Friday, September 9, 2011

Meet the Owner: Josh Huckaby of The Green Beetle


I want to introduce you to my new friend Josh Huckaby, latest owner of the Green Beetle Tavern on South Main, and grandson of Frank Liberto. If the name Frank Liberto rings a bell, you are either a Memphis old timer, or you may have visited the convenience store/deli Frank's next door to the Green Beetle on South Main. Frank's was originally a liquor store, and the Green Beetle was a tavern. Both were owned and operated by Frank Liberto until the mid 70's. Josh recently purchased the tavern and welcomed the beetle back into the family. He spent several months renovating the joint and making it feel more open and friendly.

Speaking of friendly, Josh is one of the nicest folks you will ever meet. Everytime I have gone in to plan our foodiememphis gathering, I have felt guilty for pulling him away from a conversation he was having with patrons. Stop in, say hello and strike up a conversation. It isn't hard, trust me. While you are there, get a Big Frank Burger or his Gandmother Mary's Lasagna. You will thank me later.


In our series "Meet the Chef," I ask the hard hitting questions that others are afraid to ask...probably for fear of appearing foolish. With that being said, here is my interview with Josh Huckaby:


Josh, there is another tavern in Memphis claiming to be the oldest in Memphis. What is your claim to the title? The Green Beetle was founded by my grandfather, 'Big' Frank Liberto, in 1939. The Beetle is the oldest operating tavern in Memphis. The Arcade was established in 1919, but in my humble opinion, it is a cafĂ©, and the Green Beetle is a tavern, hence the validity of our claim.

Can you give us a little history lesson on the tavern?
The Green Beetle and Franks Market were opened, owned and operated by Granpa Frank and Grandma Mary, until then 1970's.  Since then it changed ownership several times, but by contract the name stayed the same on both. The property had multiple owners until 2011, when I got it.

I am a Memphian by choice, and am intrigued by the unusual name. What is the origin of the name "the green beetle?"
My grandfather always wanted to name a bar 'the green beetle' since he was a little kid. Don't ask me why, I guess he liked beetles.

There is a rumor going around that one of the contestants on a certain cooking show w/ a nasty host has ties to the GB. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Jonathon was a cooking contestant on Hells Kitchen, and was an employee at the Beetle. Unfortunately, he was eliminated from both shows.

What is your history with the GB? Why did you decide to take over the joint?
I was in
Baltimore
, managing 7 casino restaurants, when the current building owner called and asked if I would be interested in the opportunity. By the time he hung up the phone, I was at the door.

What is your culinary background?
Grew up in kitchens, but no formal training. I started by running the grill at Lone Star when I was 15. I got in, liked it, and learned from people I worked with. It’s in my blood, what I do and what I love.

How has the menu changed over the years?
It started with a hot plate lunch, and grew from there. A Budweiser draft used to cost 10 cents and a 12 oz strip with a salad, potato and rolls was $1.35.  Our prices have only risen slightly since then...

If someone was in town for one day & could only sample one thing off the menu, what would you suggest?
If they were only in town for one day, and could only have one meal, I would suggest my grandmother’s recipe for Lasagna. I also recommend the Big Frank burger, but that might be a perfect match for someone's last meal on death row.

Any interesting facts about the GB we need to know about?
The restaurant is filled with original memorabilia. Be sure to check out the leather studded door on the hallway. Desi Arnez used to hang out here, when he would stay at the Chisca he would stop in for a few drinks before playing the ballroom. He was a low key guy, and always tipped 100%. He had a steak dinner every night he was in town.

What is a typical week as far as events go @ the GB? Music? Karaoke? Trivia? Happy hour? Tuesdays we do an acoustic set with Blake Ryan and beer specials all night. Wednesdays this fall we will have a beer pong tournament. Friday and Saturdays we have live local music and the kitchen stays open until .

What is your favorite and or least favorite thing about starting your own business?
My favorite thing is that it is a family legacy, and it feels like I'm working with my grandfather all over again.


325 S Main St
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 525-3354
Thanks to sophorn for the picture.



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