My friends Justin and Amy, who run the Chubby Vegetarian blog, held a pop-up restaurant event this weekend in Memphis. They're not professional chefs, and they don't even aspire to run a restaurant — at least not as far as I know. They're just amazingly talented home cooks, who wrote a fantastic tome — The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook — on meatless Southern meals. Oh, and they've spoken at the James Beard House. Yea, they're kind of a big deal around here.
Justin also happens to be a co-worker of mine. For his day job, he's a freelance photographer, and he shoots stuff for the Memphis Flyer, where I'm a reporter/news editor. So this past Saturday, the Flyer's managing editor, Susan (also a vegetarian), and I checked out the pop-up. It was held at Iris Etc. in Overton Square, which typically houses the catering operation for Restaurant Iris.
The menu was posted on a wall outside. By the time we arrived, they were already out of the waffle iron grilled cheese, but it wasn't vegan anyway. So I didn't care.
Here's Amy running the front of the house. As each customer walked in, they would fill out a slip of paper and check off what they wanted. Just like ordering sushi!
Then, you'd take your order to this table and pay. Hey, look, we ran into Cassi at the pop-up!
I ordered the Smoked Shiitake Mushroom Tamale. It was topped with a charred corn salsa. LOVED this tamale! The mushrooms were so smoky. Justin is REALLY into mushrooms. And he's pretty much a pro at cooking them.
I also got the Andouille Eggplant Po Boy with Tabasco Pickles. This was supposed to come with mayo, but I had that left off to make it vegan. The crusty bread was stuffed with eggplant "sausage" and spicy homemade pickles. The eggplant was really smoky, and it definitely had a sausagey flavor.
There was even vegan dessert! The Banana Ice Cream Sandwich with Oatmeal "Power" Cookies was a super-healthy dessert that I didn't have to feel guilty about. The cookies were raw and made with raisins, cranberries, walnuts, and coconut, and the ice cream was banana soft serve. Since it was about 100 degrees yesterday, this cool treat really hit the spot.
Everything was so amazing. And there were a few vegan items that I didn't get to try — the cabbage kimchi dumplings and the cauliflower wings. There was also rosemary lemonade, but it was sold out when we arrived. I went with a refreshing Pomegranate-Orange Sanpellegrino.
I didn't get a shot of Justin since he was busy in the kitchen. But he did come out to say hi for a minute. That was around 3 p.m., and he told us that they were almost sold out of a lot of stuff. They'd planned to stay open until 8 p.m., but I heard later that they sold out of everything by 4 p.m. Sounds like their pop-up was a huge success! How cool that a totally vegetarian food event was so popular!!