The little yellow single-wide that houses Mayo's and Mahalia Jackson's on Jefferson Street near the I-40 exit is keeper of the flame for a Tennessee tradition already on the wane 40 years ago and now positively endangered: the fried pie.
Don't be fooled by the simplicity -- getting a fried pie right is tricky because of the simplicity. With so few ingredients, the technique has to be expert. It's tempting to use canned filling, but proprietor Erika White doesn't, and it shows. The oil has to be hot enough to blister the outside into crunchy pockets but leave the inside tender. To see how perfectly fried the pies are at Mayo's, click here for a very large photo of one of her pies.
Another item getting the neighborhood's attention these days is the cheese steak, a marvel of soft cheese on a chewy roll topped with pickled jalapenos and thinly sliced beef. Every bite combines spicy and creamy with salty and beefy. Glorious together and priced right at $5, you got to love the discount for no table service.
Mayo's and Mahalia's is slow fast food. You order, drive around and wait 10 minutes while it cooks, so take a friend or a magazine. On reflection, take a friend so you can share the wonder of how good a pie and a sandwich can be.