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Chiwawa Midtown Opens this Week, Sneak Peak at Menu

When I was invited by Taylor Berger to participate in the menu tasting of the soon-to-be open Chiwawa restaurant on Sunday, March 10, I jumped at the opportunity.

Chiwawa is in the two-story, 3,196-square-foot building at 2059 Madison Ave. near Overton Square in Midtown that housed Chicago Pizza Factory in the 1980s and has been vacant since. Until now, that is.

Chiwawa is a Southern-inspired Mexican concept by Berger, partner in YoLo Frozen Yogurt & Gelato, along with principals J.D. Sledd, Daniel and Katherine Flanagan, and Rachel Hasselle. It’s just a few blocks west of Berger’s highest performing YoLo location at 6 S. Cooper St.

We tried a variety of things, all which were quite tasty. I was partial to the Mexican street corn with cotija cheese, lime and paprika. Very sweet and tangy, and it reminded me of elote con cotija y mayonesa from Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana in Germantown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another favorite of mine was the house-made chips (very Las Delicias-esque) with salsa fresca and tomatillo sauce. This seems like it’ll be Chiwawa’s staple starter dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also a hit were the hand-cut fries with quesco fresco and house-made adobe-serrano pepper ketchup. This ketchup was unreal – I swear I tasted some sort of jam in it, yet it had a slight kick as well due to the peppers. Someone at my table said, “these fries are better than Houston’s.” So there you go.

Chiwawa’s menu will have a la carte items ranging from $3 to $8. A big part of that menu is the tacos and quesadillas, a dish in which patrons will have the option of choosing from locally-made corn or flour tortillas.

We tried the chicken and chorizo, steak and mushroom, and chicken and bacon quesadillas. All were buttery, cheesy and flavorful.

The tacos we got to sample included potato, egg and chorizo, as well as the spinach, salsa fresca and potato. Both potato fillings were diced white potatoes, but Chiwawa’s staff said they’ll likely have sweet potato options.

 

 

 

 

Continuing with the Mexican “street food” theme, Chiwawa will serve a handful of gourmet hotdogs. We tried the slaw-sa dog, a bratwurst topped with salsa fresca and a sweet slaw. The taste of this slaw made me think of Pancho’s special green mustard vinaigrette. Great medley of tart and savory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other premium hotdogs Chiwawa plans on making include one with pulled pork and another with pineapple salsa. That’s in addition to the restaurant’s signature “Juan tons,” a fried empanada filled with chicken, cream cheese and green onion, served with a poblano cream and red salsa. These will make for the perfect shareable finger food among parties big or small.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chiwawa plans to be open from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily. The non-smoking establishment has been working with Michael Hughes of Joe’s Wines & Liquors on specialty cocktails for the upstairs bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the upstairs bar, Chiwawa’s lay out is similar to the way Local Gastropub’s Midtown and Downtown locations are configured – with the kitchen downstairs and the bar center-stage upstairs. Except in Chiwawa’s case, there’s only one bar and you enter from the upstairs off Diana Street. I also liked how Chiwawa’s kitchen was very much in the open, bistro-style, reminiscent of Alchemy in Cooper-Young.

The original bricks of Chicago Pizza Factory were kept in tact, and Chiwawa’s going to add flat-screen televisions throughout. “We’ll have music blaring,” Sledd said.

 

 

 

 

Chiwawa is aiming to have a soft opening this week. The eatery has its liquor license, but it may be a few weeks until its beer permit is finalized.

Chiwawa will be managed by Brad Tedford. Its chefs are Crash Hethcox and Travis Tungseth.

 

Lipscomb on E Pluribus Unum

This week’s meeting of the Design Review Board with Bass Pro Shops was a tense one on many fronts.

It was a packed board room at the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 114 N. Main St. office. It was packed full of Bass Pro executives, government officials, lawyers, design professionals, community stakeholders and members of the media. It was also packed with varying opinions about Bass Pro’s exterior plans to The Pyramid.

And understandably so. It’s a Memphis landmark, and people feel pretty strongly about it. As DRB member Rebecca Conrad pointed out, while there was initial controversy that came with the idea of The Pyramid before its construction in the early 1990s, we can all agree that it’s an iconic structure for Memphis now. She likened it to the St. Louis arch in what it means for the city.

Prepared for several public comments on Bass Pro’s proposed signage, the DRB had a sign up sheet at the door for the 4 p.m. meeting Wednesday. After about half a dozen of citizens expressed their respective concerns, a last minute addition was made to the public comment list. It was Robert Lipscomb, director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Division. Here’s what he had to say:

I think everything we’ve tried to do is represent the city of Memphis and bring commerce to city of Memphis. I do strongly believe in something that be found on (our) coin, and that is E Pluribus Unum. E. PLURIBUS. UNUM. Out of many comes one. And that’s what democracy is all about and that’s what the project is all about. So even though I was the front runner of all of this, I figured I had all of Memphis behind me. And I did. As we started out, there was whole community behind me that represented this community really well and we were able to contract a great retailer. (Turning to Chooch Pickard, former director of Memphis Regional Design Center who has been extremely vocal about his opposition to Bass Pro’s signage on The Pyramid) I mean, Chooch, we don’t disagree. We want to have your comments to make it better. Every comment that we heard we took into consideration and said, ‘let’s go back and look and see if we can make it better.’ That’s what democracy is all about. We don’t have to be disagreeable in our disagreements. So I did want to say that. That’s what democracy is all about. And we are willing to change, compromise, whatever. But that’s what E Plurbus Unum says. Out of many is one. So thank you.

Following his public comment, Lipscomb promptly left the meeting.

Lofton Leaves Leadership Memphis to be Wharton Aide

Dewanna Lofton has accepted Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr.’s appointment to public information officer for the City of Memphis.

Lofton resigned her position as director of communications and alumni engagement at Leadership Memphis, effective March 15.

“Dewanna was only with us for a short time – she made a big impact on Leadership Memphis – and we thank her for her efforts on our behalf,” David Williams, president and CEO of Leadership Memphis, said in a Tuesday, March 5 post. “It’s easy to see why Mayor Wharton would want someone with Dewanna’s skills and work ethic on his team. And it goes without saying this is a tremendous opportunity for Dewanna. We wish her well.”

Leadership Memphis now has four communications positions available for new hires.

Crosstown Collaborative Seeks Support

A collection of businesses, residents and organizations called the Crosstown Collaborative have formed to support the economic and community development of the Crosstown district in Memphis.

The collaborative invites others to join the current initiative to revitalize Crosstown with the renovated Sears building as its centerpiece.

RKG Associates Inc., a Dover, N.H.-based real estate consulting firm, recently conducted an analysis of how the redevelopment of the Sears Crosstown building will impact the surrounding neighborhoods, the center city of Memphis and the metropolitan area.

Here are some highlights of those findings. Anchored by the eight “founding partners” in education, arts, health and wellness, the project will not only repopulate the abandoned building with 2,500 people daily, but also generate:

  • nearly 1,000 construction jobs
  • more than 1,300 permanent jobs after renovation, including 877 new jobs
  • $37 million in wages contributed to the local economy annually
  • 240 new, loft-style residential units for Crosstown

“Our community needs these good jobs,Crosstown development project co-leader Todd Richardson said in an email to interested parties Tuesday, March 5. “The Crosstown district needs the healthcare, educational, and creative resources that the Founding Partners will provide. This iconic building in the heart of our city can be transformed to serve and benefit all its people.”

RVC Destination’s ‘Perfect Vacation Experience’

We wrote last year about RVC Outdoor Destinations, founded by Andy Cates in 2007, but waiting to tell its story to the public until more recent times.

RVC claims to have created the “outdoor destination” hospitality model – providing a variety of lodging options such as RV sites, cottages and yurts, all set within unique natural environments.

Cates said in many ways, RVC is attempting to create another product class within commercial real estate. His goal is similar to what was done with self-storage some 20 years ago, when the concept itself grew dramatically and scaled, or when Kemmons Wilson launched Holiday Inn in Memphis in the early 1950s.

“It effectively created full-service hotels as a specific segment of the commercial real estate world,” Cates said. “You had the Holiday Inns and the Hiltons and the Marriotts and those brands take what had been a mom-and-pop lodging business and create consistency and high standards and strong marketing to drive traffic. And that’s not happened in outdoor hospitality.”

Check out RVC’s story, which explains its “vision for the perfect vacation experience.”

 

Dansette

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