Southern Food with a Twist

crawfish boil

Crawfish in a low-country boil. Photo by Kerry Crawford

Kooky Canuck's 4-Pound Hamburger. Photo Credit: Eli Cloud
Eighty3 Food and Drink

Eighty3 Food & Drink. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Cocktails at The Second Line. Photo Credit: Justin Fox Burks

Handcrafted cocktails and New Orleans style food at The Second Line in Overton Square. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

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.

Earnestine & Hazel's / Alex Shansky

Very unique Memphis food - grab yourself a lobster pronto pup from Rizzo's Diner. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Memphis is known for its Southern-style cuisine, but that dosen’t mean that it has to be boring or predictable. Food is an integral part of the transformation that’s happening in the Bluff City. Here are just a few of the traditional dishes that have been re-imagined in this culinary revolution.

Tempura Fried Okra Salad – Chef Kelly English has made a name for himself by reinventing traditional Creole dishes using classic French techniques in his Midtown eatery, Restaurant Iris. In this starter, Chef English has elevated a standard side dish to new heights. Whole okra pods are split, stuffed with pimento cheese, tempura battered, fried and served with light salad tossed with a creamy yogurt dressing.

Lobster Pronto Pup – We’ve all been to the fair or a carnival and enjoyed a Pronto Pup, a large corndog coated in a slightly sweet pancake batter. At Rizzo’s Diner in Downtown Memphis, Chef Michael Patrick’s lobster version is as elegant as it is fun to eat. Tender chunks of lobster are skewered, coated in a light batter, fried and served with a homemade mustard sauce on a bed of greens.

3rd Period Smoking Birds – It’s easy to find pulled pork in Memphis, but head downtown to Lunchbox Eats for the “turducken” of barbecue sandwiches. House made seven-grain wheat bread is piled high with pulled duck, Cajun turkey and molasses chicken and topped with the diner’s choice of green tomato relish or a sweet and spicy cherry barbecue sauce.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake – You don’t have to go all the way to New Orleans to find traditional fair, but you will have to venture to Deja Vu, just north of Downtown for this unique restuarnt. Deja Vu might be small and nondescript, but Chef Gary Williams stuffs the menu with Creole and ever-changing vegan dishes. Save room for dessert, the bananas foster cheesecake is heavenly. 

No matter what part of town you’re in, there are plenty of options to experience Southern food with a twist as the Memphis culinary scene continues to grow and evolve and push the boundaries of traditional cuisine.