Restaurateur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer, the duo behind the Truck Stop restaurant concept planned for the corner of Central and Cooper, held a standing-room-only community meeting tonight at First Congregational Church to discuss their plans and answer questions.
The Truck Stop is a hybrid concept that combines a restaurant serving small plates, adult beverages, and desserts with parking space for a rotating cast of three food trucks. Diners place their order for any menu item at the restaurant or from the food trucks' menus at one counter so no one has to stand in line at a food truck. The trucks will stay on the lot for several hours at a time, and when they leave, other food trucks will take their place.
There are plans for an indoor dining area and a patio seating area in the back facing the existing rail line. The restaurant will be created using 12 to 16 metal shipping containers that will be cut up to create open spaces and areas for natural lighting. Customer parking on the small lot will be kept to a minimum (only 16 parking spaces) to allow for a more pedestrian-friendly design.
While many in attendance expressed support for the concept, concerns were raised about the industrial look of the shipping containers. Tauer and Berger are currently seeking a zoning variance to use the containers on the property. Although the space is currently zoned for industrial use and does allow shipping containers for such uses, a variance must be sought to use shipping containers for commercial use.
Others expressed concern that the Truck Stop would increase traffic at the already busy intersection of Cooper and Central. Currently, the Truck Stop's design has one entrance (on Central) and one exit (on Cooper) for cars. But many residents said the exits and entrances should be switched so that cars exit on Central instead because the lane under the exiting railroad trestle on Cooper becomes clogged during rush hours.
Currently, that property is occupied by Midtown Nursery, and owner Michael Earnest was out of town when Loeb Properties, who owns the property, allowed Tauer and Berger to sign their 10-year lease for the Truck Stop. Earnest's lease was up for renewal, and he claims he had a verbal agreement to renew. Tauer and Berger said they were not made aware that Earnest was being forced out of the property until after they'd signed the lease.
Several residents spoke up about that situation, asking if the Truck Stop could move to another location and allow Midtown Nursery to stay where it is. But Tauer said they have a legal obligation to stay at Central and Cooper now that the lease has been signed.
An especially tense moment came when Earnest, who was at tonight's meeting, and Bob Loeb, owner of Loeb Properties, had a conversation in front of the meeting's audience about the situation. Loeb offered to meet with Earnest in private to discuss the matter further. But Earnest's daughter Whitney Taylor directed her concerns at Tauer and Berger.
"Why would you see an established business there [on Central and Cooper] and think you'd like be there?" Taylor asked.
"We would love to stay. We would love to be there," Earnest told the room.
But despite the situation between Loeb and Midtown Nursery, Tauer said the Truck Stop was committed to the location. He said they were still open to tweaking the design, especially in ways that would ease the traffic congestion concerns.
Tauer and Berger plan to take their zoning variance request to the Board of Adjustment meeting in January.
Second Line, Kelly English's much-anticipated sister restaurant to Creole-swanky Restaurant Iris is set to open later this fall.
English named the restaurant after the famous "second line" parades in New Orleans, explaining, "Basically, what we have at Second Line is a more casual, rowdy parade that's following this more organized parade that we have [at Iris]."
Rowdy as in the andouille, crawfish, and pimento cheese fries, which appear on the "Eat These Things First" appetizer section of the menu. There, too, is a roasted beet and feta shwarma (!) and crabmeat and fresh corn hushpuppies.
Some of the names of the sandwiches in the "Poboys" section of the menu may ring a bell: We know already that Justin Fox Burks of the Chubby Vegetarian offered input for the Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris, but what Chris Vernon did to inspire the Verno-braised Chicken Thighs & Swiss ... ????
In "Plates," there's Fried Gulf shrimp as well as Mississippi Catfish Sauce Piquant.
Finally there's the "Groceries" section, which features "Hot" Potato Salad, Fancy Ass Cole Slaw, stewed beet greens, and cheese grits.
You can check out the full "opening" menu yourself: secondlineopeningmenu.pdf
The sleek, chic Fly Lounge opened in FedExForum Wednesday and brought an experience world’s away in ambience, offerings, and attitude from the arena’s current mix of bars and restaurants.
Fly Lounge has a glitzy, major-metro feel with a clean and modern design and one meant to offer patrons a range of experiences from the communal at the long, freestanding bar to the intimate at a row of low tables along a wall.
The lounge is the Forum’s grand lobby in the same space that was the former home of the Grizzlies team store.
“The idea was to create a destination place in the Forum,” said Fly Lounge founder Steve Adelman, a nightclub maven with properties in Los Angeles and in Asia. “We wanted to build something a little bit more upscale and a little bit different so that it could be a destination - sort of sleek and simple.”
Adelman said the target clientele is really anyone looking for the kind of experience the Lounge offers but it’s clearly aimed at the hip and elite as it can accommodate VIP requests and offers a champagne menu that tops out at $400 for a bottle of Christal.
Memphis chef Kelly English is the man behind the food menu at Fly Lounge, which promises “fresh, health-inspired” fare. The seemingly ubiquitous English is the owner and chef of Restaurant Iris and the soon-coming Second Line. He’s also the chef of the Forum’s Lexus Lounge and serves up po’boys and more at his Crossroads concession stand in the arena.
Michael Hughes, the celebrated Memphis mixologist (and Flyer friend), concocted the cocktails for Fly Lounge. Hughes is the general manager of Joe’s Wines & Liquors and the winner of a long list of cocktail competitions.
“We want guests at FedExForum to begin and end their nights with a memorable experience in food, entertainment, and nightlife,” said Memphis Grizzlies & FedExForum COO Jason Wexler.
The Square Meals on Wheels truck is parked until Saturday, as Clark is now busy with the soft-opening phase of the new Square Meals Cafe at 6745 Lenox Center Court.
According to Clark, a L'Ecole Culinaire graduate and current president of the Memphis Food Truckers Alliance, he became aware of the space at Lenox Center while working in his food truck nearby. The business at that spot was leaving and he was asked if he would be interested.
"I jumped on it," he says.
The soft opening for a Square Meal Cafe continues through Friday. It officially opens on Monday, October 14th.
The menu, which Clark describes as "fine cuisine with a touch of soul," will be an extension of the Square Meal on Wheel's offerings, most notable for its lobster roll and fish tacos.
The cafe will have daily specials, such as New Orleans-style tilapia in a seafood sauce. For vegetarians, there's veggie tacos, sauteed vegetables, and quesadillas. "I cater to all appetites," says Clark.
The Square Meal Cafe will also serve breakfast, from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Clark plans to continue running a Square Meal on Wheels Tuesdays through Fridays and bring the truck to special events. The truck's next stop is Saturday's South MEMfix event.
Chef Ryan Trimm is introducing vegetable-focused nightly specials for $8 apiece at his new East Memphis restaurant Southward. The "Farmers" menu selections will change daily depending on what’s fresh and in-season.
“I wanted to do something to showcase all of the hard work that our farmers put into growing the vegetables we use,” Trimm told me over lunch last week.
Yet more news today regarding Overton Square.
From the release:
Prominent Memphis restauranteur Jimmy Ishii signed a 1,526 SF lease at 2116 Madison Avenue, in the historical Griffin House. Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar, named after the Japanese word for “fireside,” is an izakaya bar and grill serving kushiyaki skewers of grilled meat and vegetables, kara-age bite sized fried chicken, ramen noodle soups and other traditional Japanese items.
Chefs will serve food to customers seated at the bar using a paddle/oar — a method based on an old Japanese custom practiced by fishermen passing meals prepared from their catch from boat to boat. Robata will have outdoor seating on the front porch, as well as a patio in the front yard furnished with low to the ground, Japanese-style seating. The interior will feature a ramen/sushi/liquor bar with a visible cooking area for customers to experience food preparation.
The restaurant is set to open in December.
A press release was sent out Wednesday morning announcing that Babalu Tacos & Tapas has signed a lease to take over the TGI Friday's space in Overton Square.
From the release:
Eat Here Brands announced today it has signed a lease for approximately 5,000 square feet of restaurant space in Overton Square to open Babalu Tacos & Tapas. Construction will begin this fall with anticipated opening in early 2014. The restaurant will be located at 2113 Madison Ave. in the old TGI Fridays space. The lease was administered through Loeb Properties and Levy Commercial Realty.
The award-winning Babalu restaurant is based in Jackson, Miss., and serves chef-quality tacos and tapas/small plates with a distinctive twist. This location will be complete with an outdoor patio featuring an indoor-outdoor bar.
The Overton Square Babalu will be the second Babalu location opened by Bill Latham and Al Roberts, according to the release. (The original is in Jackson, Mississippi.) They have also opened several other restaurants, including Interim.
Tacos on the Babalu menu, and there are many, include one with pork belly, another with seared tuna. Tortillas are house-made. Among the tapas dishes featured are shrimp and grits, lamb sliders, and an enchilada of the day. Babalu is also well-known for its guacamole, which is made tableside.
New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells suggests the same in his recent review of this east Memphis hotspot. He experiences the joy of eating high on the hog in Memphis, with nary a dry-rubbed BBQ rib in sight.
Wells piles on (and praises!) a selection of Hog and Hominy's eclectic, Southern-meets-Italian items: spicy fried sweetbreads, a beef and cheddar hotdog, and a piece of peanut butter pie. He even suggests that this younger sibling of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman's first restaurant, has surpassed its older brother.
I was helping myself to a slice — okay, several slices — of the Red Eye pizza the night the Times photographer came in to document this year-old golden child of Memphis' dining scene. I sidled up to Ticer, pointed to the cameraman set up in a corner of the restaurant, surrounded by so many perfectly plated wedges of pie, and asked who he was shooting for.
"The New York Times," Ticer said softly. "A critic was in last week."
Both Ticer and Hudman seemed too nervous to admit the review might be a good one. That night, the entire restaurant was tense with the knowledge that something important was happening, or perhaps wishing they'd worn a better outfit for the mystery cameraman's photo session.
Now, with this glowing review behind them, the pair can breathe a little easier. But only for a moment. They've got a surge of business ahead of them, no doubt. Let's just hope there will still be room for us locals.
Hog and Hominy, 707 W. Brookhaven Circle, 207-7396, hogandhominy.com
Caesars Entertainment Corporation, parent company of Harrah's Tunica, issued a statement this morning announcing it has "reached a mutual agreement with Paula Deen Enterprises (PDE) not to renew the two companies’ business relationship."
Harrah's Tunica opened Paula Deen's Buffet in 2008. Deen appeared at a ribbon-cutting to unveil the 560-seat restaurant designed to look like Deen's home in Georgia.
According to the statement, the Tunica buffet and three other of the company's Deen-related businesses will be "rebranded." It appears that the Paula Deen Buffet has already been removed from the Harrah's Tunica site.
Full statement below:
Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Paula Deen Enterprises Agree Restaurant-Licensing Contracts Will Not Be Renewed
LAS VEGAS — June 26, 2013 — Caesars Entertainment Corporation (NASDAQ: CZR) announced today it has reached a mutual agreement with Paula Deen Enterprises (PDE) not to renew the two companies’ business relationship. Caesars operates Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties. Caesars intends to rebrand the restaurants in the coming months.
“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment.
Chef Demarcus, the nom de restaurant of Kevin Demarcus Woodard, opened Le Crepe du Vin last fall in Bartlett. He announced he was moving the restaurant this spring and is now busy transforming the Neely's BBQ restaurant on Jefferson in Victorian Village into Monsieur Demarcus French Crêperie. He hopes to have the restaurant open sometime in mid-August.
Demarcus says that Le Crepe du Vin, which served both savory and dessert crepes, never really fit in in Bartlett. "They weren't feeling it," he says.
He did, however, notice that the bulk of the patrons came from other parts of the city and surrounding areas. He says that many of them came from downtown.
Demarcus plans on serving the same menu as Le Crepe du Vin at Monsieur Demarcus, while adding additional French fare to be served atop crepes. Dishes mentioned include beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.
He's now working on getting the Neely's space up to code and doing extensive renovations to bring light into the BBQ joint. He's going to add more windows. There will be tables with white linen tablecloths and napkins.
Demarcus will initially open up about a third of the restaurant, with about 45 to 50 seats — larger than the Bartlett restaurant — and get the rest of the space ready in the next few months for a total of about 144 seats.
Monsieur Demarcus will be open seven days a week, with weekday hours set at 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., to be adjusted as needed.
Demarcus also hopes to hand off his chef duties to someone else so that he can concentrate on front-of-the-house as well as other restaurant business.
Ultimately, Demarcus is aiming toward true French ambience, something he says he achieved at Le Crepe du Vin. He says that he had relocated French natives tell him as much. "They felt like they were back home."
Front Street Deli, a downtown fixture since 1976, closed after owner Lee Busby's death in March. The business is being reopened by Lance Silkes of Tastin' Round Town Tours.
According to Silkes, Larry Busby, Lee's brother, had inherited the business, but he had recently sold his Front Street Deli location on Winchester and was under a no-compete clause. Silkes says they held off on making an announcement, wanting to make sure they could get the old restaurant up-to-code and operational.
Silkes says Front Street Deli fits in perfectly with what he's been doing with Tastin' Round Town, a tour of area restaurants, offering tourists and Memphians alike a taste of some of the city's best fare and a good dose of the city's history.
"In 1976, when pretty much everybody was leaving downtown, [the Busbys] ran in," says Silkes, crediting the deli with helping kickstart downtown's resurgence. "Letting it go seemed like a bad idea."
Silkes says loyal customers will recognize the menu — the tuna salad, the deviled eggs, etc. And, he says he will be adding new items. Under consideration are a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and peppers and onions with sausages.
He plans to keep the same hours, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (He'll also continue to run Tastin' Round Town.)
Silkes hopes to have Front Street Deli up and running in the next few weeks.
Ciao Baby!, which opened 22 days ago in Collierville, serves Neapolitan-style pizza made in a wood-fired oven.
I ordered the Margherita (9-inch, $9.33 including tax). It's topped with house-made mozzarella, and the rustic-style crust is thin but not at all skimpy. Wonderful.
Says owner Adrian Arcuri of his pizzas, "It's an art."
In January, John Bragg announced he would be moving Circa westward, with Sekisui leaving its Humphreys location to move into Regalia. The arrangement with Sekisui fell through.
Now Trimm and his team, Shady Grove Restaurant Group, are set to open a restaurant in the 3,700 square foot space by mid-June.
The new restaurant will cater to the area's large business community, offering a sophisticated Southern lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and brunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday. Trimm says the restaurant will be similar to Sweet Grass in style and French in technique, but will expand beyond his familiar low country cuisine into a wider "tour of the South." With a more executive bent, Southward™ will cater primarily to business lunch, happy hour, and private dinners, and the full bar, which will include wine and craft beer, will focus on "interesting and unique" cocktails with plenty of infusions.
Dinner should run around $20 to $30 and lunch around $15 or less.
Southward™ Fare and Libations, Regalia Shopping Center, 6150 Poplar Ave
Last night, my pal/foodie comrade Stacey Greenberg and I enjoyed a tasting of the new menu at Bleu Restaurant and Lounge in the downtown Westin Hotel. I won't mince words: We gorged ourselves.
The evening began with some signature cocktails, including the sweet and tangy Blueberry Lemon Drop (like the traditional lemon drop but with fresh muddled blueberries thrown in the mix). Then, Chef Robbie Cirillo started churning out tasting plates:
We probably could have stopped there, but there was watermelon salad to be had, garnished with feta, red onions, and drizzled with a mint basil oil and kiwi vinaigrette.
And then the entrees began. Perhaps the most impressive concept of the evening was the dashi, a soup made with snow crab legs, smoked turkey, carrots, mushrooms, noodles, and nori, all topped with an egg. Chef Robbie came to the table to pour the broth over the other ingredients and the result was an eclectic mix of flavors steeped in a rich broth, though it needed a pinch of salt.
For dessert, we managed to continue our streak of overindulgence with a sampling of five, count them, FIVE desserts, including a delectable trio of whoopie pies in chocolate peanut butter, watermelon kiwi, and raspberry mint chocolate.
Though we practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant, we agreed the meal was an impressive showcase of Cirillo's talents and his creative spirit. If you haven't made it to Bleu yet, don't pass it by. And if you have been there, now is the time for a return visit.
Bleu, 221 S. Third, 334-5950, www.downtownbleu.com
Regulars will notice the new paint. The once-tiny kitchen has been expanded and equipped with new ovens, a deep fryer, and walk-in freezer and fridge.
The restaurant/coffee bar has moved into space at the side of the building and along the back, with dry-cleaning equipment from University Cleaners removed to make way. (University Cleaners still operates a storefront for pick-ups.) There's also an upstairs area being eyed for future expansions.
What this means for the consumer is that chicken and waffles are now part of the menu. There's also a new fried chicken sandwich, which Cafe Eclectic's Rachel Boulden describes as "homemade Chick-fil-A." There are new vegetarian options as well with vegan pancakes being a regular offering.
Boulden says they spent the first day post-renovations working out hiccups. They had initially planned to be closed for 4 days for the work but the Easter holiday pushed back the re-opening.
"A whole week!," says Boulden. "That was a little traumatic."