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Memphis Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman Get Mexican Food From the Viper Man

a&m_photography-portraits-foruse.jpgEach week in our Chefs Off Duty series, we talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, the Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef Award Winners and James Beard Award-Nominated chefs behind Memphis' Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy. You can catch the guys in New York tonight when they host a 'No Menu Monday' dinner at City Grit.

Where do you guys like to grab a bite to eat when you're leaving your own restaurant?

Andy Ticer: Cozy Corner Barbecue for sure. It's our favorite barbecue spot in Memphis. It's a tiny place.

Michael Hudman: My dad took me there for the first time when I was in sixth grade. When any of our chef friends come in town, that's the first spot we take them. It's owned by Miss Desiree and their barbecue is top-notch. They do an awesome bologna and Cornish game hen and their ribs are insanely delicious.

AT: That BBQ bologna is my favorite sandwich anywhere.

How long has this place been around?

MH: Golly. I don't know for sure...

AT: Over twenty years.

MH: The barbecue is so good and Miss Desiree is the ultimate host -- she loves to have people in there.

Tell me more about the food.

MH: The barbecue bologna comes with a choice of their sauces -- mild, medium or hot, which is insanely hot. We always go with medium 'cause the heat is great on all of them.  The ribs are awesome but, I'll tell ya, their rib tips are insane, too. They braise the tips and they're super tender and delicious. The Cornish game hen is the best barbecue chicken. It brings you back to childhood.

AT: They've also got a banana pudding, which is pretty amazing.

cozycorner_chefs.jpgCozy Corner
Any good Cozy Corner stories?

MH: Miss Desiree always carries a 9mm on her hip.

AT: Yeah, it's like her thing.

Has she ever had to use it?

AT: It's pretty intimidating when you see her so I don't think anyone's gonna mess with Miss Desiree.

MH: But she's the sweetest lady. She really is.

AT: Our other go-to is Las Tortugas.

MH: It's Mexico City-style food. It's super authentic. They don't use any delivery companies -- they go to the market every day. The huevos con chorizo sandwich they do is ridiculous.

AT: It's so awesome.

How long have you been going there?

MH: Andy found that place --

AT: Around 2004 or 2005. Somewhere around there.

MH: Andy has literally eaten the entire menu.

AT: It's amazing -- not just good Mexican food for our city but, I'll put it out there, for any city. We'll have people come in town from California and other places around the country and they'll say it can stand up anywhere.

tortugamemphis.jpgLas Tortugas
What are the best things to order there?

MH: Elote con contija cheese and mayonesa -- corn with cheese and lime.

AT & MH: Huevos con chorizo is our favorite sandwich. They also have mollete, which is an open-faced torta with beans and smoked chicken. Tamales frescos are great. The tea -- tostes -- that they make is unreal. The queso fundido, fondue-style cheese  with chorizo and pico de gallo and steamed corn tortillas is great.

What's the vibe like?

AT: You walk in, you stand in line and if you ask for cheese dip, the owner, Pepe, will ask you to leave. It's all traditional Mexican food. Pepe has signs up all over the place saying what you can and cannot do in the place. And they will ask you to leave if you break the rules. He's like the Soup Nazi but for Mexican food.

MH: It's an open kitchen so you can see them make things fresh. It's cool because it shows Pepe's personality. There are pictures up with him and Muhammed Ali, pictures of him riding his motorcycle -- he calls himself Viper Man.

AT: He has this big motorcycle made to look like this viper snake. It's hilarious. He has a helmet and suit that he wears.

MH: He's the coolest. But the food is some of the best food. They take pride in what they do and it's very evident.

Cozy Corner, 745 N. Parkway, Memphis, TN; Tues-Sat, 11am-9pm

Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, 1215 S Germantown Rd, Germantown, TN; Mon-Sat, 10:30am-8pm

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