Going out to lunch is definitely the highlight of the workday (of life, possibly?), but having the “where to eat” conversation can certainly suck the joy out of the meal before it even begins. Well, we decided it was time to easily put an end to the discussion. This is the best lunch spot in 21 different Memphis neighborhoods, so you can spend more time slurping gumbo and less time sending passive-aggressive Gchats to your coworkers.
The Best Lunch Spots in Memphis, by Neighborhood
What you’re getting: Carne asada fries
Don’t work in Bartlett? Offer to make the office’s Costco run and hit Elena’s. You’ll probably pass quite a few Mexican restaurants and trucks on your way, but that’s OK. It’s really quite different from the others due to its California roots. The carne asada fries beautifully blend the two influences.
What you’re getting: The warm fuzzies
If you’ve never had lunch at Caritas Village then shame on you. Part community center, part coffee shop, and part cultural arts center -- there’s nothing quite like it in town. Menu items include paninis, burgers, and quesadillas.
Broad Avenue Arts District
What you’re getting: A burger
As of now, the lunch options are rather limited in the Broad Avenue Arts district. With 3 Angels transitioning into Maximo’s (set for an October opening), Broadway Pizza is the current go-to. We all know the pizza is good, but the burger is pretty damn good as well, and it takes a lot less time to cook.
What you’re getting: Watermelon and wings
The Beauty Shop, which still retains some of the décor from when it was a real live beauty shop, is Midtown’s go-to spot for Sunday brunch. Getting a table is much easier during the week, and at a much lower price than getting one at dinner. The lunch menu is huge and full of yummy dishes to get you through the workday. The wings are seasoned with white szechwan pepper, sugar dust, and sweet chile-lime sauce and served with greens, watermelon, and toasted cashews. Add a slice of cake or a fancy milkshake if you have room.
What you’re getting: Cup of gumbo & a shrimp po-boy
As Crosstown starts to blossom, more and more restaurants are sure to open up. The latest is Mardi Gras, a legit New Orleans eatery. Decked out in purple and gold, it is also quite festive. The seafood gumbo is dark and buttery. The fried shrimp are crispy and not greasy and the po-boy, on Gambino’s bread, is dressed to perfection. Sit on the patio and watch as the old Sears Tower comes to life.
What you’re getting: $.25 martinis... and lunch too
Okay, so you’ll still have plenty of "where to eat" debates Downtown, but not on Friday. That’s the one day Felicia Suzanne’s serves lunch and it is a must, especially if there’s patio weather. Martinis are $.25 and you can have as many as you want. Food-wise, the lunch menu features plenty of Louisiana-inspired favorites and fun specials like the recent Korean fried oyster po-boy. Each Friday it also sets up a self-serve station for water and tea at the patio bar and sells $10 to-go boxes that can be eaten on the patio. To-go boxes usually include a sandwich or sliders, a couple of sides, and a cookie.
Lisa's Lunchbox (address and info)
What you’re getting: Chicken club panini and dinner to go
There are plenty of places to eat lunch in East Memphis, but Lisa's Lunchbox on Poplar is quick and easy, and can even solve what to eat for dinner. The newer Poplar spot still has its Ridgeway Loop classics like the chicken club panini and Baby Blues salad, but it's also added things like the Buffalo chicken panini and fish taco wrap as well as smoothies and juices. Don't forget a homemade chess bar for dessert, although you may need to split it with someone. Best of all, you can pick up a frozen casserole for later.
What you’re getting: Naked arepas
The only thing better than lunch at Arepa & Salsa is late-night dance lessons at Arepa & Salsa! But back to lunch. Get naked. Naked arepas, that is -- Venezuela’s version of nachos! The arepas are sliced into triangles and topped with your choice of shredded beef or chicken (or both!), chopped lettuce, thinly sliced avocado, crumbled cotija cheese, and a generous drizzle of “house sauces.” The house sauces taste like mild versions of ranch and Thousand Island dressings.
What you’re getting: The buffet
The India Palace buffet is basically a who’s who of Midtown. I dare you to go and not know somebody. Everyone knows this is the place to get your Indian on for lunch. Fresh, hot favorites like samosas, tandoori chicken, curry, and palak paneer, plus never-ending naan and a bottomless glass of water makw a winning combination.
What you’re getting: Thai peanut salad
Yes, we finally have a restaurant that specializes in salads, the perfect lunch food. It also makes its own dressing. There are several menu items to choose from or you can build your own. Watch as they chop and mix the ingredients together at lightning speed. The Thai peanut, a favorite, features romaine, cabbage, avocado, edamame, Chinese noodles, and mandarin oranges.
What you’re getting: Tom’s Poppin' BLT
Cordelia’s Table, located inside Miss Cordelia’s grocery, has all the Harbor Town folks covered. With a delectable selection of soups, sandwiches, and signature salads, as well as plenty of grab-n-go items, there’s something for everyone. A must-try is Tom’s Poppin' BLT, which features Tom’s Tiny Kitchen pimento cheese and is reminiscent of a jalapeño popper.
What you’re getting: Buffalo chicken supreme
The fanciest Buffalo chicken pizza in town is at High Point Pizza, which is tucked inside the miniature strip mall in the High Point Terrace neighborhood just a block off of the Shelby Farms Greenline. The Buffalo chicken supreme reigns supreme with topping like cubed chicken breast, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and several swirls of a house-made Sriracha ranch dressing.
What you’re getting: Beef salad
Bhan Thai is the perfect office escape -- the patio seems to be taking over the whole block. A great pick for lunch is the beef salad which is tender filets of beef in a spicy mixture of lime, onions, and roasted chili peppers served over fresh greens.
What you’re getting: Vegetarian platter
Midtown is another place where lunch negotiations can get heated, but the opening of Blue Nile is a game-changer. Not only can you get Ethiopian platters, the place also sells all the kabobs we’ve come to love at the Stick 'Em food truck, plus sandwiches and even a burger. The decor is dark and cozy and a great escape from the office.
What you’re getting: A seat
Even after a year, the new has not rubbed off of Babalu and there is regularly a line down the street. Well, not at lunch. It’s busy, but you won’t have to wait long. You can enjoy all of the tapas you want, tacos, tableside guacamole, and really one of the best burgers in town. This spot wants you to share, and the food may come out in spurts, so plan accordingly. The patio is more fun with a margarita in hand, but at least now you’ll know if you want to wait in line later in the day.
What you are getting: Kissed
Bass Pro has plenty of places to dine inside, but if you are in the Pinch, go to Alcenia’s. Owner Betty Joyce “B. J.” Chester-Tamayo is going to kiss you when you come into her restaurant, or at the very least, give you a hug. Her mother, for whom the restaurant is named, passed down most of the recipes. Depending on the day, there is a different down-home treat to feed your soul such as salmon croquettes, pickled tomatoes, chicken and waffles, bread pudding, lemon icebox pie, sweet potato cobbler, apple butter, and peach preserves.
SoFo (South of the Forum)
What you’re getting: Homeroom chicken and grids
LUNCHBOXeats is only open for lunch and before Grizz games. There’s a cute school theme that is carried out in the décor and on the menu. This gourmet, eclectic & soulful sandwich shop does not skimp on portions and will leave you full & happy. Homeroom chicken and grids, its version of chicken & waffles, is deep-fried chicken sandwiched between two golden-brown cheddar waffles, topped with Muenster cheese, and served with whole-grain honey mustard or green tomato relish.
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger soup
Rizzo’s new space is finally worthy of its menu, and it’s quickly become a South Main favorite for lunch. Chef Patrick loves to mess around with traditional foods and make them more exciting. One of his specialties is the cheeseburger soup. Much lighter than a regular cheeseburger so you can power through that 2pm board meeting.
What you’re getting: Meat and three
Looking for soul food in South Memphis? The Four Way has you covered. Open since 1946 and once a Martin Luther King, Jr. favorite, it’s got everything you want: catfish and cobbler, neckbones, turkey & dressing, greens, yams, macaroni & cheese, lima beans, chitlings, ribs, fried cabbage, cornbread, pork chops, salmon croquettes, liver & onions. Go ahead and take the afternoon off.
What you’re getting: Sloppy Joe
Previously known as The Elegant Farmer, The Farmer serves great contemporary comfort food using the freshest local and regional ingredients from sustainable farms. The menu changes daily, weekly, and seasonally based on the availability of ingredients. Favorites include the Sloppy Joe and the Banh You, Banh-Mi.
What you’re getting: Ravioli
Dino’s isn’t just for dinner. Ravioli, lasagna, and spaghetti taste pretty good at lunch too. You can also have tamales, a muffaletta, or a true meat and three.
Sign up here for our daily Memphis email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Blues City.
Stacey Greenberg lives in Cooper-Young with her two sons. She is the author of the award-winning blog, Dining with Monkeys and a regular contributor to the Memphis Flyer & Edible Memphis.
1. Elena's Taco Shop6105 Summer Ave # 101, Memphis
2. Caritas Village2509 Harvard Ave, Memphis
3. Broadway Pizza2581 Broad Ave, Memphis
4. Beauty Shop966 Cooper St, Memphis
5. Mardi Gras496 N Watkins St, Memphis
6. Felicia Suzanne's Restaurant80 Monroe Ave, Memphis
7. Arepa and Salsa662 Madison Ave, Memphis
8. India Palace1720 Poplar Ave, Memphis
9. Lettuce Eat6641 Poplar Ave Ste 106, Germantown
10. Miss Cordelia's737 Harbor Bend Rd,
11. High Point Pizza477 High Point Ter, Memphis
12. Bhan Thai1324 Peabody Ave, Memphis
13. Blue Nile1798 Madison Ave, Memphis
14. Babalu Tacos & Tapas2115 Madison Ave, Memphis
15. Alcenia's317 N. Main St, Memphis
16. LUNCHBOXeats288 S 4th St, Memphis
17. Rizzo's Diner492 S Main St, Memphis
18. The Four Way998 Mississippi Blvd, Memphis
19. The Farmer262 S Highland St, Memphis
20. Dino's Grill645 N McLean Blvd, Memphis
Elena's promises to use the freshest ingredients in their SoCal inspired menu of tacos, tortas, burritos, and rice bowls. Fish tacos scream Cali, and steak street tacos are all Mexico, but it's more unique dishes like carne asada fries that bring people back. Pro Tip: Take advantage of their extensive salsa bar.
Caritas Village is a community center that happens to be run by a trained chef. So in addition to a variety of arts events and breaking "down walls of hostility between races," this place also serves carefully-crafted American fare.
Broadway Pizza served pizza and soul food from an unassuming joint on Broad Ave for decades before opening a second location in East Memphis in 2014. While it's certainly no deep dish, Broadway offers a thick crust and heavy portions of sauces and toppings, all baked UNDER the cheese. The locals' fan favorite is the Cheeseburger pie, which has everything you'd get on a cheeseburger minus the bun: the cheese, beef, pickles, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and yes, ketchup and mustard.
Chef and restaurateur Karen Carrier's menu at The Beauty Shop is a myriad of bold international flavors and is just as inventive as the location: a 60's-era beauty salon redone with a few wash sinks and hair dryers still intact, redone as a swanky, eclectic restaurant with ravioli, crêpes,and beet-stained salmon gravlax.
This colorful Creole eatery offers the best of New Orleans with gumbo, jambalaya, vibrant mixed drinks, and étouffée, shrimp, and oyster po' boys,
Chef Felicia Suzanne has trained with some of the best to create a unique cooking style that reimagines Southern Creole cuisine with fresh ingredients sourced from local farms. Expect original takes on sweet and savory dishes like sweet potato pie, peach upside down cake, and butternut squash bisque -- and be sure to take one of her cooking classes because she's one hell of a teacher.
Whether you're hungry for food or dance, this Latin American restaurant has you covered. Aside from delicious arepas and tostones, A & S also offers weekly salsa lessons.
Authentic chef specialities, several tandoori options, and a host of bread and rice dishes make this Indian restaurant/buffet a Memphis hotspot. Customer favorites include chili naan and lamb meatballs.
This casual create-your-own salad spot offers bowls of mixed greens, heathy toppings, and a medley of homemade dressings.
This small, neighborhood grocery store sparks with southern charm. Among aisles of local food sits Cordelia's Table, a cozy deli/lunch spot known for its grilled sandwiches, salads, and cakes.
High Point is your quintessential neighborhood pizza joint, located right near the access point to the Shelby Farms Greenline. The menu offers a great selection of standard and specialty pizzas, plus creative daily specials . The crust is thin and foldable, and is brushed with a mouthwatering garlic butter. Local favorites include the buffalo chicken supreme (High Point's most popular pie), Italian Christmas, and wild mushroom. Hot, doughy zeppole round out the menu.
Bhan Thai has it all: string lights, occasional live music, a solid beer and wine list and, of course, great Thai food. And to top it off they've got one of the best patio's in all of Memphis.
A friendly and authentic cultural hub in Midtown, Blue Nile's plating seriously savory Ethiopian fare, with its vegetarian platter as a standout. The assorted myriad of goodies features a spicy lentil salad, beets, cabbage, potatoes, and more. StickEm Food Truck's savory grilled meat kebabs are another winner. Get 'em with plenty of injera for the table.
Jackson-based Babalu might have tacos in its name, but that doesn't mean it's an exclusively Mexican restaurant. Tapas and empanadas are on offer here, but so are fried gulf shrimp, cubanos, and a much-lauded burger. It's made with Aspen Ridge Natural Angus beef and topped with roasted Roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese, Haas avocado, smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, and served on a sweet sourdough bun. As for the tapas and tacos menu, we recommend sharing orders and starting with guacamole, which will be made fresh at your table, with sundried tomatoes.
Prepare to be greeted at the door by owner Betty Joyce "B.J." Chester-Tamayo with a big, back-cracking hug at her Uptown soul-food restaurant (named after her Mother). She'll take your order (if you're smart, a chicken-and-waffles brunch), cook it herself in the small kitchen, and probably deliver it to your table too, before selling you some bread pudding to go.
It's like eating in your grade-school cafeteria, except the food is way better.
This quaint, upped diner offers southern-inspired cuisine in the city's historic Arts District. Menu items include an andouille sausage sandwich, brisket po' boys, and a Cajun seasoned chicken pot pie.
The Four Way soul food restaurant is famous for at least two things: first, it was a popular meeting spot for civil rights activists from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Second, the Four Way is famous for its straightforward Southern home cooking menu. Though best-known for the daily turkey and best-dressing-ever meal, the fried chicken is another staple.
Elevated comfort food is offered at this eco-friendly, farm-to-table restaurant, such as old-school salmon patties, country-fried steak, shrimp 'n' grits, and sloppy joes. The menu changes daily based on availability.
Dino's tamales are the perfect hangover food: tender, meaty, and pack a nice, spicy punch. Four of them serve as a base for a heaping helping of spaghetti and chili, which can and should be topped with cheese and onions.