Memphis Dining: Get A Taste of Southern Cuisine

Chef Kelly English. Photo Credit: Justin Fox Burks

Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and the Second Line gives us the succulent scoop on why Memphis cuisine is some of the best in the country. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Wally Joe at ACRE - Justin Fox Burks

Chef Wally Joe is one of the chefs at Acre in Memphis. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Gus Fried Chicken - Bob Hazlett

Gus's chicken has been featured on numerous television shows and in magazines worldwide. Photo by Memphis CVB

The Beauty Shop in Cooper-Young. Photo Credits: Justin Fox Burks

The unique and trendy Beauty Shop Restaurant in Cooper-Young Neighborhood. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Food and wine pairing at Flight. Photo Credit: Brad Luttrell

Fine Dining at Flight

World Famous Rendezvous Ribs - Craig Thompson

Serving up famous Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis, TN. Photo by Craig Thompson

The Arcade has been featured on The Food Network, Travel Channel and has been the backdrop to numerous feature films. Photo by Phillip Parker

Barbecue might be the backbone of the Memphis dining scene, but foodies of all types agree the city is quickly becoming deliciously more dimensional in terms of its restaurant offerings.

Southern fare like traditional “meat-and-threes” (referring to your choice of three vegetables) can still be found around Memphis at the Little Tea Shop on Court Square, Cupboard on Union Avenue and at the city’s oldest restaurant, the Arcade. Delectable fried chicken is served up at Gus’s on Front Street, where the order doesn’t hit the fryer until you say so. Another favorite local spot for Southern cookin’ is The Women’s Exchange Tea Room, where fried catfish and veggie plates are the must-orders.

No matter where you find yourself in Memphis, you’re never far from the scent of a barbecue smoker. That fragrant lure of slow-cooked pork is impossible to resist! And in Memphis, barbecue is all about the pig – pulled-pork sandwiches, full slabs of ribs, tiny slices of pork sausage paired with cheese and seasonings.

From the venerable Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, the downtown Memphis institution where a cheese and sausage plate is the first order of business, to the tiny Cozy Corner, where Cornish game hens are treated to the barbeque master’s secret seasonings, to the pulled pork nachos at Central Avenue BBQ or the rib-tastic Corky’s in East Memphis, just simply follow your nose to the best barbecue on the planet – if we do say so ourselves.

Local flavor in Memphis also means international flair and sweet endings. Las Delicias, a university-area restaurant, brings the authentic flavors of Mexico to the city with chunky, diced guacamole and cilantro-laced steak tacos. The hip and trendy Lunchbox Eats puts a special trend on soul food classics like chicken and waffles, while local favorite Bari gives an authentic Italian twist.
 
Sure, Memphis has some of the best casual food in the state, but the city’s fine-dining scene is quickly gaining attention for its creativity and breadth as well. Wally Joe's Acre, which is housed in a sleek and sophisticated spot on the East Side, Restaurant Iris in Midtown and Sweet Grass in Cooper-Young are all making a national name for themselves for inventive dishes that focus on locally-grown products.

Memphis also boasts many elegant steakhouses and the longtime standard for haute cuisine and romance – Chez Philippe in the historic Peabody Hotel – has returned to its French roots, adding a “Petit Philippe” menu for those enjoying the opulent Lobby Bar but crave a little taste of the continent.