- David Parks and Jef Hicks of ThunderRoad Memphis
The name came from “the old Robert Mitchum movie,” says Parks, who operates the business with Jef Hicks.
In the Thunder Road movie, which was released May 10th, 1958, Lucas Doolin (Mitchum) is a whiskey runner, or “transporter,” who delivers moonshine in his “tanker” — a 1950 two-door coupe — to Memphis and other areas.
Parks and Hicks deliver cocktails, with names like Tropical Deliciousness and Raspberry Sage Sipper, and food in a 1991 Isuzu Rodeo and a 1988 Jeep Wagoneer to people’s homes in Memphis and nearby areas. But the cocktails are transported in Mason jars. “Harkening back to the old days,” Hicks says. They also deliver wine, beer, and food. ThunderRoad Memphis began five weeks ago, “and it’s gone nuts.”
Parks is a bartender who was laid off at The Second Line because of the quarantine. Hicks was a bartender at Cafe Pontotoc. Since they were “no longer on the payroll,” Hicks says, they decided to do home delivery of their cocktails. They operate out of Midtown Crossing at 394 N. Watkins, where they are partnering with owner Octavia Young. They will deliver food from the restaurant. They also are partnering with local chefs.
Hicks and Parks contacted chef friends to join them and prepare food, which they can pair with their cocktails. “Sandwiches and small plates,” he says.
It was a way to help their out-of-work service industry friends “keep shelter over their head, their utilities on, and a little bit of food on the table,” Hicks adds. “We tried to give as many people a job as we could.”
The chefs include Jesse Parks, a baker who has been doing their bread; Jake Behnke, who was at Iris Etc. catering; and Amanda Hicks.
They begin their day at 1 p.m. They load up about 2 p.m., and they’re done by 7:30 p.m.
ThunderRoad Memphis operates Wednesdays through Sundays. They recently added Germantown and Cordova to their route.
One of their most popular cocktails is the Tequila Mockingbird, a drink Parks created for a Mid-South Literacy fundraiser. It’s made of tequila, watermelon, lime, and a little spiced Agave. Another popular cocktail, Passionate Purple Drank, which was created by Hicks, is made with Butterfly Pea Blossom infused gin, lavender shrub, ginger syrup, and fresh lime juice.
As for the cuisine, Amanda’s brisket tacos are a big seller. It’s corn beef brisket in "drunken salsa," which includes a dozen vegetables marinated in vodka for 21 days. The brisket is smoked by Brent McAfee, who was laid off from Cafe Pontotoc and Silly Goose. The barbecue pork butt sandwich with sriracha slaw on brioche bread is another winner.
ThunderRoad Memphis has a Facebook group, which now has more than 2,800 members. People take photos of ThunderRoad Memphis cocktails and food. Some people put the cocktails in their own fancy glasses for the photographs.
Hicks and Parks are pleased with the ThunderRoad Memphis response. “We built an enterprise that provides jobs, builds community, and reduces the instances of drunken driving,” Hicks says. “We need to change home delivery of cocktails from a temporary governor’s resolution to be permanent legislation.”
Parks says he’d “love to have a big, old ambulance and turn it into a mobile bar and we’d do your party.”
The ThunderRoad Memphis motto is “All this and a bag of chips,” Hicks says. “All customers are required to purchase some food item, be it chips, sandwiches, baked goods, etc. This keeps us legal. Also, we give everyone a fortune cookie and ask them to post their fortune.”
Customers have been returning the Mason jars, which are sanitized and re-used. “They get a discount if they return them,” Hicks says.
To contact ThunderRoad Memphis, call (901) 443-0502.