Memphis restaurants bring on spring with seasonal dishes and perfect patios

Spring in Memphis is pretty darn fabulous, from the warm days and cool nights, the low humidity, the colorful flowering trees and bushes, farm-fresh produce get the picture: It's spring!

From restaurants that overlook the Mississippi River to those with patio hideaways and seasonal menus featuring the luscious bounty from nearby farms, there's no better time to explore the city's dining scene than spring.

For romantic views of the sun setting over the river, two rooftop options are just the ticket - Terrace at the River Inn and the Twilight Sky Terrace at the Madison Hotel. In East Memphis, Acre entices with seasonal dining and a candlelit terrace; the Kitchen at Shelby Farms mixes casual dining and a focus on locally-sourced foods with a big city park backdrop.

Get out and enjoy the season with our list of favorite eateries at which to herald the new season and fresh local ingredients.


When it's toasty outside (and frankly, even when it's not), Memphians hit La Michoacana for paletas and Mexican ice cream. Flavors and options are all over the map � choose from cups or cones for your ice cream (corn, Mexican cake, chili mango and pistachio are just a few of the funky flavors of ice cream) and water or cream-based paletas, which are stuffed with hunks of fruit and are the most filling popsicle you might ever try. As the friendly staff for help with deciding on a flavor to suit your taste. La Michoacana also offers some Mexican street food, in case a paleta isn't on your hit list.

Cheffie's is where the guest is the chef - building salads and sandwiches from scratch - or for those who can't make a decision, you can choose from a broad menu of options. We love, love, love the salad-making; choose from a few lettuce bases, then add in grilled chicken, bacon, eggs, all manner of veggies, all of our favorite crunchies - and the result is the perfect salad. The same deal goes for sandwiches, and for those who are wavering between the two, never fear - you can go for the half-and-half option. A gelatto and wine bar offers homemade seasonal flavors of icy gelatto, with a nice selection of wines from which to choose.

Felicia Suzanne Willett is an alum of Johnson & Wales in Charleston, South Carolina, and former prot�g�e of Emeril Lagasse; her eponymous restaurant opened in 2002 in the historic Lowenstein Building at the corner of Main and Madison. Her cuisine is American with a low-country focus, and on any given night you will find the Memphis power elite in the house. There are two dining rooms for a truly upscale experience, plus a gorgeous patio that features both communal and individual seating for a more casual dining atmosphere. When the patio is open (warm weather months, which extends from May through September) Thursdays bring Tacos & Tunes to the patio, a must-hit way to start a long weekend.


The Kitchen brings the philosophy of founder Kimball Musk to Memphis with a beautifully designed, naturally chic ambiance. Natural light floods in through the huge glass windows that overlook the revitalized Shelby Farms. Inside the eco-friendly, LEED-certified building, the emphasis is on seasonal dishes and creative cocktails. A lovely covered patio expands the dining space, and the the view over Hyde Lake is fantastic, especially at sunset. Holding to its close-to-the-source sourcing of food philosophy, much of the food served is grown as close to the restaurant as possible,

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.

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.

The Terrace at the River Inn has upgraded to become a year-round spot - and brings a casual yet upscale nightlife offering to Harbor Town. Big glass windows are either thrown wide open to welcome the weather - or closed to ward it off - and the views over the Mississippi River change with the light and the season. Sunsets tend to be spectacular, and during the summer, quite long - which means you can linger with your handcrafted cocktail or glass of sophisticated yet not outrageously-priced glass of wine. The food had a make-over as well, and now includes a variety of small plates with a southern touch; only in Memphis may one see a combination of scallops and hoecakes. Sliders (traditional and lamb), skewers, pizettas, and charcuterie plates are offered, as well as some simple snack items including truffle oil fries.

Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman have another hit on their hands; Porcellino's is the duo's third restaurant on Brookhaven Circle, joining their upscale original, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and their superbly casual pizza & comfort food spot Hog & Hominy. Porcellino's has a much different focus and feel; it's open from breakfast through dinner daily, offering a set menu of pastries and coffees, plus fabulous daily specials (kimchee and Siracha-brined fried chicken biscuit, anyone? It's our brekkie go-to) and freshly baked treats and egg dishes at breakfast. We love the mix of carpool moms, yogis from the yoga studio down the street, and the business crowd of the morning set. Counter service is how the morning begins, with a switch-over to table service around 10-ish, with an emphasis on the ish. The atmosphere at Porcellino's is like the neighborhood cafes that make visiting European villages so charming; there's a hip and friendly staff, a cozy environment, simple metal chairs and dark wooden tables (plus counter seating throughout the space. And Porcellino's has one distinct differentiator from its sister restaurants � it's also a butcher shop filled with delightful meats and charcuterie to take home.

Acre's lush patio is one of our favorites in town, thanks to the pretty wooded setting that surrounds the rough-hewn stone walls and smooth slate underfoot. (Ladies can catch a real feel of spring in the charming restroom, which features hand-painted flowers on the walls and a ceiling buzzing with golden bees - all the work of the uber-talented Stephanie Jones). The menu at Acre 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.


Meet Sally Walker Davies

Sally Walker Davies is enchanted by Memphis' music, history, and characters. From the artsy South Main Historic District to the grittiness of her favorite live music clubs to the sophisticated...  More About Sally