Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Blues City Cafe (Memphis, TN)
Mrs. Barbecue Fiend and I were staying at The Peabody hotel for one night of Memphis-style R&R, and of course Beale Street was on our itinerary. If I had been flying solo I probably would have picked Rendezvous for dinner, but at least with Blues City Cafe there would be some tasty non-barbecue options for my wife to enjoy.
This place has a very laid back diner feel to it that's right on par with the general Beale Street motif: plastic cups and paper towels. There wasn't much ambiance at all, with the exception of a halved pink Cadillac in one of the dining areas. I hoped this meant they were simply focused on the food.
Our waiter was running on Memphis time (like glacial), so don't come here if you're in a rush. At least they have some good live blues playing every night. These guys were rocking pretty hard and made up for the service somewhat, but not completely.
We had a fairly early lunch, so an appetizer was definitely in order tonight. BBQ Pork Fries sounded like a great option. These are their normal cheese fries topped with pulled pork, as if you couldn't have guessed that without the additional description. I actually had my eye on the Gumbo Cheese Fries, but my wife has an intense aversion to mixing seafood and cheese. Pork was an acceptable compromise.
I can honestly say that this was by far one of the largest appetizers I've ever received. We could have shared this as our meal and still had leftovers. The fries were crisp, though certainly of the frozen store-bought variety. Some parts of the pork were a little dry, but the majority was decently tender. The sweet barbecue sauce gave this dish most of its flavors, and the diced jalapenos really kicked things up a notch. There wasn't any noticeable smoke, though that's likely due to the potent sauce and peppers, at least partially. I liked the gooey cheddar, but it didn't really add much.
For my entree, I couldn't resist their "The Best Meal on Beale Combination Platter," which comes with a half-rack of ribs, a catfish filet, baked beans, coleslaw, and your choice of new potatoes or steak fries. The waiter didn't ask for my preference of spuds before he turned and scampered off, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for steak fries. Our appetizer hadn't been on the table more than a few minutes before our entrees arrived: mine first, then my wife's about five minutes later. The server gave me the option of holding off for a little bit, but since my food would inevitably be sitting out whether it was in the kitchen or on our table, I told him to just go ahead and give me the entree.
The slaw wasn't that great. It had a good crunch, but it also had an odd aftertaste that I couldn't exactly pinpoint. The beans were pleasantly sweet and cooked well. I also liked the onion mixed in. My entree came with steak fries after all, but sadly they ended up being the exact same pre-frozen ones that came with our cheese fries. Oh well.
Catfish is usually either really spectacular or really awful. Interestingly, this filet was right in the middle. The crisp cornmeal batter was great, and the fish tasted fresh. It definitely could have used more seasoning though. The accompanying tartar sauce (I'm guessing) was at least 98% mayonnaise and had less flavor than the packets of tartar sauce you get with a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich.
Blues City's ribs are supposedly rubbed with their secret seasoning and then slathered with a maple barbecue sauce. I like a combination of wet and dry ribs when I'm in Memphis, but here they only come wet. There was a good crust, or so it appeared. The only flavor I could really taste was the barbecue sauce, with the smallest hint of smoke. Sadly, the ribs were overcooked to the point that the meat was crumbling (not falling) off the bone. Somehow they were also extremely difficult to cut and some bites were tough to chew. After struggling to get through three ribs, I discarded the rest and pretended to be full.
My wife had their Southern Fried Chicken Chopped Salad, which was mostly junk lettuce with some tomatoes and croutons tossed in. The chicken came in tender form and there wasn't very much of it to go around. Much like my catfish, her chicken was in dire need of salt. She took a cue from me and left most of her food on the plate as well.
At the end of our meal we waited nearly twenty-five minutes to pay the bill. In a fit of delirious exhaustion, Mrs. Barbecue Fiend started singing her own blues songs about the flavorless food and how slow our waiter was, which was hilarious and quite apt. I gave up on the waiter ever coming back and fortunately had enough cash on me to throw down and just walk out. I should have given them one measly star considering the crappy service, but I won't. How this place has a four-star rating on Yelp is beyond me. As my wife succinctly put it, "The music is better than the food." I couldn't agree more. Blues City Cafe will continue to make good profits simply because of its Beale Street location, but it doesn't deserve the business.
Blues City Cafe
138 Beale Street
Memphis, TN 38103