Friday, March 22, 2019

Barbarossa Brothers Opening Downtown

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 12:08 PM

Imaadh Jayah, Mustapha Mustapha, and Omar Mustapha
  • Imaadh Jayah, Mustapha Mustapha, and Omar Mustapha

Barbarossa Brothers is opening on April 17th in the Sam's space at 7 N. Main Downtown.

But, Sam's fans, don't fret. Sam's will still be around during the day for breakfast and lunch. Barbarossa will take over the space at 5:30 p.m.

Barbarossa will be Sam's "alter ego," explains Imaadh Jayah, who is behind the concept with longtime friend Omar Mustapha.

They think of it as "pop-up-ish but permanent." Jayah says it will sort of be like when Kelly English took over the menu of the Five Spot. The integrity of Earnestine & Hazel's was intact, but you could get a great meal there.

"The foundation is nice," says Jayah of Sam's. "We're going to add to that. It will be the perfect blend."

Jayah will be in charge of the menu. He's cooked as such fine-dining establishments as McEwen's and Flight.

Mustapha will be in charge of front of house and marketing.

Barbarossa is named after 16th century pirates. It's applicable here, says Jayah, because he and Mustapha feel boundless in terms of the food and the scope of the project.

The guys have been working on an app called Edesia, which tracks local food trucks. They hope to incorporate that app, along with working with local artists while encircling young folks and creative types into a sort of community revolving around the restaurant. The goal — fingers crossed — is to one day host a festival.

The food at Barbarossa will be heavily Mediterranean/Greek with hints of Cajun. Jayah explains that this was how he learned to cook. There's his take on Shrimp & Grits, with a harissa tomato broth and couscous, along with garbanzo croutons. The Greek Fries, they say, are outrageous with Kasseri cheese, gyro meat, and gravy — like an exotic poutine. There are pasta bowls and salads and lots of favorite dishes from Sam's — wings, catfish, burgers.

So what's in it for the owner of Sam's, Mustapha Mustapha, who is the father of Omar? They say it took some convincing but the elder Mustapha saw the potential of a new clientele.

"We're really trying to get the city involved," they say.

Barbarossa Brothers will have a soft opening starting April 17th and will have a grand opening a week later.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Best Bets: Irish Vegetable Soup at Celtic Crossing.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 6:27 PM

Irish vegetable soup at Celtic Crossing Irish Pub. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Irish vegetable soup at Celtic Crossing Irish Pub.

The only non-Irish thing about the Irish vegetable soup at Celtic Crossing Irish Pub is the color. It’s not green. It’s more of a light brown. But it may be as close to the Emerald Isle as you’re going to get - food wise - at a Memphis restaurant.

Celtic’s owner D. J. Naylor adds “traditional” to “Irish vegetable soup."
“It is served in most traditional Irish pubs, particularly outside of Dublin,” he says.

And, he says, “For me, it’s akin to Achill Island. If you Google, it’s the largest island off Ireland. Close to where I’m from. Ballina in County Mayo.”

But, Naylor says, “ You don’t need a name. You just need a taste.”

He’s planning to serve quite a bit of it this coming St. Paddy’s Day. “I would say with the weather 55 and sunny, i would say a lot. Like a lot. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t 300 orders sold.”

The soup was offered as a special, but now it’s a permanent item on the menu, Naylor says.

“Originally, I brought some back from an Irish pub just to try to match it up. It’s almost the same everywhere. It’s basically a concoction of roasted root vegetables. Turnips, cauliflower, carrots, onions, potatoes, leeks, and celery.”

They also use cream. “For five gallons, you’re talking two quarts.”

Naylor brought 25 gallons to the recent Youth Villages Soup Sunday and served 2,000 little cups to visitors.

Naylor says he got a great reaction after he told visitors how good the soup is. “It was overwhelming. Like people would stop in their tracks and turn around say, ‘Oh, my God. He’s right. Jeez. This is good.’”

He’s going to let his sister, Rossa Martin, try the soup when she visits Memphis this weekend. “She’s a bit of a Soup Nazi,’ he says. But he knows she’s going to like it and say, “I feels like I’m in Achill Island.”

The soup probably goes great with green beer and Irish whisky, so give it a try while you’re celebrating at Celtic Crossing on St. Patrick’s Day.

A special brunch menu will be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 16th and 17th. This will be followed by a special dinner menu until 11 p.m.

Live music on the patio will be featured between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. both days. One of the entertainers will be Irish musician Ricko Donovan, who will play between 6 and 9 p.m. on the patio.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Amanda and David Krog Plan New Restaurant, Dory

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 3:06 PM

Amanda and David Krog - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Amanda and David Krog

It’s about to become a reality. Dory, the long-awaited restaurant owned by chef David Krog and his wife, Amanda, is slated to open this fall.

The restaurant will be located at 716 West Brookhaven Circle.

“We signed contracts this morning,” David says.

“A year and a half ago we wanted to open a restaurant,” Amanda says. That was after David left Interim restaurant as executive chef on January 1, 2018. “We wanted to do something for ourselves.”

The 3,500 or so square-foot house, which once was a medical office, will be completely renovated. “We will have private seating upstairs,” Amanda says. “We’ll have a private dining room downstairs as well. We will have four seats at the counter in the kitchen. Once a week, David will do a 8-to-10-course tasting and wine pairing at the chef’s counter.”

A bar will be separate from the dining room. And they will have an area for lounge seating.

As for the cuisine, David says, it will be “contemporary Southern” with “a French technique. We are focused on intentionally sourcing first generation farms — small farms, family-owned businesses within 100 miles.”

“Dory” is the name of David’s grandmother and his and Amanda’s daughter. “We named our restaurant and our daughter after his ‘Grammy,’” Amanda says.

They specifically wanted their restaurant to be in a house off Poplar in the 38117 area code. They were driving around one day looking for potential locations when their realtor called them with a house that had everything they wanted. It was perfect.

“I was about ready to throw in the towel and get a job,” David says.

The decor will be a combination of David’s taste and Amanda’s taste. “David’s style is more contemporary and modern. And mine is more Bohemian and rustic. And so we are working with somebody to meet in the middle.”

As for furnishings, Amanda says, “We’re going to have some very delicate pieces and some industrial pieces. And we have our friends at Iron & Design and CityWood helping with some focal points and doing our tables.”

“It’s a family-owned business,” David says. “It’s owned and operated by a husband and wife who most definitely want it to be a neighborhood restaurant. It’s a high-end restaurant, but it’s a neighborhood restaurant, too.”

David describes the kitchen as “a teaching kitchen” on the order of chef Erling Jensen’s kitchen at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. “A lot of people have worked in that kitchen and a few really good business chefs and chefs who have left this town have come up in Erling’s kitchen,” he says. “The kitchen staff is already done. I’ve picked the first crew and there’s a couple of slots for new hires. That is the beginning of bringing in people we don’t know and see if they fit for us. It is important that we fit for them. We want a place where people can grow. And, being in a kitchen, we have to fit well together.”

David and Amanda will continue to conduct their Gallery dinners, which features David and other chefs cooking multi-course dinners at various locations.

And, Amanda says, “David cooks in some people’s homes and does dinner parties for people and other events. We still have that going on in the meantime.”

People will be able to follow Dory’s progress on the Facebook pages and Instagrams of David and Amanda. Their Website is

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Catching Up with Old Dominick's Alex Castle

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 9:32 AM


Alex Castle, head distiller at Old Dominick, does not remember the first time she tried whiskey, but she has a very vivid memory of her first encounter with the stuff.

"My parents, for whatever reason, thought it was a really great idea to take my brother and me to Maker's Mark for a tour," she recalls, "and why it was surprising to me is neither of them drank bourbon at the time."

Castle thought the place smelled gross, that her father putting his hand in the mash was gross, and the bourbon-laced fudge she got at the end of the tour was, yes, gross.

Her feelings on bourbon, to say the least, have softened a little.

Old Dominick's offers Huling Station Bourbon Whiskey, Memphis Toddy, Southern Gin, American Dry Gin, Honeybell Citrus Vodka, and Pure Memphis Vodka.

Castle says Old Dominick's bourbon whiskey is still a couple years off. She describes Old Huling as a rye whiskey. The Memphis Toddy story is, well, storied.

The forebears of Old Dominick's founders Chris and Alex Canale used to run a grocery distributorship. At that distributorship they sold flavored whiskey. We're talking prohibition era here. So Old Dominick's Chris and Alex had found a sealed bottle of the bourbon. They decided to unseal it and send it off to get the liquid analyzed, so they could figure out how to make it themselves.
Old Dominick product in their most basic form
  • Old Dominick product in their most basic form
The modern-day version of the toddy features cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, lemon peel, orange, clove, and grapefruit. It is, what Castle describes as a flavored bourbon.

Castle oversees all aspects of the production at Old Dominick, from the new oak barrels (made from West Tennessee oaks) used for the whiskey to the bottles for the final product. She gathers the raw materials and makes sure all the equipment is in working order. She is, above all, in charge of quality control.

Castle has an astute palate, which has served her well in this job. She says her favorite whiskeys are those with caramel and toffee notes.

On Castle's desk is an old cookie jar from her childhood days. It's shaped like a black and white rooster with a brilliant red comb. It looks familiar ... just like the dominecker rooster of the Old Dominick logo.

Her parents, the ones who took her on that gross trip to Maker's Mark, took it as a sign. Castle did, too.

Old Dominick will be at Whiskey Warmer, which is happening Friday, March 22nd, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Overton Square. Tickets are $39.

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

What's Going On at Earnestine & Hazel's?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 4:44 PM

Caitlin Chittom and Nate Barnes keeping it real at Earnestine & Hazel's. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Caitlin Chittom and Nate Barnes keeping it real at Earnestine & Hazel's.

Earnestine & Hazel’s is alive and well and waiting for you to come buy a “soul burger.”

After owner Bud Chittom died Sept. 5, people wondered what was going to happen to the iconic restaurant/bar at 531 South Main - at the corner of South Main and G. E. Patterson. The restaurant was closed for 10 days, but it now is open.

Bud left his entire estate, including a partnership in Beale & Second Inc., to his only heir - his daughter, Caitlin Chittom, 23. This includes Blues City Cafe, Beale Street Live (formerly Club 152), Jerry Lee Lewis’s Cafe & Honky Tonk, Beale Street General Store, Beale Sweets Sugar Shack, Handy Park concessions and commercial rental properties.

He left Earnestine & Hazel’s strictly to her, Caitlin says. “It’s the most special to me.”

Caitlin, who lives in Austin, says she’s “taking it day by day.” She’s been getting advice from friends, including Congressman Steve Cohen, restaurateur Kelly English, Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe owner Ty Agee, and her mom, Angela Chittom-Merigian.

“I knew one day this would happen. It’s a lot to take on, but it doesn’t feel impossible.”

She basically is leaving Earnestine & Hazel’s as Earnestine & Hazel’s. She’s not repainting, renovating, re-designing or changing light fixtures. Nothing is happening to that famous grill, where those savory “soul burger” hamburgers are cooked. And they still come to the table in a red plastic basket with a bag of potato chips.

“Earnestine’s is such an integral part of Memphis history,” Caitlin says.

“We embrace the ragged of Earnestine’s,” Chittom-Merigian says.

“Locals are welcome there,” says Caitlin. “Tourists are welcome there. It’s very come as you are. I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize our ability to welcome everybody.”

After Bud died, rumors began, Chittom-Merigian says. People said they were taking out the jukebox and that Caitlin wanted to turn E & H “into a cocktail bar.”


The downstairs and upstairs still look the same. Same jukebox. Same 45 rpm records dot the wall above the bar. Same retro light fixtures still hang from the ceiling.

Some familiar faces no longer work there, but Nate Barnes still bartends upstairs in Nate’s Bar. The same piano is there. And Floyd Foster continues to man the grill.

Bud used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Chittom-Merigian says.

But some things do get broken, Caitlin says. For instance, they had to fix a leak in the ceiling. There was some “delayed maintenance” at Earnestine’s.

As far as changes, draft beer from local breweries now is on tap at E & H.

Customers now can order a mixed drink at the bar instead of having someone bring it from the upstairs bar or the old The 5 Spot restaurant, which now is a party rental facility.

The smoking regulation is changed; smoking only is allowed upstairs.

Albert King Jr. is the new house band.

Phone chargers now are installed at each booth so customers won’t have to have someone behind the bar charge their cell phones.

The new Malco Powerhouse Cinema Grill & Bar, which opens March 7, is an incentive to add more hours, Caitlin says. “With the movie theater coming in, we’re looking to expand our hours back into the day. I’d love to be open again during the day.”

She’s excited about the development going on in the South Main district. “I think it’s a growing and thriving community. I love that we’re in an area that is preserving its history. It’s an exciting intersection to be at. It’s the best corner in the city.”

The building which houses Earnestine & Hazel’s was built in 1906. During its lifetime it was a church, a brothel, and a pharmacy. Earnestine Mitchell and Hazel Jones opened the original Earnestine & Hazel’s.

Bud and Delmer George bought E & H in 1993. Bud later bought out George.

A few years later, Bud decided to bring Russell George (no relation to Delmer George) on board as co-owner. George owned Murphy’s at the time. Chittom-Merigian remembers Bud saying, “I’m going to go get Russell George. He’ll be the perfect face for Earnestine’s.”

Russell, who died in 2013, was the “essence of laid back cool,” Caitlin says. “He really was the front man while Bud was behind the scenes.”

Bud knew before Caitlin was born that E & H would be hers someday, Chittom-Merigian says. He told her, “This is her legacy. This is Caitlin’s corner.”

Bud always was excited about Earnestine & Hazel’s. “He’d call me in the middle of the night and talk about ideas for Earnestine’s,” Caitlin says.

After Bud died, the business was closed for 10 days because it was in probate, Chittom-Merigian says. “It was closed 10 days until Caitlin became the legal owner.”

Earnestine & Hazel’s still has “the same magic,” Chittom-Merigian says.

“I know that he’d be proud of the way Earnestine & Hazel’s is today and my commitment to preserve it,” Caitlin says.

And, she says, “I just want it to be what it’s going to be. You can stand in the way or you can grease the wheels and step back and let Earnestine’s do what Earnestine’s is going to do.”

Dinner and a Movie at Powerhouse Cinema

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 2:13 PM


When the Powerhouse Cinema opens tonight Downtown, it may just redefine what dinner and a movie means.

The cinema, which once housed steam generators for the train station, is the best and brightest in movie technology — recliner seats that recline all the way back, huge screens for IMAX, reserved seating. But we're here to talk about the food.

The Powerhouse features a full-scale restaurant with a wood-fire oven for pizzas. The menu ranges from everything from chicken sandwiches to avocado toast.

You can also get milkshakes and booze 'em up at the bar. Scott Tashie of Malco says the menu covers all the bases. They've got pretzels made by Dave Scott of Dave's Bagels and local beers on tap. The cocktail menu includes nods to both Memphis (Mud Island Tea) and to movies (007).

Tashie says they incorporated items from some of the other Malco grills and punched up the restaurant's menu with new items such as the wood-fired pizzas. The menu includes a hodgepodge of influences and genres — wontons and toasted ravioli, fried shrimp with firecracker sauce, and barbecue nachos. There are also salads and fish and chips. The pizzas are mostly classic — veggie, Hawaiian, pepperoni. Of course, you've gotta have a pork-barbecue pizza.

The space is meant to invoke a good atmosphere and good vibes, says Tashie. There are TVs around and a nice patio out front.

Malco partnered with the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), which owned the building, to get the Powerhouse built.

"None of this would be possible without MATA," say Karen Melton, Malco's VP and director of marketing.

Along the restaurant's front, there are the original windows (the glass was replaced). Bricks from the original building were repurposed. Along those eco-friendly lines, a new corn-based straw is being introduced and Malco will serve popcorn in recyclable bags.

Tashie says cinemas such as the Powerhouse are on trend, offering the latest amenities. But Malco wants to stay ahead of the trends.

"We want to be on the cutting edge," says Tashie, "for Memphis, for Malco."

With the high-quality sound, the large MXT (IMAX) screens, the pizza and the beer, Malco is aiming for a high-quality experience for its patrons.

One nice perk of the new theater is the in-seat delivery. (Some other Malcos offer this, too.) Patrons order from the concession stand and have their order delivered to their seat. This service ends 10 minutes after the movie starts.

Tashie says of the restaurant, "It's meant for everyone." Folks can just stop by for a cocktail or a quick dinner without ever buying a ticket. You can relax and hang out on the patio. But if you're so inclined to see the Marvel movie, the Powerhouse offers a "true dinner-and-movie experience," says Tashie. 

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Whiskey Warmer Coming at You!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 11:53 AM


The Flyer's Whiskey Warmer will be held Friday, March 22nd at Overton Square, from 6 to 9 p.m.

This whiskey-centric event is ideal for whiskey newbies and connoisseurs alike. With some 40 varieties to sample, guests can hone in on the whiskey that really suits them. Representatives from the brands will be on hand to discuss their products.

Ticket holders get a card for 15 whiskey tastings. Tickets are $39 and must be purchased in advance.

There will be bluegrass music from Graber Grass and food from the Second Line, that white-hot food truck Cousins Maine Lobster, and Laura's Kitchen.

Some of the brands featured at the event include George Dickel, Crown Royal, Bird Dog, Four Roses, Russell's Reserve, Louisa's Liqueur, and Southern Comfort. Memphis' Old Dominick will be there as well.

Proceeds benefit Volunteer Memphis. 

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dog Park Bar Opening Soon!

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 4:17 PM


My. Head. Just. Exploded.

There's a dog park/bar opening at 730 S. Main called Lucky's Social Club. It's having a soft opening on March 16th and March 17th in conjunction with St. Pawtrick's Day. (Died.)

Chelsea Glass and Brian Ellsworth are behind the venture. Both are in event planning. Mac Hopper, who was co-developer of Loflin Yard and Carolina Watershed, is also a partner.

The bar will be members-only — $10 a day; $25 per month; or $275 per year. To enter with your dog, you must have proof of vaccination and spay/neuter. And, you will have to sign a paper swearing your dog is not aggressive. No dog? No problem. You're welcome too.

Glass says Lucky's, which is near the Active Bolt and Carolina Watershed sites, is in an ideal space, with lots of room for roaming and running and nearby to retail and living spaces.

According to Glass, there will be Yappy Hours and a Paw of Fame wall. A menu will serve gourmet hotdogs — a Greek dog, Chicago-style, veggie. They're hoping to offer a beer for dogs.

The idea, says Glass, who has two dogs, Duke and Titan, is to provide a space for dogs and their human friends that is fun and safe.

The St. Pawtrick's Day party will feature food trucks and live music. It runs from noon to 6 p.m.

Lucky's Social Club is set to open May 1st.  

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Kelly English to Take Over Midtown Fino's

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 1:42 PM


Exciting news, Kelly English is taking over the Midtown Fino's.

His goal, he says, is to preserve something that is so authentically Midtown.

He plans to serve breakfast, with an emphasis on breakfast sandwiches, including pork rolls. But, otherwise, the menu will be much the same.

He hopes to have it open by early April.

When asked if this was out of his comfort zone, English replies, "Everything I do is outside of my comfort zone." He says that's what keeps him striving.

He says he is not taking over the East Memphis location.

We'll keep you posted on this story. 

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Best Bets: Edge Alley Shrimp and Grits

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Shrimp and grits at Edge Alley. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shrimp and grits at Edge Alley.

Shrimp and grits is a popular New Orleans dish. So, if you’re celebrating Fat Tuesday in the Bluff City instead of in the Big Easy, throw on some Mardi Gras beads and head over to Edge Alley for chef/owner Tim Barker's version of shrimp and grits.

I believe the first time I tried shrimp and grits was at City Grocery restaurant in Oxford, Miss. It was amazingly delicious. I probably thought at the time, “Who could have come up with such an amazing thing?”

That was decades ago. Over the years, I’ve eaten shrimp and grits in many locations, including buffets at parties.

Also over the years, I seem to forget there usually is meat of some kind in shrimp and grits. I’ll order it on a night when I don’t want meat and then suddenly I’m surprised to find chorizo peeping out of my grits.

Well, there’s no meat in Barker’s shrimp and grits at Edge Alley. They’re fabulous. Shrimp, grits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. An entree with as much comfort as a Stratolounger.

“I prefer the shrimp and grits that doesn’t have ham in it,” Barker says. “Or sausage. I don’t think it’s necessary. But roasting all the vegetables and getting that char, nice deep color, we’re able to achieve the same effect without adding ham.”

And, he says, “I’m not a fan of heavier, salty shrimp and grits. My goal with our recipe is to make a lighter, fresher, more healthful approach.”

There is butter in his shrimp and grits. “It’s not exactly ‘healthy.’ I put a fair amount of butter in it. But I’m in the camp that says butter is good for you. A lot of people have condemned butter, but everything in moderation. In a sauce made of roasted vegetables, a little butter won’t hurt you.”

Describing his shrimp and grits, Barker says, “Lilghtly blackened Gulf shrimp. The sauce is charred. Spicy-charred tomato sauce. And then our pimento cheese grits.

“The technique we use to prepare our grits is fluffier and lighter so they’re not heavy and gloopy. Mine are, from the outset, designed to be lighter and almost fluffy.”

I’ve added a video of Barker making his shrimp and grits like he does at home instead of in a larger quantity like he does at Edge Alley.

So, turn on the video and let the good times roll in Barker’s kitchen.

Edge Alley is at 600 Monroe No. 101; (901) 425-2605

  • Michael Donahue
  • Tim Barker

Monday, February 25, 2019

Coming Soon: Cousins Maine Lobster

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 2:54 PM


The Cousins Maine Lobster food truck will make its debut Saturday, March 2nd at Crosstown Brewing.

The truck, which is one of about two dozen nationwide, is known for its lobster rolls.

Cousins is run by two cousins — Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac. According to Lomac, they were only in business a couple of months when they were urged by the producers of Shark Tank to appear. They did and convinced Barbara Corcoran to back them.

The company has since expanded wildly — now with 30 trucks and eight brick-and-mortar restaurants. Lomac says it was the exposure from the show that helped them realize this sort of success.

Lomac says that the Memphis market appealed to them because they recognized the promise in the food scene.

The truck will be at Crosstown Brewing on March 2nd from 2:30 to 7 p.m. From there, it's a busy schedule:

Buster's Liquors & Wines
191 S Highland Street, Memphis TN 38111
Serving Noon-5:00pm

West Clinic
7945 Wolf River Blvd, Germantown, TN 38138
Serving 10:30am-1:00pm

Wiseacre Brewing Co.
2783 Broad Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112
Serving 5-8:30pm

Health Sciences Park
Madison Avenue & S Dunlap Street, Memphis TN 38103
Serving 11am-2pm

Memphis Made Brewing Co
768 Cooper Street, Memphis, TN 38104
Serving 1pm-6pm 

The menu for the Memphis truck features two types of lobster roll (Maine and Connecticut), a lobster grilled cheese, lobster tots (!), clam chowder, and lobster tacos and shrimp tacos.

For Lomac, sourcing the lobster through Maine guarantees quality, which will be something Memphians will appreciate. "It's an affordable luxury," he says. "And we saved them a trip to Maine."

Those interested in booking the truck, can contact them through their website.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Scoop on Knifebird

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM


Knifebird, the new wine bar in Cooper-Young, is set to open in May.

First things first, let's get the name out of the way. It is the bar owner Kate Ashby's nickname, based on a tattoo of a bird on her wrist. It looks, from some angles, like a dagger.

Knifebird will be next to Urban Outfitters, across the street from Railgarten. The look will be mid-century industrial chic.

Ashby describes it as "a watering hole for dignified people." She says that Memphis has plenty of cool breweries and restaurants, but Knifebird will be a place to stay a while — without the smoky atmosphere and promise of regrets.

"I'm really hoping to create a neighborhood bar with ambience and character," Ashby says.

Ashby has a background in wines, working most recently at the Kitchen Bistro and Char. She says that Knifebird will sell about 35 to 40 wines by the glass, ranging from $10 to $15 with a few high dollar glasses available. There will be local beers and a full bar as well. Ashby is bringing in a bartender to design the cocktail menu.

The bar will have a cold kitchen, meaning charcuterie plates and cheeses and the like.

Ashby says that Knifebird won't be pretentious and they aren't out to educate anybody. They will offer wines are that are familiar for those who like what they like and more "out there" wines for the more adventurous.

She says in her experience she finds that Memphians like California wines, but she hopes to turn them on to French wines. She herself likes a good glass Beaujolais.

Knifebird to-be - KNIFEBIRD, INSTAGRAM
  • Knifebird, Instagram
  • Knifebird to-be

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Best Bets: Creamed spinach at 117 Prime

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2019 at 4:06 PM

Creamed spinach at 117 Prime - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Creamed spinach at 117 Prime

Popeye had a lot to do with me liking greens.

As a child, I went through a period where I hated turnip greens, sweet potatoes, bananas, liver, buttermilk, beets, and Mexican food. Greens was at the head of the list — until my mother bought a can of spinach.

My brother and I got her to buy a can of spinach because we wanted to be like Popeye. It might have been "Popeye" brand. She had to open the can about three fourths of the way so it would look like the cans in the cartoons. Popeye squeezed the cans open and plopped the spinach into his mouth. Part of the lid always was attached to the can. My mother had to put heavy tape around the edge of the lid so we wouldn’t cut ourselves while trying to look like Popeye. This sort of lessened the effect we we were trying to achieve.

The outcome of all this was we discovered we loved spinach. It didn’t taste like canned turnip greens, which, I later discovered, my mother didn’t like, either. She served them because they’re good for you.

Well, if chef Ryan Trimm was cooking when I was a child, I might have bypassed Popeye and the empty spinach cans. I tasted Trimm’s creamed spinach during a recent trip to his 117 Prime restaurant. It’s one of the most delectable side dishes I’ve eaten. And, I’ll even say, it’s the best creamed spinach I’ve ever eaten.

I asked Trimm to tell me about it.

“I knew what was in creamed spinach and I made it,” he says. “I played with it. I knew the basic idea of what creamed spinach was and we played with it ‘till I got it.”

He wanted it to be “traditional creamed spinach - a combination of two different cheeses, shallots, garlic, spinach, cream, and salt and pepper.”

And, he says, “It’s always a white cheese."

The taste is spectacular. “Ours is rich. We put more cheese in it than most people do. It costs a lot to make. It’s not cheaply made by any means.”

I ordered the creamed spinach with my steak at 117 Prime, but, I have to say, I could make a meal out of the spinach. “It’s about 12 ounces of creamed spinach,” Trimm says.

Creamed spinach is something Trimm just likes to eat. “It’s something I remember from steak houses. I love spinach, sauteed, Italian spinach. And creamed spinach is something I’ve always enjoyed. When I go to a steakhouse, I almost always order sauteed mushrooms and creamed spinach. They’re two favorites.”

Two of his favorite places to get creamed spinach are Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York and The Palm in New York City.

Now you can stay in Memphis and get a great one.

Note: I’ve added a video of chefs Trimm and head chef Alex Switzer making creamed spinach at 117 Prime. It’s going to make you hungry.

117 Prime is at 117 Union Avenue; 901-433-9851

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Swanky's Coming Downtown

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 2:47 PM


Look for later hours and a new dinner menu when the new Swanky’s Taco Shop opens Downtown in the old LYFE Kitchen space in The Chisca on Main. The restaurant, which will become the third Swanky’s location, is slated to open in April, says owner/founder/managing partner Matt Wilson.

“I would anticipate us staying open probably on the weekends,” he says. “Probably the bar open until until 12 or 12:30. Something like that. The kitchen open till 11 on the weekend and probably 10 during the week.

“We will be providing our casual, quick lunch option, which has been shown to be successful for us for almost 14 years. Nighttime table service and a different dinner menu will be unveiled at that location. You won’t consider it a lunch spot, if you know what I mean. A more refined atmosphere.”

And, he says, the new location offers “a great patio opportunity.”

The old LYFE space is only three years old, so Wilson says, “For the majority of it, we’re not going to change a whole lot. Do some demolition of walls and things to open up our queue.”

But, he says, “It’s in really good shape. They took really good care of it.”

They will move into 3,885 square feet, which includes the interior of the restaurant, the dining room and bar, says Chase Carlisle, managing partner of The Chisca on Main. The space also comes with a 1,200 square-foot-patio.

They haven’t set a date for the opening, but Wilson hopes it will be in April.

Wilson says, “So much happening in Downtown. It’s going to be our third store in Memphis. We looked Downtown for years and years and we haven’t found the right spot. And timing wasn’t right. We looked at One Commerce Square probably seven year ago. It didn’t work out.

“Now I feel there’s so much momentum for our great city and what’s going on Downtown. We cater to all sorts of clients, who have been asking for Swanky’s to come Downtown for a long time. Chase Carlisle brought the opportunity to my attention and we started talking about it late last spring.”

David Delapav, who ran Salsa for 14, 15 years, will be “the man in charge Downtown. And we’re already hired some folks and got them training at the Swanky’s on Colonial. We’re fired up. We anticipate a bigger bar business there than we have at our other stores.”

What sets Swanky’s apart? “It’s a commitment to serving the freshest food that we possibly can. We get produce delivered six days a week. And everything we do there is as fresh as possible. It’s certainly not fancy, but we feel we can deliver some healthy alternatives and no MSG garbage. We keep that stuff out and offer fresh flavors.”

Their catering business, with their fajita bars, “continues to grow at leaps and bounds.”

“Tenn Mex” is how they describe their food. “This concept was born in Memphis. Whether it’s our pretty sizable variety of bourbons we offer to some different things we’ve done dessert-wise, we feel like we’ve kept our connection to the Mid-South when we can.

“The whole deal is not possible without having a big crew of folks that are great team members. And we’re only as good as our frontline.”

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Monday, February 4, 2019

No More Plastic Bags at Cordelia's Market

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 10:53 AM

Cordelia's Market in Harbor Town has made the decision to get rid of its plastic bags, effective today.

And, it's having a party to celebrate!

Kroger announced last summer that it plans to do away with plastic bags by 2025. Last fall, the city council discussed plans to tax consumers for each plastic bag used. I believe Cordelia's is the first Memphis-area market to do away with the bags.

"The environment," says Erica Humphreys on the reason why Cordelia's made this move.

Humphreys, who is a manager at Cordelia's, says that plastic bags are just no good. They aren't recyclable and it takes up to 1,000 years for a bag to fully degrade, and they junk up the ocean.

Humphreys says they had been thinking about it for a while and starting feeling out their customers' reactions at the register. The ban was well received. Cordelia's will offer paper bags for those who don't bring a reusable bag.

Today at the market, 3,000 reusable bags will be given away and for those who bring their own mug, there's free coffee, and discount beer for those who bring their own pint glass. 

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