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Savory Summer Avenue: A Food Writer Revisits

Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Four years ago, Commercial Appeal food writer Jennifer Biggs made an ambitious foray down Summer Ave. with the goal of eating at every local restaurant on the 10-mile strip. She recently revisited the more than 50 dining establishments to see if anything had changed. 

Her article, Eat the Streets: Endless Summer, is as comprehensive a look as a diner can get at the food options there. Here are just a few highlights from her article -- all mentioned in her studio visit with us:

Arepas Delicosos (3698 Summer; 901-409-2296), owned by Blanca Simpson, who operates her restaurant so she can make money for her ministry to house and teach work skills to young girls back home. The staples are similar at all places, but they're different. At Blanca's, be sure to get the beans, her fried plantains with salty cheese, the housemade chorizo, and pour the green sauce she just called Blanca sauce on anything.
King DJ's (2992 Summer; 901-308-2046) is for sure a tamale stop, but these folks smoke all kinds of things, from turkey legs to ribs to pork steaks that are the size of both your hands — spread out.
At Elwood’s Shack (4523 Summer; 901-761-9898), you can start your day with breakfast or weekend brunch, fill up at lunch and come back for dinner. Long known for its fish tacos, Elwood's had already branched out but when it reopened in March after a fire. Owner Tim Bednarski added house smoked and cured pastrami and corned beef to the menu. Want to try it New York style? It's all yours, one pound of sliced and piled meat for $18. Double dog dare ya.
Caiman Venezuelan Restaurant (4509 Summer; 901-746-8666) Meats, beans, all good. But here the pastelitos are light and cheesy, fried in pastry similar to a pie crust; you can get a cachapa, something between a quesadilla and an omelet, filled with oozing cheese (or meat, if you prefer). The beef stew — man, yeah. Winter is coming.

And if you are looking for that pupusa (not to be confused with a papoose): 

Pupuseria Anitas (3320 Summer) is set up in the parking lot of O'Reilly Auto Parts. There's a sign in the old Los Picosos building saying it's moving there, but a visit to the truck is met with a shrug: Maybe, maybe not. But you can get your pupusas, El Salvadoran corn cakes filled with cheese and chicken, beef or beans, from the truck.

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.