’s sister, who regulars remember standing side-by-side with Sam at the cash register.

You might not have noticed it because of the photographs on the wall, but the 1960s acrylic stained “crinkle pattern” panels in red, white, yellow, and orange still are where they were, but more of them have been added. A new bar area, which seats 16 people at the bar and 16 more at tables, has folding doors with more of the acrylic panels. The doors open to the rear dining room. Finding those panels wasn’t easy. “We sourced it out,” Sammy says. “It took six weeks to find it.”

But getting back to that bar. It’s perfect. A utility room was ripped out and a wall taken out to make more room, but the bar still has an intimate feel.

Customers now can order mixed drinks at Pete & Sam’s. “We’re a full bar,” Michael says.

The “Elvis room” still is located where it always was in the rear dining room, but it’s been revamped.

So, what about the food? I tried some lasagna. Excellent. Yes, you can go home again.

It’s the “same classic menu,” Michael says.

Only “a few non-sellers” - were removed from the menu, he says.

And no new items appear on the menu. "We didn't add anything," Michael says.

Your favorite servers who were at the restaurant in December will be back, Michael says. Some new cooks have been added.

One thing that isn’t at Pete & Sam’s anymore is the artificial tree, which was seasonally decorated. “We lost the tree before the fire,” Michael says. “It cracked.”

But, he adds, “We look pretty good without it.”

And, if you remember it, the phone booth near the take-out window is gone. “We got rid of the phone booth,” Sammy says.

A photo of a smiling “Mr. Sam” with two pizzas now hangs on the wall where the phone booth once was.

Note: Don’t try to reserve a table on opening night. “We’re not taking any reservations,” Michael says. “We know we’re going to be inundated.”

“First come, first serve,” Sammy says.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Agave Maria Now Open (Again)

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 12:00 PM

  • Agave Maria Facebook

Jeff Johnson had a grand vision, but sometimes (all the time?), Memphis simply isn't about it.

His thinking in opening Agave Maria originally was a high-end place that pulled from cuisines all over Latin America.

But it didn't take.

Johnson now acknowledges that Memphis is a Margarita-tacos-cheese dip sort of place.

"You know Memphis. Sometimes it doesn't work out," he 

Johnson decided to rethink Agave Maria, located Downtown at 83 Union. He closed in October and recently reopened. There are no major overhauls in the decor, but the menu is, yes, Margarita-tacos-cheese dip-friendly.

The new approach, says Johnson, is casual. The menu is "reasonably authentic."

The menu features empanadas, burritos, nachos, and, of course, tacos. The "Tacos Especial" include pork belly, duck, hot chicken, lobster, lamb shawarma, and Korean short rib. Among the "Street Tacos" are a brisket, chorizo, and al pastor. The menu also has desserts and a "not tacos" section.

Agave Maria also offers 25 cent Margaritas during lunch on Fridays. (Or, 4 for a dollar, to borrow a line from Michael Donahue.) These are 8-ounce pours. Not enough to get you sloppy, says Johnson.

Once things get settled and the staff is set, Johnson is planning a free lunch with unlimited tacos for Downtown workers.

Agave Maria is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rock 'N Dough now Brewing Beer

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 3:45 PM


The Rock 'N Dough in Germantown is now a brewpub, according to operations manager Trevor Jones.

They began serving its own house-brewed beer in mid-April.

There are 12 taps serving the beer, which ranges across all styles. American blonde, Belgium wit, several IPAs (both single and double), stouts, and porters are all offered. Everything, Jones says, to suit all tastes.

One of the porters offered is called Smoky Porter and the Bandit.

The Jackson, TN, location already operates as a brewpub.

Jones says the cool thing about making their own beer is that they can design it to taste good with their menu offerings. Plus, pizza and beer is simply a no-brainer.

"The marriage between pizza and beer doesn't take too much explaining," he says.  

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Statement on the Front Porch

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 4:49 PM


Deni and Patrick Reilly, who opened the Front Porch as a pop-up last spring through their consulting group Majestic Hospitality, have issued a statement regarding the news that the restaurant will not reopen.

The announcement is not a surprise, says Deni Reilly. She says they had basically detached themselves from the deal when the Riverfront Development Corp. (now the Memphis River Parks Partnership) was between leadership. Carol Coletta took over for the retiring Benny Lendermon earlier this year.

We’re proud of what we accomplished during our pop-up last summer. We created a fun, relatable restaurant that Memphians across all walks of life embraced and enjoyed, making the Riverfront not just more accessible, but a lively place to interact with your neighbors and experience, up close the Mighty Mississippi.

We created The Front Porch brand for the then RDC, now MRPP. They own the brand, and all the recipes, plate builds, inventory control, marketing tools, employee handbooks, and training guides, along with all our recommendations on how to make The Front Porch a long term viable amenity for park patrons. There are some significant infrastructure upgrades and minor concept tweaks that we recommend be undertaken to make it a permanent ammenity, including but not limited to new carpet, rebuilding the bar, and more functional furniture. The absence of natural gas, while not ideal, is not a major hurdle to running a successful food and beverage operation, which we proved last summer with our kitchen upgrades, staff management, and menu design.

The MRPP, as everyone knows, is undergoing significant restructuring, and has our commitment to help them in any way we can including, if they so choose, opening The Front Porch as they implement their new vision.

We’re most proud that The Front Porch pop up was able to help facilitate a shift in culture at Beale Street Landing from a mindset of custodial oversight and crowd management to one of welcoming hospitality and customer service, something we feel should be an integral part of the fabric of the Riverfront as the front porch of this great city. We look forward to a continued embrace of this culture shift by the new MRPP leadership, and are excited to see and perhaps be a part of the new things on the horizon for our beautiful Riverfront. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

'Delta Proud' Mighty Miss Brewing Pouring Into Memphis

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 4:09 PM

  • Toby Sells

When Sleep Out Louie’s opens Saturday, its draft towers will carry beers “imported from the Delta.”

Mighty Miss Brewing Co. opened “just blocks” from the Mississippi River in Greenville, Miss., last year, claiming it’s ”proud to be the first and only brewery in the Mississippi Delta.”

The company — billed as ”Mississippi forward and Delta proud” — is now entering the Memphis market with beers in cans at Cash Saver, Miss Cordelia’s, and elsewhere. It’s also on tap at draft houses like the Casual Pint, Hammer & Ale, and others.

Melia Christensen, with Mighty Miss, says the company tries to brew in the “middle of the spectrum,” somewhere between macro-brewed stuff from the likes of Bud, Miller, and Coors, and the independent craft stuff flowing from your neighborhood taproom.

“The Mississippi craft beer culture is not as developed as it is in Memphis,” Christensen says. “I like to say it’s kind of like craft beer with training wheels. So, we’re trying to encourage mainstream drinkers to the craft side.”
For proof, look no further than its Pace porter. (Every Mighty Miss beer is named for a Mississippi town. Pace has a population of 294.) Porters are famously dark and thick-bodied with plenty of room for those sweet, chocolatey, vanilla-y, and roasty notes to flow.

They flow in Pace, too. But it’s light, simple, and low-alcohol (clocking in at 5 percent). Christensen said it’s a “porter you can enjoy in the summertime.” Pace is perfect for anyone who has ever said, "I don't like dark beers."

Mighty Miss is offering up its Mighty Miss American Pale Ale, Kinlock Kolsch, and Arcola Amber at restaurants and bars around Memphis. But only at Sleep Out Louie’s can you get its Onward Amber Ale (and you’ll want to, trust me).

Sleep Out Louie’s (How do we shorten that? Just Louie’s? Sleep Out’s?) offered up a few menu items at a tasting Thursday.

  • Toby Sells
The spinach-and-artichoke dip is second to none. The soft pretzels may seem standard but the dips raise it well above. (A tip I got from the Sleep Out Louie’s team: dip a pretzel in the gouda first and then in the caramel. I know. I know. Do it once. Thank me later.)

  • Toby Sells

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Michael Donahue's Best Bets: Mango-Orange Cobbler

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 3:25 PM

Jenny Dempsey's home-made mango-orange cobbler and home-made vanilla ice cream at McEwen's. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jenny Dempsey's home-made mango-orange cobbler and home-made vanilla ice cream at McEwen's.

Just the word “cobbler” — as in blackberry, peach, and apple — makes me hungry. That crust mixed with fruit is tantalizing.

I’ve eaten all types of cobblers. I once made a blackberry cobbler using Bisquick. You mix all the ingredients together and the crust rises to the top while it’s cooking. I love that one, too.

But I tried a brand-new cobbler the other night at McEwen’s. It was a mango-orange cobbler. As we used to say in the ‘60s, it blew my mind. It was fabulous.

McEwen’s pastry chef Jenny Dempsey created the cobbler two weeks ago.

First, a little history about Dempsey. A native of Hollywood Beach, Florida, Dempsey first went to work at McEwen’s in 2005, but left after a while and worked at other Memphis restaurants. She helped Jose Gutierrez open the old Encore restaurant in the Peabody. She also worked at Bari Ristorante, Beauty Shop, and Mollie Fontaine Lounge before returning to McEwen’s seven years ago.

“The first cobbler I ever made was with Jose Gutierrez,” Dempsey says. “Pear or pear apple.”

She loved making cobblers. ‘It’s an easy Southern dessert and there are so many variations.”

Over the years, Dempsey made numerous cobblers, including pear, blueberry, blackberry, blueberry-blackberry, peach, apple, and mango,

She loves mango, so she suggested making a mango cobbler with some chiles and cinnamon, but she was told that might not sell. So, she took mango and orange zest and came up with the mango-orange cobbler.

“I usually don’t eat my desserts. I’ve been doing them so long I know what works.

But, she tried some of her newest one. “That mango and orange go so well together.”
It’s actually a simple dessert to make. The crust, she says, is just a shortbread made with butter, sugar, and flour.

She also makes her own cream-based ice cream with eggs, which is a perfect accompaniment to the cobbler.

Dempsey rotates cobblers, but the mango-orange now is available. If you want a particular cobbler, you can call and she'll make it on her next batch.

A chocolate cobbler is on Dempsey's radar. A friend made a killer one, but she doesn’t have his recipe. So, she’s going to have to come up with one. I can’t wait.

But now I want Dempsey to make that mango cobbler with the chiles and cinnamon. That sounds so good to me.

McEwen’s is at 120 Monroe; (901)-527-7085

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Grisanti's on Wheels

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck
  • Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck
Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck
  • Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck

Alex Grisanti is spinning his wheels - in a good way.

The former chef of Elfo’s and his wife, Kim, are now operating a food truck - Grisanti’s 9 Dough 1 - during the week.

Or, as Alex says, “Literally cooking on the fly.”

He decided to open a food truck about a year and a half ago. “We closed Elfo’s down. I kept looking for something to do.”

Son of the late restaurateur Ronnie Grisanti, Alex thought about running another restaurant or maybe taking a food and beverage director job, but nothing sounded appealing. “A couple of my buddies who were executive chefs and owned their own place started a food truck business. They said, ‘You need to get in the food truck business with us.’”

He liked the idea. “I can work by myself. I don’t have to worry about rent and employees and things like that. You work hard for a couple of hours and pack up and take your restaurant home with you.”

So, Alex got a food truck. “I outfitted it with my brick pizza oven.”

He’s making flatbread pizzas, Italian salad, cannellonis and panna cottas. “I’m 100 percent Italy. There’s not another truck out on the street doing what Kim and I are doing with brick oven pizzas. The most popular is lobster pizza with butter garlic sauce, roasted tomatoes and onions, fresh lobster knuckle and claw meat. Then I have a chipotle aioli sauce over the top of it.”

Lobster pizza from Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lobster pizza from Grisanti's 9 Dough 1 food truck.

The veggie pizza with squash, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese, onion and fresh basil is another popular item, Alex says.

“What makes mine gourmet is I hand-do all my dough, hand-do all my sauces. I use only the freshest ingredients.”

He’s going to change the pizzas seasonally. “Doing pastas and stuff on the truck is too hard. Down the road I might do something.”

Alex hired graffiti artist Toonky Barry to paint the truck. “My truck is crazy. The whole thing has graffiti all over it.”

Usually, Alex and Kim are the only two operating the truck. “She takes the orders and the money and I make the pizzas and then put them in the oven.”

Their son, Elfo Grisanti, is in the truck on occasion. “Elfo works with me when he doesn’t have to work at The Kitchen.”

Elfo is the fifth generation Grisanti to work at a restaurant. His great-great-grandfather, Willie Grisanti, owned the old Grisanti’s restaurant on 552 Main Street.

“I’m the only one crazy enough to have a food truck.”

Does Alex miss a brick and mortar restaurant? “I’m always going to miss it. It’s in my blood. That’s what I do. All I know is cooking and taking care of Memphians. And if I can’t do it in brick and mortar, I’ll pull my truck to them.”

To track the Grisanti food truck, go to @9_dough_1 on Instagram or 9DOUGH1 on Facebook.

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