Memphis chef takes over Sweet T’s kitchen

Mac Edwards

It’s a barbeque coup at Sweet T’s in Santa Rosa.

Opening Chef Doug Richey is out at the recently-opened and highly-anticipated barbecue eatery. Though the restaurant is barely a month old, the honeymoon was over between owners Dennis and Ann Tussey and Richey even before the first rack of ribs hit the tables and it seemed a matter of time before hung up his apron at the restaurant.

Huge news, however,  is his replacement — Memphis chef Mac Edwards of The Elegant Farmer. Owner Ann Tussey said Edwards, who has been feted as a top player in the Memphis food scene, is “the current executive chef” of the restaurant, leaving the day-to-day operations of his Memphis restaurant to his staff. Edwards arrived Wednesday, just a day after Richey’s departure.

Doug Richey

“He’s a friend of mine,” said Tussey. She adds that the basic gist of the menu at Sweet T’s won’t change up significantly — barbecue and fried chicken will still be staples, but that Edwards would be bringing his own Southern touches to the restaurant.  She wouldn’t comment on the firing of Richey, but said, “Consistency is really important to me. He (Edwards) really knows the true flavors of the South.”

Richey had been the closing chef at the former Santi (which Sweet T’s replaced) and spent months staging and studying the art of barbecue throughout the south with the Tussey’s.

When reached for comment, Richey was mum on the exact details of his send-off, but said, “I would like to thank Sonoma County for their support. I was blown away by how many people came out to eat the past few weeks, and I am glad to have met so many wonderful people in the process. Thank you.”

You can bet that’s not the last we’ll hear of Richey ’round these parts.

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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54 Comments

  1. I had lunch at Sweet T’s on Friday January 27th. This was my first visit there, most definitely not my last.

    My party of 3 started with the Hush Puppies and the Fried Green Tomatoes – both were served quite warm and with really nice sauces. Our party particularly liked the Fried Green Tomatoes – we had all seen the movie but none of us had ever tried them – just awesome!

    I had the Beef Brisket sandwich, which was really nice and flavorful. My only minor “beef” is that perhaps the Brisket could have been sliced a little thinner, but otherwise quite delicious. The bun it was served on was notable, a ciabatta-style roll, from Village Bakery I was told. The roll was light and fluffy, not adding too much bulk to the delightful sandwich. It was served with “wilted cole slaw” and a smashed potato salad – both quite pleasant.

    Lunch was pretty busy, but we were seated immediately when we arrived, a little early, at 11:45.

    The service was professional and friendly and considerate. We all enjoyed the food, the service, and the ambiance. I know I will return.

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  2. I fell in love on a Monday. By Wednesday of the next week, it was over – really over. My first visit I had a perfect pork BBQ sandwich on a lovely oblong bun. It had a hint of sauce and nicely chopped meat. The fries were very good. My companion ordered the veggie sandwich and we both thought it ranked among the best we’d ever been served. The roasted red peppers were a highlight and the herbed cream cheese was balanced and delicious. An order of seafood gumbo was very good although not of Rocker Oysterfeller calibre.

    My next visit, the entire menu had changed. On being told the pulled pork sandwich was the same thing I had before with the sauce on the side, I ordered it. It couldn’t have been more different. The nicely chopped meat was chokingly dry. Worse, it was the mushy consistency of meat that had been over-tenderized. The sauce was from a bottle, I’d bet. The pretty, roasted potatoes were COLD! They were meant to be a potato salad but the visual didn’t jibe with the sensory. The limp cole slaw must have been left-over from the weekend.

    Our server tried hard but wasn’t even familiar with the items on the menu, so couldn’t answer questions without help. To be fair, the service the week before was admittedly sub-par.

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  3. I went back last week to try it again after the chef change. MUCH BETTER! My only disappointment was that the first Mac N Cheese I had was the best I’d ever tasted and now it appears to be a different recipe. However, everything else was much better including the service. I loved that the new chef came out to greet us, and then returned to check on our meal. Now I can say for sure I’ll be back.

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    • I actually saw Carey on Friday night, and she mentioned how much she enjoyed it. I am giving the new chef a couple weeks to figure out the new menu and get things together before I go back — because I feel like i’ve put a lot of local spotlight on this place and I’d like to give it a fair shake before I head back.

      But I am actually glad to hear from several people I trust a lot that they had good recent experiences.

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  4. Heather, this isn’t meant to post (although in the interest of education, maybe it should be). Incorrect apostrophe use is increasingly showing up in all media, and I didn’t think I’d see it used wrongly in the PD. If you’re the editor of Bite Club, please don’t give an apostrophe to the Tusseys if you’re talking about them plurally, as in “…studying the art of barbecue throughout the south with the Tussey’s.” If they own something in the sentence, then yes, it’s got an apostrophe: “The Tussey’s restaurant, Sweet T’s…” Thank you!

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    • er…. wouldn’t that be “The Tusseys’ restaurant…”? But, yeah, you are right, improper apostrophe use has gone nutso lately, as more and more seemingly smart, educated people feel that the right way to form the plural is to add an apostrophe and an “s”. Same thing for homonyms. Years ago, when I was reading manuscripts for a living, I was constantly surprised by how many people who fancied themselves professional writers didn’t know the difference between words like “your” and “you’re” and “their” and “there” and, speaking of apostrophes, “its” and “it’s”. But now, reading posts on Facebook and blogs, I see that there are huge numbers of people out there who confuse words I didn’t think you could confuse, like “won” and “one”, “no” and “know” and “whether” and “weather”.

      Believe it or not, I’m not kidding. But I’m happy that my pedantic d-baggery here is anonymous!

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  5. My wife and I ate there last night. It was excellent. The restaurant was very busy, but the service was good, the food was very tasty. We will certainly be going back.

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  6. I never claimed to be a bite clubber… and your blog is your blog indeed… but My comments were accurate.. the differenece in experiances between the “bite clubber” and myself at The BBQ Spot were right on… if some place is seving BBQ that is a few minutes away from being classified as “baby food”. (Not a comment directed towards Sweet T’s) I should like anyone else be able to express that? Power-trip away.

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  7. Call me when they add the McRib to the menu. I want REAL southern pork-esque food!

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  8. Ate here immediately after it opened. Ribeye was so so, but the brussel sprouts were great. fried chicken was tasty but tepid. wanted to give them another chance, so dropped by again and it was just a disorganized mess so decided not to wait indefinitely for a table when i could see and hear plenty of folks who had been promised a table within a window and were still waiting 20-30 minutes later. Today I found this on Craig’s list:

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/fbh/2743374364.html

    …. looking to fill all positions in the kitchen?! this may be a clue as to why the restaurant was closed on Sunday?

    I also tried to send some business there way with a large group lunch reservation. Left several messages. Finally spoke to Ann who promised the moon and then didn’t follow up with either a call or a menu and finally gave up. Pity.

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  9. Their “new” menu consists of a LOT of frozen Sysco products. I visited them when they first opened and was told that the french fries were the only frozen product of all the menu choices that we ordered. Just went back and our server admitted that the meats are prepared in house but that they are also a frozen sysco product. Several other items tasted like they were as well. If you like that sort of thing then I highly recommend Sweet Ts but I do not.

    Definitely a far cry from what I’d expected, or even what they are trying to portray themselves as. Maybe they should have saved a little on the decor and spent the money where it really counted … on the food. I always give a new restaurant a couple of chances and I have here as well, unfortunately they won’t be getting anything else from me. What a bummer too, I had hopes for a new local BBQ place but I’d rather have a quality product when I’m spending that kind of money. If I wanted frozen food I’d go to a chain restaurant.

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  10. Lame, I made my way out to enjoy some good southern food? with a group of freinds we had been waiting a long time to come and eat here. so it ends up it is supposed to be sunday lunch dec 11th. we get there and there is a sign on their door “gee we just decided to close for no particular reason” sorry.
    So monday dec 12th rolls around and big group of freinds wants southern food for dinner, so off we go again roll up to the restaurant and once again “gee we just decided to skip dinner for some fire suppression work” LAME no dinner again…………..all in all you have been a lame and disappointing experience and I doubt my friends will join me here again. if you ever decide to be open and serve food instead of lame excuses let us know. I give you three negative stars

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  11. I just wanted to stop by and say that I have been to Sweet T’s twice now, and I really really like it. First time I ventured here was for lunch, admittedly it seem to be right as the switch of Chef happened, I had the pulled pork sandwhich, called mile high or something like that served with fries and some pickles….yummy. This only made me come back for dinner. 2nd time, I show up for dinner with my wife and in-laws. We ate, shrimp n’ grits, fried chicken, chicken salad, mac n cheese (x2), corn bread. I have to say it was really good, solid food. I will so be there again. The people and service was wonderful, my is vegetarian, and they even made her veg mac n’ cheese, thats how they roll, this is my kinda place! where they actually talk to you as customers and listen to what you want and how you want it and dont just “stick” to the menu. Great Experience, great service, and imo…great food. Thanks for reading :)

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  12. So wait a minute… did the Press democrat censor my post???????!!!!!! was it to real? Hows does a news paper section decide to “Censor” someones comments?

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    • Cencored ? Mine did too, and just because I mentioned tattoo removal

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    • Chef…I am a Censor of Stupidity.

      I take down comments that are pointless, libelous, mean-spirited or just plain ignorant. Yours may have fallen into that category. Or it got caught in the spam folder.

      If you were an actual BiteClubber, you’d know that. So I’m guessing you aren’t, and I have even less tolerance for you. The PD has nothing to do with it. This is my blog and I take down comments that fall into the previous categories.

      I put up with Jay, because he tends to lurk around here and sometimes have something constructive to say. Though in general I’m not sure why hates everyone so much. That tattoo comment fell into the stupid category. Jay, be nice.

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  13. Just came back from down South and wanted to try out this new “Southern Sweet T’s” First off the pickles were perfect, ….so were the boiled peanuts….and hush puppies. The Fried Chicken was tender and Juicy but the seasoing was overwhelming and un necessary….the potato salad was raw, the cole slaw had too much vinegar and the creamed corn was over the top with butter and cream….I have to say since I cook all of these items and had just eaten them down South….it was disappointing…!!! It was not good SOUTHERN COOKING … I cook each of these items way better… I am afraid this place will not last.

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  14. Maybe everyone should stop trying to take sides and just support a new endeavor in a tough time. When many are cutting back on workers hours, the Tusseys (the “T”s in Sweet T’s) are working hard to help give people work. The simple fact of the matter is that Ann is from the South, has been in the restaurant business almost her whole life, and can cook like crazy, as can Dennis. They had a vision and Doug just didn’t share that vision, not being Southern himself. They graciously allowed him to bring along many of the old Santi employees who were still out of work and some of those are the ones who left, too, but not everyone left. They tried it, but it just wasn’t working. So, instead of thinking of it as not being able to get a good chef locally, just think of Mac as a true Southern chef and restaurant owner coming to show the remaining chefs the correct way to do it. We went there again last night with out-of-towners, and it was terrific. Give them a chance, people, and Doug will, no doubt, end up in the right place for him. All will work out the way it should.

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  15. Quit whining . . . . . come down off of “the hill” . . . . . and try “The BBQ Spot” . . . . . 3348 Santa Rosa Ave (just North of Todd Road) . . . . . Rob & Andrea offer EXACTLY what everyone here is griping about not getting . . . . . GREAT BBQ AT A REASONABLE PRICE . . . . . My 1st try there 2 weeks ago on a Friday night was less then perfect, but Rob & Andrea made it SO right . . . . . I have been back twice since and have gotten EXACTLY what I went there for and am using them for a “take-out” catering event next week . . . . . GREAT BBQ . . . . . FAIR PRICES . . . . . But most of all NO WHINING!

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  16. I thought about going down,but what I’m hearing i think I’ll stay in and order pizza. I learned that if you want real southern cooking then go down south. Born in Arkansas, best BBQ in the world jack, NC has good BBQ but chopped up pork shoulder doused in vinegar isn’t BBQ . Want good BBQ in northern cali. Go to Berkley to EVERS AND JONES ,best BBQ I have had yet in the bay area. Will drive from Windsor any day for that Q. But I will try Sweet T’s to see if it’s possible to save some gas.

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  17. Doug is not the first person in the kitchen to be fired by these inexperienced and volatile owners, nor will he be the last. No, they have no prior restaurant experience unless you count her fast food management experience at Wendy’s. A whole different ballgame than what they are doing now. Even Dennis won’t stand up to the erratic, unprofessional behavior that Ann Tussey has continually displayed in the restaurant. I know that additional staff (key BOH personnel) have given notice in the wake of this. I seriously doubt that bringing in a new chef will be a fix for this recipe for disaster. Good luck in your new endeavors Doug, you certainly deserve a better platform to showcase your talents.

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    • Couldn’t have said this better myself. I know quite a few people who have had the unfortunate experience of working with Ann; none of which have anything positive to say about her. They have no business in the restaurant scene, especially in Sonoma County where we pride ourselves on community. They obviously are not from around here. It says slot when a chef’s BOH leaves behind him in the middle of winter, and when they cannot get a local chef to work for them and instead fly someone from out of the area (although I DO wish him the best). We have so much talent in this community and everyone preaches to support local.

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    • The food had promise and was just good, needed some work but the work it needed was more on the front of the house side, understanding the menu, knowing how to explain the menu, communicating with your customers, getting the food to the table right away so it doesn’t get cold, offering the correct BBQ sauces, the staff understanding the experience of going out to dine…. What hiring process did these folks use to bring on their team??? It blew me away to hear what the bartenders were talking about– thinking nobody could hear them, these kids trying to wait tables and they can’t even carry a conversation. The way the hostess greets you and the way they communicate with the guests was unreal! Cmon, get your front of the house in order….. Make it successful! We need you to get it together! I’m hungry for BBQ!

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      • I don’t know anyone there nor am I an “insider”…. Just live down the street. Haven’t heard any sides to any story. Just the facts seen by myself and our dinner party. I don’t care to know the sides of the story. Please succeed Sweet T’s and make it right!

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    • Okay, it’s pretty clear that this has become a flame war between insiders. And I gotta shut it down.

      Suffice to say, anyone who wears a chef coat for a living in Sonoma County knows what went down. If you don’t, ask Doug. I’m guessing all of the owners friends probably also know what went down. And if you don’t, ask them.

      There are always two sides to a story, and this one unfortunately ended with both sides parting ways. That doesn’t necessarily make anyone an idiot — it just means they didn’t see eye to eye on the vision. Let’s leave it at that.

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      • To clarify, I do not work there but am a residential neighbor to the restaurant and longtime local foodie. I do know many of the staff and yes, I have been filled in on other info than what I have personally witnessed just being in the restaurant. What I have posted were my own comments. When you have an open kitchen there is little that is hidden from the patrons. -Just sayin.

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  18. Good food! I wish they’d go with the “meat and 3″ concept from the south. Nobody is doing that around here!

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  19. Had me some Sweet T’s last night for the second time- the food is still fantastic, Feels like most of the complaints about the food come from extra finicky ever so demanding diners that are far too prevalent in this area.

    That being said, hearing about another Northern California Barbecue joint that occupies a former upscale restaurant space having disputes amongst the chef and the owner sounds awfully familiar- perhaps Richey could head over to Mamma Pig’s.

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  20. I think a scoreboard is in order

    Chef V Owner

    For example for the French Garden …it’s Owner 23 v Chefs 0

    Sweet T’s looks like it is going for a big number on the owner side as well

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  21. Richey is not responsible for the mis handling of money and subsequent demise of Santi. He worked hard and put out his personal money to try and keep it going. You are cruel and misinformed to post such things.

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  22. Im not really sure why my original comment was deleted….twice…but again I say who cares where chef Richie lands. He is inconsistent and arrogant and has already closed one restaurant. I’m glad sweet T’s figured this out before he ruined them as well.

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    • Have Dennis and Ann been in the restaurant biz before? What’s their history?

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    • Maybe it was deleted because you can’t even spell his name right let alone come up with a coherent thought to share. You are so misinformed it’s hilarious, and you only make yourself look stupid by commenting such negative things with no background of information. The owners of sweet t’s are the most unprofessional people I’ve ever met and I give any cook or chef 2 months before they look for another job or walk off on the spot.

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  23. It may not be the last you see of Richey, but it’s the last you’ll see him @ Sweet T’s!! And if he did spend his time in the kitchen behind the scenes…. He’d still be hot in the kitchen & not OUT in the cold!!! Sweet T’s has a bigger & brighter future ahead. Best wishes to Ann & Dennis !!! Love you both!

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  24. Armchair chefs. Love ‘em. The restaurant business is fickle. Menus must be flexible and respond to local tastes, and it can take years to hone a menu. To crucify or praise a restaurant within weeks of opening is unfair and short sighted. Give them some time. Everything that I read below is either someone’s personal taste (again, armchair chefs) or an easily repairable flaw in process. Additionally, maybe they should consider changing the description to “Southern Style” since the majority of Norcal foodies would find true Southern food to be pedestrian, overcooked, and, let’s face it, greasy. And a true Southerner would have it no other way. Ask me how I know. I spent nearly my entire life working as a chef and living in small-town NC ten minutes from Lexington, the epicenter of Southern BBQ. You’ll find the best Southern food in out-of-the-way dives with bench seating and rolls of paper towels on the tables, not kitschy places with organic food. Despite many claims to the contrary, I’ve yet to see any REAL Southern food in Norcal, although a few individual dishes in a few local eateries come close. I wish Sweet Tea’s (but that NAME…….aghhh) the best, and Mac looks like a good fit. And Kdubb, the exec is responsible for every bite that comes out of the kitchen and the performance of his staff.

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  25. The restaurant scene is such a phony biz. One day chefs are touted as celebrities and the next minute they are thrown out with the dishwater. Everyone behind the scenes toil under horrid conditions FOR YEARS making around $10/hour, fueled only by their passion. They climb the ladder for years honing their skills before becoming “the Chef”. How dare anyone make such horrible remarks about Richey. If that location could kill an institution such as Traverso’s, anyone could fail. ( As for the snarky tattoo comment, take a little stumble into any kitchen with your $18 glass of Chardonnay and take a look around- most of the BOH staff have tattoos.)

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  26. Thanks for the info bite club…. keep us posted on where chef Richey lands!

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  27. We went there last night and the results were vey mixed. Ribs and prawns were very good. Sides left something to be desired. I’m from Mississippi and have spent time with relatives in Memphis. Grits were cold and bland’ coleslaw was mediocre; balck-eyed peas would have been better without the rice mixed in; boiled peanuts tasted like they were made from roasted, not raw peanuts. All-in-all mixed rewults…maybe the new chef can correct some of this.

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    • Right, cause it’s the executive chef that cooks all the sides… are you kidding me?! There’s a reason the main dishes– your ribs and prawns– were so good…. his name is Doug.

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      • So Doug takes responsibility for only some of the things that come out of his kitchen? Sides aren’t his problem or under his purview? No wonder he got fired then…

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  28. Pretty clear if Richey is involved failure will follow.

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    • Good luck to the departed. As for the location…….I have one name, Underwood. Very successful restaurant in a terrible location.

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    • Pretty sure most people wouldn’t even know he has tattoos if it weren’t for the pic in the article– he spends his time in the kitchen, behind the scenes. Doubtful this guy will have any trouble getting in with another local restaurant.

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    • Pretty sure there’s more that goes into a good restaurant than just the executive chef. I mean they had a great top chef but a terrible location, and who knows about the rest of the kitchen staff….. can’t blame Richey for those things. I’ve eaten his food before, it’s delish! This is definitely not the last we’ll see of Richey.

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    • Obviously you don’t know Doug Richey. He is a driven and talented chef. Your comment is cruel and without warrant.

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  29. Another folly for someone who believes that they all will come in droves. Wait until they figure out that the local residents stay at home most of the time or won’t spend the money because they are trying to keep their homes from being foreclosed upon.
    With Traverso closed, even more reason why not to go way out of your way to go there. Wait 6 to 9 months and the owners will be crying the blues, saying the locals never supported the place.
    Now if you plopped it down in a location that was easier to get to, with better exposure they at least they might have a chance at success. Like the Old Yellow House location, or whatever it was last called. There at least you could get to it quicker without going up and down the hill.
    Good luck….time will tell.

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  30. One of the worst locations possible in town, I don’t understand why people throw good money after bad.

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  31. Mac and Cheese…

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  32. Hope every one involved lands “right”….

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  33. I ate there tonight. The food was not up to standards I’m used to in Mississippi and Memphis. The ribs were juicey and tender; shrimp was good. The rest was not as good. Grits were not hot enough and kind of bland; hoppin john had too much rice and too little black-eyed peas; cold slaw was mediocre. I suggest they serve the black-eyed peas without any rice. Boiled peanuts were ok, but should be spicier, maybe with a little cayenne. I wondered if they were made from roasted peanuts instead of raw ones. Those sides should be delicious and they were not… Good start, though, I’m sure it will get better.

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  34. I look forward to REAL southern food! cause it waqsn’t that when we went.

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