Memphis' Best New Restaurants of 2018
There's never been a better time to check out the Memphis restaurant scene. We’re seeing Downtown become an established culinary destination with the opening of a great food hall and continued growth in all sectors. Crosstown Concourse continues to bring us new and exciting dining options, and its momentum is reinvigorating old neighborhoods like Madison Heights. From fine dining and soul food to the diner of your dreams, Memphis is making it happen in big ways. And of course we didn't forget our insider knowledge of barbecue and chicken wing spots. Here are the best spots that opened in 2018, then keep scrolling for some of our tried and true favorites.
All day breakfast, a crafty Cuban, and an Impossible Burger are what's up here
In November of 2017, Lisa and Luis Toro, who own City & State, decided to turn an old liquor store a few doors down into a Latin-inspired diner in order to bring more lunch and dinner traffic to the Broad Avenue Arts District. All day breakfast, the Cuban sandwich, the Impossible Burger, the cocktail program, the house-made pastries, the patio and the Instagram-able décor has made the Liquor Store a dream come true.
Delicious seafood and cocktails… what more could you ask for?
James Beard darlings Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman have done it again. Their latest restaurant, The Gray Canary, located inside the Old Dominick Distillery has its very own view of the Mighty Mississippi. The expansive front room features a raw bar with sustainable oysters and sashimi-style fish as well as a traditional bar with top notch cocktails and curated wines. The mostly vegetable and seafood based dishes on the main menu are all prepared in the wood-fired kitchen.
A new addition to the Crosstown Concourse making waves in the food scene
This international food hall has been one of the most exciting additions to the Crosstown Concourse. Currently featuring female chefs from Sudan, Nepal, and Syria, it is a great place to try a lot of new things (i.e., dumplings, sambusas, shawarma and bamia) all at once. The manager, who hails from Mexico, makes a special Hibiscus tea and mans the full bar.
Memphis' very first pizza lounge
Memphis’ first pizza lounge is amazing. Before ordering, take a minute to read the menu in its entirety as it is the most funny, most badass menu you'll ever find. Slice of Soul’s specialties are pizzas on artisan flatbreads with creative names like Al B. Green, Memphis Meat Mafia, and BAR-BQ-Kays. There's also the Westwood whole wings, which you should try every night there's some sort of event happening -- karaoke, trivia, comedy, #blackcoffeecinema, live music, or maybe a DJ -- and you can count on good times and great food specials.
Part butcher, part deli. Great sandwiches abound.
City Block rose from the ashes of Porcellino’s and has served as a much needed anchor in the slow growing South Main Market food hall. Part butcher, part deli it is definitely a Downtown go-to spot for enormous breakfast sandwiches with house-made pepperoncinis, hot & cold lunch sandwiches (the Cuban, Spicy Italian, Muffaletta, Reuben, Grilled Pimento Cheese…), and European-style cured meats and sausages to take home for dinner.
The premiere destination for a steak and bourbon dinner
What do you get when the powerhouses behind Central Barbeque and Sweet Grass combine forces? A premiere steakhouse worthy of a Don Draper-inspired meat and bourbon bender. This is the place to wine and dine just about anyone. Prices are high to say the least, but there is a “Daily Draper” lunch special which includes an entrée like a 6oz grilled salmon, street corn, and barbecue vinaigrette with soup or salad and a drink (or martini!) for $16 (tax & tip included)! Did we mention the oyster bar and the fact that they do Saturday and Sunday brunch?
Looking for Greek food in Memphis? Look no further.
Jeff and Jobeth Watkins started building their customer base at the local farmers markets and area grocery stores with dips, desserts, and take-and-bake dishes. Their fast-casual spot on Main Street is a popular lunch destination for the business crowd. Dishes like pastitso, gyros, and pita chip nachos along with baklava and homemade Greek yogurt make it easy to eat there multiple times a week.
A taste of Mexico City in the heart of Memphis
Even if you are a regular at Las Tortugas, I find it best to simply walk to the register and ask owner Jonathan Magallanes what to order. Using only the freshest handpicked ingredients, Las Tortugas’ tacos and sandwiches are simply unmatched -- quality, taste, presentation, everything.
Hearty southern/Cajun cuisine piled high
Chef Tamra Eddy may not hail from Memphis, but when you walk into her Underground Café it sure feels like home. Her cooking is a cross between Cajun and soul, with a little fusion thrown in for fun. Muddy mac-n-cheese, donut burgers, ribs, fried green tomatoes, fish tacos -- she has it all, and often creates daily specials that will blow your mind. Please note that the peach cobbler nachos are sure to do that trick any ol’ day.
Refreshing Asian-fusion from the godfather of Chinese food in Memphis
Eddie Pao, who has been in the restaurant business for 40 years and is known as the “Godfather of Chinese Food” can be found in the kitchen of Mosa, which he owns with his daughter, Michelle Pao-Levine. Eddie’s first restaurant, Formosa, opened in 1978 on Summer Avenue (and is now closed). Mosa is like its more sophisticated sister, and has a more elegant atmosphere and refined menu. Eddie’s Rainbow Panang Curry is definitely bucket list material.
The place for a soul food buffet. You read that right.
Terica Bobo is carrying on the family business of feeding the soul at the Gay Hawk six days a week. Known for their soul food buffet, you can get your fill of baked and fried chicken, fried catfish, greens, black eyed peas, sweet potatoes, cornbread, peach cobbler and the like all for just $10. The Gay Hawk is only open for lunch Sunday-Friday, 11:30am-3:00pm (though Terica won’t kick anyone out on Sunday). The buffet changes daily and there is live music on Wednesdays.
Middle Eastern eats like shawarma, hummus, falafel, and kababs
Owned and operated by Jerusalem native, Aimer Shtaya, Casablanca’s Midtown location is laidback and features great outdoor seating. The Middle Eastern menu is spot on and they literally serve the best falafel ever. Ordered with hummus as a starter or in a pita, it’s a must try along with the iced tea, which is homemade with fresh herbs and Wolf River Honey.
A grocery store serving up some of the best burgers in Memphis
Yes, Roxie’s is actually a grocery store... well, more like a corner store that sells the necessities. There’s a grill in the back and they are busy making some the best burgers in the city. If you’ve ever seen Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” they are what I imagine he meant by a “house burger.” They’re big, juicy, and the toppings from the cheese to the onions are generous to say the least. Don’t even consider a double or a triple unless you are being paid to compete in some sort of food challenge. There are no tables, so you will need to make plans to eat your burger elsewhere, or stand outside.
A Memphis institution for ridiculously delicious seafood
Tsunami’s Pacific Rim inspired menu has been a favorite of Memphians for twenty years, because of its ever changing small plates designed to maximize the freshest seafood available year round. Chef Ben Smith is constantly coming up with new and creative ways to get us all to happily expand our palates, while keeping us hooked on his glorious sea bass and black Thai rice signature mainstay.
Wings. Twenty of 'em for $20.
Wing places are beginning to outnumber BBQ places in this town, so you know the competition is steep. Riko’s, which started out as a wildly popular food truck, opened its flagship restaurant in Madison Heights in late 2017 and has quickly taken the chicken wing game up a notch. With their standard 20 wings for $20 there’s no reason not to sample every one of their mouth-watering sauces and “get kicked” as they say.
A Memphis staple serving up mouthwatering BBQ
It’s pretty dang hard to go wrong with BBQ in this town, but there are a handful of places that must be tried and Payne’s is at the top of that list. The pork shoulders are cooked over hickory coals in a recessed pit set into the restaurant’s wall. Open since 1972 and passed down through the family, Payne’s distinguishes itself from all others with its mustard based slaw. And you’d be remiss to leave without eating a little barbecue bologna.
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