Memphis fare arrived in Boise late last year under the name A Taste of Memphis. McNesheye "Mac" Reed brought her menu from Beale Street to Boise. Her restaurant is located in the Union Block building, where Villano's Deli used to be.
I stopped in to check out Mac's menu. The restaurant features polished hardwood floors and memorabilia from two Memphis musical icons, B.B. King and Elvis Presley, on the walls. My lunch companions and I noted the restaurant's simple, functional design that may or may not be typical of restaurants in Memphis, but the background music—some Beale Street blues—was authentic.
We ordered the black-eyed pea casserole with a side of collard greens ($8.49), red smoked sausage with a side of macaroni and cheese ($6.49) and the pulled pork sandwich with a side of fried okra ($8.49). For drinks, we ordered Sweet Tea ($1.99), Lemonade ($1.99), and Diet Pepsi ($1.99).
I'd never had black-eyed pea casserole before, so I didn't know what to expect. The dish we ordered was a delicious combination of ground beef, onions, tomatoes, cheese and, of course, black-eyed peas. If you've ever wondered what the big deal is with black-eyed peas, try this item.
Like black-eyed peas, smoked sausage is a food staple in the South. This lunch featured a sliced sausage on a bun slathered with barbecue sauce, which can be ordered hot or mild. We ordered the mild sauce and found it to have just the right tanginess to match the hickory-smoked sausages and the crusty bun.
The pulled pork sandwich is on many restaurant menus so I was looking forward to this one, hoping it was the "real thing" straight from Memphis. What we received was simple and functional just like the restaurant decor. It offered a substantial helping of pork and barbecue sauce on an otherwise dry bun. Unlike other pulled pork sandwiches I've had, this came without any shredded cabbage on top of the pork, but since coleslaw comes with every meal at A Taste of Memphis, you can add your own if you like.
The side dishes were unremarkable, but the drinks were surprisingly memorable. The sweet tea was sweet, just like they like it in the South. The lemonade was exceptional—fresh and lemony with just the right blend of tart and sweet.
The display case near our table showed off more sweets: the pies and cakes. Maybe that was why we felt inclined to try a slice of sweet potato pie ($2.99) to finish off our lunch. That was a wise choice. It was creamy, sweet and encased in a flaky crust with a sprinkling of sugar. It's the kind of pie that can cure the blues.
For another assessment, my youngest daughter and I went for dinner one evening. I wasn't surprised when she ordered a large side of macaroni and cheese ($4.99) as her main course since that's one of her favorites. I countered with the pork ribs dinner ($11.99) and sides of squash and potato salad.
The squash was a pleasant surprise; thinly sliced zucchini and summer squash in a nutty-flavored sauce. The pork ribs were tender, tasty and slathered with barbecue sauce. My daughter (who knows her macaroni and cheese) rated it as among the very best she'd ever had.
I've never been to Memphis. However, I have had a taste of the place now. The food was satisfying, especially the sweet potato pie and the side of squash. I'll go back for both those items. Since Treasure Valley soul-food options are quite limited, I'll go back to A Taste of Memphis to try the gumbo and rice special, too.
—Curt Nichols' body may be in Boise, but his soul is eating barbecue down on Beale Street.