Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Casablanca

Casablanca
1707 Madison
(901) 421-6949


Every year, Chip does me the kindness of taking a family photo. Last year, I didn't have any great location ideas, so he just took photos at lunch, which happened to be at the Beauty Shop. This year, I chose Casablanca.

Since opening in Midtown over the summer (?) I'd been a couple of times for lunch, and then actually ended up there on Christmas with my "Runnin Buddy." I'd been sickly, so their famous hot tea made with Wolf River honey really hit the spot. I could hardly wait to get back.

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I informed the monkeys (Satchel, 14, and Jiro, 12) of where we were going separately. Jiro's response: "Mexican? I hate Mexican." (WHO HATES MEXICAN FOOD?!) I told him it was Middle Eastern and he said, "Ok."

When I told Satchel, he also said (disappointedly), "Mexican?"

Seeing as he is super Jew, I played to my audience. "It's the food of your people," I replied. Then he actually looked excited.

"But wait, what do my people eat?" he asked.

"You can read the menu," I replied.

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Casablanca is right across from the Lamplighter, and has a lovely patio. Actually two patios. But it was too cold to sit on either. We went inside and had our choice of seats. I somehow almost always end up in the booth in the very back room, which is a great spot to take in the whole place. The waiter gave us menus and took our drink orders. Before I knew it, I had a lovely hot cup of tea.

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I'm not much of a tea drinker. The only time I regularly drank it was when I lived in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer. Anyways, the tea at Casablanca reminds me of the tea we had in my village, so I just love it. It's sweet, but not too sweet, and you can drink a whole lot of it without feeling jacked up. Both monkeys wanted a taste, but not their own cups.

The monkeys had a little trouble making up their minds, and I tried to help them, but in the end, they were on their own. Satchel got a chicken schwarma sandwich and Jiro got the super sandwich which has chicken, lamb & beef. Chip also got the super sandwich. I went with the Greek salad and a falafel and hummus platter.

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Let's start with the falafel and hummus. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD. I explained to Satchel that in Israel there is (or was in 1992 when I briefly lived there) a falafel stand on every corner. In my experience, the best falafel is green inside -- like the ones at Casablanca. I also told him that everyone makes hummus and that it is basically the one food that is beloved throughout the Middle East.

"I hate hummus," he said. But he was intrigued by the falafel. "That's falafel?" he asked. "I always thought it was meat." He tried half a ball, but didn't seem impressed. Jiro would try neither. Losers.

The Greek salad is also lovely, though the person in the kitchen that day went a tiny bit crazy with the dressing. I love the addition of banana peppers and the olives are yummy kalamatas (with pits).

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Satchel inspected his sandwich and immediately started in on the fact that it was full up with lettuce and tomatoes. "Take them off," I said.

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Then I basically had the same exact conversation with Jiro when he got his sandwich.

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Here's Chip's un-defiled super sandwich.

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The only sad thing about my lunch was that I didn't have anything to put their amazing hot sauce on...until Jiro gave me the rest of his sandwich. Score!

While we ate, Satchel said, "Why isn't Casablanca a Mexican name? It's 'white house' in Spanish." So I tried to explain where Casablanca was on the map and he was semi-satisfied. I also tried to get him to try some of Jiro's sandwich, but he said, "I refuse to try lamb." What's up with this kid? Obviously I have given in to his neverending desire to eat chicken wings too often. He used to be more adventurous.

Jiro asked if we could get dessert and I said sure. He ordered a "fluffy mousse." While we waited, he and Satchel had a short-lived staring contest.

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Thankfully the mousse came right out.

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It was yummy-ish. Jiro thought it tasted like icing. And then the sugar went right to his brain and he started doing this. (Next time, no dessert!)

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I asked for the check, and Satchel updated Snapchat. Our total was $50 plus tip.

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Then as we were leaving, the table next to us got their food and Jiro gave me a LOOK. "They have French fries here??" he said incredulously. Next time, French fries for everyone. Unless I go without the monkeys. Then everyone can get whatever they want. Ha!

All photos by Chip Chockley (even though they are on my Flickr page). Thanks, Chip!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mortimer's

Mortimer's
590 N. Perkins
(901) 761-9321


Mortimer's is one of those places I always wanted to go to, but never did for whatever reason. Honestly from the outside it looks a little "eh" so maybe that's what turned me off? Or the fact that it's in East Memphis? I dunno.

(Photo borrowed from Mortimer's website.)

A few weeks ago, I was working on a list of festive places to have a beer, and my mom suggested I include Mortimer's. She has a retiree group that lunches on a regular basis and they'd just been to Mortimer's. She told me all about the decorations and I was almost sold.

I asked another friend, who basically knows all of the coolest places in town, to describe Mortimer's to me. He said it was the perfect place to go on a cold, winter night. Then he got a far away look in his eye and waxed poetic about the people who gather round the bar and how it oozes of blue collar class and...well, we went and had a beer on the next cold winter night and I was in love.

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I love that the bar is narrow enough to talk to the people on the other side. I love that there's all local beer on tap. I love that the weekend bartender, Christopher, is the son of the owner, Sara Stewart. He is also the namesake of his deceased uncle, Chris Bell, of Big Star fame.

Speaking of, I love the Big Star wall:

(Photo borrowed from Mortimer's website.)

I super love the fireplace and seating area replete with bookshelves and fake books. I mean, does it get any cozier than that?

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(Don't worry, they have warm weather covered too, thanks to this lovely patio.)

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Ok, so I think I've made my point. Mortimer's is cool as shit. But how's the food? I took the monkeys (Satchel, 14, and Jiro, 12) to meet my mom for dinner last week. Satchel was HANGRY AF, traffic was bad, and we had to get to a Skater Princess recital immediately after dinner so everyone was a bit tense. When we arrived the bar was full and there were several tables full of people (mostly over 60). Luckily, we got seated right away, and I told the monkeys to make some quick food decisions. (You can see the extensive menu here.) I already knew I wanted gumbo and my mom and I planned to split a shrimp po boy. Jiro immediately zoned in on the hamburger and Satchel followed my lead with a shrimp po-boy.

When the waitress came to take our drink orders, I asked if we could order our food and told her we were in a bit of a time crunch. She was amenable and all was well.

Waters come in cups you can take home, which is always nice. This is the mort bird, which was made up, according to Christopher.

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I swear our food came out three minutes later. I have never seen Satchel eat something as fast as he ate his shrimp po boy.

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I'm pretty sure he paused for just a second to get the lettuce off. (He asked just this morning if we could eat at Mortimer's for dinner because he was craving a po boy. I can only assume that means he actually tasted it before inhaling it.)

Here's another look at the one my mom and I split.

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The po boys come with a side, and gumbo is a choice, woohoo! I had to order my own, so I got a big bowl.

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Not a great picture, but it's tasty.

Jiro's burger came on the same bread as the po boys and ended up being more than he could eat.

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Everyone was done eating and the check was paid in about 15 minutes. (Our total was $43.66 plus tip.) So, yeah, those of you with kids who can't sit still--Mortimer's might be the place for you!

We ended up needing to kill time. Jiro was "forced" to talk to his grandmother...who told us that in 1981 when the Knickerbocker was closing, my dad almost bought it. (The Knickerbocker was the original family restaurant owned by Sara's dad--who also owned the Little Tea Shop & Danver's--Vernon Mortimer Bell. She kept a lot of his recipes, moved a few doors down the street and opened as Mortimer's.) My mom can't remember why my dad didn't buy it, but it was a fun tidbit to learn. (My dad briefly owned a restaurant, Speedy's Grill, in Hot Springs from 1976-1978 so maybe he wasn't quite ready to give up the dream when we moved to Memphis.)

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And I was "forced" to pose in front of the fireplace.

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I'm going to print it out and see if they'll put it on the bulletin board.

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Finally, I love the moose with his red nose.

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Even without the Christmas decorations, Mortimer's is cozy and cool. The service is stellar and the food is damn fine. Take the family or sit at the bar--either way you're sure to have a good time.

Mortimer's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Sear Shack

The Sear Shack
5101 Sanderlin Avenue, Suite 103
(901) 567-4909


I read about the locally owned, Shake Shack-ish Sear Shack opening awhile back, but when I got to the Collierville part, my eyes glazed over and I forgot about it. Then Holly over at I Love Memphis did a write up on the new East Memphis location last week, and I paid more attention. I texted Satchel (age 14) on Saturday to begin negotiations. (I'm the blue, in case it is not obvious.)

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Turns out, Satchel and his friends had been talking about the Sear Shack all week. Maybe they read the I Love Memphis blog, maybe one of them went there, I don't know. I was just happy to get a positive response from the teen. Our conversation did ultimately devolve when it looked like we *might* not get there at the exact same time that his friend was going to be there.

Anyway, dealing with Jiro is always so much easier. For comparison:

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We ended up arriving around noon thirty, and I worried it would be super crowded, but it was just normal crowded. It didn't look like much from the outside.

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Or really from the inside either.

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But everything, including the buns, is made from scratch, so I was ready to give it a try. Satchel's buddy was just ahead of us in line so he was happy and animated and chatty and witty and...maybe I just need to let him bring a friend everywhere we go? Hmmm...

The menu is very basic--burgers, double burgers, fries, and shakes. Boom. They come plain, with cheese or with bacon. No included toppings. You can pick from a number of standard toppings at no charge and then from some fancier ones if you wanna pay a little extra. We all just ordered burgers the way we like them and two fries to share based on Holly's suggestion. Satchel and I each got a shake (one Nutella, one salted caramel). Jiro didn't want one which was just plain weird, but it saved us $5.75. Our total was $35.34 and we were given a number. Satch went to sit with his friend and Jiro and I hit the condiment section for ketchup, and then the fountain for water. (Don't miss the homemade pickles!)

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While we waited, I read up on the ol' Sear Shack. At least the name made sense now. (They sear the burgers and flatten them out for maximum sear-age.)

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Our number was soon called and I went to fetch the food. I love it when they make it easy to tell what's what.

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Satchel inhaled his.

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Jiro's had bacon on it, and he scarfed it down at lightening speed.

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I was taking my time, and paused for a close up. As you can see, the meat is REALLY thin. Like it could almost be a veggie burger because there's so little meat. (It's 4.5 ounces of Angus beef. And no, they do not have veggie burgers on the menu.)

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I'm not necessarily saying that as a complaint. It's was a good amount of food. We were all full, but not like FULL full, yk? I'm sure we'll be back.

The Sear Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Soul Fish (Midtown)

Soul Fish Cafe
862 S Cooper St.
(901) 725-0722


Thanks to a vegetarian friend, I have rediscovered Soul Fish of late. I know that sounds weird since they specialize in catfish, but they have a great veggie plate. I am in love with the fried okras. (I also know that it is just okra, but I like saying okras.)

When they fixed it up and added an amazing patio, well I just couldn't be happier.

I seriously forced Jiro to walk over with me last week for dinner. Satchel refused to leave his room. This is my life.

This is actually Jiro being funny. Once we got there he was delightful.

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We sat on the patio, and I had a delicious pint of Lucid Kolsch (something I can't do when I go for lunch).

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Jiro got us an order of fried pickles to snack on. Whoa, I had no idea how good they were.

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Then we both had a hard time deciding what else to get. For whatever reason, I strayed from my usual veggie plate with the okras, broccoli and mashed potatoes and ordered a salad. Just as weird, Jiro went with chicken tacos.

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I enjoyed my beer, the breeze and Jiro's company while we waited on our food. It was a perfect night to sit outside. We saw several of our CY neighbors doing the same.

My salad was just fine, but I missed my okras.

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Jiro questioned whether Soul Fish knew what a taco is, since he was clearly given two burritos. (I made him get broccoli since we pounded down the pickles.)

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We got some chicken wings and mashed potatoes to take home to Satchel, because we are nice. (Had the waitress told me they came with fries, I would have passed on the taters.) Both Jiro and I had a wing when we got back to the apartment, you know, just to make sure they were good. They were. Jiro lamented not ordering them for himself. And Satchel has asked me to go back and get him more at least twice in the last week.

And I returned just two days later to get my okras.

I think you can count on seeing some or all of us there quite a bit.

(FYI--the new inside is quite nice too. I'm told that it is nearly identical to the one out east.)

Soul Fish Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Char Restaurant

Char Restaurant
431 S Highland Street,Suite 120
(901) 249-3533


I got invited to come to Char for brunch during their training last weekend. (They officially opened on Monday.) I planned to take both monkeys (Satchel, 14 and Jiro, 12), but Jiro skipped town on me. So, Satchel and I went with my friend, Joanna, who just happens to be BFF with one of the executive chefs.

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When I picked Satchel up, he was semi-excited.

"Where is it?" he asked.

"Somewhere over by the University," I said.

"What kind of food do they have?" he asked.

"Uh, I don't know," I replied.

"What do you mean you don't know?"

"Uh, I don't think the menu is online, yet," I half lied. The truth was, they emailed me and invited me to come try it out in advance and free of charge so it didn't really matter!

"Oh, is this one of those come early and eat free things?" Satchel asked, now familiar with the drill after our visit to The Kitchen at Shelby Farms.

"Yep."

That seemed to satisfy him. I do know that there's one in Jackson and one in Nashville and that the owners are the same as Amerigo. I also saw that my beloved Jeff Frisby of Restaurant Iris fame is the manager.

I only drove past it once before locating it. Satchel is actually the one who figured out that it was probably attached to the new apartment building. We got there at 11:30am, a few minutes ahead of Joanna. We went ahead and got seated. Once inside, we were both like, "Holy shit, this place is fancy." It's gorgeous. Lots of dark wood and natural light.

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Suddenly we both felt super underdressed. But, thankfully, they weren't officially open, and this is Memphis after all. Speaking of, this old map was bringing people in from all over the restaurant.

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Our waiter, Josh, gave us menus, brought us drinks, and steered us to the crab claw appetizer all before Joanna arrived. Satchel and I were still trying to decide what to eat when she joined us. We had the very good problem of everything sounding super yummy. Joanna quickly went about asking questions about just about everything on the menu.

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Then she asked if her friend was in the kitchen. Meanwhile we added some fried green tomatoes to our appetizer order, and soon we were in business.

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Let me tell you something. Those crab claws were like crack. Holy moly. SOOOOOOOO good. Like dangerously good. Like eat them and you will be hooked forever good. Oh my!

In comparison, the fried green tomatoes were just ok. (One got eaten before I snapped the picture.)

The chef came out, Joanna finished up with her questions, and we put in our final order. Then we went about entertaining Satchel.

Entertaining might not be the right word. He'd probably say that "interrogation" was more fitting. I gotta say, I might need to bring Joanna along once a week or so because she found out all sorts of stuff that I didn't know!

Satchel was a good sport and answered her questions and even seemed to be enjoying himself. (Joanna is super fun, so it's pretty hard not to have a good time when she's around.)

We took a break from quizzing him to eat some more.

Satchel and I both had the gumbo.

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I am super picky about gumbo because my sister truly makes the best gumbo ever, but this was really good.

Joanna had the wedge salad, which is what I had as my main course. We both agreed it was too big. A quarter cut would be just right.

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Satchel got the mahi mahi for his main course. He rejected the (delicious) melon salsa, but happily and quickly ate everything else.

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Joanna had the red fish which was the chef's suggestion. It was a hit.

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Even though we were massively full, we couldn't resist free dessert. While we waited, I checked out the ladies room. It's awesome, and not just because of this sign.

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(I didn't actually take my phone to the bathroom...until I saw that Joanna needed some more time debriefing Satchel in the absence of his mother.)

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Not surprisingly, Satchel was relieved when dessert arrived and Joanna and I went back to stuffing our faces. We had a pecan crumble (?) and the brownie. We had a big fight about which was the best. (I say brownie.)

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Now, I have no idea how much any of this cost. I'm guessing it's a little pricey just based on the food and the atmosphere. The menu isn't online yet, so someone who's been since they opened will have to let us know. I will say that the place is top notch and totally worth a visit, even if you gotta fork over a little more cash than usual.

GET THE CRAB CLAWS!

Char Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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