317 N. Main
A friend took me to lunch at Alcenia’s for my birthday in April. It was the first time I had been and I found the place to be utterly charming. Outside it doesn’t look like much, but inside it reminds me of a tropical paradise, and the food is delicious.
When I noticed Fried Chicken & Waffles on the special Saturday menu, I made a mental note to return on a Saturday. Possibly with the monkeys (Satchel, 5, and Jiro 3). Actually getting to Alcenia’s before 1:00pm (when they close) on Saturday, proved to be much harder than I anticipated. When my brother and his fiancé mentioned a lunch date with us this past weekend, I suggested Alcenia’s. My brother, also a lover of food, couldn’t resist trying a new place and a new dish.
I had to work earlier in the morning and Warren and the monkeys had been busy at the house doing yard work in the blazing sun. Dave and Courtney had been busy studying and painting, respectively. We were all starving. When going to Alcenia’s this is a good thing because they have really awesome food. But it can also be a bad thing because they are known for their “unhurried” style.
Warren, the monkeys, and I met my brother and his fiancé at their new house in High Point Terrace at noon and then caravanned to Alcenia’s after a brief tour of the new abode. (At this point I didn’t realize they actually closed at 1:00pm. I just thought that was when the Fried Chicken & Waffles ended.) We strolled in at 12:50pm to find a packed house. Packed. So packed that the owner, BJ, didn’t come over and give us all a kiss as is the norm.
There was actually one empty table—a four top—and after about a ten minute wait (which included the monkeys walking in and out of a beaded curtain near a giant oscillating fan), it was wiped off for us. No one seemed to notice or care that we needed an additional two chairs. Warren grabbed one from a nearby table and I eventually stopped a waitress to see if she could rustle up another one for us. (There were no highchairs or boosters in sight.)
I was mildly concerned about how this meal was going to turn out. Smartly I had grabbed some colored pencils and paper out of the car to entertain the monkeys. They happily colored while we got the chair situation figured out. Once seated we all began perusing the menu and dreaming of the time when someone would take our order. Looking around I noticed that everyone was very well dressed and very happily eating out of Styrofoam to go boxes. (I never did figure this one out. I had a real plate on my first visit.)
The tiny, somewhat eccentric waitress I met on my first visit walked by and I let her know we were ready to order. She smiled and nodded and went on her way. A few minutes later she came back for drink orders. Most of us went with sweet tea. I asked if they had any lemonade for the monkeys and she replied, “No, but we have Kool-aid.” Much to everyone’s—especially Warren’s and my brother’s—horror, I ordered each of the monkeys a cup of Kool-aid.
Clearly, I had lost my mind. What, am I new at this?
After a long while the waitress came back (with no drinks) to take our food orders. I said, “I hope you still have some Chicken & Waffles because that’s why we came.”
She looked at me and said, “Oh no, I think we put the breakfast stuff away.”
For some reason that was the first time it ever occurred to me that Fried Chicken and Waffles was actually a breakfast dish.
She could see my disappointment and said, “Let me go double check.”
While she was gone, I pondered playing my, “I write for the Memphis Flyer…” card to see if I could get my way, but decided against it when my table mates gave me the stink eye.
The waitress came back with the bad news that I was out of luck and commenced taking orders. Courtney ordered fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. My brother went for the meatloaf, as did Warren. Downtrodden, I ordered plain ol’ fried chicken. The vegetable choices were yams, green beans, and macaroni and cheese of which we all got an assortment. I also put in an order for their famous sweet potato fries. Warren and I planned on sharing our food with the monkeys, but the waitress pointed out that they could get half priced plates. So I got Satchel fried chicken and green beans and fried chicken and macaroni for Jiro.
A few minutes later the waitress came back and told us that there was no meatloaf. My brother switched his order to catfish and Warren went with the fried pork chop. Not realizing that catfish was an option, I went ahead and changed my order too.
By now, of course, the kids had lost all interest in coloring despite Warren’s and my best efforts at engaging them. They had each had several sips of Kool-aid and were interested in running around the table, wrestling each other, and fondling the nearby jukebox. Courtney pointed out that there was a stack of games nearby, but none of us wanted to give the monkeys a chess set or dominoes.
Now, normally I would be going berserk and be on the verge of packing it up and calling it quits, but having been to Alcenia’s before and being mentally prepared ahead of time for the slow paced service, I was actually ok. After many threats, a pinch, more threats, and then finally just separating the monkeys, they calmed down a bit and we had a few moments of peace.
I was actually considering giving the monkeys some jukebox money when our food came out. We went from famine to feast in seconds. Everything was really delicious looking and tasting. It came out hot and neatly tucked into Styrofoam containers. (The kids just had plain Styrofoam plates.)
Jiro and Satchel’s plates were reversed and Jiro made sure I knew it right away. Once corrected, he lunged for his macaroni and instructed me to pull the meat off of his drumstick so it would cool off. (He also demanded that I cut up some of my catfish for him. Warren was trying to pile on some yams and different green beans, but Jiro wanted none of it.) Satchel didn’t want any help with his chicken and commenced with his green beans. I let him try a sweet potato fry which he declared delicious. (Then two bites later declared yucky.)
The adults were very happily consuming the assorted fried goods and veggies. Our only complaints were lack of napkins and empty drinks. Satchel had officially shunned his Kool-aid as “too sweet” (I swear!) and was busy emptying the water bottle I’ve started carrying with me at all times.
BJ did finally come out of the kitchen bearing some hot water cornbread and kisses. And napkins. She apologized for not having Chicken & Waffles, and once determining that we were not tourists, explained that there was a big convention in town and that it was an unusual day. She asked us to come back and let her take care of us another time. We all promised to do so.
Our waitress came back with some tea refills and asked me if Satchel was a girl or a boy, which I thought was funny. “He’s a boy,” I said. “He’s just pretty.” (He got a haircut later that day!)
To kill time while Warren and Dave finished up, I took the monkeys on a bathroom run. It was tucked in a corner, right next to where we were sitting. It was a tight squeeze getting inside and I was glad I didn’t have any diapers to change. There was just a small sink and one toilet. Our visit was uneventful and we soon returned to the table. Pretty much everyone was gone and it started to dawn on me that they were actually closed now. I grabbed the check, paid up, thanked BJ profusely, and wrangled the reinvigorated monkeys out the door for a promised trolley ride.
It was probably the most adventurous meal we’ve had in awhile. I’d definitely be up for trying again, but we’ll aim for breakfast hours and maybe even eat breakfast before we go.