Ranting

The Tasteful List 2021

September 17th, 2021

Backlot

(published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: The Backlot Sandwich)

Presenting the Tasteful List 2021 – my 11th annual alphabetical presentation of local favorites in one decidedly local man’s opinion, and everything on the list is locally owned.

It should be noted that this list is not necessarily endorsed by my colleague, Jennifer Biggs. She’s a pro and objective. I’m just hungry and highly subjective. This list is definitely not endorsed 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. Only a handful of things on this list are allowed by the diet anyone is 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.

In my opinion, “Does that come with biscuits?” is a fair question at any meal.

And I come by my opinions honestly. I was raised in a house where even the vegetables were cooked with bacon grease. The pie crust had bacon grease in it. I even wonder about the iced tea.

However, my current diet does allow bacon. There is a God. That same God forgives me for my firm belief that Scotch contains no sugar.

This list is much like the last 19 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. 

I stopped by The Peanut Shoppe recently – a storied, eight-foot-wide slice of unique on Main Street – for a hit of salted Spanish. I always stop by right before I publish this list to say hello. I want to see if they’re doing okay – let’s face it – to see if they’re still there. It’s the kind of niche business that depends on regulars and walk-ins – the kind of business falling victim to Covid almost daily. Rida and Amira AbuZaineh own it, but Rida is in there by himself these days hanging on. As he filled and weighed my bag, he reminded me that his was the oldest shop still in business on Main Street. It is the only shop on Main Street other than restaurants for blocks and blocks.

Rida is losing his lease December 31. He’s looking for space. In the meantime, get down there and load up on something salty. Or sweet. Or both.

Rida and Amira and Amira’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. Or getting out of sweatpants today. Or celebrating your city.

Go for it.

A/M Breakfast, Andrew Michael; Avocado Soup, Fratelli’s; Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Café Society, 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; Backlot Sandwich, Backlot; Bi Bim Bop, Kwik Chek; Birthday Cake Sno Cone, Jerry’s; Biscuits, Bryant’s, Sunrise; Boston Cream Pie, Calvary Waffle Shop; Breakfast (anything), Arcade, Barksdale, Blue Plate, Brother Juniper’s, Sunrise; Breakfast Bowls, Backlot, Sunrise; Brisket, Backlot, Elwood’s Shack, Rendezvous, Wolf River Brisket Company; Cake (any), Muddy’s; 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, Café Palladio, Calvary Waffle Shop, Fratelli’s, La Baguette; Chips, Las Delicias; Chopped Steak, Mortimer’s; Coffee, Bluff City Coffee, Café Eclectic, Otherlands; Corn Beef, Backlot; Corn Sticks, Little Tea Shop; Cornish Hens, Cozy Corner; Crab Cakes, Char, Napa Cafe; Cupcakes, Muddy’s; Dessert (anything), River Oaks; Deviled Eggs, Bogie’s; Donuts, Gibson’s Donuts; Duck Fried Rice, SOB; Dry Ribs, Rendezvous; Elfo Special, Frank Grisanti’s, Ronnie Grisanti’s, anywhere there’s a Grisanti in the kitchen: Fish (any), Coastal Fish, Tsunami; Fish and Chips, Brass Door, Celtic Crossing; Fish Pudding, Calvary Waffle Shop; Flights (any), Flight (duh); Fried Artichokes, Boscos; Fried Chicken, Gus’s; Fried Green Tomatoes, Cupboard, Parish Grocery; 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, Patrick’s; 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, Backlot, The Bagel: Patio Salad, Half Shell; Pimento Salad, Holiday; Pizza, Aldo’s, Ciao Bella, Memphis Pizza Café, Pete & Sam’s; Po Boys, Parish Grocery, Second Line; Popcorn, Peanut Shoppe; Popovers, Paulette’s; Pork (any), Andrew Michael; Potato Salad, Bogie’s, Fratelli’s, Second Line; Potato Soup, Huey’s; Red Beans and Rice, Half Shell, Parish Grocery; Salad Sampler, Bogie’s, Calvary Waffle Shop; Sausage and Cheese Plate, Bar-B-Q Shop, Huey’s, Rendezvous; Sea Bass, Tsunami; She Crab Soup, Itta Bena, Moondance Grill; Shrimp Salad, Bogie’s, Mortimer’s; Souflima, Jim’s Place Grille, Soup (any), 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; Tacos, Maciel’s; 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, Patrick’s; Wet Ribs, Bar B-Q Shop, Central BBQ, Germantown Commissary, Interstate; Waffles, Calvary Waffle Shop.

In memoriam:

Barbecue Sandwich, Berretta’s, Brady & Lil’s, John Wills, Leonard’s (the original), Little Pigs, Pitchfork; Black Bottom Pie, Dobbs House, Toddle House; Chess Pie, Seessel’s; Chocolate Malt, Wiles-Smith; Club Steak, Bill and Jim’s; Caesar Salad (made tableside), The Villa; Cherries Jubilee (on fire), Justine’s; Coconut Ice Cream, Tropical Freeze; Crabmeat Justine, Justine’s; Di Niro, Republic Coffee; Fried Chicken, Joes’; Fried Rice, Joy Young; Fried Shrimp, Anderton’s, Joes’; Green Pepper Beef, Joy Young; Gumbo, DeJavu; Horseradish Encrusted Grouper, Jarrett’s; Lady Fingers, Seessel’s; Mahogany Duck, Grove Grill; Mocha Cake, Carl’s Bakery; Onion Rings, Pig ‘n Whistle; Po Boys, DeJavu; Poo Poo Platter, Luau; Pompano en Papillote, Justine’s; Shrimp Loaf, John Wills; Shrimp Parmesan, Giovanni’s; Soul Burger, Earnestine & Hazel’s (not the same anymore); Thai Toast, Bhan Thai; Vanilla Soda, Normal Drug Store; Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Saigon Le; Whatever the neon purple, orange and green stuff was in the big glasses, Britling’s.

I’m a Memphian, and that’s tasty.

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