Along with some of the very best Southern soul food you’ll ever eat, you’ll get at least one hug when you dine at Alcenia’s in Memphis, Tenn. And that’s just one of the many things that makes Alcenia’s stand out in a city known for a plethora of great restaurants.
A former employee of Memphis-headquartered FedEx, BJ Chester-Tamayo opened the eatery following her son’s sudden passing. Not an experienced cook, she drew on the culinary traditions of her mother Alcenia (the restaurant’s namesake) to stock her menu with Southern favorites that will please any foodie. Actually, “pleased” doesn’t even begin to describe how Molly and I felt after eating at Alcenia’s.
While visiting Memphis a few months back, we chose Alcenia’s for lunch on a day when we visited both the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun Studio. So we had been walking around quite a bit and arrived for lunch with quite the appetites. About an hour later, we left with full stomachs, warm hearts and smiles on our faces.
Chester-Tamayo greeted me with a kiss on the forehead when we arrived in the restaurant that’s decked out in bright colors that instantly brighten your mood. That was followed with a plate of the best meatloaf I’ve ever had (flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth good), perfectly-seasoned green beans, decadent yams, and a hearty cornbread cake. Molly enjoyed a pork chop she described as perfectly crispy outside and juicy inside, and sides of delightfully flavorful macaroni and cheese and cabbage.
Molly was also excited that she could enjoy super-sweet Kool-Aid – known as Ghetto-Aid – as her drink at Alcenia’s, one of the few restaurants that serve Kool-Aid these days.
We finished our meal so stuffed that we had to get our sweet potato pie dessert to go – and it was so difficult to choose which Alcenia’s dessert to try first – and we enjoyed it later on in the day.
Before we left Alcenia’s, she gave us one of her trademark hugs, and she obliged our request to take a selfie together. She told us she loved us, and she invited us to come back the next time we visit Memphis.
Chester-Tamayo serves up some of the best home-cooked food you’ll eat anywhere. More importantly, she serves up a genuine love for people that we so desperately need in our world today. Visiting Alcenia’s, even the first time, is like making a familiar weekly visit to your grandmother’s house for Sunday lunch with the family. And with that kind of feeling, how could you possibly enjoy a meal more?
We’ll be back, and we hope to see you there as a member of the Alcenia’s family.