Memphis has transformed into a culinary destination, thanks to the work of a lot of young chefs and their passion for creating both cuisine that's cutting edge and dining atmospheres that sophisticated and fun. The old-school steakhouse has its own place of prominence in Memphis, too; we've put together a list of a few longtime local favorites, a few picks from national eateries, and a few simply excellent restaurants which just happen to serve great steaks and chops.
Our list of the best spots to find a steak in Memphis ranges from old-school local favorites including Folk's Folly - the ultimate see-and-be-seen for the power elite - to the casual Buckley's, a family-friendly spot that's long on good service. In addition to tried-and-true steakhouses, we've offered up a few simply great restaurants that serve up a great steak - Interim, the sleek East Memphis eatery, and Jim's Place, a decades-old establishment that offers Greek specialties in addition to a range of steaks and chops.
Finally, there are a few chains on this list; despite our efforts to focus on locally-owned restaurants with local chefs, there are a few franchises in town that make our supreme steak list. Any way you slice it, finding a good steak in Memphis is an adventure for the palate.
This small chain of steakhouses first caught our attention in Nashville, and we were happily surprised at just how good it was - not as stuffy as some, with a wide open dining area. The menu at Fleming's is typical steakhouse, with all manner of chops and cuts, with a variety of sauces and toppings. We particularly like the wine list, with 100 wines by the glass - something we love, as we can try so many without committing to a full bottle. Sunday is the only day to indulge in the prime rib dinner, which comes with a trio of sauces and a choice of sides.
Truth be told, yours truly is not into chain restaurants - at all. But Ruth's Chris is a huge exception to that rule. The small bar area is where your local editor can be found every few weeks, catching up with her bestie over bartender Julie's special cosmos and a center cut filet - totally indulgent Girls Night Out. Ruth's Chris sears their steaks in butter on a 500-degree plate before serving, and in true steakhouse tradition, everything is a la carte; the service is always top-notch, and the menu is now starting to show some seasonal variation with special packages and seasonally-focused offerings. This is indeed the ultimate steakhouse experience, even if it is a chain.
This tiny, family-owned steakhouse in Bartlet opened in 1976, and is known for good steaks at more reasonable prices. The homey feeling of the restaurant and more casual atmosphere than some of the city's other steakhouses makes this a popular neighborhood spot; unlike most of its steakhouse competitors, however, the Side Porch offers sides and salads with its entrees, which start at $12. There's a smattering of inexpensive starters, mostly fried - mushrooms, pickles, zucchini and onions - and the wine list is pretty basic, with just a few options on both the red and white list.
The owners have been friends since the 8th grade - and these boys know how to cook up a nice steak. The atmosphere at Buckley's is dark and maybe a bit dated - but no one cares when the food arrives, as it is fresh and perfectly made to order. The menu includes steaks and chops as well as steak burgers; all entrees come with a salad, and sides include cheese grits as well as the usual mashed or baked potatoes. You can add a skewer of shrimp or your choice of sauces to any steak for a modest price.
Okay, we'll be completely honest here - Interim isn't really a steakhouse. But it's a killer restaurant that serves a damn good steak. That's why it's on this list. We love the steaks, the chops, the burger (best.burger.ever.) and the salads, the hip bar scene, the darling bartender (no, we are NOT naming names), and the general vibe of the place. But the real reason we come to Interim is the mac and cheese. We are addicted, and it makes the perfect side to a steak, chop or burger....or a meal all by itself, with a nice glass of wine. The wine list is top notch and the service is excellent; there's a private room for dining, and the open concept kitchen works very well as a background for the sometimes quiet dining room.
Acre is an example of a great restaurant that serves up an awesome signature steak - a grilled angus ribeye served with garlicky rosemary 'crushed' potatoes in a red wine reduction. Y-U-M. The menu changes frequently based on what's available - both in terms of the locally produced foods and the fresh seafood, flown in daily. This is the restaurant where Memphians will find the most unusual combination of ingredients, bar none. For example, the braised short rib entree is paired with aligot potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and a black garlic glaze. Foodies will delight in perusing the offerings, while those with less adventuresome or less experienced palates will be questioning the servers. A bar menu offers simpler fare and smaller bites, plus fantastic people watching.
Often overlook by it's across-the lobby counterpart Chez Philippe, Capriccio is the other restaurant inside the historic Peabody Hotel, offering breakfast and lunch in addition to steakhouse style dining at night. While the atmosphere is certainly more casual than Chez Philippe, Capriccio is considered an Italian steakhouse, meaning there's a lot of pasta on the menu in addition to prime steaks, chops and seafood. White tablecloths are de riguer, as are high prices; in typical steakhouse style, side dishes do not accompany steaks and chops and must be ordered a la carte. Steaks are on the menu at lunch - but the restaurant changed its lunch focus to Southern comfort food, so do go for dinner for the full steakhouse experience. A variety of toppings and sauces are also available a la carte, and there's an extensive wine list and array of desserts.
The Taras family is keeping the Jim's tradition alive, although there's sadly no longer a location in Memphis proper. But the restaurant is definitely worth the drive from the city - and east-side suburbanites know they've scored with this traditional restaurant that's full of flavorful options. Traditional Greek favorites are offered along with hearty traditional American favorites - souflima and spanakopetakia for starters, along with steaks and chops, salads and seafood. We're a fan of the hangar steak at lunch - it's nicely sized and priced. The atmosphere at Jim's is both upscale and family friendly, casual enough for a relaxed dinner but also nice enough for a first date.
Char is a much-welcomed addition to the slice of neighborhood that's not really East Memphis, not really Midtown, and is home to the University of Memphis. Part of the recent Highland Row revitalization, Char sits on the ground floor of a residential building and is a more local take on the steakhouse blueprint. Like most steakhouses, Char offers white table cloths, tailored waiters and a lush list of nice wines. Steaks come as singular dishes, with sides and appetizers that are large enough to share ordered a la carte. And that's where the Char take on a steakhouse screams Memphis, with shrimp and grits, oysters, fried green tomatoes, bacon-braised Brussels sprouts and mashed sweet potatoes among the choices. The ambiance is low-key but sophisticated, the large bar is a perfect spot for a lighter dinner and drinks, and the garlic butter and baguette at the top of each meal is hard to resist.
Recognized year after year as the best steakhouse in Memphis, Folk's Folly guarantees a flawless American feast from start to finish. With its very own butcher shop next door, the restaurant asserts that steak is clearly the specialty. However, the menu also boasts an array of other delicious main courses, including grilled duck breast and Alaskan king crab legs. In typical steakhouse fashion, sides are large and meant to be shared - and are not included with entrees. The restaurant is large and old fashioned, with five dining rooms and multiple private booths. While you're there, stop by the Cellar to enjoy live piano music nightly, along with cocktails and the trademark - and complimentary - fried pickles.