Page 2 of 3
At some point, someone decided that the station's 120-person staff should have ethnic potluck dinners together once a month. "It just so happened that the first was a soul-food dinner, and I cooked up a mess of food," Cargo says. "It went so well that we had people come in from the outside wanting to buy our food." After that, he cooked for the station's Christmas parties. "I did turkeys, baked ham, ribs, and made a large peach cobbler, which is a specialty of the house."
So Cargo caught Udris' attention. Over the past couple of years, the two have basically been waiting for the money it'll take to redo the space that station renovators so stupidly turned into a food court. With the board's February 24 approval, the plans are now final, and Udris hopes the new Harvey House will be open by midsummer.
It will be run by Eddie Adel, who manages all of Union Station's restaurants for the food-service contractor Treat America. Adel, who has spent 27 years in the restaurant business, including 17 at the Westin before coming to Union Station last summer, has been helping refine Cargo's menu ideas. "His big thing is about making fresh, homemade pies, and he says he has several different really good pie recipes. So that's going to be on the menu. He's got three or four that he really wants to make himself."
The thing is, Cargo has this other talent. He can sing. Before he left Memphis in the mid-'70s, Cargo says, he sang backup vocals on records put out by Memphis' legendary Stax label. He says he sang on recordings by Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Al Green, the Chi-Lites and the Temptations. He wants to sing at the new Harvey House, too. Every 20 or 30 minutes, maybe, during lunch, he and some guys would come out and do a 1940s or 1950s number for the diners.
So we don't know yet exactly what Richard Cargo will be doing at the new Harvey House. Adel and Udris admit that a song-and-dance routine in the diner has the potential to turn cheesy. They swear they're going to keep an eye on things to make sure that doesn't happen.
I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for two reasons.
One: Cargo fixed me lunch last week.
He set a table with a white tablecloth in an empty banquet room (the site of the failed Fritz's Bottling Company restaurant on the station's lower level). It began with an artful relish tray of hard-boiled eggs atop tomato slices, with long green onions and orange curls. Then came tender meatball-sized Salisbury steaks covered with creamy brown gravy. Then there was light, juicy fried chicken. Peppery baked "butter potatoes" and bacony green beans. Hot water cornbread, crisp-fried brown patties with fluffy white insides Lula Rogers' recipe. And his specialty, peach cobbler, sweet and syrupy with a cinnamon pastry crust.
If the food at the Harvey House is anything like that, I'll put up with a rendition of "You Send Me" in the middle of lunch.