A new acquaintance, who lives in Memphis but is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and was born to parents from New Orleans, made his point with a slow shake of his head, the kind that means mmm, mmm, mmm:
"You have to get the red beans and rice at Foozi's. It's almost like home."
I still haven't tried the red beans and rice, but I've been to Foozi, both in the Clark Tower and just across the parking lot in the iBank building. They're known to the East Memphis lunch crowd as Foozi's East and Foozi's West, though there's no apostrophe-s in the actual name.
Both serve breakfast (which I didn't try), and lunch, and the menus have a few of the same items, but they are also quite different.
A brief history: Foozi started at 5050 Poplar, which is now the west location, in 1999. In 2007, it was moved to Clark Tower, 5100 Poplar, to get more space. A few months ago, the owner opened the second location — back where the first location had been.
It's not really that confusing, and you'll be happy to walk into either Foozi, but if you're looking for a particular dish, you need to know what's what.
Foozi East is the larger store. You'll get a daily special in addition to a full line of sandwiches, from subs to clubs to panini, plus pizzas, wraps, salads, a daily hot lunch and a daily pasta. What you won't get there is a burger.
At Foozi West, you'll find the subs, clubs and wraps, but no pizza or hot lunch. You will find a very good selection of well-made burgers. Both locations serve a soup of the day.
Only Foozi East serves the fantastic rotisserie, a roasted half or quarter rosemary chicken, served with homemade mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day. The chicken is as tender and juicy as a bird can be, from the leg to the breast. The potatoes were as good as any you'd make at home, and as the man in front of me got the last of the yellow squash, I was left with cabbage.
I had no complaint — it was flavorful, still slightly crisp yet tender after sitting over a steam table, and it was well seasoned, too.
A few days later, the cabbage made an unexpected appearance on the roasted pork loin sandwich. The pork loin, which also is served as a daily special (visit the website at funfoodfast.com to find out what's being served each day), is piled high on a hoagie, topped with a ladle of pan juices, then given a hearty garnish of cooked cabbage and coleslaw. It's delicious, and messy, too.
Pizzas have cute names that are actually endearing instead of annoying. Ham, bacon, sausage and pepperoni is the Four Tops. Barry's White Pizza forgoes the tomato sauce in favor of a white sauce, with chicken and mushroom. Diana Ross Pizza? Pepperoni, sausage, green pepper, onion and mushrooms — which might be known as a Supreme elsewhere.
And there's Pizza 3.14159265358979. If you order that one — with hummus, spinach, feta cheese, onion, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives — you don't have to recite all the numbers. Just ask for the Pizza Pi.
These aren't gourmet pizzas, but they're good. The crust is thin and decent, if not exceptional (a minute or two longer in the oven would likely make an appreciable difference). Toppings are fresh, and the prices, ranging from $5.49 to $7.49 for a 9-inch pizza, are low. It's more than enough for most people, and even plenty for some people to share.
There are about 20 sandwiches on the menu, not including the daily specials. The Italian sub is meaty, full of salami, ham and prosciutto, topped with provolone and a choice of numerous condiments. Panini di Numero Sette, a chicken, cheese and pesto grilled between two hearty slices, is a nice mix of flavors, but the filling seemed a little skimpy compared to the other food we ate. Sandwiches come with a side; if the lemony white bean and artichoke salad is available, order it.
Both locations do counter service, though our food was delivered to our table. The Clark Tower spot is warm and friendly, with folks gathered in small groups or eating alone with their laptops. There's even a small indoor garden where fresh herbs are grown.
Address: Foozi (East), 5100 Poplar; Foozi (West), 5050 Poplar.
Telephone: 901-682-3287; 901-562-0328 (west)
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Reviewer’s choice: Rotisserie half rosemary chicken ($9.49); Italian sub ($6.49); pork loin sandwich ($6.99); Diana Ross pizza ($6.99).
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars