Walk into the Trolley Stop Market and you're transported 100 miles away, to some little town in the Mississippi Delta or maybe the Missouri Bootheel.
A hodgepodge of tables, picnic and other mismatches covered in vinyl cloths and surrounded by any ol' kind of chair, greets you at the front. In the back, a riot of bright and fresh produce begs to be bagged up and taken home. Goods from local artisans are here, there, and hanging on the walls, and the servers are friendly.
Yet this homey and welcoming restaurant and market is just on the edge of Downtown, making it far more convenient for a quick meal that feels a little like a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the workday.
Keith and Jill Forrester of Whitton Farms opened the market to have a place to sell not only their produce, but also items from other local farmers.
The restaurant business exploded almost immediately, though.
It's no wonder. There is something for everyone at Trolley Stop. If you want pizza, you're in luck. Home cooking or a simple sandwich, ditto. Vegetarian or even vegan? You're covered. Got a sweet tooth? Save room for a homemade dessert.
And best of all, Trolley Stop does a good job with all of it.
First to the plate lunches. The selection changes daily and is posted on Facebook, usually by mid-morning. (Just for giggles, take a look at the comments on last Friday's post, when a typo listed "Grilled God" instead of "cod" as an entree. A sample: "The Grilled God is tasty, but have you tried the Holy Mackerel?")
There are two or three entree choices each day. Chicken parmesan, moussaka, Italian roast beef, chicken and dressing, meatloaf, salmon patties -- the list goes on. A plentiful selection of fresh and mostly local vegetables is also available. Mashed potatoes, peas of various kinds, broccoli salad, corn salad, cucumber salad, okra, greens -- you name it. You get an entree and two sides with your meal, or you can get a vegetable plate.
I've liked everything I've tried, but a few items deserve special mention. The Italian roast beef brings a generous portion of shredded roast in a flavorful jus, perfect for topping mashed potatoes. The broccoli salad is the standard deli fare -- raisins, nuts and onion in a light mayo dressing, but without the addition of the bacon you often find. Good stuff. And the corn salad, tender kernels mixed with diced onion and peppers, all coated in a creamy dressing, is delicious.
Some of the vegetables could use more seasoning, though I've found just a little salt and pepper is all it takes for me. I don't believe that meat is used to season the peas, beans or greens (if so, only the slightest bit), but I prefer it that way. I know some want a smoky touch to these vegetables, so consider yourself informed.
In any event, you have plenty to choose from. The pizzas are outstanding and the slices enormous. The crust is on the thin side, and it is that great mix of crunchy and chewy. Toppings vary daily, and there are vegetarian options full of flavor from herbs and vegetables.
Salads are fresh and crisp, if on the simple side. There's a nice selection of sandwiches, including an excellent pimiento cheese. Sharp cheddar is bound, just barely, with a light touch of mayonnaise and served dressed with lettuce and tomato on toast.
Desserts are all made in-house and also change daily. There's often a cobbler, plus a selection of cheesecake, pie and cakes. The banana pudding is nice (not yellow, which is a good sign), but the lemon ice box pie and the Texas sheet cake, a chocolate cake with a boiled and whipped chocolate icing, are the standouts.
There are often theme nights at Trolley Stop, such as Taco Tuesday and Vegan Monday, and live music on different nights. You can buy beer or bring your own wine for a nominal $2 corkage fee.
I picked up two vegan orders to go and was pleased with the taste of both, but disappointed to get home and find that the tofu I paid extra for was not included.
Both dishes contained a medley of vegetables such as squash, mushrooms, onion and peppers served with a side of locally grown brown rice. The green curry was spicier than I expected (though it did say it was spicy on the Facebook menu), but it suited me. If you can't take the heat, steer clear of this one. The vegetables in the sweet chili sauce were tamer, yet still contained enough heat to make them interesting.
The menu is extensive, and it'll take a good while to make your way through it, but I believe the Trolley Stop will be around long enough for us all to sample to our heart's content.
--Jennifer Biggs: 529-5223
Trolley Stop Market
Address: 704 Madison
Telephone: (901) 526-1361
Hours: Monday through Saturday 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Reviewer's choices: Italian roast beef ($7.25 with two sides for lunch), pizzas by the slice ($3-$4), pimiento cheese sandwich ($6.75), Texas sheet cake and lemon ice box pie ($3.75)
Alcohol: Beer; $2 corkage fee for wine.
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars