Monday, October 09, 2017

Next Door

Next Door
1350 Concourse Avenue, Suite 165
(901) 779-1512


Last week, Jiro (age 13) and I went to Crosstown Concourse to try out Next Door. (Satchel, age 15, did not want to join us, but did want us to bring him home some food.)

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I was invited to a preview on the big Concourse opening day celebration and I got to meet Kimbal Musk himself.

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I know we're all supposed to hate him for what he said a few years ago, but he came across as very genuine and sweet and fun and tall! (He's squatting down in this pic.) Anyway, the whole Colorado team was there and they couldn't have been friendlier.

Also, my BBF (Best Bartender Friend), Adam, is now working the bar. (Next Door is currently the only place to get hard liquor in the Concourse. Farm Burger is beer & maybe wine ? only.)

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Anyways, I've been trying to get the monkeys to eat here for weeks, but all they want is Farm Burger. So, I was very happy when Jiro looked at the menu and immediately saw something he wanted to try: Slow Cooked Meatballs (Parmesan yellow grits, marinara, grilled broccolini & almond gremolata). "Wait, what's broccolini?" he asked.

"Dad buys it at the Asian market. It's a skinnier version of broccoli," I explained.

"And gremolata?" he asked.

"It's a sauce," I said.

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Then Adam came over to say hi and we asked him for recommendations. He assured Jiro that the meatballs were delicious and there were no onions mixed in anywhere. Then he sold me on the Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon bowl (Pan roasted with tuscan kale, beets, quinoa & lemon). "A family in Alaska catches all of our salmon," he explained.

What.The.Fuck. "No way," I said, imagining some version of my kids fishing for salmon in Alaska.

"Way," he said. "All our food is like that." Then he had to go back to tending bar. But, whoever his manager is should take note that he quickly and easily sold me on the most expensive thing on the menu!

Since we were there during happy hour, and Jiro was starved, I ordered a couple of starters--the Charred Cauliflower Salad (Curry aioli, raisins & chickpeas) and Buffalo Chicken Bites (Celery, buffalo sauce & blue cheese). I basically have to order anything involving cauliflower and buffalo sauce no matter where I go. (In my mind, these two things were on the happy hour menu, but now I see they are just regular starters.)

Here's the Happy Hour menu:

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Jiro was impressed that our waiter took our order on an iPad, but was not impressed by the room temperature water. "Where's the ice?" he asked.

"Supposedly room temperature water is supposed to be good for you," I said.

"Room temperature water is gross," he replied.

Luckily our snacks came out and he was happy again. The cauliflower was just okay. We both questioned the use of raisins.

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The Buffalo Chicken Bites were delicious.

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We seriously took turns running our fingers over the last dregs of sauce. I told Jiro that next time I came I was going to ask for a bowl of kale on the side and make this into a salad.

Our entrees soon followed. This is Jiro's "hurry up and take a picture so I can eat" face. He loved his and ate every bite. I was impressed.

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Here's a close up:

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I also loved my dish. A lot.

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The salmon was exceptional. I asked Jiro if he wanted a bite, and he said, "Salmon is gross."

"Not this salmon," I said. "Come on, one bite..."

He took a bite and said, "Mmmmmm...that is good. I'd eat that." Then he proceeded to have several more bites. I could not convince him to try the kale, quinoa and beet mixture though.

We were both super full and happy, which is why I didn't scoff too much at our $55 tab. Next time, we will skip the starters. I also soothed myself with the rationalization that leaving Satchel at home saved me at least $30!

A few other things to note:

There's a lovely patio and they don't seem to mind folks lingering, as judged by this shelf of games:

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It seems very kid friendly. There's no kid menu, but they do have a little area by the bathrooms where toddlers can play with magnets, they offer coloring pages, there's tons of high chairs and boosters, and the bathrooms have changing tables.


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There are still several menu items I want to try, so we will definitely be back.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Farm Burger

Farm Burger
1350 Concourse Ave. Ste. 175
901-800-1851


Before the big opening last weekend, a friend and I had lunch at Farm Burger in Crosstown Concourse. I thought the monkeys (Satchel, 15, and Jiro, 13) might like it, so we stopped in for a quick dinner on Wednesday. Jiro had been to the opening day celebration, so he knew what to expect, but I think it's fair to say that Satchel's mind was blown by the Concourse.

I can't remember which atrium Farm Burger is in, but it's the one closest to Cleveland. When I went for lunch it was crazy crowded, but at 5:30pm, it was nice and mellow; No line, no waiting. (If you sit at the bar, you don't have to stand in line. The bartender will take your order. I did notice a dad and little kid at the bar, so it doesn't appear to be a 21 and up situation, but it may just be that they aren't enforcing it yet.)

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The monkeys quickly decided what they wanted and we put in our order. Satch got a build your own burger with a side of six wings. Jiro got the signature Farm Burger and fries. I actually wasn't feeling great so I ordered a Super Salad with chicken packed to go. I figured I'd eat it later that night or for breakfast.

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I sent the monkeys to get waters and paid the tab: $36.43 plus tip. (They deliver the food and bus the tables, so tipping is called for, but not necessarily 20%, which is what I reflexively do when they use those sneaky computers.)

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They found a nice table by the window and put our number down so the food runners could find us..

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I quickly noticed that two men were hard at work building furniture on the patio. Yay, patio!

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Once I quit taking pictures, Satchel started in on a Dr. Bob-esque rant. "This is one of those borderline vegan places with local bullshit," he said. Then he conceded, "But their meat is probably really good." Having spent two weeks in California over the summer, he's become a bit more outspoken on certain things.

I noticed a sign nearby, so I went to see exactly what the Farm Burger M.O. is.

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So, Satchel basically hit the nail on the head.

After a few more moments, Satchel's wings arrived, and everyone started salivating.

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He agreed to let Jiro have one of the drummies (he prefers the flats) and Jiro, in turn, agreed to give me a bite. I thought they were very tasty. They were gone in just a few minutes, so I am assuming Satchel agreed. He said they were a 7 out of a 10. (For rating purposes, he said there is no 10, but Slider Inn wings are a 9.)

The burgers arrived next, and both boys pounced. Satchel allowed me a quick snap.

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After one bite he was all, "Ohmygodthisisamazing. This is the best burger in Memphis. This is an 11 out of 10." So, there you go.

Meanwhile, Jiro was having a come apart. The Farm Burger he ordered came with farm sauce and caramelized onions.

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The Farm sauce looked like Thousand Island with maybe relish in it? The chunks totally turned Jiro off. And he didn't understand what caramelized onions were. So, we had to do a bunch of scraping.

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He ate about three bites and then pawned it off on me. It was a bummer because he was the one who was really excited about coming to Farm Burger. Oh well, he still had plenty of fries, which everyone liked (and compared to Wing Stop).

I snapped a pic of my salad for posterity.

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Not sure how it would look if I ordered it to eat in, but I was happy the chicken patty was separate. I was actually expecting a chicken breast, but the chicken patty was fine. When I came for lunch, I had a chicken burger which I expected to have a ground patty, but came with a thin breast. But whatever--I'm chalking it up to being new. Both were good.

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(Major thumbs up on the chicken burger, btw. Kale!)

I ate my salad the next day and it was really good. Wasn't crazy about the cranberries (aren't we done with dried cranberries yet??) and caramelized onions (which I like, but not on salad), but I was a major fan of the nutritional yeast. I didn't need any dressing.

But back to Farm Burger. We had folks check on us regularly. Everyone who works there seemed super nice and looked very hip, as you might expect. They even stole my favorite guy from Flying Fish, so A+ on service.

On our way out, we stopped at the Curb Market to get a few essential groceries, and then hit MemPops for two Peaches and Cream popsicles for the road. Aww, yeah.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The 901 Scoop

The 901 Scoop
3536 Walker Ave
901) 421-5519


I took my mom and the monkeys (Satchel, 15 and Jiro, 13) to Sushi Jimmi for dinner. (More on that later.) The topic of rolled ice cream came up, thanks to my recent (negative) review of Rollin Sweets. Satchel had no idea what we were talking about since he didn't go or read my review, so Jiro busted out a YouTube video. I mentioned that I heard a second rolled ice cream place opened yesterday over by the U of M. One thing led to another and we decided to go check it out, just for comparison's sake.

I can truly say now that Rollin Sweets wasn't bad, rolled ice cream is just dumb. I don't care if that makes me sound like an old lady.

When we walked into The 901 Scoop, the first thing I was looking for was how many people in the store were actually eating and how many employees were actually rolling. There were only a handful eating and two gals rolling.

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What The 901 Scoop has going for it, is that they have several things you can order and get right away -- cookies, premade ice cream, sno cones, and coffee. The owner was also behind the counter doing his best to let us know how it all worked and what our options were.

There were 14 cups ahead of us--that's 14 orders of $6.50 rolled ice cream--which the owner clocked at a 30 minute wait.

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He said it took about six minutes per order. So let's do some math--two girls making seven each at six minutes per order, that's actually about a 42 minute wait. I had already promised Jiro we wouldn't wait, so the rolled ice cream was out.

Can we go back to my Rollin Sweets review for a second? You know the one where I clocked the gal making them at 3.5 minutes and I padded the entire exchange to 5 minutes? Well that girl was working her ass off. The girls at The 901 Scoop, not so much. They pretty much looked like they were hating life and there was no pep in their step, so to speak. One of them was spending a lot of extra time cutting off the edges of the ice cream so it was perfectly square before she rolled it. The other one was just looking pouty. I watched for awhile and only saw one finished product which was not pretty. Rollin Sweets at least had a good looking final product.

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I don't see how any business could last long term with just this concept.

Satchel ended up getting a Tiger Blood sno cone. The owner was trying to sell him on a Jolly Rancher sno cone with ice cream and whatnot which sounded good, but Satchel went old school. Jiro wanted a scoop of salted caramel in a waffle cone, but they were out of waffle cones (on Day 2). I was going to try what was billed as a candy bar taco, but it also required a waffle cone, so I went with a scoop of mint chocolate chip. My mom was mystified and passed on ordering anything. Our total was $9.33.

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Zzzzzzz...

There was nowhere to sit, so the monkeys shared a piano bench. Not sure why a piano is taking up prime real estate here, but ok.

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The end.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rollin Sweets

Rollin Sweets
26 S. Second
(901) 623-3497


After Jiro (13) and I went to Ono Poke, we headed downtown to Rollin Sweets for a little dessert. Facebook was buzzing about how great it was, and since Jiro actually knew what rolled ice cream was (he saw it on YouTube), I thought a Monday night would be a good time to check it out.

I knew it was on Second & Monroe, but not exactly where. After circling the block a few times, we found it a few doors down from Raiford's. As you can see, it's pretty easy to miss.

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As we got closer, I noticed this sign on the door. Uh oh.

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Now, had I been alone, I would have simply turned around and left. (Or had I been with a toddler or infant or any kid under the age of 13.) Jiro was not deterred. We went in, and while all of the seats were full and there were a few people watching their ice cream get made, we were encouraged to place our orders.

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Neither of us really knew what to do, not unlike what we just experienced at Ono Poke, so the cashier kind of walked us through the options. Again, they have some pre-selected combinations or you can make up your own combination. Then there are some specialty items like milkshakes and sundaes.

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I decided on Nana's Bananas at the cashier's recommendation and Jiro got the "Don't make me choose" which is composed of several different types of candy. Our total was $14. The cashier wrote our names and order on some cups and then put them in the queue.

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"Uh...how long is the wait?" I asked, now remembering the sign on the door. "Oh about thirty minutes," she replied. Ok, no big. I told her we'd probably walk around for a bit. I wanted to show Jiro the new pocket park across from the Brass Door and I wanted to see the latest art installation in the Tops Gallery there, so I considered it a win. (Jiro probably wouldn't have otherwise agreed to a walk.)

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I also got to show him Raiford's. But it only took us about 20 minutes. When we got back to Rollin Sweets we knew we were in the for the long haul. So, we started a game of pass n play Scrabble. Most everyone else waiting was calm and I started to think this ice cream must be REALLY GOOD. But I also started to think, "Why do they only have one girl making the ice cream? What's everyone else doing? How are they going to stay in business like this?" I mean, it was crowded, but not crazy crowded.

At one point there appeared to be a shift change, or some of the employees went on break, I'm not sure. The sign on the door came down, a few more people came in, and then a new sign went up.

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So, yeah.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, it was finally our turn.

I was up first and had a giggle about the secret ingredients in Nana's Banana's.

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The gal poured a small cup of ice cream base on top and chopped everything up with a spatula. As she did this, it began to freeze. Then she flattened it all down, and then scraped it up in rows to make the spirals. (Click below for video.)

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I also timed her. It took her about 3.5 minutes for the whole operation. When she was done, I asked if I could have some toppings since I thought the cashier said it was unlimited toppings. She said yes, so I requested Reeses peanut butter cups. I mean cup. She said I could only have one. Ha!

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So I'd clock my whole order to be about 5 minutes from start to finish. If you look back at the ice cream queue picture above, there were a total of ten cups, but I think that was the queue after my order was completed. Anyways, if you order and want to gauge your wait, multiply each cup ahead of you by 5 minutes.

Back to my ice cream. Jiro and I both took a bite and it was quite delicious.

Jiro's turn was next, and I again timed her at about 3.5 minutes. I felt bad for her having to crush and chop everything with the spatula. I imagine she's pretty tired at the end of her shift. Seriously.

Jiro was scared to ask for toppings after my experience, but his ice cream already included several treats. It was also yummy.

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We went to sit down and enjoy our ice cream, and noticed two assholes took our seats in the window. Even when they saw us come back, they didn't say a word. Or a whole sentence like, "Hey sorry, do you want your seats back?"

We sat in their old seats, which were clearly not as good as ours.

A few other observations:

There are actually two stations where they can make the ice cream. I can't explain why they are only using one.

Also a woman who came in an hour after us got a milkshake after about 15 minutes. They made it in the back.

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Finally, once the ice cream melts a bit, or you mess it up with your spoon, it just looks like regular ice cream. So unless I walk by this place and it's totally empty, or they have trained a second person to fulfill orders, I will probably never go again. That place on Main Street that used to be Maggie Moo's basically does the same thing and it's faster and cheaper.

The end.

p.s. The bathroom was not stocked and didn't lock. I learned both things the hard way.

Ono Poke

Ono Poke
3145 Poplar
(901) 618-2955


I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Ono Poke, which I first read about a few months ago. It was opened by the same man who opened Skewer out east. (It's since closed.)

Last night, Jiro (13) and I went to go check it out. "What's poke?" he asked. Not having any official definition, I said, "It's basically sushi ingredients, but served in a bowl." Good enough, he was in. (Here's the official description from the Facebook page: Poké is a Hawaiian dish, fish salad served over rice. Fresh fish, salmon and tuna, and variety of vegetables are the main ingredients.)

Ono Poke is on Poplar near East High School, next door to the E's.

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The inside is cute and bright, if not a little stark, and has limited seating against the walls.

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They also have a couple of high chairs.

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The food is made "Subway style." You can pick from House Bowls or you can create your own bowl. (There are also a few other menu items like a Poke burrito, tuna tartare, and seaweed salad.) Having been to similar places (i.e. Genghis Grill, Zaka Bowl, etc.), I decided to get a House Bowl, specifically the Pele, because I didn't really trust myself to come up with a good combination. Jiro decided to go DIY.

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The House Made bowls come in the large size ($13). I chose white rice as my base, and it was a lot of rice--at least two cups. I also had a choice of raw tuna or marinated tuna. I went with raw. Then I got a close up of the other ingredients as I watched the guy put my bowl together. I thought everything looked nice and fresh, except the shrimp. They looked a little skinny and formerly frozen.

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Even though it was a pre-made bowl, I ended up having the choice of four toppings at the end. Dangit! I probably should have just passed, but I added cilantro, masago, seaweed salad, and pickled ginger. Pshew! They guy said the Rice Krispies were a must, but I didn't believe him. Jiro went with a large bowl including shrimp, crabstick, tofu, broccoli, edamame, pineapple, carrots and Pele sauce. I think he eventually called it quits on the choices. While we mulled over drink options, the cashier packed everything to go.

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Jiro wanted to split a coconut water, but I wanted Kombucha (and was happy to see it as an option), but in the end, we both went with the free infused water which Jiro eventually said was too gross to drink. (It was not.)

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Our total was $28, and the cashier happily unpacked our food when I said we'd be dining in. When we sat down, I could barely get a photo of Jiro's bowl before he started chowing down. "This smells good," he said.

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Mine didn't have a smell, but I thought it looked pretty good.

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Jiro asked if we should mix everything up, and I said yes. (This task would have been easier accomplished with a real fork.) Neither of us could finish, and I think we were both relatively pleased. Not wowed, but pleased. I told him I thought they should have the sauces out on the table like at Zaka Bowl so we could add more sauce, and he agreed. (The bowls got pretty dry after a bit, though they did give us some soy sauce packets. I am anti soy sauce.)

They've only been open a few days, so I imagine there will be some fine tuning. Maybe they'll even hook up with Project Green Fork (hint hint). I will probably take Satchel (15) to see what he thinks. All in all, my advice would to be to study the options before ordering and not go too crazy with the toppings. I think simple is better. I'll probably go with a smaller snack bowl next time and focus on the things I REALLY like.

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Let me know what you think.
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