Category Archives: 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die

The “Amazing” Island Club Sandwich from Bardog Tavern

My first time visiting Memphis and seeing where my then-girlfriend worked meant walking around downtown. I remembered seeing the exterior of Bardog and asking what it was. She knew it was a bar/restaurant, but that was about it. We didn’t make it there on my first trip, or my second. This time I finally got to see the interior of Bardog and taste their delicious food!

#52 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die & #96 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – The “Amazing Island Club Sandwich from Bardog Tavern

This story takes place on February 1st, 2013.

Bardog Exterior

My wife’s company is moving buildings. It’s not too far away, still downtown, but a bigger space. They get an entire floor to themselves, rather than a section of a floor. This is to reflect their doubling in size in the last year or so. The people doing construction and paint and such on their floor were out for the day, so everyone decided to take a trip to see how it was looking. I, as usual, tagged along.

We got a quick tour, and everything is looking fantastic. It’s a very open space, and there are already plans for a MAME cabinet, foosball table, and sleeping area. After the tour, it was lunch time, and the bosses decided to shout everyone lunch. Opinions were asked, and somehow it eventually ended up that Bardog was the consensus. I was secretly excited because I knew it was on one of the lists at least, so I checked them to see what I’d be eating.

The “Amazing” Island Club Sandwich has a reputation in the office of being something one can’t (or shouldn’t) eat in one sitting. I was a bit nervous because I can eat anything in one sitting, and I didn’t want to look like a pig…

Bardog DownstairsWe made it to the restaurant and headed downstairs. It felt like we were headed into some VIP area, or a dungeon. Either way it was awesome. It was dark and relatively small down below. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. We ordered drinks, waited a little while, and soon ordered our food. I tried to pay attention to what others were ordering because I didn’t want to be the only one who ordered the Island Club. Thankfully Troy, one of the devs, stepped up.

And there it was. A masterpiece of culinary stackery. This was a BIG sandwich and I can understand why some people wouldn’t be able to finish it in one sitting. According to their menu, the “Amazing” (I don’t know why they have that in quotation marks, because it literally is amazing) Island Club sandwich consists of:

grilled chicken cutlet, ham, fried egg, bacon, provolone, white American, avocado, onion, lettuce, tomato, spicy mayo

Amazing Island Club

Holy wow, what a combination of delights! And you can taste EVERYTHING (well, apart from the white American cheese). I didn’t read the menu before eating this, and every flavour came through. And as you can see by the photo above, it wasn’t exactly easy to examine this thing either. The chicken was SOOO good. It was coated in ground black pepper which just made it sing. I’m salivating just writing this out, it was so good. Bacon/ham and eggs, a classic combo. Cheese goes good on everything (except fish). Avocado for more creaminess, and the mayo was this warm backnote.

The fries weren’t the best thing I’ve ever had, but I did like the aioli they provided (I’ve never been a huge fan of ketchup on fries, much prefer aioli). But, save the fries, I finished that sandwich! As did Troy, so thankfully I did not feel like a pig. I did, however, feel incredibly sleepy afterwards and required an immediate injection of caffeine!

I had a fantastic time at Bardog Tavern. I should mention that we had a fantastic server, too. She was so sweet, I wish I had caught her name. I loved Bardog and will definitely be back! Go head down to 73 Monroe Ave and grab yourself a truly Amazing Island Club sandwich.

Steak Burrito and Guacamole from Las Delicias Mexican Bar & Grill

The first Mexican restaurant I’ve written about on this list, and my first time to Las Delicias. Let’s begin.

This story takes place on January 28th, 2013.

#7 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die – Guacamole from Las Delicias

#13 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Guacamole from Las Delicias

#133 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Steak Burrito from Las Delicias

My wife has been sick all weekend with a stomach virus that has been going around. A particularly nasty form of the norovirus, it meant she was unable to eat almost anything for 2 days straight. Today was the day she gained her appetite back, and she decided on Mexican. A quick consult of the list meant we were headed to Las Delicias, which was perfect as we were headed out to Target which was apparently on the way.

Las deliciasYou know a place is good when they appear on a “best things” list multiple times. Granted that list was generated by a Yelp discussion, but there’s a reason people like it so much! It is, in fact, on the 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis list 3 times for different dishes, and in the top 10 on the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die! Needless to say for their guacamole! Needless to say, I was excited.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were told to sit anywhere. Fantastic! A server was over right away to ask us what we wanted to drink, and if we wanted guacamole or cheese and chips. I, in my eagerness to try the guacamole, said “Yes”. She asked again which we wanted, and I said “Yes”, again. My wife finally had to step in and say we wanted the guacamole… oops.

Las delicias guacamole

Holy wow… the guacamole is amazing and well deserving of the #7 position. And the chips were so good! But lets break it down a bit. Why is it so good?

  1. Chunkiness. I love my guac chunky. I want pieces of avocado, tomato and onion, not a homogenous goop of green.
  2. Lime juice. I’ve said it over and over again to anyone who will listen that it’s worth it to use lime juice rather than lemon.
  3. Cilantro/corriander. If you hate this magical herb, you’re wrong. You’re just plain wrong. Suck it up and eat it.

To be quite honest, it reminded me of my own guac that I make at home, and I think that’s why it’s so good. It tastes fresh, home-made, like someone made it with care and didn’t just chuck a bunch of ingredients in a food processor.

Las delicias steak burritoIn regards to the main, as you can tell by the title of this post, I went with the Steak Burrito. I let my wife choose, and as we have already spent a lot eating out this month, she chose the cheaper option. But wow, this in no way tasted cheap. Mexican food has this mysterious quality to me that I can’t quite describe or recreate at home. I don’t know if it was in the spicing or the marinade, but that steak burrito was just so tasty. I tried it in every possible combination I could think of: with and without tortilla; with and without pico de gallo; with and without sour cream; with and without the other sauces they provided. It was all delicious and I couldn’t think of any other words to describe it.

Mexican food – good mexican food – often brings about a culinary word block in my attempts to unlock the mystery of why it’s so good. Las Delicias did just that. The food is SO GOOD. You will love it. It will be a yummy experience. Head on down to 4002 Park Ave and see for yourself! I’m looking forward to going back.

BBQ Nachos from Central BBQ

Central BBQ menu

I recently posted about an experience I had in 2010, eating ribs at Central BBQ. The primary purpose at that time was to compare ribs cooked in various States (I had some in Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina). This time I was coming to Central to cross something off the list that I had heard so much about.

This story takes place  on January 24th, 2013

#18 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die – Barbecue nachos (on homemade chips) from Central BBQ

#45 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Barbecue nachos from Central BBQ

This was just an ordinary day. We went to work, and came home. On the way home, we had discussed dinner. The lists came up, but we decided on just eating something at home. Arriving at home, we assessed the pantry situation… no coconut milk. We couldn’t have the Thai Green Curry we wanted. Go get coconut milk… or go get some BBQ?! As you can tell, BBQ won out!

I’ve been in Memphis for just over a month now and I STILL haven’t had BBQ. And living in Memphis, you smell BBQ almost everywhere you go. It’s been horrific! So when my wife asked what my number 1 pick from the list would be, it was BBQ Nachos from Central.

The first time we went to Central, my first trip to Memphis, my wife told me about their BBQ Nachos. At the time I was disgusted. BBQ sauce and cheese wasn’t something that went together in my head, but she insisted they were amazing. I was focussed on my ribs mission, however, and couldn’t be swayed. Time passed, my palate grew, and when the list came along I was ready and rearing to get my gob around a plate of BBQ nachos.

Central BBQ nachosWow. Look at that badboy. That is a stack of Central’s homemade chips, covered in pulled pork, slathered in BBQ sauce, drizzled with nacho cheese, and sprinkled with shredded cheese and jalapeños. I was in for a good time.

First things first, let me just say that I don’t think you would have the same experience if eating these nachos on tortilla chips. I think it would be tasty all the same, but Central’s homemade chips make this dish something special. The seasoning blend on the chips melds so well with the smokiness of the BBQ and the sweetness of the sauce that whenever I had a bite with every component it was like a sensory overload in my mouth. Each component is there for a reason, building and adding to each other to become an ornate tapestry of flavour.

Central BBQ nachosWith that said, miss 1 or 2 of those components and you’re brought back to earth quite quickly. My nachos had a small pool of BBQ sauce to one corner, and a portion of the pork was without sauce. It dropped the nachos from being food of the gods to something mere mortals could ascend to. I think if the construction of the nachos meant pre-mixing the pulled pork with the sauce it would allow for more even distribution, and a better experience in my opinion.

Considering that one minor exception, this dish is easily one of the best things I’ve eaten from these lists so far. And DO make sure you order it with their homemade chips, an option that I would not have known about had I not seen the list. Central BBQ continues to impress, so if you haven’t already, head to one of their locations and order some BBQ Nachos now!

Blueberry Donut, Maple Bacon Donut & New Orleans Buttermilk Drop from Gibson’s Donuts

This story takes place on Saturday, 19th of January, 2013. The day we killed 3 birds with one stone and discovered a new list.

#26 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die – New Orleans Buttermilk Drop

#46 and #140 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Blueberry Donut & Maple Bacon Donut

Gibson's SignWhat a marvelous day this was. My wife and I went to Gibson’s Donuts with the mission of tasting their Blueberry Donut and their Red Velvet Donut, as these were on the 100+Things to Eat in Memphis list. It was our carb day, and I figured I should at least knock a couple things off the list while I was here in Memphis.

Upon arriving, we discovered they were out of the Red Velvet Donuts (located at #15 on the 100+ Things list). This scared me a little as I honestly wasn’t looking forward to trying the Blueberry Donut. I’m not a fan of blueberry muffins, or blueberry cupcakes. I like blueberries themselves, but for some reason, in muffin and cupcake form they don’t hit the spot with me. I made sure to inquire about the Red Velvet Donuts, hoping that they may have some out the back, recently cooked. The server advised they were all out for today, but to come by tomorrow. I mentioned the list to her, which was when she let me know about the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die, and the fact that the New Orleans Buttermilk Drop was on that list…

Gibson's Interior

My wife and I had a quick discussion, and we purchased the donuts you see in the title (I didn’t realise at the time that the Maple Bacon Donut was a part of the 100+ Things list). Two words: donut heaven.

Blueberry Donut & New Orleans Buttermilk Drop

(L-R) Blueberry Donut, New Orleans Buttermilk Drop

Let me start with the Blueberry Donut. Firstly, it blew away my fears of tasting like a blueberry muffin. It was delicious, fluffy, doughy, and sweet. Granted, blueberry flavours weren’t assaulting my tastebuds with ferocity, but they were certainly there. The glaze was very thin, which I liked. Overall, deserving to be on the list.

Next up was the Maple Bacon Donut. Wow. It’s only recently that bacon has become a part of my sweet vocabulary of flavours. Before trying bacon with french toast and maple syrup, I don’t think I would have attempted this. I would have dismissed it as some crazy American attempt to be noticed (Baconnaise, anyone?). This was no attention seeker, this was an attention grabber. I believe they use hickory smoked bacon, because there was an intense smokiness coming through. Add to that the thick maple glaze, balancing out the salty bacon. Place it all on a canvas of deep-fried dough and you have, my friends, a masterpiece.

Maple Bacon Donut

Maple Bacon Donut

Finally, we went with the server’s recommendation of the New Orleans Buttermilk Drop. Now, I have no experience with this type of donut to compare this to. It apparently has a rich history in New Orleans, but my trip to New Orleans didn’t include this delicacy. And it is indeed a delicacy. I honestly am hesitant to describe it. It’s like a deep-fried ball of cake. But it’s unfair to compare it to cake. It’s not quite as moist, but it’s certainly not dry. It’s slightly crumbly, but in a good way. You definitely get a hint of buttermilk running through the donut. And the slightly crunchy exterior makes it a much more interesting experience than cake will give you.

Do head to Gibson’s Donuts on 760 Mount Moriah Road,  Memphis, TN 38117. They’re open 24 hours a day! You won’t regret it… unless you eat 10 in one sitting. Then you’ll probably regret it. But that’s your fault, not Gibson’s.

Fried Catfish & Picked Green Tomatoes from Soul Fish Cafe

Some of these entries will be for things I have eaten in the past, and this is one of them. However, I’m of the mindset “pics or it didn’t happen”, so I will only be ticking things off the list for which I have photographic evidence. Also, sometimes posts with intersect, as is also the case with this one.

#36 on 100 Things to Eat Before You Die – Fried Catfish

#37 on 100 Things to Eat in Memphis Before You Die – Fried Catfish from Soul Fish Cafe

#71 on 100+ Things to Eat in Memphis – Picked Green Tomatoes from Soul Fish Cafe

This gastronomic adventure took place on the 31st of July, 2010 (according to my flickr account). Summertime in Memphis. I had recently proposed to my then fiancée (now wife), Mary, and we were going out to eat lunch with some of her friends who had recently celebrated their 1 year anniversary.

Soul Fish Cafe

photo by ilovememphis

The name threw me off for a start. “Soul Fish Cafe“. To me, cafés were places where you drank coffee and ate pastries, maybe the occasional sandwich. My schema for the word café has been defined by hundreds of trips for coffee with my mum in New Zealand. This was clearly a restaurant. Why was it trying to trick me?

Mary had advised me that Soul Fish Cafe was known for its catfish, so I had to give it a go to rid myself of my horrible memories of the dual-species beast.

My first experience with catfish was when I was around maybe 10 years old. There was a catfish pond near the airport where you could bring a fishing rod and fish for catfish. If you caught one, you could pay to have the on-site restaurant cook it for you, or you could take it home to cook yourself. As money wasn’t in abundance for us in those days (nor these days, either), we took it home. We put it in salt water to try to kill it… didn’t work. Fresh water… didn’t work. Hammer to the skull… didn’t work. Hammer to the skull 8 times in a row… done.

Preparation of the fish was left to my mum. She came out of the kitchen 45 minutes later with a dish that did not appeal to me at all. Granted I was very much a chicken nuggets and fish fingers (fish-sticks, insert Kanye joke) child, but I think the trauma of trying to kill that zombie of a fish scarred me. So from that day until the 31st of August, 2010, I had not looked at another catfish.

Over time I developed a love of new foods, and so I was ready to give catfish another go. What made it even better was that this catfish was breaded and deep-fried! Apparently this is usually the way people eat catfish in the south… southern food became even more appealing.

Catfish, Picked Green Tomatoes, and Cajun Cabbage

The catfish at Soul Fish Cafe is delicious in an ambiguous way. The breading is similar to what you might find on fried chicken – crispy, savoury, and moreish. What distinguished the catfish from chicken, though, was the tartare sauce they provided. Creamy, with a little tangy bite to it. I’m not sure if it’s house-made or not, but it was enough to make it a seafood experience.

The picked green tomatoes were a revelation. My tomato experience at that time had been limited to the colour red, and either left raw, canned, or made into salsa or sauce. These picked green tomatoes sweet, sour, tangy and refreshing. They were unlike anything I had tasted at that time, and the perfect accompaniment to the heavy catfish dipped in creamy, rich tartare sauce.

As you can see in the photo, I also had the Cajun Cabbage as my other side, another delectable treat worth a taste if you ever make it out here. We also got an order of pickle chips for the table, which I loved and my wife hated (she hates pickles).

I highly recommend taking a trip to Soul Fish Cafe at 862 South Cooper, Memphis, TN 38104, ESPECIALLY if you’ve ever had a bad experience with catfish. It will change your mind on the half-breed zombie-fish.