Dining Spotlight: Crumpy’s put the soul into cooking of soul food

Country-fried steak is a specialty of the house at The Original Crumpy's. Home-cooking selections vary daily, but the country-fried steak, complete with its peppery brown gravy, is available every day.

Photo by Jennifer Biggs/The Commercial Appeal, Jennifer Biggs/The Commercial Appeal

Country-fried steak is a specialty of the house at The Original Crumpy's. Home-cooking selections vary daily, but the country-fried steak, complete with its peppery brown gravy, is available every day.

Give any mashed potato worth its salt a choice, and it would choose to be nestled on a plate next to the country-fried steak at The Original Crumpy's on Alcy.

Come to think, I believe any country-fried steak worth its chops would be proud to be by those potatoes too.

Donald Crump recently reopened his restaurant  on Alcy.   'I've always known it was a mistake to close (the original) store,' he says.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Donald Crump recently reopened his restaurant on Alcy. "I've always known it was a mistake to close (the original) store," he says.

Diners at Crumpy's, (clockwise from top right) Lawanda Myles, Jasmine Russell, Margaret Jackson and Venetrice Price, dig into the Alcy Road restaurant's home-cooking specialties, starring country-fried steak and mashed potatoes.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Diners at Crumpy's, (clockwise from top right) Lawanda Myles, Jasmine Russell, Margaret Jackson and Venetrice Price, dig into the Alcy Road restaurant's home-cooking specialties, starring country-fried steak and mashed potatoes.

Country-fried steak is a specialty of the house at The Original Crumpy's. Home-cooking selections vary daily, but the country-fried steak, complete with its peppery brown gravy, is available every day.

Photo by Jennifer Biggs/The Commercial Appeal

Country-fried steak is a specialty of the house at The Original Crumpy's. Home-cooking selections vary daily, but the country-fried steak, complete with its peppery brown gravy, is available every day.

The menu at The Original Crumpy's on Alcy still features its famous chicken wings.

Photo by Michael Donahue

The menu at The Original Crumpy's on Alcy still features its famous chicken wings.

The bottom line is that the mashed potatoes are just about as good as it gets, and I'm comparing Crumpy's version not just to home-cooking spots but to restaurants all around town. They're real, of course, smooth enough to satisfy those who really prefer creamed potatoes, but with enough lumps to satisfy folks like me -- and I prefer them a bit stiff, even with the skins left on.

I will declare now that I have never tasted a country-fried steak to

equal Crumpy's. That includes those cooked by any family member, living or dead, so yes, I even mean my grandmother's.

Sorry, but props are due here.

Owner Donald Crump told me a little bit about how he does it. When he reopened the store in November, he worked with a company to create a seasoned batter that he uses, in one slightly altered form or another, for all his battered food. For the steak, he cuts the mix with additional flour because he says it's too salty for meat on its own, then he deep-fries the minute steaks.

It has the characteristics of a good pan-fried steak, though, right down to the crisp brown bits on the bottom. The all-over crust is crunchy enough to hold up to a liberal topping of a thick, peppery brown gravy that I will never, as is my custom, ask for on the side. You can cut the meat with a fork.

Lima beans: Perfectly overcooked. They still have structure, but they're cooked long enough to make a broth.

Yams: I detest sweet potatoes, but if I had to eat any, I would choose these. They're not cloyingly sweet, and they're made with real sweet potatoes, not canned orange discs.

Mac and cheese: Creamy and cheesy. Too bad there's no crust on the top, but it's still a top-notch version of this Southern "veggie" side.

Turnip greens: Excellent. Not bitter, not cooked to death. And there's a bottle of hot vinegar sauce on the table, just like there should be.

Fried green tomatoes: So-so. I like mine one way, which is thinly sliced and lightly coated with cornmeal and pepper. These have a thicker batter, which lends a wee creaminess. Tasty enough; just not my style.

There's also a menu of burgers, sandwiches and, of course, the famous wings.

Crump opened Crumpy's in the Alcy location in 1991, serving home cooking and wings ("Nobody even wanted wings back then," he said). He opened other stores around town, but closed the original store and sold the others to his uncle in 1998.

"I've always known it was a mistake to close this store," he said. "I told the landlord, if it ever comes open, to call me."

To that, I offer this blessing: Good food, good meat, good gravy, let's eat!

-- Jennifer Biggs: 529-5223

The Original Crumpy's

Address: 1584 Alcy Road

Telephone: (901) 774-4424

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Note that the hours for home cooking are different, ending at 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday and it's not available on Saturday. Other menu items are available during all hours.

Price: $ ($6.95 for a meat and two sides)

Handicapped access: Yes

Alcoholic beverages: No

Don't miss: Country-fried steak, any of the vegetables; I hear the peach cobbler is exceptional, but it hasn't been available when I've visited.

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