Lots of barbecue bits in the news last week. Interest was highest in the successful bid by Neely’s Bar-B-Que Inc. for a low-interest $67.500 loan to reopen the restaurant at 670 Jefferson that Patrick and Gina Neely (hereafter to be referred to as the “TV Neelys”; thanks to CA biz reporter Wayne Risher for that description) closed in October 2012, along with their Mt. Moriah shop.
The big catch is a bill for $40,000 in back taxes owed on the two properties that must be paid before Tony Neely, who would operate the restaurant, can get the loan. If I had to bet, I’d say this deal won’t happen.
Tony Neely and the TV Neelys are owners of the company. This paragraph from The CA’s April 17 article is telling: “Tony Bologna, a development consultant representing the family, said Patrick and Gina Neely, stars of the Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys,” are busy on a book tour and don’t have time to be involved in the restaurants.” Hmmm.
I don’t like it that all of the parties involved built their names here and decided their futures looked brighter away from Memphis. The TV Neelys split for New York City (I’ll bet the property taxes aren’t cheap up there; hope they’re current) when showbiz became more important than the restaurant biz, and Tony Neely tried his hand in Nashville in a venture that didn’t end well. Online commenters savaged them for bad food and poor service. That was never my experience. The service was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed the food. They must have had a few good days in 20-plus years.
So, yeah, it’s a long shot, but if they get the back taxes paid and want to take another stab at it, fine by me. It’s a loan, not a gift. As part of his plans, Tony Neely says he would put “new windows” in the building. More accurately, the plan would be to put “windows” in the building. The place is bunker. Maybe that “Restaurant Impossible” guy would help out his network mates and take on another Memphis barbecue joint.
Last Friday’s CA story about a campaign flier from County Commission candidate Martavius Jones had ghost-pit overtones. The flier has the usual election info on one side, and 10 coupons on the flip side for deals at various businesses in Jones’ District 10. The coupons created a legal flap as being an attempt to buy votes.
Two of the businesses occupy former Loeb’s barbecue sites — Makeda’s cookies at 2370 Airways, and a Wing Stop at 2280 Park.
No pit is visible at the Wing Stop, but Makeda’s still has its pit. The deal is buy two, get one free. I had some when Makeda’s briefly had a place on Madison across from Stewart Brothers. A bit pricey, but good. And another coupon is for 10 percent off at Payne’s.
It definitely has at-large appeal. I’m not in Jones’ district, so I can’t vote for him, but I could drop a little cash in some of those District 10 businesses.
Finally, the last bit of news comes not from The CA, but from Memphis Que, www.memphisque.blogspot.com , a great local barbecue/soul food blog, about fire destroying the smokehouse at A&R on Elvis Presley. The good news is that rebuilding is underway, and also that the blog founder’s just-completed book, Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce and Soul, will be out June 24 from History Press. I met him in January, and we had lunch at Jaxon’s Hot Wings, at 2302 Peres off Chelsea. It was my pick, as it was a former barbecue restaurant (still don’t know which one), and I had never had hot wings (not a meal that really appeals to me).
Also, Jaxon’s had been mentioned in The CA recently, as the owner has returned to his old neighborhood and is trying to restore some economic vitality there. The wings were OK, as messy as I imagined, but Memphis Que assured me they were good. Probably a burger next time. I can say the bathroom was well equipped with lots of soap and paper towels to clean up after the meal.
Anyway, mark your calendar for June 24, and check out Memphis Que’s blog. He’ll stop anywhere grilling is going on, and let you know how it is.
I’ll end this ramble with some words from Jim Neely, proprietor of Interstate Bar-B-Q at 2265 South Third and in Southaven, uncle to the TV Neelys, from last July in The CA’s story about the TV Neelys closing here for good:
“I’m here every day at 5:30 a.m. and I work all day, seven days a week. I’ve been very fortunate and Memphis has been very good to me, but I’ve worked hard at it. Quality suffers when the owner isn’t present and if there’s no one there to make sure that everything is up to the right standards. That’s why you saw Charlie Vergos at the Rendezvous every day for decades, and why I’m still at mine. You have to keep a close eye on your operation.”