Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Sweet New Menu and Decor at Sweet Grass

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 7:47 PM

Sweet Grass has a new look...... - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sweet Grass has a new look......
....and a new menu. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • ....and a new menu.

Sweet Grass has gone back to its roots.

Guests were invited to a reveal May 21st to check out the Cooper-Young restaurant’s new menu and new look.

"So many changes were made to the Sweet Grass menu over 10 years,” says chef/owner Ryan Trimm. “When we first opened, we catered to groups and parties that wanted to taste a lot of food and pass around the table, family-style. I enjoy eating with a group of friends and share more than I enjoy a three-course meal. We wanted to bring that back. A service style, an atmosphere, a cocktail list, and our menu have been shifted to the original Sweet Grass style, but we have focused more on tapas and shared cocktails portion of the menu this time."

The renovation actually began after brunch Easter Sunday, Trimm says. Instead of going home, his staff decided to stay and clean up the place so work on the restaurant could begin the next day.

Sweet Grass has new flooring, a new wall on the South side of the restaurant, new tables and chairs, banquette seating along one wall, chalk boards, new chandeliers, and shelves that span the length of the 30-plus-foot bar.

Baskets made of sweetgrass from South Carolina hang on one wall. Trimm says he chose the name “Sweet Grass” for the restaurant because sweetgrass grows in the South Carolina low country. Low country cuisine is what he began serving when the restaurant opened.

On another wall is a piece made of oyster shells. Sweet Grass also is known for its oyster bar.

The restaurant interior was painted in antique cream with an accent called “Jasper,” Trimm says. Ann Parker from Parker Design Studios did the interior design work.

Guests tried a variety of new dishes, including braised pork dumplings, goat cheese crostinis, lamb lollipops, lump crab cakes, pan-seared sea scallops, and tonkatsu pork santos made of crisp pork loin, spicy mustard, white bread, and cabbage.

Trimm says Sweet Grass now offers “pintxos,” which are “one to two bites” items as opposed to small plates. Servers will walk amongst tables with the pintxos. If people want to try them, they’ll leave them at the table. If not, they’ll go on to the next table.

Bartender Nick Lumpkin says two of the most popular cocktails on the spring menu are the “plum sour” made of wheatley vodka, lemon, black plum, fernet branca, and sage; and the “rye thyme” made of Wild Turkey 101 Rye, honey gastrique, lemon, angostura, and thyme.

Sweet Grass is at 937 Cooper; (901) 278-0278

Roger Sapp, Ryan Trimm, Nicole Carstensen, and Marisa Grifiith at Sweet Grass's spring menu/decor unveiling. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Roger Sapp, Ryan Trimm, Nicole Carstensen, and Marisa Grifiith at Sweet Grass's spring menu/decor unveiling.
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael Donahue

(Updated) Fino's to Open June 6th

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 9:33 AM

  • tripadvisor.com

Fino's, the beloved Italian sandwich shop, will reopen on June 6th.

The restaurant will be open 7 days a week and offer breakfast and a coffee program.

Kelly English announced back in March that he would be taking over the Midtown Fino's. He will not operate the East Memphis location, which will remain closed.

Here are some more points of interest:

• Classic menu items will be kept, but with the addition of breakfast items and pizza
(pizza may not roll out first day though)
• There will be a few opening events - one specifically for Fino's
super fans (we will hold a contest online for that). 50 people will be
invited) to try menu items.
• Fino's will have an updated look, but it will still feel very familiar to Fino's regulars.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

We Ate ALL of Gibson's Donuts, Part III

Posted By and on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 1:11 PM


We know what you're thinking: Robert Caro ain't got nothing on y'all. And you wouldn't be wrong. Let's guide this baby home!

Devil’s Food - Not too sweet, but very chocolatey.


Blueberry - A Sky Blue Popsicle comes to mind. Delicious blueberry flavor.

New Orleans Buttermilk - I have to describe this as a milky taste, which, with the sweetness, is wonderful.

Orange World’s Fair - A cake doughnut with an orange taste. Excellent.

Vanilla iced — ice ice, baby. No skimping on the icing on this one.


Chocolate sprinkle — chocolate-y and oh so good. This one reminds me of Prince.

Lemon filled — tart and wonderful. Would make perfect afternoon snack.

Strawberry filled — Delicate as far as donuts go. And, of course, delicious.


Chocolate old fashioned — We're in love with this one. Chocolate, cake. Mmmmm.

World's Fair — we were told that these donuts were named after World's Fair. These are cake with heavy glaze and yum yummy.
Chocolate World's Fair — See above, only chocolate this time. So good!

Thank you to Gibson's for all the donuts.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

We Ate ALL of Gibson's Donuts, Part II

Posted By and on Mon, May 13, 2019 at 4:03 PM


We were originally told that Gibson's offered between 48 and 56 different donuts. The number, it turns out, is around 35, which is still A LOT of donuts.

So then the question moved to how to handle such a task. Gibson's bagged each donut individually. We decided to number the bags and then take a picture and go from there. Except Michael took his first few donuts out of the bag and ate half of them before he took a picture. And then I flat-out skipped one of mine. Best laid plans and all that.

Vanilla filled — Over the top yeast donut filled to the gills with a super-sweet vanilla icing.

Custard filled — Rich rich rich, and oh so good.

Vanilla sprinkle — this one is pretty as a picture. A basic yeast with a vanilla glaze and topped with colorful sprinkles. Looks like a child's present.


Crumb cake — if the buttermilk donut is Gibson's Beyonce, then the crumb cake would be Solange. It's bold and spicy, complex and a little weird.

Plain old fashioned — cake donut, simplicity and utter perfection.

Oreo — a donut that tastes exactly like an Oreo? Is that even legal?

Caramel iced — a yeast donut with a delicate caramel glaze. Pretty dang good.

Raspberry filled — an expertly executed version of this classic donut

Chocolate/ world's fair — cake donut, with a hint of orange flavor with a chocolate glaze. Tastes so sophisticated!

Coconut — they didn't skimp on the coconut for this one, no sir!

Chocolate iced — the tippy top ideal of a donut.

Old fashioned — cake donut with a glaze. Ain't nothing wrong with that at all.

Chocolate old fashioned — see above, except with a chocolate glaze. So good! 

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Friday, May 10, 2019

We Ate ALL of Gibson's Donuts, Part I

Posted By and on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 2:29 PM


The original idea was that we would eat all the donuts at Gibson's and then rank them, but that struck us as horrible to rate all these beauties, each brilliant in its own way. And when we were told that the number of different donuts was north of 50, the task seemed undoable. I was desperate to scale back. But, Donahue was fixed on the idea of eating them all. And, so eat them all we did. We did leave you some. And, by the way, by our count, there are 35 donut varieties, which is plenty, indeed.

This is part 1.


Maple Iced - Heavy maple flavor. The no-bacon version of the Maple Bacon doughnut.


Glazed - The perfect glazed doughnut. Sweet, but not cloying. A great dunker with coffee.


Cinnamon Sugar - Softer than the Cinnamon Sugar Cake version, but still has a great cinnamon taste.


Red Velvet - Tastes like the famous cake.


Blueberry Filled - The classic jelly doughnut, but with blueberry, not strawberry filling.


Maple Bacon - Sweet and savory with the sweet maple and the salty bacon. It’s like breakfast without the pancakes.

Plain Cake with Chocolate Icing - The classic cake, but with a chocolate topping. Great, tasty combination.

Cinnamon Sugar Cake - Lots of cinnamon. Good dunker.


Caramel Cake - Doesn’t taste like a caramel cake, but still is delicious.


Powder Cake - A nostalgic, tasty taste from childhood. Don’t eat this while wearing a black shirt.

Chocolate Devil’s Food - Decadently good. Chocolate lovers will love this.


Plain Cake - Not very sweet - in a good way. Great dunker.

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New Venue for Margarita Festival

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 10:50 AM


Margarita Festival ain't scared of a little rain. But it is moving to a new venue due to impending weather.

The Margarita Festival is now at the Creative Arts Building at the Fairgrounds. This is next to the Pipkin Building. So the good news is: Great margs now with lots of parking!

The Margarita Festival is Saturday, May 11th, 3-6 p.m. (This is a sold out event! Check back next year.)

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Vishwesh Bhatt Wins James Beard Award

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 4:07 PM

Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, MS, has been nominated six times for a James Beard Award for Best Chef South. As it turns out, the sixth time is the charm. Last night, in Chicago, Bhatt took home the medal.

Tell me how the evening went down?
I've gotten pretty used to not hearing my name. And then I heard a name that clearly wasn't one of the four [other chefs].

You didn't have any inkling that this was your year?
I felt pretty good about it. I mean, you know, I felt good about it every year.

You're one of five people, so the odds are always good. But it's really hard to tell whose name will be called because they are all really good chefs and we're all friends.

Do you have any pre-ceremony rituals?
No, no.

We traveled with a group of people wanting to come up. They had more of a feeling than I did. So I had a nice, nice group of coworkers and friends who came up from Oxford.

And so we don't really have a ritual. We went and had a really nice meal as a group, as family. Then everybody kind of just took it easy in the morning. We all met
before the awards and had a couple of cocktails across the street. I mean, that's sort of a tradition because there's this restaurant that's across the street from
the Opera House. It's nice and quiet, right? That time of the day. And so we just go and have a couple of cocktails and then we walk across the street. So that's what we did.

How do you establish an identity within the John Currence empire?
A lot of the credit goes to John for letting me express myself and letting me experiment with recipes or ingredients. If I had an idea, he was always encouraged me. Always.

Yeah, so that gave me confidence to try more stuff.

In the beginning, I would run it by him. And, finally, after doing this for a while, now we both have enough confidence. We've been working together for 20 years.

How do you describe what you make?
What I make is Southern food. At first glance, it may appear to be [something] you would not have seen in grandma's kitchen or church picnics, but those are the influences. That's sharing food with friends and family. That's what I grew up with.

How do you remain challenged and excited about what you do?
This is my passion. This is what I do for a living. So every day, you want to make people happy. You want to make sure that what you're putting on a plate in front of somebody is going to make them happy because, you know, otherwise, you don't have a job. So that in and of itself is a challenge and especially when, you know, we're talking about a restaurant where two or 300 people come through, you're trying to make them all happy. It's a challenge.

Oxford's is a small enough pond where I run into folks that come in to eat. If they didn't like something there, they tell me that.

When you were a kid and first arrived in Austin at age 17 from India, was this sort of the vision you had for yourself?
I did not. I didn't really know I was going to be cooking for living until I started working at City Grocery

I wanted to be a bureaucrat. I thought that was the greatest thing in the world.

Vishwesh Bhatt will cook at the Oxford Bourbon Festival and Auction, set for May 24th and 25th at the Vaught Hemingway Stadium. The event is a fund-raiser for Move On Up Mississippi.

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Best Bets: Chicken Salad

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 3:34 PM


I was in a restaurant once and ordered “chicken salad,” which was what was listed on the menu. What I got was a green salad with some strips of chicken on top. I was very disappointed.

Chicken salad has to be that mixture of chicken and mayonnaise and other ingredients. It can be served on a lettuce leaf, but chicken salad has to be something you can eat with a spoon.

So, I was pleased when I found an outstanding chicken salad right across the street from my office. It’s the one served at Front Street Deli. Tons of chicken chunks. Grapes, which add a little sweetness, are another ingredient. I love sweet-and-savory cuisine, so this is perfect for me. Because of the grapes, it’s reminiscent of the chicken salad served at the old Brushmark restaurant at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Front Street Deli general manager Mike Jones says he makes a pound and a half of the chicken salad every other day. You can buy it in a cup, but most people buy the chicken salad on the “Born on the Fourth of July” sandwich.

I asked owner Jon Hodge the chicken salad’s history.

Hodge and chef Rob Ray, who now is with Venice Kitchen, created the chicken salad in 2017 after Hodge bought Front Street Deli. ‘He and I got in the kitchen and did a lot of different tastings and strategy on how to cook the chicken and season it and everything else,” Hodge says. “So, it was kind of a trial-and-error thing.”

The “turning point” was when they sous vide the chicken. “That sous vide-ing allows us to flavor lock all the chicken we use and allows it to stay moist throughout the cooking process.”

The ingredients include a mayonnaise and sour cream mix, Hodge says.

As for the grapes, he says, “We were looking for something that was going to be kind of refreshing.”

Hodge associates chicken salad with “nicer days,” so, he says, “My palate is ready for something somewhat refreshing. Light but hearty. That’s the reason we go with that.”

No nuts are in Front Street Deli’s chicken salad, but Hodge says, “We do use a celery to provide a little bit of crunchy texture. And then the aromatics from that also help add the freshness.”

The chicken salad sandwich is named “Born on the Fourth of July” because all of Front Street Deli’s sandwiches are named after Tom Cruise movies. The Firm, the 1993 Cruise movie, was filmed at Front Street Deli. The film runs continuously at the restaurant. And you can sit where Cruise sat in the movie, Hodge says.

A photo on the front page of the New York Times on one July 4th is of Cruise at the counter with a newspaper at Front Street Deli, Hodge says. He’s pleased and flattered the photo made the front page. “I would expect they had a lot of important stories to run.”

Cruise doesn't eat a chicken salad sandwich in The Firm. What he had was an egg salad sandwich in the movie.”

In one scene, someone says they have an egg salad sandwich from Front Street Deli, Hodge says.

Front Street Deli hasn’t served the egg salad sandwich since he took over ownership, Hodge says. “We haven’t sold that yet,” he says.

But, that doesn’t mean it won’t show up on the menu some day. “If we can get the demand for it.”

Front Street Deli is at 77 South Front at Union. Call: (901) 522-4824

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Bigger Arcade Restaurant!

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 6:48 PM

  • Michael Donahue

A section of the new addition at the Arcade Restaurant. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • A section of the new addition at the Arcade Restaurant.

In Greek, “arcade” means a “fun gathering place,” says Michael Zepatos, grandson of Arcade Restaurant founder, Speros Zepatos.

The Arcade Restaurant will open at 7 a.m. May 2 as an even bigger fun gathering place. The Arcade, founded in 1919 and known as “Memphis’s oldest cafe,” held a preview party on the eve of the expansion’s opening.

“We wanted to show it off to all our friends and family,” says general manager Jeffrey Zepatos. He and his wife, Kelcie, his dad, Harry Zepatos, and mother, Karan Zepatos, along with Michael Zepatos, welcomed about 325 guests for drinks and light appetizers.

Father Nicholas Vieron, 93, who was a friend of Speros and Harry, blessed the new addition, which is an extension of the South side room that adjoins the main dining room. A wall was taken out to combine the two rooms. Back in the day, the side of the new addition closest to the main dining room was the old Progressive liquor store. The other side was an art studio.

The extension, which features a full-service liquor bar and a coffee bar, adds 2,400 renovated square feet to the original ,500 square-foot-restaurant.

The restaurant has gone from 123 seats to 208 seats.

Instead of one small bathroom, the Arcade now has four spacious handicapped bathrooms.

A window from the coffee bar to the street saves walking time for outdoor diners.

The new addition includes an indoor waiting area for customers.

The entire restaurant now has a state-of-the-art sound system.

The expansion was done by Looney Ricks Kiss architecture firm and Tom Archer custom builders. Interior design was by Blas Betancourt, who is with LRK, along with Kelsey and Karan Zepatos. Krissy Buck with LRK was project manager.

The peach-and-teal color scheme in the main room was reversed in the new area. The main room has a terrazzo floor. The bar’s counter top in the extension is terrazzo. Part of the bar in the new area is the tufted vinyl that matches the tufted vinyl on the counter in the main room. The wainscoting in the main dining room is teal. The wainscoting in the new room is peach.

They found some surprises during renovation. When they took out the linoleum, they discovered a hardwood floor, Karan says.

They left the wood beams that were in the wall. It was as if they were “meant to be,” Jeffrey says.

They removed the brick that went up about five feet on the front windows in the extension and installed larger windows, which gives the room a much brighter look.

For now, the restaurant isn’t open late every night. “Not quite yet,” Jeffrey says.

But business as usual - breakfast, lunch and dinner - will continue at the iconic restaurant, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The new 2,400 square-foot addition. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • The new 2,400 square-foot addition.
The full-service liquor bar in the new addition. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The full-service liquor bar in the new addition.

The coffee bar. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The coffee bar.
The Zepatos family with Father Nicholas Vieron. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Zepatos family with Father Nicholas Vieron.

Best Bets: Alex Grisanti's Crawfish Pizza

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 2:07 PM


When I cover the Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival, I don’t want to sit on a railroad track while I pull crawfish apart and suck the heads and bite the tails. Nothing wrong with that. It’s fun. Unless you’re working. I don’t want to go up to people all afternoon smelling like mudbugs while I’m sticking my phone camera in their faces.

So, I was delighted to discover Alex Grisanti’s crawfish pizza at his 9-Dough-1 food truck. I could just take a slice and eat it. The crawfish tails already were out of their shells and ready to be consumed.

The crawfish pizza now is available at his food truck, but Grisanti, who manned 9 Dough 1 with his wife, Kim, and Igor Kobas, says he created the crawfish pizza for the Rajun Cajun festival. “'Cause of the crawfish theme, of course,” Grisanti says.

Fran Carpenter with Main Events, which produces the event, suggested he do a crawfish pizza. “I started twiddling around with the plan and that’s what I came up with.

“I kind of wanted it to have an etouffee taste and feel to it. So, that’s the flavor. I did a butter base on it, sort of a pizza sauce base, mozzarella cheese, and then I did a roasted corn-tomato-onion chutney on there. And then I had the remoulade sauce on it.”

And crawfish tails, of course.

Grisanti went through 150 pounds of crawfish tails during the festival.

What makes it so great is “the sweetness of the corn with the spicy crawfish flavor,” he says.

“It’s like a real crawfish boil. That’s what I was trying to replicate.”

So, instead of dumping crawfish, potatoes and corn on a newspaper, the crawfish, corn, and other toppings are poured on Grisanti’s home-made pizza crust, which includes Budweiser (heavy, not light) as an ingredient.

Originally, the crawfish pizza was going to be a one-shot deal for the festival until, Grisanti says, “I tried it out on a couple of people a couple of days and they were going crazy over it.”

His mudbug pizza will be available this summer, he says. “I can do it all year ‘round, but in summertime people think of crawfish and shrimp boils and barbecue.”

Grisanti’s crawfish pizza is “a little play on summertime.”

Rob Hughes, Porter-Leath vice-president of development, says, “It’s kind of like barbecue pizza over at Coletta’s. Out-of-towners won't get it, but once you try it, you’re hooked.”

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

Igor Kobas and Alex Grisanti with a freshly-baked crawfish pizza. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Igor Kobas and Alex Grisanti with a freshly-baked crawfish pizza.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Court House Deli Closes Shop

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:34 PM

Owner Brad Peden closed his Court House Deli April 30th. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Owner Brad Peden closed his Court House Deli April 30th.

Ross McDaniel isn’t happy to hear Court House Deli was closing.

“No way,” says McDaniel, who works Downtown.

Then he says, “Try some of those voodoo wings one last time.”

After 17 and a half years, Court House Deli owner Brad Peden is calling it quits. Court House Deli closed for good about 3 p.m. April 30th.

“Business isn’t good and I can’t get any help,” Peden says. “I’ve been working free for months.”

A native Memphian, Peden took over Court House Deli, which originally was on Madison, from the previous owner because he wanted a “downtown lunch place” to serve his Cajun cuisine.

Business was good for a long time. “I’m like a Downtown staple.”

It got to the point where Peden and his 76-year-old mother, Mary Hiller, were doing all the work. With more restaurants open, construction going on next door (people thought he was closed, he says), and law firms, which used to be his big customers, moving out East —  all contributed to the closing. “I did enough business to keep the doors open.”

And, he says, his mother’s health problems are another reason he’s closing.

But, he says, Downtown “has been good to me,” he says. “It’s really hard.”

His specialities — all made from scratch — included his voodoo wings, which he boiled in crawfish seasoning before adding his mixture of sugar, honey, Cajun seasoning, and other ingredients. “Whatever happens to me next, I’m taking that sauce with me.”

Court House Deli wasn’t Peden’s first gig; he worked eight and a half years at Mortimer’s. He also worked at L&N Seafood Grill. And he was part owner of Jacques Cajun Cafe,” which was at Airways and Democrat. “I’ve been a chef my whole life.”

He didn’t make a big announcement he was closing Court House Deli. “I told a lot of people I like today was my last day. Everybody was sad to hear it.”

Peden says he’s got two and a half years left on his lease, so he’s leaving all the kitchen equipment in hopes he can find someone to take over his lease with a new restaurant.

For now, Peden says he’s going to take some time off. “I don’t know what’s next. I’m going to be a chef somewhere.”

Beckii Lee, one of his regulars, walks in the all-but-deserted restaurant. “We’re going to miss you,” she says. She then goes behind the counter and gives Peden a hug.

“Nobody can make chicken salad like he can,” says Lee, who lives Downtown and works at nearby Rachel’s Salon and Day Spa.

Lee is going to miss Court House Deli. “It’s always been home,” she says.

Beckii Lee gives Brad Peden a hug on his last day at Court House Deli. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beckii Lee gives Brad Peden a hug on his last day at Court House Deli.

Swanky's Downtown Set to Open on Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 12:26 PM


The latest Swanky's, in the Chisca space that once held LYFE Kitchen, is set to open Wednesday, May 1st.

This is Swanky's third location.

Swanky's had been looking for a Downtown location for a while.

Swanky's owner Matt 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.”

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Doghouzz Opening in June

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 9:25 AM


A new bar/restaurant, The Doghouzz, serving gourmet hot dogs, is set to open in June across from the Crosstown Concourse, it was announced this morning.

Press release below:

MEMPHIS - The Doghouzz, a top-shelf, top-notch bar, is slated to open early June 2019. It will proudly serve a menu including gourmet hot dogs, a variety of local craft and domestic beers, and one of the largest whiskey selections around. In addition, the completely renovated venue, located at 1349 Autumn, will showcase local diverse entertainment acts including weekly Saturday night dance parties with DJ Record Player.

The idea for the establishment is the brainchild of four partners, Steve Murphy, Robert Taylor, Nico Zorbino, and Ray Rico, who are happy to introduce a gourmet hot dog establishment, a first of its kind for Memphis. This game-changer for the Midtown location is adjacent to the Crosstown Concourse.

Operating hours will be Monday-Saturday 11 am - 3 am and will be closed on Sundays. The establishment will offer daily lunch and a limited late night bar menu. The new eatery will offer a newly renovated patio to enjoy the Memphis summer nights.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mama Gaia Ballet Memphis Location To Close

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 12:22 PM

  • Bianca Phillips

It was announced today that Mama Gaia, an all-organic vegetarian restaurant, will close its Ballet Memphis location at the end of April.

Mama Gaia was one of the first businesses to open in Crosstown Concourse. It opened in  spring 2017.

The restaurant offered pitas, quinoa bowls, salads, and soups.

The restaurant was owned by Cru and Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling. Philipp said before the opening: “Our goal is to inspire people to be more conscious about what they are eating and encourage them to incorporate high-quality, organic foods into their regular diet to promote healthy living and a sustainable environment. Right now, we are focusing all our efforts on building our brand with this Crosstown location, but we hope to make it an emerging trend for future generations.”

The Crosstown restaurant closed in September. Saucy Chicken, owned by the same ownership group, took over the space.

The second Mama Gaia opened in Ballet Memphis in August 2017.

From the release:

MAMA GAIA to cease operations in Ballet Memphis’ Midtown headquarters
Mama Gaia will be open until April 30, 2019; Ballet Memphis in discussion with potential new partner

MEMPHIS, TENN. (April 17, 2019) – – – MAMA GAIA, a fast-casual organic vegetarian cafe, will close its location in Ballet Memphis, effective the end of April. Mama Gaia has leased the cafe space at Ballet Memphis’ headquarters at 2144 Madison Avenue since September 2017 and will continue operations through April 30, 11am - 6pm Monday through Saturday.

This was the second location for Mama Gaia; it closed its original Crosstown Concourse cafe in September 2018 in order to focus on catering operations and other ventures. The ownership group opened the successful Saucy Chicken concept in the same Crosstown location.

“We have enjoyed our nearly two-year partnership with Mama Gaia, and we look forward to welcoming another enthusiastic partner to our beautiful cafe space here at Ballet Memphis,” Dorothy Gunther Pugh, CEO & Founding Artistic Director, said. “The Memphis food scene in the Midtown area is thriving and we are excited to be a part of it. We wish the Mama Gaia team all the best in future endeavors.”

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Best Bets: Crawfish Bisque

Posted By on Sun, Apr 14, 2019 at 4:34 PM

Crawfish bisque at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Crawfish bisque at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant.

If you want a taste of spring, check out the dogwoods on Belvedere.

If you want another taste of spring, check out the crawfish bisque at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant.

Crawfish means spring. That’s when the crawfish boils start popping up. Two, which are open to the public, are the Overton Square Crawfish Festival, which will be April 13th, and the Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival will be April 28th at Wagner Place and Riverside Drive.

But you don’t have to wait until spring for the crawfish bisque at Erling Jensen’s; it’s on the menu year-round. And it’s delicious.

It begins with a lobster stock, which consists of lobster and mirepoix - onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, garlic, shallots, and tomato paste. And then saffron, fennel, chili powder, dehydrated tuna, heavy cream, salt, pepper, heavy cream, butter, and a mixture of leeks, onions, and fennel are added. And, finally, the crawfish.

I asked Jensen to tell me the history of the dish. “It came from my La Tourelle days,” he says. “It started out as a bouillabaisse with lobster stock, fish stock, fennel, and a little spice to it. Tomato. And then I woke up one morning and thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I put some heavy cream in it and reduce it a little bit?’ And that’s how it was born.”

That was back in the early ’90s, Jensen says. Crawfish bisque was on the menu when he opened his own restaurant, Erling Jensen: The Restaurant, in 1996. “From the very beginning. It’s been on the menu since we opened, along with the rack of lamb, the pasta, and the crab cakes.”

So, what does does Jensen like about the crawfish bisque? “It’s spicy. It’s rich. It’s just really, really good tasting.”

And what would happen if Jensen took it off the menu? “I don’t know. People, they like it. And if I took it off, I mean, there’d be some kind of civil war here in East Memphis.”

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