In name alone, Bill Street makes a great first impression – a quirky
take on its location, President Clinton Avenue, and a near sound-alike
version of the famous party strip in Memphis.
The puts-a-smile-on-your-face vibe continues when you head down the
wooden stairs and cross the below-street-level patio that leads to the
long, shotgun-style restaurant-bar. Bill Street has a friendly feel to
it, especially during the bustling lunch hour, and the creativity of
some menu items distinguish the place from the same old pub grub spots.
Our two visits came just a couple of weeks into what
we hope is a long run for Bill Street. There were enough culinary
bright spots to offset some duds that might owe to the
working-out-the-kinks nature of newness.
Even at lunch it’s hard to resist adding appetizers to the plan, so we
had five (over two visits):
1. We can never say no to onion rings, sort of like cheese dip; both, we
think, tells you something about the heart of the place. Bill Street’s
rings are the thin kind (our fave), crisped up nicely with a coating
that suggests panko breadcrumbs. A little greasy, yes, and lacking a
needed shot of salt, but still better than average. Too bad they’ve
since been removed from the menu.
2. Bill Street’s sausage balls are as decadent as it gets – greasy,
cheesy and yummy with hardly any of the Bisquickish filler that gums up
so many potluck versions. These are sleek – off-the-charts in fat grams
and cholesterol – but man do they make your coat shiny!
3. The wings are generally standard issue, but they are meaty and crisp
and at $6 for a dozen, way cheaper than most.
The highlights of the quintet of apps:
4. The homemade pimiento cheese, served with celery, which automatically
makes it way healthier. We give not a whit about standard-issue
pimiento cheese, finding it way too gloppy and bland, and the little red
specks weird us out. But Bill Street and Mrs. Weaver have nothing in
common when it comes to pimiento cheese. This was a dense blend
featuring shaved cheddar – bold yet subtle, and quite substantial. Don’t
5.The fried portobello strips: Finally the correct treatment of a flawed
appetizer concept. Rather than battered, grease-trapping button
mush-rooms that explode and scald your mouth on contact, these are
crisp, with a light tempura-style batter, and much easier to consume
bite by bite. By far the best fried mushrooms we’ve had.
Early chatter about Bill Street centered on the burgers, and indeed
there’s a whole page of them – huge ground beef patties dressed up every
way imaginable as well as black bean, veggie and salmon varieties. To
set a benchmark, we went for the basic Bill burger, a half-pound slab
fully dressed with top-notch, batterish fries for a mere $6 (there’s a
Bill’s double for $9 that’s a full pound, too). It would have been a
resplendent burger experience had only the cook pulled the patty off the
fire about three minutes sooner. It wasn’t burned, but it was
completely well done, dull gray with nary a hint of moistness.
So we came back and got another one – this time opting for the
“steakhouse” burger, with cheddar, sauteed mushrooms and onions. The
cook kept his/her head in the game this go-round, and we had the burger
nirvana moment we know happens regularly at Bill Street.
The salmon burger is equally huge, a regulation hockey puck-sized
croquette fried, topped with fried green tomato (a problem; see below)
and a remoulade. Substantial, but the grease gets to you about halfway
The burger everyone’s talking about is the peanut butter/bacon topped
model, but we’re guessing most of those talking about it ain’t ordering
it. Some swear it’s tasty, and the sweet/salty combo is kind of trendy
these days. But we just couldn’t do it. Sorry.
The applewood smoked bacon sandwich with fried green tomatoes was
another intriguing selection, but the proportions here were
bass-ackward. We hardly noticed the two or three strips of bacon as we
gnawed through the inch-thick, rather tough fried mater slices. A rework
is in order.
Bill Street has two desserts: a fried Snickers for those who can’t wait
for Riverfest or the State Fair to get their fix; and the ubiquitous
huge brownie with ice cream, chocolate sauce and a whipped cream type
product. We’re not sure what toughened up the edges of the brownie –
either too long in the oven or microwave-induced, but we could have
driven a nail with that section. As it was, there was still plenty of
edible brownie in the cocktail napkin-sized slab to satisfy.
Great name, cool place, creative menu, some hits and some minor misses –
all in all, a not-too-bad start for the newest River Market haunt.
614 President Clinton Avenue
Even if the sight of the preternaturally orange glop in the
Mrs. Weaver’s tub makes your stomach turn, try the homemade pimiento
cheese at Bill Street – it’s dense and flavorful, bold yet subtle. You
can get it with celery as an appetizer or on jalapeno cornbread as a
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Wednesday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Happy hour 4 p.m.
to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Kitchen closes at 11 p.m. on
nights with dinner service.
Credit cards accepted. Full bar.