Making like a tourist
Looking at a map, Memphis is pretty much in the middle of the country. Being here, it’s the South. Really, really South. That makes Gail want southern food, and to her, that means gumbo and etouffée.
Googling for “best etouffée Memphis” led us to Kings Palace Cafe. On Beale Street, the home of the blues, in the middle of the two blocks permanently closed off to cars to make the Memphis version of Bourbon Street. Kings Palace is a dump, a dive, a trashy joint specializing in beer and blues and really good Cajun food.
Alcohol enforcement laws are strict in this tourist district–all the bars have signs insisting that ID must be shown for all liquor purchases. Gail was not amused when they insisted on seeing her drivers license to get a glass of white, but thems the rules.
The menu had a considerable variety of Cajun delights; rather than choose I opted for the “Cajun Feast for Two”, a $33 extravaganza guaranteed to shorten your lifespan by 6 months.
A huge platter of etouffée, gumbo, “voodoo potatoes”, fried catfish, grilled chicken, rice, bread and fried green tomatoes. A big pile of paper napkins attended the meal, although none of this is finger food or particularly messy.
Mostly, it was great. The etouffée was made from a blond roux, rather than a dark one, which gives it much less flavor. I still liked it. Gail is the gumbo lover, okra and all. She pronounced this version excellent. The grilled chicken wasn’t very interesting, but the catfish more than made up for it. These were the best fried green tomatoes I ever had, especially when napped with just a touch of the attendant horseradish sauce. “Voodoo potatoes” turn out to be just mashed spuds, but they are always satisfying.
Service was deep south friendly, and that’s hard to beat. I ordered a slice of the pecan pie for dessert, and a cup of ice mysteriously appeared alongside.
The whole bill was under $60, including a goodly tip. Minimum wage for tipped workers in Tennessee is $2.13/hr, so I try to be generous.
Sometimes you want to go to some upscale, 5-star palace of fine dining, but if you want down-home cooking, you have to go to a down-home place. Kings Palace Cafe fills the bill admirably, doesn’t hurt your wallet will leave a smile on your face.