Grits, Grounds and Gouda: Brunch in Memphis Is Anything but Boring

Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we couldn’t agree more – and we also think it's the most delicious. That’s why we came up with our recommendations for the best Breakfast/Brunch restaurants in Memphis.  Try Paulette's for its to-die for popovers, served with strawberry butter (and that's just the starter for every breakfast order), or the Trolley Stop for a locally-sourced platter of eggs and bacon. It's hard to beat Brother Juniper's, the University of Memphis-area eatery that's become an institution for students and business types as well.  For all-out decadence, the historic Peabody Hotel offers a lovely Sunday brunch that includes a 22-foot long dessert table and a meat-packed carving station, and Owen Brennan's is the destination for a New Orleans / Cajun / seafood brunch that will jazz up any weekend.

This list includes plenty of spots which serve Southern specialties - hand cut biscuits, cheese grits, and the like - but also offer some of the most unusual brunch dishes and best milkshakes, too.

Just a handful of the restaurants on our list take reservations for brunch; those that have a wait are good about offering coffee and other beverages while you wait. Every spot on this list welcomes children, too.  Since Memphis is a big church-going town, these spots all fill up quickly between 10 and 1, so simply go early if you don’t want to battle the crowds.

10. Stone Soup Cafe & Market

Stone Soup brings a veteran of the Memphis restaurant scene, chef Sharron Johnson, back into the Cooper Young neighborhood following a great run with the now closed Buns on the Run. Johnson offers everything that is comfort food - breakfast features egg platters and omelets and biscuits and gravy, plus hue cinnamon rolls and other bakery delights. Lunch means plate lunches, sandwiches (including the amazing Big Rex - a everything is made on premises, and some things - including herbs and a few veggies - come straight out of the restaurant's garden. Take out is a big business at Stone Soup, and the market area is a real delight, offering daily baked goods and produce and products from local purveyors.

9. The Cupboard Restaurant
Photo courtesy of The Cupboard Restaurant

The Cupboard opened in 1943, and quickly became a Memphis favorite, serving up basic but scrumptious home-y meals, with loads of options, daily specials, and some killer side dishes. There are no surprises when it comes to eating at The Cupboard; Monday's specials this week are the same as Monday's specials next week - and the same goes for the daily vegetable selections and the daily dessert. Breakfast is served all day, every day - which is a real draw for us - and portions are generous, fresh, and served up by gals who will probably call you darlin' or honey.

8. Beauty Shop
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

This trendy, festive restaurant is just as the name implies. Set in a 1940s beauty shop, some guests dine in refurbished hairdryer chairs, and you can almost see the ghosts of the wash-and-set,set that used to come in for a curl. Nevertheless, the kitschy theme isn't what keeps the place packed. Its eclectic fare is intriguing yet delicious, and that's especially true when it comes to breakfast. Sunday brunch means French toast made with challah, big mimosas, a variety of egg dishes, and even a beef tenderloin sandwich for those really needing to splurge. It's all part of the attraction that is culinary genius of Karen Blockman Carrier, the mind behind this and a variety of other popular, funky Memphis restaurants.

7. The Arcade Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Arcade Restaurant

Started in 1919, The Arcade claims to be Memphis' oldest restaurant. Everything about the place is classic Memphis from the historic photos lining the walls, to the 1950's diner decor, to the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich special. Elvis used to come here quite often, sitting in the last booth on the left, with his back to the restaurant. He could be part of the crowd, however, thanks to the huge mirror on the back wall. The menu is short and simple, divided into breakfast, salads, sandwiches, and pizza; but everything is made from scratch and served up quickly by the friendly staff. Maybe the biggest perk of all is that breakfast is served all day so no matter how late you sleep in, you can still enjoy a plate of fluffy pancakes.

6. Brother Juniper's

This funky little breakfast nook, once owned by an Eastern Orthodox priest, stands apart from other breakfast places thanks to its fresh, healthy options. Practically located on the University of Memphis campus, one would expect that college students would be the majority of the clientele, but there are loads of families and folks from all over town who make a trek on the weekend. The homemade, fluffy rolls are offered in white or wheat and the open-faced omelets can be topped with anything from spinach to feta cheese to black beans or sausage. They're also widely known for their homemade biscuits with sorghum. Those visiting solo or as a couple should ask for a counter seat – your wait will be minimal, and the people watching is great from this vantage point.

5. Owen Brennan's
Photo courtesy of Owen Brennan's

A longtime tradition, Owen Brennan's headlines Cajun and Creole dishes in a festive, Mardi Gras-like environment. Located in a sophisticated shopping center, the restaurant features upscale ambience and friendly service, which make for delightful dining. Champagne flows during Sunday brunch, and a live New Orleans jazz band plays throughout the event. Breakfast otherwise consists of a three-course prix fixe option or à la carte selections like an andouille omelet, eggs Sardou, praline waffles, or steak and eggs. Dine on the patio under huge shade trees when the weather allows.

4. Bryant's

Any local will tell you that Bryant's is one of the best places to get a hot, greasy, incredibly delicious Southern breakfast feast – or hangover meal, call it what you want. The specialty at this walk-up and order, take-a-seat spot is all Southern: biscuits and gravy, grits, eggs any way you like, country ham. Bryant's also bakes up some seriously good cinnamon rolls, too. Our advice is treat Bryant's like a tapas bar - bring a few friends, over-order, and share. The prices are small and the servings are huge, meaning it is a favorite spot for the college crowd, but it's also a go-to for just about anyone in town.

3. Capriccio Grill - Peabody Hotel Memphis
Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies

On Sundays from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., The Peabody's Capriccio Grill turns from steakhouse into brunch nirvana, with a buffet brunch that knocks most everybody's socks off. (Or at least makes it much more difficult to see said socks). Tables are laden with omelette and Belgian waffle stations, arrays of fruits and hand-carved meats, salads and pastas, and a bit of the truly unusual - like slices of crispy bacon with a smidge of crunchy peanut butter, topped with chocolate. The most memorable station, however, is the over-the-top dessert bar; with stacks of brownies and cookies, jars full of candies, and more, this table gives new meaning to the words 'save room for dessert'. The price tag for brunch is $39.95 for adults, $14 for kids 5 - 12, and free for kids 4 and under.

2. Trolley Stop Market
Photo courtesy of Trolley Stop Market

One of the most unique spots in town, the Trolley Stop is part restaurant, part bar, part market and part gift store - and we adore each and every part that exists here. The cavernous space located across from the Orleans trolley stop on Madison Avenue offers diners some of the best breakfast in town; the food is super-fresh, with locally-sourced everything on the menu: Eggs, bacon, grits and cheeses come from 'round these parts, and the result is fabulous. When the plate hits the table, you truly feel like you're eating at a friend's house, or at Grandma's - it's that good, and that home-cooked.

1. Paulette's
Photo courtesy of Paulette's

Since its move to the River Inn, Paulette's is now open for breakfast daily, and that's a real treat as its breakfast offerings are lush - from eggs Benedict with creamy Hollandaise to hands-down the best French toast in town. Weekday breakfast is complimentary for hotel guests. Every breakfast or brunch begins with Paulette's signature popovers and strawberry butter - and don't be shy about indulging, as the wait staff will gladly bring seconds. Excellent service is the hallmark of Paulette;s, and that's no different at breakfast, when egg dishes and many entrees offered for under $10 - a true treat for the palate and the pocketbook.