Ranting

The Tasteful List 2020

September 4th, 2020

Elfo Special

(published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: Elfo Special)

Presenting the Tasteful List 2020 – my tenth annual alphabetical presentation of local favorites in one decidedly local man’s opinion.

It should be noted that this list is not necessarily endorsed by my colleague, Jennifer Biggs, and definitely not by my physician or the American Heart Association, bless their hearts.

Only a handful of the things on this list are allowed by the diet I’m on. By now, what I order comes with a side of several medications and a Surgeon General warning. I have to sign a release before they’ll give me a menu.

However, my diet does allow bacon. There is a God.

This list is much like the last few months: it’s full of fond memories and hope for the return of things we’ve lost and the life we took for granted. Memphis is blessed by its food, the abundance of creativity, diversity and tradition mixed in the same bowls, seasoned with love, soul, and imagination – and still made and served by amazing people with a smile in these, their most trying of times.

The other day, I stopped by The Peanut Shoppe – a storied, eight-foot wide slice of unique on Main Street – for a hit of salted Spanish. Rida and Nurah Abu-Zaineh own it, but Rida is in there by himself these days hanging on. It was late afternoon and I was his 11th customer all day. He told me about a man who recently came in for just the third time. The first and second times, he bought a big ten-dollar bag of popcorn and left a twenty. “No change,” he said. The third time, he handed Rida an envelope, “Don’t open that until I’m gone,” he said.

Inside was a check and a note asking that the giver remain anonymous. Rida showed me a copy of the check with the name blacked out. That day, the man paid $2,500 for his popcorn.

Rida and Nurah and Nurah’s sister, Suhair Lauck, all came to Memphis as immigrants. Suhair owns and cheerleads for Memphis from her own place a half a block from The Peanut Shoppe, a beloved Memphis icon for more than a century called The Little Tea Shop, Suhair’s since 1982.

She hasn’t reopened. I know in my heart that she will. A city without her heart, and her corn sticks, and the miracle of Southern cooking without pork would not be the same. Those things, and Rida’s nuts and popcorn, are on my list.

Remember the people serving you when you order, especially when you tip.

Also remember that having any of these things now and then isn’t cheating on a diet: it’s rewarding yourself for achieving something special.

Like, say, successfully working the TV remote last night. Or just waking up this morning.

Go for it.

A/M Breakfast, Andrew Michael; Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Molly’s; Bagels, The Bagel; Baguettes, La Baguette; Barbecue Pizza, Coletta’s, Elwood’s Shack, Pete & Sam’s; Barbecue Salad, Bar-B-Q Shop, Central BBQ, Germantown Commissary; Barbecue Sandwich, Bar-B-Q Shop, Interstate, Payne’s, Tops; Barbecue Spaghetti, Bar-B-Q Shop; Beacon Salad, Pete & Sam’s; Beer, Cash Saver, Boscos, anywhere serving Crosstown, Ghost River, High Cotton, Meddlesome, Memphis Made or Wiseacre; Bi Bim Bop, Kwik Chek; Birthday Cake Sno Cone, Jerry’s; Biscuits, Bryant’s, Sunrise; Breakfast (anything), Arcade, Blue Plate, Brother Juniper’s, Sunrise; Boston Cream Pie, Calvary Waffle Shop; Brisket, Elwood’s Shack, Rendezvous, Wolf River Brisket Company; Carbonara, Libro; Catfish, Soul Fish; Cheeseburger, Alex’s, Belmont, Germantown Commissary, Huey’s, River Oaks, The Bluff, Tops; Cheese Dip, Pancho’s; Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, SOB; Chicken Newport, The Vault; Chicken Salad, Bogie’s, Calvary Waffle Shop, Deli On The Square, La Baguette; Chips, Las Delicias; Chopped Steak, Mortimer’s; Coffee, Bluff City Coffee, Café Eclectic, Otherlands; Corn Sticks, Little Tea Shop; Cornish Hens, Cozy Corner; Crab Cakes, Char, Napa Cafe; Cupcakes, Muddy’s; Deviled Eggs, Bogie’s, Deli On The Square; Donuts, Gibson’s Donuts; Dry Ribs, Rendezvous; Elfo Special, Frank Grisanti’s, Ronnie Grisanti’s, anywhere there’s a Grisanti in the kitchen: Fish and Chips, Brass Door, Celtic Crossing; Fish Pudding, Calvary Waffle Shop; Fried Chicken, Gus’s, Joes’; Fried Green Tomatoes, Cupboard; Fried Pickles, Soul Fish; Fries, Brass Door, Young Avenue Deli; Guacamole, Las Delicias; Gumbo, Second Line; Hoppin John, Little Tea Shop; Hot and Sour Soup, Mosa; Hot Dogs, Elwood’s Shack; Italian Salad, Bogie’s, Deli On The Square, Fino’s, Pete & Sam’s; Italian Spinach, Pete & Sam’s; Lamb Chops, Jim’s Place Grille; Meat and Two or Three, Arcade, Cupboard, Four Way; Miss Mary’s Salad, Frank Grisanti’s, Ronnie Grisanti’s, anywhere there’s a Grisanti in the kitchen; New York Club, Fino’s; Ninja, Kwik Chek; Nuts, Peanut Shoppe; Pastrami, The Bagel: Patio Salad, Half Shell; Pizza, Aldo’s, Ciao Bella, Memphis Pizza Café, Pete & Sam’s; Po Boys, Parish Grocery, Second Line; Popcorn, Peanut Shoppe; Potato Salad, Bogie’s, Deli On The Square, Fratelli’s, Second Line; Potato Soup, Huey’s; Red Beans and Rice, Half Shell; Salad Sampler, Bogie’s, Deli On The Square, Calvary Waffle Shop; Sausage and Cheese Plate, Bar-B-Q Shop, Rendezvous; Sea Bass, Tsunami; Shrimp Salad, Bogie’s, Deli On The Square; Souflima, Jim’s Place Grille, Soup (any soup), River Oaks; Sliders, Bardog, Brass Door, Huey’s, Slider Inn; Steak, Char, Folk’s Folly; Steak Frites, River Oaks; Steak Sandwich, Belmont, Half Shell, Huey’s; String Bean (with anything), Formosa; Stuffed Avocado, Little Tea Shop; Thai Toast, Bhan Thai; Tomato Aspic, Calvary Waffle Shop; Turnip Greens, Little Tea Shop; Tuscan Bean Salad, Ecco; Veal Saltimbocca, Brooklyn Bridge; Vegetable Plate, Cupboard, Four Way, Little Tea Shop; Wet Ribs, Bar B-Q Shop, Central BBQ, Germantown Commissary, Interstate; Waffles, Calvary Waffle Shop.

In memoriam:

Barbecue Sandwich, Brady & Lil’s, John Wills, Little Pigs, Pitchfork; Black Bottom Pie, Dobbs House, Toddle House; Chess Pie, Seessel’s; Chocolate Malt, Wiles-Smith; Club Steak, Bill and Jim’s; Coconut Ice Cream, Tropical Freeze; Crabmeat Justine, Justine’s; Di Niro, Republic Coffee; Fried Shrimp, Anderton’s; Green Pepper Beef, Joy Young; Gumbo, DeJavu; Horseradish Encrusted Grouper, Jarrett’s; Lady Fingers, Seessel’s; Mocha Cake, Carl’s Bakery; Onion Rings, Pig ‘n Whistle; Po Boys, DeJavu; Poo Poo Platter, Luau; Shrimp Loaf, John Wills; Soul Burger, Earnestine & Hazel’s; Vanilla Soda, Normal Drug Store; Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Saigon Le.

I’m a Memphian, and that’s tasty.

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