Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cafe Cali & Pho

Cafe Cali & Pho
74 N. Cleveland
249-5349


I noticed this place the other day, but I am not sure when it opened. (I think it may have been around the corner initially.) I added it to my list of places to eat since Vietnamese is in regular rotation. We went to give it a try on Sunday evening.

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The parking lot was packed, but the restaurant was not. It seemed that the space between the restaurant and the market was having some sort of private dance party. We could hear the music through the walls.

Inside, there was another table or two of people eating, all of whom appeared to be Vietnamese, which is a good sign. The flat screen TV on the wall was showing a Vietnamese cooking show. The space was well-lit and clean. We were seated and given menus right away.

A waiter, who looked kind of like an aging movie star to me, came over with three waters and a notepad. I aksed if we could have another water since there was four of us and Satchel (age 12) nearly died. "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!" he moaned under his breath.

The movie star waiter (MSW) obliged me and then I tried to charm him since I had been so (unintentionally) off putting. I asked if he had any suggestions for us, and what he suggested were among the items we had taken note of, so we went ahead and put in our order.

An elderly man brought out the spring rolls almost right away. They definitely looked different than what I am used to, and frankly I was a tad nervous about eating them. But Jiro, who was super hungry, asked if he could try one and then proceeded to tell us how yummy they were.

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They did actually taste quite good. Jiro (age 10) asked if we could get a second round of "Asian burritos."

I probably would have but the rest of our food started coming out.

Jiro was happy with his chicken vermicelli soup. The face was because I made him wait to start eating it. (I was very proud of him for not letting the "green stuff" get in the way of his enjoyment.)

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Satchel ordered a similar soup but with beef.

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Note those are the "small" bowls.

Warren got his standard noodle bowl with pork and egg rolls. It also featured the scary looking pork from the spring rolls.

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There was a lot of happy slurping at the table.

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I ordered the bhan mi, which was very good. The bread was nice and warm and I ate it right up. I think it may have had mayo on it, which is different.

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I finished my sandwich pretty quickly as it was on the small side. Warren let me work on his noodle bowl while he worked on Jiro's chicken soup.

Then I went over to investigate what we thought were drinks in the cooler.

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MSW informed me that they were actually desserts. I wanted to try one, but no one else did. Instead i decided to try the pure cane juice that the MSW said is really good for you. "Look on YouTube," he said.

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It was quite good and not at all as sweet as I was expecting.

All in all, we liked the food and service and price, but I don't think it will become our #1.

My good friend, who is Thai, went and had the Bún bò Huế, which apparently was super legit with congealed blood and everything. So, if you want authentic, this may be the place for you.

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Our total was $31 plus tip.

Check it out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moe's

Ed note: I previously reviewed Moe's in 2006 and still find it fairly right on, but I thought an update was in order.

Moe's
3546 Walker
901-590-0192


The monkeys (Satchel, 12 and Jiro, 10) and I have been on a major Chipotle kick. I have failed to do a post about it, but we have made the trek out east many times just to get a burrito bowl. Satchel's dream is to eat a giant bowl of just cilantro lime rice. It is also conveniently located to the "new" Target and a Sports Authority, so the monkeys like to get me (and my wallet) in the vicinity.

I had completely blanked on the fact that there was Moe's over by the University until a fellow soccer mom reminded me. I went by for lunch one day, which happened to be a Monday, and discovered $5 Burrito Monday.

Now the monkeys and I have decided to go every Monday. I could eat Mexican just about every day.

"Hey guys, let me snap a picture of the outside."

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They were too eager to eat $5 burritos to comply with my simple request.

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As you can see, you get a burrito (chicken or ground beef), chips and a drink for $5. You can have as many chips as you want. You can drink as much soda as you want. (They have one of the fancy machines that lets you add flavors.)

That's a great deal!

They have a lot of goofy names for their menu items, but I have found it easiest to go through Subway style and just tell them what you want inside the tortilla. They definitely have more fillings than Chipotle. Granted, Chipotle may lean towards healthier/less GMO food, but I think the option of cheese dip and pickled jalapenos is rad. (I usually only allow myself the latter.)

Once you go through the line, you pay up at the register. (Be sure and tip because they ring a little bell when you do and everyone says, "Thank you!") The total for the three of us was $18 with tip.

Next up, the salsa bar. (At Chipotle you have to pay for chips and salsa.) I love salsa bars! This was also a major selling point with Satchel, who still talks about the one at Elena's.

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I like the medium salsa and the one with pineapple. Look at this bounty!

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Our friends met us at Moe's last Monday to celebrate surviving the first day of school.

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The menu includes tacos, nachos, burrito bowls, etc. and you can get fish, beef, chicken, or veggies. The kids meals are always about $5, but my kids need a full size burrito now.

The Moe's by the University is fun because there are a lot of college kids taking advantage of the deal. It's almost like eating on campus.

See you there on Monday!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mi Mexico

Mi Mexico
3967 Summer Avenue
901-590-1845


Warren spotted a sign for Mi Mexico on Summer Avenue last Saturday during his travels between the Palace Cinema and our house. "It's between Bryant's and La Espiga bakery," he told me. We took the kids to see Lucy at the Palace on Sunday so it seemed fitting that we should try Mi Mexico on our way home.

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I really do not like the trend of plastering the windows with neon fonted signs, but inside the restaurant was very cute. (It was also plastered with signs and pictures of menu items.) There was a dining room to our right with tables and chairs and one to our left with mostly booths. We were told to sit where we liked, so we got a booth.

This is the only interior shot I got.

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The TV above us was showing a Spanish language version of American Idol or a karaoke show or something. Whatever it was, Warren tried to sing along, which was hilarious (to me) and mortifying (to the monkeys).

The menu was quite extensive and didn't seem like the standard menu you see all over town. However, we mostly ordered our standard things--tacos and burritos. Satchel (age 12) broke the mold by going with the New Mexico breakfast, possibly due to our recent trek to Taos.

While we waited for the food, we were given chips, salsa, beans and pico. Yum!

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We could have easily eaten a million more chips, but we didn't.

The food came out soon after and for the most part, looked great.

This may be the happiest Warren has ever been while eating dinner with us.

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He got the four taco special with various meats. (Yes, there are five tacos. "Maybe it was the five taco special," he said.)

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Correction! Two of the tacos were made with crispy fried potatoes. He said they were all good.

Jiro's (age 10) tacos were less exciting, but he was equally as happy.

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Satchel's New Mexico breakfast was the envy of the table. (He is even smiling!)

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It came with a tamale, a tostada, a taco, rice & beans.

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He scarfed everything down except the tostada, which he rejected due to onions. I was going to eat it for him, but I thought the shell was a little overfried/borderline burnt tasting. Warren ate it for him.

Satchel said the tamale was the best he ever had, although Warren and I agreed it may have well been his first.

Now, about my burrito...

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The cheese slices on top were a bit of a turn off. Inside was ok, though I prefer shredded chicken instead of chunks of chicken. It was fine. Nothing special. The beans and rice were good.

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All in all, I give the food a thumbs up. I just won't get the burrito on my next visit. I'm guessing we'll all get the New Mexico breakfast.

The service was fine. By the end of our meal, we were the only table and our waiter was canoodling with the other waitress in a booth. I caught his eye and we were able to get the check taken care of. The total was $30. Not bad, although we all had waters.

I visited the restroom before leaving. It was in disarray but was ok. No changing table.

It's a fine addition to Summer Avenue!

Check it out and tell me what you think.

Mi Mexico on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ellwood's Shack

Ellwood's Shack
4523 Summer Avenue
761-9898


I am a major fan of Summer Avenue and all that it has to offer. Ellwood's Shack is no exception. Everyone seems to LOVE Ellwood's. I have friends who go on and on about the fish tacos and the brisket. On and on.

There are two people who are not fans, or at least reluctant ones--Satchel (12) and Jiro (10), aka the monkeys.

The first time we went to Ellwood's they were closing. AT 7:00pm! (They have since extended their hours to 8:00pm.) The second time I took the monkeys they were in really bad moods. I have forgotten why, but it was bad enough that I didn't write up our visit.

So, what I am getting at is, third time is the charm. We went last week and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

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As you can see Ellwood's Shack is really a shack. It's adjacent to the Lowe's parking lot. It mystifies me how anyone ever decided to put a restaurant here, but Ellwood's is the third(?) to fill this spot.

We arrived around 6:00pm and had no trouble getting a table. World Cup was on the TV and everyone was happy. I went to the counter to place our order. Jiro wanted the wings that Satchel ordered on our earlier visit, Warren wanted a bbq sandwich with jalapeno slaw, and I had to get the fish tacos. Satchel was insisting he wasn't hungry, so I didn't order him anything. I added a side of potato salad for Warren, a Jarrito for Jiro and three waters. Our total was $27.31.

We reviewed our World Cup brackets until the food came out, which was only a few minutes.

Warren questioned whether I ordered his with jalapeno slaw, but later said the cabbage slaw had a kick.

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The potato salad is pre-made and refrigerated. As you can see here, it is made from sweet potatoes.

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(This is what Warren looks like when I say, "Smile.")

Jiro very delicately ate his wings. I asked what he thought of them and he replied, "They are good! They are just better other places."

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Satchel quietly reached in and one by one properly cleaned the chicken to the bone.

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Satchel also helped with the pineapple garnish.

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(If he is going to pose like this, I am going to post!)

The fish tacos, while not traditional, are quite tasty.

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I prefer mine in a hard shell, but these shells made from flour tortillas and coated with cheese definitely hold their own. The steelhead trout is really delicious. It looks like salmon because of the pink color, but it definitely tastes like trout. I liked the salad on top and the horseradish dressing was also nice. They were super filling though--I could only eat one. Warren ate the other one. I'd like to get them again, but a half order. $11.00 seems a bit high, in my opinion, especially with no sides.

Speaking of sides...Ellwood's needs to add French fries to the menu!

All in all, it was just fine and quite tasty. I see why people love it. Not sure I've found the dish that's going to keep me coming back, but should I ever find myself at Lowe's it'll be hard not to pop over. I think I need to try the BBQ nachos and the pizza. What's your favorite dish?

Elwood's Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Tart

Tart
820 S. Cooper
287-9903


On Sunday, I took the family to Tart for brunch.



The awesome owners, Heather & Abby, play in my soccer league, so I was invited to the soft opening a couple of weeks ago. While there, I got to taste a lot of things, and was super impressed. I couldn't wait to take the monkeys.

The menu, which is written on a chalkboard near the counter, is a bit complex if you don't have a basic understanding of French. Or French menus at the very least. (Thanks to Holly over at ilovememphisblog.com for getting a photo!)

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The monkeys (Satchel, 12, and Jiro, 10) were a bit star struck by the yummy things in the display case and Warren seemed unsure what to order, so I suggested they let me do the ordering. Since the boys love charcuterie now, I knew we had to try the breakfast antipasto. I also thought they might like a croque monsieur. On my first visit I fell in love with the French onion soup (technically onion soup gratinee) and was super jealous of my friend's salmon rillettes, so I ordered those too. Warren wanted coffee, so I got a large French press for us to share. And I couldn't complete the order without some pastries! Jiro picked a strawberry tart and Satchel picked a lemon one. Pshew! The gal rang everything up and gave me the total: $59.87. I admit I had to do a double take, but I knew everything was going to be great and I considered it a treat. I happily handed over my credit card.

The boys got their tarts and we went in search of a table. Jiro, did not want to wait on a table, so he just stood by and took a big bite.


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Then he gave me a little bite. Yum!

It took us a minute to decide where to sit. We ultimately agreed on the patio. Tart has a huge patio.

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(Photo taken at the end of our meal when many people had cleared out!)

Satchel greedily ate up his lemon tart and then chatted with his brother while we waited on the rest of our food. (I love the cards they use to number the orders.)

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First out was the coffee. The tables are on the small side, so no room for sugar or creamer. You have to go inside to the coffee station. (Where you can also get glasses of ice water.) Not sure how it happened, but I allowed Jiro to do my coffee.

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He did a great job. (Say hi to our friends Lauren & Russell in the background there!) Please note the awesome mugs made by my talented friend, Melissa Bridgman. And if you look close you can see that the stirrers are actually noodles. The monkeys LOVED that.

Ok, let's talk about the food. The breakfast antipasto was a HUGE hit. Jiro especially liked the honeycomb, which you can see at the tippy top of the picture. We all took turns nibbling.

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And they went crazy for the onion soup! But they would only dip bread, lest they actually get an onion!

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You can see the croque monsieur in the back there, but here it is in all of its glory.

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It required a fork and knife, so was a little less appealing to the monkeys. It definitely got eaten, but not til the end.

And look at the salmon rillettes!

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The ramekins look small, but they really hold very nice size servings. The quinoa salad is super yum, and the salmon is perfect. Obviously the yummy baguette is what brought this dish together. I also had to share the baguette for soup dipping and antipasto enjoying. (The baguettes are the one thing not made in house. Tart trades homemade croissants with Cafe Eclectic for the baguettes.)

We actually had a bread crisis because we still had plenty of soup and salmon when we ran out. I went in to order another baguette and the monkeys tagged along. So, of course we got a couple more pastries. I insisted they try the raisin bread (because it is awesome) and Satchel wanted a brioche.

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We are gluttons! But seriously, don't leave without trying the raisin bread!

When we finally polished off all of the food, we just sat on the patio with our coffee and enjoyed the gotgeous day.

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Tart is Green Fork certified! And they supposedly have an art gallery thing going on in the bathroom that we somehow did not check out.

We will be back. In fact, I want to go right now!

Project Green Fork Certified Restaurant
Tart on Urbanspoon
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