Thursday, July 8, 2010

Creole Soul in Memphis

I tried a new restaurant on my recent trip to Memphis! I’m excited because I typically find my myself going back to the same favorites each time I visit. DeJaVu has a vegan section on their menu, plus lots of non-vegan stuff people are raving about on Yelp and Urbanspoon. My folks each ate a chicken dish and weren’t impressed, but Alex and I both enjoyed our meals.

DeJaVu has two locations in Memphis, one downtown and the other newly opened in Hickory Hill. We visited the Hickory Hill location. It’s the larger location and even has space for live music on the weekend. Our visit was for a late lunch on Saturday and the place had a few leisurely diners scattered, televisions mounted on the wall showing ESPN bowling, and music playing over the speakers. The place felt cool, clean, and bright.

They brought out glasses of ice water, a bowl of lemon wedges, and corn muffins. The corn muffins are not vegan, but I hear they’re good. The restaurant has traditional New Orleans food (gator stew, anyone?) as well as Southern Soul standards and a handful of vegan entrees.

All of the vegetable side dishes are vegan. If you’re not familiar with Southern cooking, that may sound confusing. I think it’s remarkable, because it can be tough to even get vegetarian vegetables when everything is “seasoned” with ham hock, fat back, bacon grease, or chicken stock. All unnecessary – diners at DeJaVu may not even notice that the meat is missing in their sides. All the ones I tried were good, too, and I think if I go back I’ll get a 4-veggie plate. And I’ll be sure to try the grilled cabbage.

I chose the mock chicken salad. This was good, but messy. That can’t be a complaint. The salad was tasty and the portion was generous. I chose collard greens and smothered okra for my sides. The greens were good, tender and salty. The smothered okra was my favorite, though, even though it was a little on the sweet side (pictured above, under the sweet potatoes). I love okra, but I don’t eat it much since it scares Alex. And as I found out during lunch, my mom doesn’t like it with tomatoes, so this dish was unlike anything I’ve had before, even though it’s not uncommon. Given different circumstances, this could be a staple. I think I’m going to make something like this at home.

Alex chose the veggie rolls. These were delicious, if heavy, deep fried eggroll style. They were stuffed with curried cabbage, carrots, and raisins and served with a spicy-sweet sauce. The cabbage and carrots were delicious together. He chose spinach and sweet potatoes for his sides. These were both good, and the sweet potatoes were sweeter than most desserts, but he has a sweet tooth and cleaned his bowl.

The only other side I tried was the red beans and rice, which was good and even got the stamp of approval from my mom. These red beans were just spicy enough and in red gravy, topped with fluffy white rice. She also got collard greens, like me, and my father only chose one side: spinach. He liked that so much it was gone before he offered a bite to my mom.

The good news for me is that this place is right around the corner from my grandparents, so I’ll plan to drop in whenever I visit them. That’s not the only reason, convenient as it is, so even after they “leave town” as Papa says, I’ll stop by when I’m in town.

DeJaVu New Orleans Creole Soul Food & Vegetarian on Urbanspoon


  1. Those veggie rolls look great! I'd love to try that place. It looks like you had such a good time :)

  2. Oooh, I'm so glad you had a chance to go there! The mock chicken salad is my fave, and I love the grilled cabbage. Also love the veggie rolls, but I always feel about 10 pounds heavier after I eat them. I haven't been to the new place yet ... they have the same menu, but I can't wait to see the space. I'm working on posting about Cafe Eclectic right now ... should be up in about 10.

  3. Mmm this looks delicious! I love specialty veg restaurants like this. I'm not to aware of southern food but I'd love to go here!

  4. Sounds like a fun restaurant outing! I'm with you on the okra. I love that stuff. It's so nice to go out for a meal and be inspired to create similar dishes at home. You'll have to let us know when you get around to trying it out.