Located at 1701 E. Main St. in Shockoe Bottom, Medley's shares some similarities with the little restaurant where I cut my teeth. Shyrle "Maddog" Medley glides around her tiny kitchen with the same savoir-faire that Miss Anna exhibited. The staff is solid and a little sly. Jennifer is good for a glib wisecrack and Buzz at the bar makes you feel comfortable. The live music is loose and inviting. Medley's advertises itself as specializing in Cajun food and blues music. I was anxious to gobble up some of each after being away from Miss Anna's cooking and New Orleans' music scene for a couple of years. What I didn't count on was getting that welcome-to-my-home feeling. Medley's is the kind of place that makes me want to linger, which is what I did.
I'll admit I didn't expect the food to be that impressive. The place is a music club. The only seating, besides at the bar, is a row of six tall tables along one wall. With the layout and all of the photos of musicians on the walls, it's obvious the place is geared toward the music. When I spotted the kitchen, I got nervous. You'd expect to see just burgers and fries coming out of the little setup that Ms. Medley presides over. Don't be deceived. Steaks, lobster tail, crawfish, and catfish issued forth during my visits. Maddog's style of cooking falls somewhere between down-home and uptown. I'd call it Cajun-influenced home cooking in a tux.
The entrees change daily based on availability and her whims. The night's offerings are written on a board next to the bar. Don't look for a menu at your table. I'm so pleased that they offer crawfish ($7.95 for a half pound). I suspect this is precooked and then shipped frozen, but Shyrle does a nice job sauteing it in beer, spices and Crystal (thank you) hot sauce. Be sure to have a cold beer within reach. I was pleased and impressed with the crab-stuffed salmon ($12.95), fried catfish ($10.95) and the surf and turf ($35.95). I'm not going to waste time with tangypungentpiquant words. The fish is fresh, the meat is tender, and the fruit is sweet. I particularly liked the grilled zucchini side (very smoky), the dirty rice and the lobster tail that was nearly as long as my right arm. Portions are huge and very affordable. Most entrees are accompanied by dirty rice and a garden of fresh fruit. Sauteed spinach, the zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato sticks and twice-baked potatoes are just a few of the choices for sides.
There are a couple of things I'd like to see. Abita beer would be a good addition to the list. The stools at the tables need to be replaced with something more supportive. And with all the seafood it would be a good idea to offer the ingredients for cocktail sauce on the tables so customers can mix their own if they wish.
Don't forget the music. Medley's features live blues five nights a week. There is a Thursday night open jam with local and regional acts holding court on other nights. When the bands weren't playing, the staff keeps a steady flow of Muddy Waters, Slim Harpo, Aretha, Howlin' Wolf and others on the stereo. If you like blues music, there's plenty of it at Medley's. There's plenty of plenty actually. It's all delivered with a cool hand and a playful attitude. And it's all good. S
1701 East Main Street
Dinner Tuesday though Saturday 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.,
bar open 'til 2 a.m.
Blues bands perform every night