Yesterday morning I ate something I really shouldn't have eaten. It was a kind of gravy-slathered meal in a bowl. It was layers of perfect biscuit, fluffy eggs, creamy white gravy, and spicy sausage piled in a bowl courtesy of Bryant's
on Summer Avenue, where I'd stopped to have pre-flight breakfast with an old friend who'd been visiting for the past week and was leaving for New York at noon. It was my second Bryant's meal of the week, and it was revolting … it was also utterly delicious.
My friend, who lived in Memphis for years before moving to the Big City, decided that while he was here he'd throw all gastroenterological caution to the wind and eat his favorite Southern foods three times a day. That means I've also been eating his favorite Southern foods at least twice a day and while I will miss my old pal's company, my arteries were awfully happy to see him finally board that northbound plane.
In the past week we revisited lots of old favorites and made several new friends and fantastic discoveries. Along the way we had ribs at Central; barbecue spaghetti at Neely's; ribs, game hen, and smoked sausage from Cozy Corner. We never made it by Gus's, but still managed to have piles of fried chicken and mounds of catfish. There was a late-night texas toast burger from Huey's and early morning tenderloin and country ham biscuits from Bryant's. After a failed attempt to find a side-of-the-road tamale wagon we even managed to down a plates of mole-smothered enchiladas from Las Delicias. And that's just the tip of this hedonistic berg.
My favorite new (to me) discovery was Stein's
, a fantastic cafeteria-style soul food diner on South Lauderdale where we went for Sunday brunch. After downing a plate of meatloaf in a delicate, slightly sweet tomato sauce with greens, sweet potatoes, and a piece of perfect custardy chess pie, I overheard a gentleman ask if there were any oxtails in the back.
“You know there are,” said the woman working behind the counter. My jaw hit the table as the envy washed over me. On top of the baked and fried chicken, smothered pork chops, meatloaf, catfish, and ribs that were obviously available on the steam table, there were secret oxtails too? Too good to be true!
After finishing my fantastic meal at Stein's, I walked across the street to get a closer look at what I thought was an abandoned building sporting a fading sign that read “Walt's Smoke House & Entertainment Center.”
That's when I met Walter Welsh
, a retired truck driver who bought the building 10 years ago and is currently in the process of opening (or maybe re-opening) his barbecue joint. Welsh gave me the grand tour, showing off both his beautiful pit and his room full of pool tables.
“This isn't gonna be no Interstate Barbecue. It's gonna be Outerstate Barbecue,” Welsh cryptically boasted, promising that in spite of all the work that still had to be done, he'd have his restaurant open to the public inside of a week.
After dropping my friend at the airport I stopped at the sprawling Texaco
at Airways and Lamar to get gas and grab a soda. When I walked into the building I was almost knocked over by all the good smells pouring off of the food counter. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the smell was coming from what appeared to be a pile of perfectly smoked ribs. It took every ounce of will power I had not to haul a half a rack back to the office for lunch. But I've been eating so badly lately and I was still so stuffed from my bowl of breakfast that for the first time in a week discretion emerged victorious. But now I have to know if those succulent-looking bones are half as good as they smelled and after a couple of weeks of fruit, salads, and working out I'm going back.