There's something about barbecue and cheese that just doesn't sit right with me. That means no barbecue nachos, no barbecue pizza, and now, no Memphis Bar-B-Que Omelet from Cockadoos. But don't let that stop you.
Even though I don't appreciate the concept, a good omelet is a good omelet.
Here, three eggs are whipped up with cream, given a dash of barbecue rub, cooked and rolled up with barbecue pork and smoked provolone cheese with a squiggle of barbecue sauce on top. The one we ordered was composed, pork neatly tucked inside the melted cheese, and, frankly, it wasn't bad. Not at all. My companion gobbled it up, and all around the restaurant, folks were doing the same: It was definitely the most popular item that morning.
Still, I'll take the biscuits and gravy anytime.
Growing up in the South, I never thought twice about putting gravy on biscuits. It's like bread and butter, peanut butter and jelly. But about a year ago a Midwestern friend commented on how strange it was -- and there were people who agreed with him.
I wonder what he would think about biscuits called cat heads. Let the debate begin: Are cat head biscuits so named because they're the size of a cat's head? Or is it because they're unevenly shaped, not round like a cut biscuit? Both theories have followers, and I've seen recipes where the dough is cooked in one piece in an iron skillet, then quartered so that the top of the biscuit is rounded and the bottom pointed.
Whatever. At Cockadoos, the cat heads are big and shaggy on the top, presumably drop biscuits. They're a bit dry -- don't expect a light, fluffy biscuit just because of the size -- but that makes a nice bed for the white gravy, full of bits of sausage and black pepper.
Simple food, but delicious.
Breakfast and lunch are served all day, so if you take a hankering for catfish and grits for breakfast, have at it. It was a new combo for me, and might not make a Top 10 breakfast list. But I'd be happy to have it for lunch if it were made right.
The first time I ate it, it was.
The cheese grits were savory, creamy and smooth -- perfect. The big seared fillet (the menu says it's over half a pound) was seasoned with lemon pepper, and a fresh slice of lemon came on top to give it extra zip. We loved it, devoured it, and told friends and coworkers about it. Another time, I got an order to go.
The second time there was no cheese in the grits at all (a scattering on top doesn't make cheese grits), and they were full of big lumps. The lumps weren't formed during the short drive from Downtown to the office, either (nor, of course, did the cheese disappear during that mile). The catfish was just as good, but that was only half the dish.
The restaurant is a comfortable, welcoming place. Cushioned benches along the windows are covered with mismatched pillows in bold geometric prints, toiles and stripes. Colorful booths, chalkboard specials and a laid-back vibe add to the appeal.
But laid-back vibe and laid-back service are two different things. The service on my first visit was like the catfish and grits: Everything was right. The server was efficient, warm and hospitable.
On the second visit, the server was distracted by a demanding customer, and while I was sympathetic, it didn't get my food to the table. A third visit fell somewhere in between. The food was slow in coming, but our tea glasses stayed full while we waited. I believe this was a kitchen issue, but it nonetheless resulted in slow service.
The turkey pot pie could have been the reason for the delay. The menu says "this might take a minute so be patient," yet it took closer to a half-hour, and that was after the lunch rush. It's a bit different, baked with a soft cornbread crust. It was good, but I preferred the thick yet flaky crust of the breakfast casserole of ham, potatoes and eggs. The casserole changes daily.
There are three sandwiches -- chicken salad, country ham and a catfish po' boy -- and two pastas on the lunch menu in addition to the turkey pot pie and a rice with tomato gravy dish. We tried and liked the spicy andouille bowtie pasta, but it didn't deliver the punch suggested by the menu.
There's also a baked potato and salad bar.
The breakfast menu is larger -- it's where you'll find the catfish and grits as well as sweet potato hash browns, served with mimi-marshmallows on top -- but remember, both breakfast and lunch are served all day.
Address: 85 S. Second.
Telephone: (901) 590-0610
Hours: Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (Also opens at midnight on Friday and Saturday and remains open until 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.)
Reviewer's choices: Catfish and grits ($8.99); cat head biscuits and gravy ($4.99); omelets (barbecue omelet, $7.99; others are $4.99 plus extra for fillings.