Tattoos and chicken wraps are among the “menu” items at The Rook x Raven Tattoo Creative. Customers who want to get inked or pierced can grab a bite to eat or drink at The Rook x Raven Coffee x Kitchen.
“That’s something I came up with,” says the tattoo shop’s owner Ian Brown. “Because in all the years I’ve been tattooing, tattoo artists probably eat just very, very bad. I wanted to provide us with something to keep the blood flowing, the mind sharp — low-calorie super foods that keep us going.”
They offer coffee, including cappuccino and lattes. “We also drink a lot of coffee. I figured I’d add all that together. We also have smoothies.”
Brown, who added the kitchen two years ago, says they make wraps, salads, and bowls in chicken, fish, or veggies. The menu “varies from time to time,” he says.
He wants to serve healthy food, Brown says. “We’ve gotten to used to eating things that aren’t real. We don’t know what real food tastes like anymore. I was just trying to get us back in the swing of foods that have nutrients in them, that are fresh. I don’t compromise on the quality.”
And, he says, “We don’t do anything frozen.”
Except the smoothies, of course.
Brown practices what he preaches. “I grew up with a grandmother who was real big on fresh vegetables and making sure there was plenty of fruit in the house. She was health conscious and conscious about what we consumed. I learned a lot from her.”
He converted part of the tattoo shop into a kitchen, he says. “I actually gutted what used to be a station and turned it into the kitchen.”
Customers can’t eat chicken bowls or other Rook x Raven cuisine while they’re getting inked. “You’re not going to eat while you’re getting tattoos. But it’s not uncommon for someone to come in for an appointment and grab something to eat, grab coffee, and then get a tattoo. You can have drinks back there. And we give you time to eat.
“I’m weird about somebody sitting there eating while I’m tattooing. I’d just rather not have a whole lot of movement and stuff going on. An occasional sip of a drink is okay, but I try to keep everybody focused on what’s going on. We can take a break and they can just eat and we can get back to work.”
Born in Michigan, Brown grew up in Memphis. Tattooing was all he wanted to do when he was at Germantown High School. “I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember being able to pick up something and draw with it. I was always the go-to person to get somebody to draw something.”
He didn’t start drawing professionally until he graduated. “I’d gotten an apprenticeship,” Brown says. “I was at community college and got the opportunity to apprentice. Pretty much that day I gave up community college and pursued that. I remember my mom giving me a hard time about that decision. I think I made the best choice. I’m happy.”
His first shop was a partnership in Touch of Ink in East Memphis. He then became sole owner of The Skull & Rose, which was on South Second next to Paula & Raiford’s Disco. “We used to throw big art shows and smaller concerts.”
He opened Rook x Raven in 2016 while he still owned The Skull x Rose. He eventually gave up the Downtown shop and concentrated on his Cordova shop.
Brown named it “Rook x Raven” because a rook is the opposite of a raven, he says. It just has a white beak. “So, I was thinking in my mind like a yin and yang kind of a thing.”
Among his tattoo designs are detailed drawings of Mohammad Ali and Elvis. “I’ve done so many Mohammad Ali’s. When we were Downtown we did so much Elvis, man, it was ridiculous.”
Brown used to alternate between cooking and tattooing, but now his wife, Tay, is “pretty much taking care of it.”
Tay learned to cook from her grandmother. “I was always in there with her, helping her,” she says.
Asked what are their most popular menu items, Tay says, “I would say the chicken bowl and the salmon wrap.”
The chicken bowl is “baked chicken, wild rice, sautéed bell peppers, onions, and black beans. And I put a little avocado in it.”
The salmon wrap is “spinach mixed with basil. And it has bell peppers and salmon, of course. And I make some spicy mayo. So, it’s a mixture of mayo, sriracha, and a little oil.”
The Rook & Raven Tattoo Creative is at 2821 North Houston Levee Road, Suite 106, in Cordova: (901) 570-3161