Ugly Mug Coffee aims to protect the farmers harvesting each bean by sourcing organic, pesticide-free, and fair-trade coffee from around the world. Integrity pervades every phase of its buying process, as the company selects farmers who cultivate bird-friendly, shade-grown coffees without the use of toxic chemicals, and pay them a fair, livable price to incentivize their growing. Their fair-trade philosophy extends to what Ugly Mug hopes will one day be a hands-on collaboration with the farmers; until then, partnerships with economic-development programs and Growers First keep Ugly Mug's coffee ethical without reading it transcripts of the long dialogues Socrates often had with his percolator.
Ugly Mug's stringent vetting and buying process results in nuanced, aromatic coffee roasted right in Memphis. Single-origin coffees from Brazil or Mexico showcase each country's character with a gentler roast, and blends include Hardy Passion, a dark, rich roast, or Saving Grace, a balanced Peruvian/Guatemalan brew with a clean finish. Flavored coffees sweeten mornings with tastes such as Cinnamon Sticky Bun or Buttermoon, a popular mix of roasted-nut and sweet-caramel flavors.
Jamal Dauba opened Petra Cafe in 1998 with a vision of bringing diners healthy, flavorful Mediterranean cuisine. Now, his team of cooks prepares that cuisine at four locations. The culinary experts stuff pitas with grilled lamb and greek salad, fry crisp falafel, and infuse savory dips with eggplant or feta cheese. They also specialize in grilled paninis layered with prosciutto, mozzarella, and other Italian ingredients.
The cooks at Cockadoos dole out both breakfast and lunch dishes all day long, augmenting their menu of grits, breakfast casseroles, and texas-toast sandwiches with locally brewed Mississippi Mud Coffee. The Memphis barbecue omelet ($7.99) punctuates a trio of eggs, juicy pulled pork, and provolone cheese with barbecue seasonings, whose flavorful accents reinvent the omelet the way Ben Franklin reinvented kites to run on lightning. Taste buds do backflips when they greet The Shag, a french-toast sandwich populated by bananas and peanut butter and crowned by hot syrup, a mound of whipped cream, and blueberries ($7.99). Sweet-potato hash browns ($2.99), lightly browned in a julienne style, waltz from the griddle to the table bearing gifts of tiny marshmallows. Diners can wrestle down the pretzel chili dog, a quarter-pound all-beef hot dog on a pretzel bun that harbors homemade chili and spicy cheese ($6.99). Local farmers supply fresh organic produce for the bottomless salad bar ($7.99), so named for its lack of a basement.
Roasted and brewed in-house, Republic Coffee’s global-savvy coffee drinks roll out a steamy rug for sandwiches stacked with smoked meats and soups made from scratch daily. Leafy greens and veggies burst from salads drizzled with just the right amount of dressing, and crostini dive into creamy baths of garlic hummus. The cozy coffeehouse’s doors open as the sun rises to greet diners with fluffy eggs, breakfast sandwiches, and malted belgian waffles. Sleek black chairs and leather booths scattered throughout the interior keep night owls comfy until closing time at midnight, when the overcaffeinated crowd works off excess steam by bouncing against exposed-brick walls.
Chef Derrick Clark honed his craft at L’École Culinaire and converted a Cintas van into a mobile kitchen in order to share his cooking skills with A Square Meal on Wheels. He sizzles Angus burgers over the leaping flames of a grill, fills po' boy sandwiches with catfish or shrimp, and fries green tomatoes, all while parked at local gathering spots or rolling around a demolition derby track on cruise control. His food truck can be found at 7370 Winchester Road on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., at 20 S. Dudley Road on Thursdays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., at 6399 Shelby View Drive on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., and on Sundays at Shelby Farms from 12 p.m.–3 p.m.
Offering diners a varying selection of Southern classics and 14 protein-and fruit-packed smoothies, the chefs at Scales Café whip up healthy snacks and filling dishes anchored around farm-raised catfish. A dusting of seasoned cornmeal prepares their signature catfish fillets to swim laps in the deep fryer before emerging triumphantly with either a crispy golden coat or a gold medal. Cajun or ranch spice blends can flavor the fresh fish, or diners can forgo the crispy crust in favor of a grilled or skillet-blackened fillet. Although house-made hush puppies, french fries, and coleslaw accompany most entrees to the table, eight other side options, including velvety mac 'n' cheese and sweet-potato fries, can smother hunger like a mother who cleans her son’s dorm room. Straws plumb the creamy depths of Scales Café's smoothies, which are made from fresh fruits, crushed fruit concentrates, and protein boosts. Each sippable meal is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but steers clear of fat, lactose, and artificial flavors.