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.
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.
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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.