While Squirrely, Jr., was out of town, our good friend and pretty-much-daughter, Sorta Sister Squirrel, came with us to the downtown farmers market. During our trip to the market with SSS, one of the vendors was selling chow chow and pickled green tomatoes. She also had the most tempting menus from Alcenia’s in the Pinch District, including a $10 Saturday brunch that features chicken and waffles. For the longest time, I have wanted to try chicken and waffles, but somehow I have never come across anywhere offering the dish. Having just read John T. Edge‘s Fried Chicken, my desire has been greatly renewed. Clearly we had to try Alcenia’s.
The place is very promising from the street. A step up to a squeaky screen door leads into the space that looks like it was once a store or an office. Inside, colorful art covers the walls. The chairs are brightly colored too. Everything looked like we were in for fun.
It was obvious right away, though, that we were not in for speedy or polished service. The only waitress seemed to be a friend filling in. Still, we were in an interesting place with a good friend and the potential for really good food. Only one other table in the place was occupied. Five people who looked to be visiting from a church meeting in town. Hopefully this was a good sign that we were in for good soul food even if we had to wait for it.
The brunch offers your choice of a meat, three sides, and a drink. The drink is easy. We all chose sweet tea, but the Ghetto Aid, extra sweet Kool Aid, was tempting to me because it brought to mind the Jungle Juice of my childhood. The menu makes the rest of brunch confusing though. An omelet with fried green tomatoes is not a main dish but two sides combined. Chicken and waffles is a meat and a side combined. Fried green tomatoes can be a side alone. With some guidance from our server, we managed to get everything ordered. SSS chose chicken and waffles with fried green tomatoes and biscuits. I chose chicken and waffles with rice and grits. Mama chose a sausage omelet with fried green tomatoes, pancakes, and biscuits.
Continuing the colorful theme, our tea came in tall glasses of bright plastic. The only thing that topped the shocking bright colors was the shock of the tea. I love tea. I love sweet tea. Sweet tea. This, however, was insulin shock tea. It was good, but it definitely required some adjusting.
We were right about the speed of the service. We had been prepared, but when we noticed that after our leisurely perusal of the menu the table that was there before us hadn’t been served yet, we began to worry. And more and more people were pouring in to clog things up. The single waitress was starting to get too busy to get to everyone before their patience wore thin. Some people left without ever ordering.
When our food did finally arrive, it looked good enough. The first bite pretty much ended our hopes though. The chicken had nicely crisp crust, but it was bland and the flesh was greasy. The waffles and pancakes were made from the same batter, leaving the waffles chewy and the pancakes tough. The fried green tomatoes were flour-battered, which might have been good, but they weren’t. They were greasy and needed salt. The grits were bland. The rice was fair. The saddest thing of all though was the biscuits. They were burned and dry.
A bad meal is never good obviously. This meal was so much worse than just bad for all of us because it had such promise. It has had a large write up in the Commercial Appeal, and its turnip greens were featured in Gourmet.
I am going to have to go again. I have to. The promise of the place is too great. Surely it can rise above one really bad day. I just hope I’m right. I’ve been hurt so before.
Alcenia’s Desserts & Preserves Shop
317 N Main Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38103