Dec 11, 2012

A commoner reviews Blue Plate Café, Memphis, Tenn.

Whenever I stay in downtown Memphis, I never seem to be too far to walk to the Blue Plate Café.  I don’t always make it there on every trip there, but it’s usually on my short list of places to eat.  Last month’s layover was no different, and before my group of friends and I hit I-55 for the drive to New Orleans, we decided to fill up with a good southern style breakfast. 

The Blue Plate Café tries to be your prototypical southern style diner.  Even though you can tell the décor at the downtown location, right on Court Square, is relatively new, the vibe is old school.  You order off of a paper menu that looks more like a newsletter.  The Court Square Blue Plate Café is an extension of the original restaurant in east Memphis (I’ve never ventured out to it, so I can’t comment on the specifics of that location). 

As you might suspect, breakfast is the main attraction, which you can order any time.  However, I can say from past experiences that the lunch isn’t too shabby, either.  If you’ve never tried a classic meat and two or three plate lunch, this is good place to get indoctrinated.    

Don’t worry about whether or not you should order biscuits and gravy for breakfast … they come with every meal.  It is, in fact, one of Blue Plate’s signature items.  And they are very, very good.  You’ll know it when you apply the peel-apart test.  The biscuits are big and fluffy, and just well done enough on top to hold up to a generous pouring of the outstanding sawmill gravy.  A giant pat of butter in a cup is placed on a saucer on standby.  You’ll probably wind up using the whole thing.  The waitress is also going to make sure you don’t run out.  They’re pretty good about keeping your coffee topped off, too. 

In addition to the biscuits and gravy, I went a little off the norm this visit and tried their eggs Florentine.  I eggs were poached just to the consistency that I like them (mostly runny, but a little hardening of the yolk), and the spinach and tomato “stuff” was tasty as well.  The sauce was a touch on the bland side, but I fixed that with a few splashes of Tabasco sauce, or what I like to call “the Elixir of Life.”  I really, really like my Tabasco.

You’ll also notice a generous serving of grits on my plate, which I chose as a side.  Since I was finally back firmly in the grit-eating world, how could I resist?  Throw on some melted butter and sugar, and as far as I’m concerned you’re good to go!  

I've seen the mixed reviews regarding the service here, and I will admit the wait times can be longer than you’d like at peak hours, and a full diner means it may take longer for someone to come by and check on you, but I’ve never seen anyone not working hard during any of my visits.  It’s also probably worth noting that once you’re in Memphis, you’re fully embedded in the South, and let’s face it – life just moves at a slower pace here. 

I find the prices at Blue Plate to be quite affordable, especially for the amount of food you get (the omelets can be huge!).  My eggs Florentine and bottomless cup of coffee set me back about $10.  For lunch, a meat and two sides and a drink will cost you about the same. 

So, if you can stand the occasional slow pace of service, give the Blue Plate Café a try when you’re in downtown Memphis.  It's southern comfort food at its finest.

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