Eating at The Grille is like going to a cookout, but you can dine inside. They serve smoky, tasty Chicken on a Stick grilled in pits on a screened area attached to the little restaurant. When I arrived at The Grille on Lamar about 5 one afternoon, Ronald Pleasant was the only customer. I asked why he liked the chicken. "No bone," he said. "It's just on the stick. All flavor."
Before he left, people began streaming in and the phone kept ringing.
The Grille is the brainchild of Herb Tate, who is making grilled chicken cool. The restaurant on Lamar has been open for only a year. He opened a second restaurant in Collierville a month ago.
The building on Lamar once housed The Big Dip, where Tate, who still lives nearby, used to buy vanilla ice cream cones.
A 1981 graduate of Mississippi Valley State University, Tate was a counselor for pretrial services for seven years at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Complex at 201 Poplar. Then he did mobile detailing for 20 years.
His dad, the late Herbert Tate, who was a football coach at several high schools, including Douglass, Melrose and White Station, taught him how to grill. Herb was 14 at the time.
Herb only grilled for family functions and special occasions before opening his restaurant. He wanted to do something with chicken thigh meat, so he took the skin off and the bone out, put it on a stick and grilled it on an open flame pit. It didn't take long before it took off. "I knew it would. I just needed everyone to taste it."
Herb has six barbecue pits in the screened-in area and one inside for when it's too cold outside.
So, why grilled instead of fried? "It's a better flavor. It's healthier."
And, he said, "That fried stuff is taking a whole generation of people out."
Fried food is detrimental to the health of fellow African-Americans, he said. "Our cholesterol's off the chart, heart disease and high blood pressure."
The Grille serves a variety of other food, too, including grilled and fried wings and hamburgers. His dad was responsible for the ice cream machine. "My dad gave me the money. He wanted the ice cream machine. He passed seven months later."
Herb recently bottled his seasoning, which is for sale at both restaurants. He also plans to sell his barbecue sauce (I drank what I didn't use on my grilled chicken because it's sweet and delicious).
The barbecue sauce is his father's recipe. "I'm gonna honor him and name that sauce after him, bottle it and put it on the market."
The Grille is at 3035 Lamar, 901-744-7458; and at 141 Highway 72 East in Collierville; 901-850-8777.