Monday, June 13, 2011

Real Philly in West Tennessee...


The site of oversized trucks in West Tennessee is quite common as is the site of outrageous decorations on vehicles. (ie. 'R.I.P. Uncle Tricky' and 'My Pomeranian can out think your first grader!' You get the picture!)

However over the last few months, a monstrous red colored truck displaying the signage ‘Greatest Sandwiches on Earth’ has adorned a crowded parking lot on Vann Drive. Drawing more than peering glances from the frothy frappucinos at the nearby Starbucks, this gigantic rolling over-compensation heralded the arrival of a truly unique dining experience.

‘United Steaks of America’ grabs you from the moment you open their front door. Colorful chasing lights and pop art decorate the walls as rock and roll plays on the restaurants loudspeakers. The iconic face of Rocky Balboa can be seen throughout the place as it celebrates the city of brotherly love. For it is from here where their star Philly Cheese Steak comes from.

I know what you’re thinking “I’ve had Philly cheese steak at the 5 dollar foot-long place and I don’t consider a mostly bread little meat sandwich to be anything like a real Philly cheese..”. Served on a glorious buttery golden bun, the Philly cheese steak at United Steaks is made from honest to goodness rib eye steak. 

Chef Armondo brings out a beautifully marbled piece of steak wrapped and stamped by the USDA. Yep, real steak. 

But the Philly doesn’t stop there, loaded with sweet tangy onions and the classic provolone or even hardcore cheez whiz, you can custom build your Philly with green or sweet peppers, mushrooms, chili, tomatoes, bacon lettuce and jalapenos. Maybe Chef Armando will fix you one like he made me similar to the infamous ‘Fat Darrell’ sandwich of New Jersey with fries on it!

Now, steak is not the only boat afloat at United Steaks. Try the ‘Hillbilly Philly’ with smoky grilled pork tenderloin or grilled chicken. Want something really different? Try the Pizza Sub filled with steak, chicken or pork, cheese and pizza sauce and Italian seasonings.

Just to take a moment and pause from this gastronomic conversation and let me tell you about United Steaks drinks and desserts. As if the sandwiches were not unique enough, Chef Armondo brings Jacksonians some hard to find treats as well. Try a Mexican Coca-Cola. (Why a Mexican Coca-Cola? There is a growing trend across the U.S. with foodies seeking the syrupy beverage because of the use of cane sugar instead of the American version made high fructose syrup.) Also try a host of specialty desserts like Mexican 3 milk cake…but enough of this, let’s get back to the sandwiches…

Tired of the same combinations of thin sliced ham or turkey and standardized meal deals? Why not try United Steaks Cuban Sandwich filled with ham, turkey, cheese, pickles and mustard on a fresh buttered bun? Or how about Portuguese Spicy Sausage, a unique sausage covered in marinara sauce, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and provolone cheese?

Maybe you are seeking something a little more ‘primal’? Something to fill that secret ‘Man vs. Food’ fantasy that you keep inside? Behold…the Messy Mondo.

The Messy Mondo is a grand sandwich quite worthy of it’s sloppy name. The Messy Mondo is a sandwich made from fresh ground beef, grilled onions, mushrooms, rich red marinara sauce and Italian seasonings on a toasted long roll. It is served with a fork because it’s just too massive and messy to handle with a normal man’s hands!

United Steaks also features a variety of assorted sandwiches like lamb Gyros, pizza burgers, chicken Parmesan, hoagies, hot dogs and salads. And to our vegan friends out there, yes United Steaks can even satisfy your craving. They have an all veggie Philly and veggie wraps available as well!

The service is friendly, the atmosphere is lively and the food is tasty. Looking for something different in Jackson? Pledge your allegiance to the United Steaks of America….

United Steaks of America
901 Vann Drive
Jackson Tennessee

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tourist Tacos versus Authentic Cuisine

I think I have the formula down:

C=Beef or Chicken
D= Cheese

A+B+C+D=  The same dish served in many different combinations. Jumble them together, mix them up, any way you slice it these four ingredients are typically the same combination found in many Americanized Mexican restaurants. Now you can go the route of tourist tacos at your favorite McMexican cafe or you seek out the real deal. If you want authenticity in Jackson Tennessee, you need to go visit Taqueria El Mezcal,

Situated in the Hamilton Hills Shopping Center, El Mezcal Latin Grocery offers goods from a variety of Latin American countries. Looking for a pinata or dried Jalapeno peppers? The Grocery features a number of dried goods, spices and food products. But the focus of this journey is not what's in the front of the grocery but what's in the back of the store.

Walking through El Mezcal the smell of home cooking hits your nose. A little elderly woman with a bundle of fresh onions walks into a small kitchen. The sound of Telemundo Latin television can be heard from a small color television. The backroom of the grocery leads into a full service restaurant. The daily menu is affectionately written on a dry erase board.

The Taqueria features Mexican favorites like Menudo and Shrimp stew.The menu lists such specialties as beef tongue known as 'lengua'. For those who have never had lengua, it is like the most tender pot roast. Served in stews, taco and sandwiches called 'tortas'. It is wonderful. They also feature goat, steak known as 'asada' and one of my favorite's known as Al Pastor. Pastor is pork marinated in fruit juices, chilies and pineapple.  Mexican barbecue known as 'barbacoa' is also a customer favorite.

Mexican traditional dishes like tripe tacos, chorizo Mexican sausage  or pork carnitas are also on the menu. While perusing the menu I found one of my favorite dishes known as 'Mole Poblano. Mole is a sauce made up of several ingredients featuring Chili peppers and chocolate. Their mole poblano is a sweet, smokey dark gravy that is served over chicken.

From the warm fresh tortillas to the rich creamy gravy of the mole, Taqeria El Mezcal  is the real deal. You now have a choice, go to the same four ingredients or try out authentic cuisine...

El Mezcal Grocery and Taqueria
621 Old Hickory Blvd # J1
Jackson, TN 38305-2911
(731) 668-6980