Hot Wings at Central BBQ | Alex Shansky

South Main Dining Guide

The South Main Arts District is best known for its stunning galleries, eclectic boutiques and awe-inspiring museums. And you'll need snacks and sips to keep you going as you explore them all. From fine-dining experiences to world-famous diners—and an exceptionally diverse bar scene—the South Main Arts Distirct is sure to satisfy your appetite.

J.T. Mullen | March, 2020

Breakfast and Coffee

Looking to kickstart your day with a hearty breakfast or local cup of joe? Here are some South Main morning favorites:

  • Low Fi Coffee specializes in unique small-batch, single-orgin coffee, using a variety of beans from around the world. 
  • The espresso-based beverages, along with delicious pastries, sandwiches and smoothies, are why Memphians love Bluff City Coffee.
  • Hustle and Dough Bakery + Cafe, located in the lobby of Arrive Hotel, features Vice & Virtue's specialty-grade coffees with pastries, freshly baked bread and desserts. (Tip: Might we suggest the bourbon barrel-aged coffee and a slice of honey butter toast? Yum!)
  • Stop by Memphis' oldest restaurant and regular hangout of Elvis, The Arcade Restuarant, for some sweet potato pancakes or a Southern-style breakfast. If you're in for lunch or dinner, The Arcade also offers fantastic burgers and sandwiches (and be sure to ask about their daily specials). 
The Arcade | Phillip Parker
Gus's Fried Chicken | David Meany
Hustle and Dough | Alex Shansky
Central BBQ | Alex Shansky

Memphis Staples

From world-famous barbecue to spicy fried chicken, Memphis has plenty of must-eats around town—and South Main has a nice concentration. 

  • You gotta try the deliciously spicy fried chicken at Gus's World Famous Chicken, which is consistently raked among the nation's best. 
  • One of the locals' favorite barbecue joints, Central BBQ offers a varied menu from pulled pork and ribs to barbecue nachos and some of the city's most popular chicken wings.
  • Looking for some home cookin'? 99¢ Soul Food Express offers Southern favorites like fried pork chops, fried catfish and mac & cheese at some of the best prices in the city.

High-End Dining

South Main is also home to some of the city's best fine-dining experiences, including three restaurants from local James Beard Award-nominated chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman:

  • Located inside Central Station Hotel, Bishop is the city's newest offering from Ticer and Hudman. At Bishop, guests can expect a locally-inspired take on French cuisine. 
  • Catherine & Mary's offers Italian cuisine inspired by the cooking of the chefs' grandmothers. The multi-course menu consists of shared plates and Italian favorites, combined with an expansive wine and craft cocktail list. 
  • Located inside Old Dominick Distillery, The Gray Canary experiments with cooking techniques from around the world. From a raw oyster bar and sashimi-style fish to wood-fired produce and proteins, The Gray Canary chefs explore how different styles of preparation enhance and bring out flavors. 

Smart Casual 

Throughout South Main Arts District you'll also find a variety of business casual restaurants perfect for a company meal, dinner with a client or a nice spot for a date. 

  • Head to Spindini for traditional Italian cuisine with a modern flair. This farm-to-table favorite features wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta dishes, as well as an extensive whiskey and cocktail menu. Make sure to stop in for happy hour.
  • South of Beale, or SOB, is an upscale gastropub featuring signature burgers and housemade chips and dips. With a seasonal menu, every trip to SOB is unique.
  • Ever had a deep-fried corndog covered in lobster? The Lobster Pronto Pup at Rizzo's Diner is a bucket list Memphis food item. This popular diner takes Southern cuisine and flips it on its head with an upscale, modern twist. From award-winning chicken pot pie to smoked shrimp crawfish etoufee, you'll fall in love with Rizzo's regionally inspired dishes.
Bishop | Alex Shansky
Bishop is Memphis' all new French brassier from nationally recognized chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman. After dinner, enjoy a nightcap at Eight & Sand lounge. Both spots are located inside South Main's newly opened Central Station Hotel.

Casual

Memphis is a pretty laidback city, so of course, we have some incredible casual dining options. Whether you're exploring South Main's renowned museums or shopping its popular boutiques, you'll find all kinds of casual bites that'll keep you moving thoughout the day. 

  • Recently opening its third location, Swanky's Taco Shop is a beloved, full-service quality taco shop with a fast-casual dining experience. Using fresh ingredients, build your own taco, burrito, bowl or salad, or order off the delicious grill menu—and don't forget to grab a margarita from the bar. 
  • Whether you're dining in, ordering takeout or having it brought to you, South Main Sushi is some of the finest sushi in town. The full bar and "night on the town" atmosphere fits in perfectly with its location on South Main. We suggest ordering the sweet and spicy banzai wings and trying their saké—and make sure to ask about the roll of the day.
  • Try authentic Greek cuisine at Grecian Gourmet Taverna. From traditional favorites like gyros, spanakopita and dolmathes to new creations like pita chip nachos and lamb and feta sliders, Grecian Gourmet's mouthwatering menu and comfortable environment are sure to please. 
  • Visit Slider Inn's all-new downtown location on South Main. Mix and match an array of sliders and mini-sandwiches, or opt for the "Mid-South's only authentic" lobster roll. No matter what you choose, Slider Inn's food will surely hit the spot. Their house libations like the "lemon under the influence" (or L.U.I.) and the Jameson Slushie are perfect beverages to beat the Memphis heat. 
  • From fresh oysters and crab legs to gumbo and Po-boys, Pearl's Oyster House brings gulf coast favorites to Memphis. If you're an oyster fan, be sure to try 'em char-grilled, Memphis style. 

Sweets

Looking for a sweet treat to cap off your meal? The South Main Arts District is home to two excellent shops that specialize in fabulously unique desserts.

  • Munch on bite-sized treats at Primas Bakery + Boutique. The bakery specializes in mignardises, or petite pastries and sweets, like macarons, tarts, cookies, petit fours and more. Guests love shopping Primas' Latino culture-inspired clothing and wares while snacking on these tasty treats.  
  • Word of mouth spread fast about this unexpected hot spot dessertery. The Cheesecake Corner offers a variety of unusual flavors, such as coconut pecan, peaches & cream, strawberry pound cake and many, many more. Pair your slice with a glass of wine and take in this truly unique atmosphere. (Tip: Lines can get long here, but don't be deterred. The wait is worth it!)
Primas Bakery + Boutique | Alex Shansky
Get your hands on petit fours, cake pops, cupcakes and more while browsing a modern take on Mexican-inspired style at Primas Bakery + Boutique.

Bars

From outdoor hangout spaces, a brewery and a distillery to dive bars and taverns, downtown's South Main Arts District offers a wide-ranging bar scene fit for any and every style. 

  • One of Memphis' most popular spots, Loflin Yard is an indoor/outdoor hangout space equipped with bars, fire pits, games and more. 
  • With trivia nights, live bands and their mouthwatering signature burgers, Memphis' oldest tavern, Green Beetle, is a local hit.  
  • Grab a brew from the tap room of one of Memphis' local craft breweries, Ghost River Brewing. This family-friendly hangout is stocked with 12 signature craft beers, food trucks and a Sunday brunch. 
  • Get your hands on some hot wing rolls at the Blue Monkey. This European-style tavern is always jumping with events like live music, trivia and karaoke.
  • Fan of shuffleboard? Then do we have a place for you! Longshot, located in the basement of ARRIVE Memphis Hotel, is a bar and shuffleboard den in the heart of South Main. Dig in to some delicious house-made sausages paired with freshly baked bread from onsite cafe and bakery, Hustle & Dough.
  • Tour the distillery and taste the delicious concoctions crafted at Old Dominick Distillery. A family tradition dating back to the 1800s, Old Dominick consistently features events and tastings showcasing their carefully crafted spirits. 
  • Legends say it's haunted, but that doesn't keep many folks away from Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis' most popular juke joint. Pop on some Memphis tunes on the storied jukebox, bite into your very own soul burger and make sure to wander around the former brothel upstairs, all at "the best dive bar in the country." 
  • WKND hangout suite is a one-of-a-kind bar and lounge that provides guests great food and drinks along with stellar music and live events—without the nightclub vibe. 
  • With picnic tables, waterfalls, an overlook and areas to accomodate live entertainment, there's no wonder that Carolina Watershed is a local favorite. Whether you're with family or friends, stop by this outdoor venue to enjoy a refreshing drink, delicious bites and some live music.
Old Dominick Distillery | Raphael Tenschert
Earnestine & Hazel's | Alex Shansky
Loflin Yard | Craig Thompson
Ghost River Brewing | Alex Shansky

Something For Everyone

Whether you're traveling with family, friends or coworkers, deciding where to eat as a group can be a hassle. But why pick one place when you can try all kinds of delicious Memphis eats? Here are some options with a variety of cuisine that'll give you a taste of Memphis: 

  • Try various cuisine from a collection of vendors at Puck Food Hall.  Located inside the century-old Puck building at 409 South Main, this diverse smorgasbord brings you 10 culinary concepts from Mexican and pizza to local beers, craft cocktails and gelato.
  • Explore South Main's culinary scene with City Tasting Tours. Try local fare from around the district while getting a sense of Memphis history along the way. 
Puck Food Hall | Alex Shansky
Head to Puck Food Hall at 409 South Main for 10 different culinary concepts under one roof, from crisp, colorful salads to Chinese-American favorites like crawfish rangoon.