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Best Restaurants in Memphis Combine Southern Comfort, Local Ingredients, Global Influence



Ten years ago, no one would have guessed that Memphis would be the foodie destination it is today.

As the hometown of the annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - aka the 'Superbowl of Swine' - one might think that Memphis is all about barbecue - and certainly, we do adore our pulled pork sandwiches and pork ribs. But dining in Memphis has gone way beyond barbecue, thanks to a group of young chefs dedicated to the local farm movement and the more experienced chefs who mentor them.

In choosing our list of the ten best dining experiences in Memphis, we've chosen a group of restaurants that bridge cuisines and neighborhoods, and go from all-out glamorous settings to comfortable, casual surroundings. Our ten choices include some of the city's best-loved establishments, some new, reservations-required superstars, and of course - our favorite barbecue joint.

Nothing beats the Peabody Hotel's Chez Philippe for the ultimate fine dining experience; its traditional French cuisine and refined atmosphere combine for an unforgettable evening. Erling Jensen and Paulette's are longtime favorites of Memphians, as is Folk's Folly - the slightly dated but nevertheless excellent steakhouse that caters to the political and social elite of the city. Two of the city's most wellregarded chefs own a quartet of restaurants all worth a visit, including Catherine & Mary, Andrew Michael, Porcellino and Hog & Hominy.

Oh, and about that barbecue joint: everyone has an opinion about the best barbecue in town; Central BBQ is our go-to, both for the food and the laid-back atmosphere, as well as its big deck.

No matter where your palate takes you in Memphis, our choices all promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.


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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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: We love the upscale country feel of Southward - and its inventive take on Southern favorites.

Sally's expert tip: Be sure to peruse the daily milkshake offerings, written in colorful marker on the dining room mirrors.

Read more about Beauty Shop →




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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: We love Folk's for its predictability, its social scene, and its amazing beef.

Sally's expert tip: When reserving a table at Folk's Folly, be sure to ask for a spot in one of the smaller dining rooms. The largest room, while certainly comfortable, lacks intimacy and is best for business-style get-togethers.

Read more about Folk's Folly Prime Steak House →


Mosa Asian Bistro
Photo courtesy of Mosa / Craig Collier


A fresh -and we mean fresh -take on Asian dining, Mosa is a bistro that combines the best of Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes - noodle and rice bowls, curries and a host of small plates - in a casual atmosphere that rocks with the business crowd at lunch, and families and couples at dinner. Dishes are made to order, truly some of the freshest Asian cuisine we've experienced. They come out as they are ready, so appetizers can be quickly followed by one diner's entree - the flow depends on how packed the restaurant is. If time is critical, call ahead and order to go. During lunch hours, you order at the counter and take a number, and one of the runners will bring your food. At dinner, table service kicks in, the wine flows, and the staff is beyond attentive - young and friendly, lots of students working their way through school. You won't find a better trained staff with a great (read: genuine) attitude on the planet. The Pao family is ever-present at both the White Station and Kirby locations, always making time to say hello and catch up with customers -and after just two visits or so, you can consider yourself a regular.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Mosa is a fast-casual eatery that's all about creating fresh, memorable food.

Sally's expert tip: When it comes to heat, your server to recommend how Mr. Pao would eat it - that's the best way to experience his food.

Read more about Mosa Asian Bistro →


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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?) at breakfast, with tapas-style offerings at lunch and dinner. There are certainly craft cocktails and plenty of wine options by the glass and bottle, and the idea is to order a bunch of plates to share � although we've been known to order a second round of croissonts at breakfast just for ourselves. The atmosphere at Porcellino's is like the neighborhood cafes that make visiting European villages so charming; there's a 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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: We love Porcellino's for the fact its personality changes throughout the day - going from bistro breakfast to upscale dinner.

Sally's expert tip: Take some meaty magic home with you - ask for a butcher box (call ahead).

Read more about Porcellino's Craft Butcher →


Paulette's


This icon of the Memphis dining scene moved from its longtime house-like location in Overton Square into a smaller space withing the River Inn in Harbortown in 2011, and many were worried that Paulette's would never be the same. That collective sigh of relief you continue to hear throughout the River City is that of diners who find that while the location has changed, the attention to detail, the wide array of Continental options, and the incredible wait staff has remained the same. 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. At lunch and dinner, Continental fare rules, with perennial favorites on the rarely-changing menu.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Paulette's is iconic and charming whether for a family brunch or a romantic evening out.

Sally's expert tip: Save a little money by trying Paulette's for Sunday breakfast; the signature popovers and strawberry butter and excellent service are in evidence during brunch, with egg dishes and many entrees offered for under $10.

Read more about Paulette's →


Restaurant Iris
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Iris


Chef Kelly English is always in the house - as in, the darling house in Midtown that serves as the backdrop for Iris. The homey feel of the individual dining rooms is supplemented by great artwork and a low-key ambiance; you'll be comfortable here is dressy jeans or full-out glam. The cuisine is a nice combination of fresh local ingredients and Cajun flair, thanks to English's home-grown sensibilities - he's a Southern LA (Louisiana) boy. Recent delicacies have included sweet corn griddle cakes topped with Gulf crabmea and a surf and turf that blends a strip steak and fried oysters When the weather's nice, be sure to ask for a table on the small but charming patio.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A meal at Iris is simply one of the best dining experiences one will find in the South.

Sally's expert tip: English typically opens one Sunday a month for a scrumptious brunch; call ahead or check the Web site for updated information.

Read more about Restaurant Iris →


Sweet Grass
Photo courtesy of Lisa Buser


With a seasonal menu and a focus on locally grown produce, the menu is never quite the same each evening at Sweet Grass, but one can always count on an artful combination of Low Country cooking combined with an overall Southern flair. Our favorites include a few always-on-the-menu options - the fried green tomato sandwich, such a treat - and the tasty shrimp and grits, peppered with a few scallops to keep your palate off balance. The airy, open dining room has a small bar area and a very small waiting area, so you can always pop next door to Next Door, also co-owned by Chef Trimm, to wait in comfort for a table if there's no spot available at the bar.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Sweetgrass combines fine dining with a more casual atmosphere - a perfect marriage in our book.

Sally's expert tip: If Sweet Grass is crowded and you can't get a table, pop into Trimm's spot Next Door (literally next door), and you'll be treated to a more casual menu and atmosphere.

Read more about Sweet Grass →




Tucked away on an East Memphis side street, Erling Jensen is a bit difficult to find but worth the trouble. Grounded in French tradition but much broader in scope, this fine restaurant has been a favorite for years, its personable chef, Erling Jensen, a fixture both in the kitchen and the dining room. The menu masterfully combines lamb, game, beef, and seafood with fresh vegetables and rich, flavorful sauces. Wild game is a highlight of the menu, with offerings including pheasant breast with risotto, or New England red deer chops, and elk. A huge array of salads, wide selection of seafood and tempting desserts including housemade sorbets round out the broad menu.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Erling's is probably the most under-appreciated fine dining experience in Memphis.

Sally's expert tip: An extensive bar menu is a delightful way to enjoy Erling Jensen's creative flair with food; his take on pizza combines duck confit with lemon and arugula, while the traditional bar burger goes upscale through the use of buffalo instead of traditional ground beef.

Read more about Erling Jensen - The Restaurant →




The most opulent dining experience in all of Memphis is found at Chez Philippe, located in the lobby of the historic Peabody Hotel. Fortunately for diners, the cuisine matches the lush and elegant surroundings. Traditional French fare is the focus of the chef, with a seasonal menu featuring a marriage of locally grown and produced foods; a full tasting menu of seven courses, or smaller prix fixe menus of three or five courses include wine pairing options, a must-do. Starters include crawfish consomme and a lobster and fennel salad, while entrees feature dry aged beef, Filet Oscar and an array of seafood options. For those who prefer to choose their own wine, a lush menu offers options beyond the $400 per bottle price tag.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Everything about Chez Philippe is simply divine, from the ambiance to the cuisine to the service.

Sally's expert tip: Do consider trying afternoon tea at Chez Philippe; it is a unique experience in Memphis set in the golden grandeur of the restaurant.

Read more about Chez Philippe →




From the culinary geniuses that have helped bring Memphis into the national dining spotlight comes the downtown eatery that's just too good for words. Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman - the boys who brought us Andrew Michael, Porcellino's Craft Butcher and Hog & Hominy - have now given us Catherine & Mary's, inspired by their grandmothers' cooking. Think Nona's marinara, but way beyond that � a blend of Tuscan and Sicilian flavors married to Memphis sensibility. Housed in the historic Chisca building, dinner at Catherine & Mary's is a multi-course feast for the palate and the senses. The menu changes monthly, and there's a real emphasis on local producers as well as meat from Ticer & Hudman's craft butchery. Most plates, including the pastas, are sized and priced to share, and our advice is to indulge. Another real emphasis is on desert and drinks, with an in-house pastry chef, a wine director and a craft cocktail genius.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Catherine & Mary's is a wonderful addition that elevates the downtown Memphis dining scene.

Sally's expert tip: Enjoy happy hour from 4 - 6 daily, with small bites and discounted wine.

Read more about Catherine & Mary's →


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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

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