Swanky’s Taco Shop (Poplar@Colonial location)

East Memphis location
4770 Poplar Ave Ste 102
Memphis, TN 38117
(901) 730-0763

I am so, so very torn about what I am about to write, because I absolutely love Swanky’s. When I say love, I mean something very near to the real love you feel for a family member. They have the best food in Memphis, period. However, I have to say that I have had some fairly bad experiences recently.

Something I have always had a problem with is the drinks. If you are ordering a fountain drink, there’s no problem. But if you want water or tea, you will be getting a cup of room temp, watery liquid. They must be trying to save time by making them ahead of time. But it’s disgusting, and lazy, if I do say so. But that has always been the case, and I learned to live with it in the name of incredible food.

Then when they opened their second location (the one on Colonial) I thought I had won the lottery. It is only about 10 minutes from my work, and right next to a ton of other things. But then I heard they had table service at night. So what happens if you want to-go food after 5pm? Well, there’s no service line like there is at lunch and like there is all day at the Germantown location. So, ok, I can fix that, I’ll just be sure to go at lunch time when it is still in the line format. OH MY GOD, I’ve never been so frustrated waiting in line for food in my whole life. And not just once, but EVERY time between, say, 11:30 and 1:00. I mean, on several occasions I’ve seen the Germantown location get through a line of 15 people in less than that many minutes. But something seems to happen at the check out station at the Colonial location where everything slows to a crawl. People’s food is just sitting there lined up next to the cash register, with the poor hungry customer looking at it through the glass, waiting and hoping that the people in front of them would just get out their dang money and pay already! Ever consider using that other register that is about 5 feet from the one we are all lined up at? I guess that would be too confusing.

That excitement I had for the new location, well, not so excited anymore.

So then a couple weeks ago, upon the advise of my sister, I get smart and call my order in ahead of time. (Cue the register that is about 5 feet from the one everyone else is lined up at). So I walk in, wait about 10 minutes for someone to walk over and ask what I need, then I tell her I have a to go order, etc. She walks away and disappears into the back. I notice a salad sized plastic bowl on the “order up” counter and suspect this is my food. Over the next 10 minutes several other people receive their to go orders, but mine is still sitting at that counter. So finally I literally grab the arm of one of the waiters blowing past me and ask if they could please just check that salad over there and see if it is mine. Yep, that’s my salad. All soggy and nasty now.

Ok, since that didn’t work either, I’m back to the service line today. We plan ahead and arrive precisely at 11:30 to beat the crowd. Blew through the line quickly (although I did still wait at the register longer than I felt necessary, and the guy who made my food seemed to have a cold and was mouth-breathing all over my salad) and, score!, we even found an open booth to sit at. After we had been eating for about 20 minutes, the line was backed up practically to the door again. Two points for me for getting here early. But then I ran out of water. Hm, no big deal, here’s this guy that works here, just walking around, looking like Justin Beiber. “Hey dude!” (OK, I didn’t call him dude.) “Can we get two refills, please?” I kid you not he said, “Sure, just take them right up there to the counter.” Very politely, although I wanted to cuss at him, I said “Yes, but there is quite a line.” He says, “Oh no, you don’t have to stand in line, just go around the side.” This is the same side where the waiters blow through to the kitchen. I think, hm, “A: That was rude. And, B: I swear the Germantown location walks around and offers refills to people at the tables.” But okay, whatever, I’ll go get my own water. (Again, this is the best food in Memphis, I can handle it.) But then, I swear on my mother’s grave (ok she’s not dead, but you get the idea), the Justin Beiber kid is leaning on the bar watching a basketball game.

So, yes, Swanky’s has fantastic food. But it has some big problems to fix if they want to keep people coming back and fighting that crowd. Firstly, they need to address customer service. The wait is so ridiculous that I don’t think I could squeeze it into my one hour lunch break even if I worked next door. Use that second register to check people out during the lunch rush. Make all of the drinks on the spot. Refill the drinks at the tables (using the guys who walk around already) since the machine is behind the counter. Or put a machine where customers can refill their own (I know, this won’t look very Swanky, but it would save customers a lot of hassle). 

Secondly, update the website with nutritional information. I have a sneaky suspicion that my favorite salad is loaded with fat and calories, but there is absolutely no way to find out. They won’t even tell you the ingredients for their menu items for you to figure it up yourself. 

Thirdly, why don’t you throw some chips on the plate with the burritos? I don’t order the burritos so I have never really thought about it much, but my friend does, I think it’s a load of crap that people are paying them $8 for a burrito and they can’t throw a few chips on the plate from their giant conservatory, free of charge.

Again, I am so sad to have to say such negative things about this place. If it were to close down, I swear I’d be out there leading the picket line to open it back up. But seriously y’all, get your crap together! Memphis needs you!

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*My sister also reminded me that they have a second drink dispensary in a little waiter’s nook in the middle of the restaurant, and third behind the bar. So there is NO reason that the “floaters” can’t run over to the closest machine and refill a drink for you (by the way, floaters is what I call the employees who walk around taking up empty plates, watching basketball at the bar, etc). 

**Another update-My neice, who eats absolutely nothing but Chicken nuggets and other junk food, ate one of their tacos the other day.  This says more than anything I can write. They have incredible food!