Food & Drink » Food & Wine

I.D., Please

Ever wonder what's behind the name of your favorite dish?



Among the pizza listings at Ciao Bella (565 Erin Drive, 205-2500) is the Ryan Tashie Special. In parenthesis it says, "In honor of the little tough guy." According to staff, owners Judd and David Tashie, who are cousins, have another cousin, Ryan. When Ryan was younger, he spent a lot of time at St. Jude battling cancer. Happily, he was victorious and is alive and well today. A slice of his pizza features pepperoni, kalamata olives, mushrooms, marinara sauce, and mozzarella.

The Erik Burger at Fuel Café (1761 Madison, 725-9025) is named for co-owner Erik Proveaux. Carrie Mitchum, the café's other owner, says, "One day Erik asked me to make him the best burger ever. So I did!" The Erik Burger is a bison patty topped with caramelized onions, thyme-sauteed mushrooms, two slices of Eden Farms applewood smoked bacon, and your choice of cheese (Mitchum prefers Swiss) on an all-natural bun. It also features Fuel's special sauce made from ketchup, Dijon mustard, sweet relish, mayo, and horseradish and is served with house-cut fries. "It's quite a meal!" Mitchum exclaims.

Mr. Beefy at The Cove (2559 Broad, 730-0719): When Mike Grabman, a bartender at the Cove, learned that his fellow bartender Adam Hawk was nicknamed "Mr. Beefy" in elementary school due to his chubbiness and then re-nicknamed "Mr. Beefy" in high school for a completely different reason, he said he had no choice but to name a sandwich after him. The sandwich is thinly sliced, Italian-style roast beef on a toasted ciabatta bun with provolone cheese and horseradish sauce. It's served with au jus gravy, baby dill pickles, and kettle chips.

Most dishes at Restaurant Iris (2146 Monroe, 590-2828) feature the names of the farms where ingredients come from. Rod Bailey's Raviolo is the only dish named for a customer. Bailey came in to see what was going on in "the old La Tourelle" before Restaurant Iris officially opened. Chef and owner Kelly English says that one night he had a special short rib on the menu with brown butter and mushrooms. "Rod said it was so good that we should have it on the menu every night," English says. "So we do."

Sekisui Midtown (25 S. Belvedere, 725-0005) probably has more rolls named after people than any other restaurant in Memphis. To name a few, there's T-Ruth, Jackson 5, Margot, Christy's, Lori's, Rachel's, Debra's, Mali's Handroll, DJ, the Qualls, Jeni's, Happy, Seyde's, and many more. One that stands out to manager Lee Vichathep is the Malasy Roll. The Malasy Roll is named after her younger sister, Malasy, who does not eat seafood but loves the idea of eating her dinner in sushi form. She picked all of the ingredients: chicken teriyaki, avocado, and cucumber inside with sesame seeds on top. "She asked us to roll it in a thinly sliced cucumber wrap because she was hesitant about seaweed," Vichathep says, "but the roll did not do so well. We convinced her to try seaweed, and she loved it and now so does everyone." The Malasy Roll is kid-friendly and great for beginners and non-seafood eaters, according to Vichathep. "I definitely recommend this roll for first-time sushi eaters," she says.

The Big Rex at the Trolley Stop Market (704 Madison, 526-1361) is by far the most popular thing on the breakfast menu. Consisting of meat (your choice of sausage, bacon, or ham), cheese, and egg grilled to perfection on homemade bread, it's a meal in itself. Chef Sharron Johnson named the sandwich after her husband, Rex, since it is one of the things they always enjoyed eating on weekends before the Trolley Stop came to be.

There's not a juicy story behind Wesley's Cheese Grits at Otherlands Coffee Bar (641 S. Cooper, 278-4994). Owner Karen Lebovitz says the dish is named after longtime customer Wesley Emerson. "He likes grits," she says. Emerson, who is an organist at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, has been coming into Otherlands since its beginnings in 1994.

You can thank the "H Man" for The Harris at Au Fond Farmtable (938 S. Cooper, 274-8513). According to owner/chef Ben Vaughn, "This guy named Harris, or H Man, said I would be stupid to not make a toasted bagel that incorporated soft scrambled eggs, lox, capers, and onions over the bagel with warm cream cheese." They made it together one day, and it was awesome. "The H Man said it's exactly the way he would eat it in Brooklyn," Vaughn says. The Harris is a top seller, and you can see the H Man in the dining room most mornings having his namesake.

It seems that almost every dish at Elliott's (16 S. Second, 525-4895) has a story, and more than likely, owner and chef Helario "Harry" Reyna will be glad to tell you about them. For example, The Wholly Trinity, which is a breakfast burrito filled with Swiss cheese, egg, chicken tenders, ham, onion, mushroom, and tater tots, is named after an ex-girlfriend. "I was head over heels for her, and to this day I am thankful for the happiness we had the short time we were together," Reyna says. If he broke it down and said the name it would be "To You Holly My Trinity." The "Trinity" at the end is because she was three things to him — a friend, a girlfriend, and a beloved.

Another Elliott's favorite, A Toast to Our Friend Bill Saba, is a Texas toast sandwich with egg, cheddar cheese, ham, bacon, and a sausage patty. "Bill always bragged about my sandwiches and joked about how cryptic I was with the names," Reyna says. "He passed away a few years ago, and I decided not to be cryptic on this sandwich."

Memphis Mattie's Lemonade at Escape Alley Sundry (655 Marshall, 528-3337) is not just named for the owners' 7-year-old daughter. It's made by her. She also gets the profits from all sales. Jo Boone-Wild, who owns the restaurant and sundry with her husband Russell Wild, says that Escape Alley grew from Mattie's wish to have a lemonade stand. "Considering we just opened in March, we do sell quite a bit of Memphis Mattie's Lemonade," Boone-Wild says. She can't give away Mattie's secret recipe, but she says it contains turbinado sugar and fresh lemons. "We are just happy to have the opportunity to teach her a life lesson while she is having a good time doing what makes her happy," Boone-Wild says.

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