Disclaimer: I am still learning how to insert images and align text, so y’all bear with me, ok?!
When I was a kid, there were no Hispanics in my school. There were no students from Africa. There were no students from India. The only two “foreigners”, as we called them back then, were two Korean brothers, Chae Song and Chae Hyuak (totally phonetic spelling!). Otherwise, all the students in my school were either black or white. (This was, of course, in the Middle Ages.) Back when I was teaching elementary school Art, I used to completely shock my kids with this information every year when we started talking about how Origami spread worldwide from its origins in Japan. I say ‘shocked’, because my students have never lived in a world without a rainbow of skin tones, and the culinary variety that is available as a result of this cultural melting pot.
I tell them, when I was their age, there was no such thing as a Mexican restaurant on every block, like we have now; there was Taco Bell. There were no Italian restaurants; there were Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, and Godfather’s (all within less than 100 yards of each other). There was no Indian, no Thai, no Vietnamese, no Greek, and no Middle Eastern, but there was a metric butt-ton of Barbecue (with vinegar-based sauce, thankyouverymuch!). The closest you’d get to Asian was Bamboo Garden, the local “Chinese” place. My kids would be looking at me all wide-eyed and flabbergasted, because they don’t know a world where food choices are limited.
The Greensboro, NC area seems to have about a trillion restaurants. It used to be a barren wasteland around here, but in the last ten years or so, the possibilities have become many and varied, especially in the Downtown area, where many trendy eateries have recently bloomed. Thanks to the migration of people to this area from all over the world, we now have a huge variety of places to choose from; in fact, there are about ten or so different cuisine types between Wendover/Aycock intersection and Horsepen Creek Road. Hooray! About two months ago, Ginny and I made a deal that at least once a week we would eat somewhere we either had never been before, or hadn’t visited as a couple, in over a year. This has been a pretty fun thing to do – I challenge you to get out of your restaurant rut and try it yourself.
This week’s choice was Blue Denim restaurant, which is the latest culinary adventure owned by Mississippi native Jody Morphis, formerly of Fincastle’s fame. Jody went to culinary school in New Orleans, and the food at Blue Denim is sort of a blend of Cajun and Delta influences. Full disclosure: We have known Jody, in a friends-of-friends way, since around 2002 or so. We talked to him tonight, but he had no idea I would be writing this…
The front-of-house has really high, pressed-tin ceilings, with one bare brick wall on the right. The other walls are a dark gray with darker gray trim. There are some really lovely paintings by Fisher Park area artist Denise Landi, the subjects of which – an Antebellum house, girls dressed for Mardi Gras, and a couple of landscapes – really fit in with the Cajun/Delta theme. There is also a large photo of workers in one of the old denim mills, which is a tip of the hat to the textile heritage of Greensboro.
Wait staff wear denim aprons, and on Jody’s business card and at the bottom of the check, the restaurant address is listed as being in “Jeansboro, N.C.”. On the right-hand wall as you walk in, there’s a huge sheet of denim with the restaurant name stitched on. The place seats just shy of 60, at kraft-paper covered, two-and four-top tables.
We arrived just about 6pm and were the first table seated for dinner, at a two-top along the brick wall, which was set with flowers and a candle in a tray. Thursday night is “Shrimp Boil” night, and the live musician, a guitarist, was just getting his stuff set up.
IMO, many restaurants make too many things to be really good at ANY of them. Blue Denim does not have that problem. The menu is short, sweet and to the point, which I like. There’s one page of clear, easy-to-read text, with food on front and wine/drinks on back. As one might expect, given the Cajun/Delta theme, the offerings are seafood-heavy; however, there’s also chicken, pork, burgers and salads – a little something for everyone – and we had a hard time deciding! After some debate, we ended up ordering the Appetizer Board and the Shrimp Boil as entrees, which we shared.
The Appetizer Board is a sampler of three of the apps on the menu – Delta Chinese Ribs, Fried Green Tomatoes with chowchow and butterflied shrimp, and Crawfish Beignets – plus one app that is “chef’s choice”. Tonight’s “choice” was barbecued shrimp on toast. The whole thing is quite literally served on a wooden board, and the board spanned the width of our table.
The BBQ shrimp on toast was the first thing I tried, and it was amazing. The sauce is both tangy and smoky at the same time. The toasts had crispy crust, so the sauce didn’t make it too soggy. The only thing I didn’t like about it was, the shrimp had tails on. (That’s not really a knock on the chef here; it’s something that happens in a lot of restaurants, and it’s a pet peeve of mine. I mean, I was raised to eat food with a fork or spoon, and I HATE sticky stuff on my hands, especially at table. I really don’t like when a chef leaves tails on shrimp in sauce, and then I have to pick it up with fingers to pinch the tail off. Blech! But I digress…)
Next up was what turned out to be what we both liked least, the Crawfish Beignets. These were round pieces of fried dough about the size of a golf ball or so, and topped with a spicy mayo-type sauce. The dough was really soft, which was nice, but neither Ginny nor I was a fan. They were like a smooth, seafood-flavored hush puppy. We expected to see red crawdad meat inside, but were disappointed.
I tried the Fried Green Tomatoes next, and they were really good! The coating was crunchy, which was a surprise – I figured the tomato juices would make it soggy – and the chowchow was a terrific combination of sweet and tang that was very much like my mother-in-law’s brine for watermelon rind pickles – lots of cinnamon.
Last but not least – and in my opinion, the best damn thing on the board – was the Delta Chinese Ribs. O to the MG, y’all. The menu description says the ribs have “char siu”. I have no idea what that is, but it’s some damn fine eatin’. The sauce!!!!! <<Swoon>> Just a teeeeeeeeny bit sweet, with the overall sense that someone in the kitchen had waved some anise in its general direction, and the smoke from the super tender rib meat sneaking through…mmmmmm!
Ginny got the Shrimp Boil for her entree. This was served on red and white checkerboard paper in a metal cake pan, and there was a lot of it! The Boil consists of some really humongous shrimp, a “niblet” ear of corn, red skin potatoes, and slices of spicy sausage, all cooked together with seasonings. There was some garlic bread along for the ride, as well. I enjoyed the Shrimp Boil quite a bit, and Ginny did, as well. Those were some of the largest shrimp I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Ok, are y’all ready to hear about
dessert? I REALLY wanted to eat more of the ribs, but we decided to box ’em up and get dessert instead. There are two on the menu: Lemon Thyme Icebox Pie and White Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding. <<Swoon, again!>> We got the icebox pie, and it is very possibly the best dessert ever eaten in a restaurant. It was GORGEOUS, too. The plate and the pie were drizzled with raspberry coulis and mango sauce.
Prices at Blue Denim are about average for the area, with the exception of the Appetizer Board, which was the most expensive thing on the menu at $26. Other apps range from $8 to $12. Salads are $9 plus choice of meat, Sandwiches range from $10 – $16 and Entrees range from $16 – $19.
Here’s a link to the Blue Denim Facebook page. They are open for lunch Tuesday – Saturday, 11:30 – 2, and for dinner Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 9. They do take reservations, and all the contact info you need is in the photo above. I am looking forward to going back to Blue Denim – I think there’s watermelon salad in my future…