This week I’ve had the pleasure of attending two of my favorite recurring dinging events here in town: Foodie Memphis and Dishcrawl Memphis. It should come as no surprise that I love food. I love cooking, alone or for large groups. I love dining out, at cheesy, cliche chains and especially at local gems. Thanks to Foodie and Dishcrawl I am able to try restaurants I might not have been brave enough to try on my own, all while supporting my community and making new friends. They’re both wins all around.
Tuesday night was Foodie Memphis. Run by the wonderful Chris McRae Foodie is a group that meets about once a month. We go to a restaurant (chosen by Chris), and for $25 a person, we dine family style on a selection of the foods they have to offer. This month we tried Arepa and Salsa, a Venezuelan restaurant on Madison.
*Image from tripadvisor.com
*Menu photos from the restaurant’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Arepa-and-Salsa/325622420834722?rf=104568259713414
I had never heard of Arepa or tried Venezuelan food so I was very excited to try something new. We were able to try the tequenos, tostones cups, beef and chicken empanadas, UFOs, the pernil arepa, the shredded chicken tostones, and the beef cachapas. The cachapas was by far my favorite thing. The cornbread-y shell was crispy on the edges and softer in the middle with the perfect hint of sweetness. The tostones was interesting and good. I had never tried a plantain before let alone as a replacement for bread. My only complaint was that the “cabbage salad” (basically a coleslaw) was a bit thin and watery, so although it tasted good, it also made quite a mess and I would think if left to sit too long it would have made the plantains go soggy. If I were to order it on my own I might ask for it on the side and add it as I ate. All in all, I very much enjoyed Arepa and Salsa, although word to the health conscious out there, there was a lot of fried going on so it’s probably not the best for your waistline even if it is a pleasure for the tastebuds. And I look forward to whatever Foodie might have in store for me next.
You would think after all that that I would be full for a week, but no, last night was Dishcrawl night and there was more food in store. For those who haven’t heard of a Dishcrawl, here’s a little overview:
A dishcrawl, as the name suggests, it very similar to a pub crawl, but with food as the objective pulling you from place to place. For about $45 per person you join an event, and spend an evening in one neighborhood walking your way through four local restaurants where you are given a sampler plate of three small (slightly bigger than bite) sized versions of their menu offerings. The fun thing is, you have no idea where you’re going until you get there. You know what part of town you’ll be in when you reserve your spot, but that’s it. The day before the event you are emailed with the location of your first stop where you will meet up with your group, and finally you find out where else you are going as you walk there. It’s a fun little surprise!
Last night’s crawl was in the Cooper-Young district in Midtown. Cooper-Young was actually the first Dishcrawl done here in Memphis, and the vast array of resturants in that part of town means they were able to go back. We started out the night at Alchemy. Where we tried the fried green tomato BLT slider, deviled eggs, and a goat cheese grilled cheese with tomato soup for dipping. The latter of which was hands down my favorite savory item of the night. I could just imagine going in on a cold day, sitting in one of their cozy booths wrapped up in a big sweater and filling my belly with that delicious soup/sandwich combo.
After Alchemy we walked quite a ways down Cooper passed all the restaurants. We were very confused until we spotted local food truck Stick Em.
Now..this turned out to be a good, and not so good thing. It was good because I was excited about trying a food truck, as the only one I had had previously was Rock ‘n’ Dough Pizza. Also, the marinade or spice mix or whatever on the chicken on a stick was delicious & the chicken was tender & juicy. However, there were a couple problems with this whole thing. One, Dishcrawl is roughly 45 people, Stick Em didn’t have 45 orders of food ready when we arrived. In fact, they had about 5 ready, and had to make the rest as fast as they could. This meant that the first few people got their food, sat down wherever they could find (mostly on people’s front steps or small retaining walls), and had finished eating long before the rest of the group. So you found yourself simply sitting outside in Memphis August heat waiting on others to get their food and eat it so you could get moving and get back inside again. I was about half way back in line, and by the time I finished my food there were still a good 5-7 people just waiting to get theirs. My other problem was this: the side item. You see, Stick Em offers chicken, steak, shrimp, or tofu on a stick (or a combination thereof) and sides of rice, fries, and veggies (if you get the combo meal it’s 3 sticks and two sides). We were given the shrimp and chicken sticks (tasty and tastier), and veggies. The veggies were a medley of zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and broccoli & I was happy as these are some of my most favorite vegetables. That is…until I actually took a bite. They were cooked, but cold. And I mean *cold*. It was so unappetizing, and only got worse when I overheard a girl behind me remark that she watched the man serving them simply scoop a big spoonful out of an oversized bucket. Ew. No. I wish they had given us fries.
Once we finally we able to leave the heat, we headed back up to the actual Cooper-Young intersection to the Young Avenue Deli, or simply The Deli as most people call it.
*image from tripadvisor.com
Now, I love The Deli and have for quite some time. It’s basically just your standard bar food, but it’s yummy, and there’s a cool vibe about the place. However, we had some issues there as well, specifically: seating. When we arrived, most of the actual dining tables were taken, and it would seem no one at The Deli took us much into account as we were told we could simply stand and hover around the three small bar top (tall) tables and the little mini bar ledge across from the actual bar. Remember, this is 45 people trying to do this. It just wasn’t going to work. So at the urging of Dishcrawl coordinator, Kim, we took it upon ourselves to commandeer the few tables they had left, and let me tell you, it was obvious the staff wasn’t happy about it. They got us our food (one fried cheese stick, one small section of a pimento cheese sandwich, and I’d guess about 1/6th of a muffaletta – not bad, but not what I would have picked for this situation) and drinks and all but ran us out the door as quickly as they could. While I can understand a restaurant and it’s staff not wanting all their tables taken up by a group who had prepaid and thus probably wouldn’t be tipping, and had someplace else to be so also probably wouldn’t be sitting around ordering lots of adult beverages, it just doesn’t seem like a good way to represent your establishment.
Our final stop of the night was for dessert at new kid on the block, Ink, and holy moly what a dessert it was! We each got half of one of these babies:
*photo from Dishcrawl Memphis’ Instagram
That, my friends, is a double chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich with a vanilla/cherry ice cream, white chocolate drizzle, and powdered sugar AND cocoa powder dusting. Oh. My. Lanta. It was so rich, so creamy, so absolutely, decadently dreamy! Far and wide my favorite thing we ate all night. Really. So, so good.
So yeah, the evening had some hits and some misses, but it wasn’t my first Dishcrawl and it definitely won’t be my last. In fact I already have my tickets for the special edition Neighborfood Dishcrawl on August 24th. It’s from 2-6pm and part of the proceeds go to the super awesome non-profit House of Mews (yay kitties!). There are even still tickets available if anyone is interested, and since it’s during the day it should be a lot of fun for the whole family!
Hopefully I’ll see some of you out on one of the fun dining experiences Memphis has to offer.