Memphis' Best New Restaurants of 2016
It was a banner year for Memphis restaurants, especially in our seemingly ever-expanding Downtown area. We saw two East Memphis restaurants focused on healthy living open (which is no small feat here). And Highland Row got a much needed sparkle with Char opening in an area previously known for pubs and pizza spots. Things are looking stupendous for the food scene in Memphis -- and we've got the places to prove it.
It was exciting when the newly refurbished Chisca started leasing apartments, but it didn't feel quite done until Catherine & Mary's opened downstairs. From the carefully unfinished interior to the beautifully designed bar, it immediately feels welcoming. The menu is more than up to par with all of the other Andrew/Michael restaurants and features such gems as grilled quail with creamy polenta and maitake ragu, scarpinocc with fonduta, lemon brown butter and parmesan frico, and maple glazed fried chicken skins.
Loflin Yard is Downtown's dream park. Part restaurant, part bar, part event space, it has a little something for everyone while maintaining a simple, straightforward aesthetic. You can dine inside or out, and there's tons of green space to laze about on year round. The menu features mostly salads, veggies, as well as smoked meats (which appear on po' boys during lunch). Wine is available by the bottle and there are lots of local beers and specialty cocktails to choose from.
Chances are most folks need GPS to find the Dirty Crow Inn, but it's worth the hunt. Billed as a "5 Star Dive Bar" with delicious, homemade food, it keeps the doors open from 11am-3am, 7 days a week. If you know Alex -- a former employee turned owner -- you'll recognize the feel immediately. It's a nice, quiet spot to grab a burger for lunch, and a super fun spot to catch some live music (and eat some chicken wings) on weekend nights.
Maciel's wooed the Downtown working crowd in with its three tacos for $8 lunch special, and it isn't unusual to see the working class dining there multiple times a week. The menu also features hearty tortas, amazing salads, and authentic soups, all of which are ridiculously affordable. The staff couldn't be sweeter or more helpful, making this joint one of the most delightful places to eat in Memphis.
It's not easy to go out in Memphis and get a vegan meal, unless you like to eat a lot of sides. Thanks to Zaka Bowl we now have a place where everything on the menu is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, all the other frees -- but at the same time, fresh and delicious. At Zaka Bowl you’re not sacrificing flavor for health. Best of all, you're the boss when it comes to building your own bowl full of grains, veggies, vegan proteins, and housemade sauces.
The Belle Tavern opened in September and is still a bit of a secret. It occupies the back third of the Southern Belle Restaurant, but is a separate business with a mood setting Barboro Alley entrance. It's more bar than restaurant, but there's plenty of food to be had. SB's menu is available till 9pm, then the Tavern has its own menu featuring such foods as smoked turkey and homemade dumplings, bourbon brown sugar glazed brisket, and a signature chili made with tenderloin. There's also an extensive cocktail list and an array of local beers on tap.
It's amazing to think we survived so long without being able to get a meal in beautiful Shelby Farms Park. Thanks to the Kitchen Bistro, visitors can enjoy delicious, healthy, and sustainable eats in a beautifully and environmentally-friendly constructed restaurant every day of the week. Even better, they can compliment said dishes with a cocktail. The meals are fairly simple, but tasty, and there's a price point for all budgets. Check it out at sunset -- that's the best time to head in.
Char, which started in Jackson, Mississippi, is a welcome addition to Highland Row. The space is warm yet expansive, and it's possible to enjoy a great meal without breaking the bank. Though its main identity is a fancy steakhouse, there are plenty of other southern inspired delights on the menu. Weekend brunch is a great time to check out the selection, especially if you are a fan of duck eggs and Jazz (who isn't?). The gumbo, crab claws, and crab cakes are also dishes you won't want to pass up.
Sign up here for our daily Memphis email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Blues City.