Lindsay Hanlen 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Known for putting a little “South in Your Mouth,” Blues City Cafe keeps the charcoal pit lit as it fires through its second decade. Every night, seven days a week, music rocks the house and food warms the soul on the corner of second and Beale. Known for putting a little “south in Your mouth,” Blues city cafe keeps the charcoal pit lit as it fires through its second decade. Previously opened in 1991 as an extension of the doe’s eat place in Greenville, ms, Blues city cafe debuted in 1993 with a new name and a new menu on “the best corner of Beale,” says Jeff “Goose” Goss, director of operations. Blues city was one of the first establishments to ride the wild wave of the Beale street revival in the ‘90s, and through the ups and downs of that time, patrons grew attached to the food, staff, and atmosphere. once known as a steak joint, one of Blues city’s star items is “Beale street’s Best BBQ ribs.” Beyond the barbeque, the menu includes favorites such as homemade chili, seafood gumbo, memphis soul stew, Gulf coast skillet shrimp, farm-raised catfish, and locally baked desserts. According to the menu, the cowboy cut ribeye is “so good, it’ll make a yard dog bust his chain.” “the Best meal on Beale” is a heaping combination platter with a half rack of ribs, southern fried catfish, coleslaw, steak fries, and texas toast. “if you consistently serve a quality product, people will keep coming back,” says Goss. “All of that started with chef.” Chef Bonnie mack moved to memphis when doe’s did and stayed until his passing in 2006. “As a young child, he would stand on coke crates so he could reach the stove,” explains doug Gordon, operations manager. “he started cooking when he was real young.” A legendary cornerstone of the Blues city experience, mack was influential in all areas of the restaurant, but he is perhaps best remembered for his huge smile and kind manner. He saw potential In a young line cook named Larry crawford, who, after training “at the school of Bonnie mack,” became Blues city’s current executive chef and pit master. “i worked with him on the cook line for three or four years before he passed away,” crawford remembers. “Before i even thought about being on the line, he was pulling me over, showing me how to do stuff. He was like a father, teaching me these different things.” Now 28 years old, crawford has taken over where mack left off, and he means business when it comes to his kitchen’s product. “we have an open kitchen so you can see your food going around from one station to the next and the next,” he says, grinning. “You can watch what is happening to your food.” That signature offering is only part of what brings crowds clambering into the booths. People come back because everyone is treated the same: like family. But the list of Blues city’s celebrity patrons is remarkable: Jerry Lee Lewis, conan o’Brien, Bill clinton, Garrison Keillor, carol channing, robert de niro, Jerry seinfeld, samuel Jackson, and “too many nBA players to mention.” “they are just like me or you; they’re here to eat,” crawford explains. Goss adds, “Until they are leaving this restaurant, we don’t do anything but serve them.” But when they do leave the restaurant, staff may ask for a quick picture to put up in one of the many photo collages displayed around the restaurant. Among the pictures are plaques, including one that permanently reserves chef mack’s favorite seat. The booth in which tom cruise sat for the late-night cafe scene in The Firm is also marked. Another dining room, the “cadillac room,” displays its namesake — half of a ’58 pink cadillac hanging from one wall. Next to that, the tin ceiling and other eclectic decor in the Blues city Band Box give it a small-club vibe for the nightly music scene that plays out there. The list of famous performers who have rocked the stage is as long as the list of celebrities who have eaten there. It takes a lot to be the no. 1 business at the no. 1 tourist attraction in tennessee and to further claim the “world’s best tamales” and “Beale street’s best BBQ ribs” on the “best corner of Beale,” but when the staff challenges you to a taste test, take it. You’ll need more than a couple of napkins before you’re done. Blues City Cafe, 138 Beale, 526-3637, bluescitycafe.com.
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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