Chef Kelly English - whose initial launch into the Memphis dining scene, Restaurant Iris, was a huge smash - seems to be a golden boy when it comes to creating a must-dine experience.
English opened The Second Line in late 2013, marking one of the most anticipated restaurant debuts in Memphis. Located right next door to Iris in Midtown’s Overton Square area, The Second Line is a casual eatery with a New Orleans focus.
Crabmeat hush-puppies are practically a meal in themselves — Photo courtesy of I Love Memphis Blog
English, named Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef in 2009, put himself through the University of Mississippi by working in local kitchens. That’s where he got serious about his food, heading to the Culinary Institute of America and studying in both Spain and France. After a tour through some of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants, English headed to Memphis to open Restaurant Iris in 2008.
The accolades and attention have barely stopped since then. In 2010, English was named a James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef in the Southeast and Restaurateur of the Year by the Memphis Restaurant Association. He also appeared on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate." English has been featured in Food & Wine, Every Day with Rachel Ray and Bon Appétit. He serves on the Founder’s Council for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.
English incorporates the flavors and ambiance of his native Louisiana into everything at The Second Line. The walls are decorated with photos and artwork from the Big Easy, the food is what he calls “true” and “honest”; English said he never had anything 'blackened' until he left New Orleans - that's what he says is tourist food.
So his Second Line focuses on what he says is cuisine that is middle ground in terms of price and character - po' boys that aren't, as he puts it, "gussied up"; seafood plates; gulf seafood; and locally sourced meat and produce.
There’s lots of fried seafood on the menu – particularly oysters (on salads and po’boys) and shrimp; catfish gets its due as well. Sides and starters are where the most fun is, with crab meat hush-puppies; meat pies; cheese grits; and andouille, crawfish & pimento cheese fries on the must-try list.
An extensive list of locally produced craft beers seem to be the perfect complement to all the down-home food, although the artfully crafted cocktails are getting rave reviews, too. Food service is available at the bar (which is not huge), and during pleasant weather, the porch will be open for al fresco dining.
Reservations are not accepted at The Second Line, and the wait can be lengthy.