When it comes to food, I'm not necessarily known in my group of friends as the chick with the refined palate. I like what I like. but I am always game to try new things! Exploring new restaurants is fun!
When the fabulous Kim, from Dishcrawl, asked me if I wanted to be one of the judges for Battledish: Memphis (read more about that here,) I didn't hesitate. I got to try new dishes at 6 different downtown restaurants in Memphis, FOUR of which I had never even been to before!
Also... there were cocktails... yummy, yummy, yummy cocktails.
Here we go:
I'm not one of those people to save the best for last, so I am sharing my favorite with you first.
Some people eat their dessert first, I have an affinity for mango flavored drinks.
The Restaurant: Automatic Slim's
The Dish: 4-Sauce Pan Seared Sesame Encrusted Tuna with Spiced Rice & Wakame
The Cocktail: They had two cocktails entered.
left: Muddle Mango Mojito
right: Cranberry Lemongrass Martini
I had never had seared tuna before and if it tastes this good anywhere else, I am now a believer! We all tried the different sauces, I personally loved the soy and wasabi ones. I loved the atmosphere (check those lanterns out!) and service at Automatic Slim's. If you are freaked out by the seaweed, that's cool, but every single part of this dish complimented one another. Our server, Julia, was a gem and she was so awesome to our party of 5, even when we came back post-crawl and ordered MORE mojitos. Like I said, I like what I like.
We will DEFINITELY come back here to try their brunch menu. I can't believe I walked by this restaurant a million times and never went inside.
The Restaurant: Jerry Lee Lewis' Honky Tonk & Cafe
The Dish: Flammkuchen (it was like a pizza on a really thin and crunchy crust with gruyere, bacon, creme fraiche, and sage.
The Cocktail: Also, they had two, "Million Dollar Margarita" and "Trishalicious" (pictured)
Goodness, gracious, great balls of Flamma-what?
Well, I was not at all familiar with the Flammkuchen dish or what it was supposed to be, but I liked the crunchy crust and the bacon! Bad judge Bekah, google is my friend now. I would like to try it again sometime. The margarita wasn't much to write home about, in my opinion, but I would definitely order the Trishalicious (some mixed drink with cranberry, vodka, red bull, and apple pucker) the next time I am kicking up my heels in the honky tonk.
The Restaurant: Lunchbox Eats
The Dish: Short Rib Chili in a Buttery Cornbread Cup
The Cocktail: (no cocktail entered, but we got Coconut Lemonade and it was BAD ASS!)
I had read reviews of Lunchbox Eats before, but never ventured to their spot nestled behind quiet side of the Fed Ex Forum. We sat at a huge table with shelves of childhood games at our reach, and I was a fan from the beginning. Presentation wise, I was immediately won over by the chili being served in little cups of cornbread. It was adorable and delicious. I loved the unique taste, more sweet, made with cinnamon. The short ribs were a great addition. All five of us ate the entire dish and cornbread cup, crumbs and all. Also, really great service here. Apparently, Memphians flock here for their grown-up version of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and fries. I'm sold.
The Restaurant: Tamp & Tap
The Dish: Autumn Napoleon
The Cocktail: (no cocktail entered here either, but I got a beer because it is a restaurant specializing in coffee AND beer, and I seize all opportunities, folks)
The full description of this dish was Autumn Napoleon of Horseradish Brioche French Toast, Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Quinoa, Heirloom Tomato Relish, Fried Shiitake and Prosciutto with Lime Chimichurri. (SAY THAT FIVE TIMES FAST!) The description (to a non-foodie aka ME) is very all over the place, but imagine it as a parfait of everything awesome topped with more awesome. There you have it. I liked the dish a lot, but it was too rich to eat the whole thing. So many flavors.
The Restaurant: Belle Diner
The Dish: Braised Short Rib with Grit Cake and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
The Cocktail: Bloody Belle (not pictured)
The Belle Diner now inhabits the former Rio Loco space where I had many a margarita fueled birthday celebration, but that's another story for another day. I love the revamp of the space, it was fancified and well decorated! I am lacking a picture of the Bloody Mary because I was so excited about it, I forgot to snap one. When we got this dish, everyone at the table got QUIET! My sister, Sarah, looked at me and exclaimed, "Now, this is FOOD!" The grit cake was crispy and creamy perfection.
Our plates (and glasses) were cleaned, and our souls were cured.
(Check out my official judging face... totally profesh, right?)
The Restaurant: Rizzo's Diner
The Dish: Grit & Grind (Duck Confit and Goat Cheese, wrapped in Grits, rolled in Panko, and served atop Sauteed Spinach)
The Cocktail: South Mango Mimosa
This was the restaurant that we came to last (almost four hours in to the battle,) and even though we were full and happy, I was a little let down by Rizzo's. I had such high hopes for this restaurant, as the other judges I ran in to had bragged about the cocktail. Our drinks were watered down and not really impressive. The food was really good, I loved the spicy red sauce it was served with. Also, this was the only restaurant where the chef came around and spoke to all the patrons. Points for service and personality. I will make it my life's mission to try this drink again, stay tuned.
If you are still reading...
You deserve a cocktail and a gold star. All of the judge's votes were tallied
up and you can see the big time winners here.
All in all, it was such a FUN experience to explore downtown Memphis in a different way! I had passed by those restaurants a hundred times and never gone in! Check out Dishcrawl's website and see if they are crawling around in your area. You will not regret it. I will definitely be taking part in the Slider Crawl coming in November and COCKTAIL WARS in early December.