Food & Drink 

Best of Memphis 2007

In the "Food & Drink" section, one of our voters marked through several categories with notes that read "very seldom eat out" or "wouldn't eat." She also let us know that she's "too young for coffee; too old for tea." And while we're not even sure what that last bit means, we do know that she's missing out. Most voters, however, had no problem sharing their preferences. The results come next. Dig in.

Best Burger

1. Huey's

2. Back Yard Burgers — tie

Big Foot Lodge

3. Belmont Grill

At this point, words fail. There is nothing left to say about the Huey burger. It is divine perfection on a bun. It heals the sick and helps the blind to see. It may even be a safe and affordable alternative to fossil fuel. Give up, puny fry cooks. No other burger will ever win this category.

Best Chef

1. Jose Gutierrez, Encore

2. Erling Jensen, Erling Jensen, the Restaurant

3. Ben Vaughn, River Oaks

Jose Gutierrez is a true Southerner — a Southerner if you happen to have been born in the South of France. But he's practically an American Southerner too if you count the 22-plus years Gutierrez headed Chez Philippe inside The Peabody. In 2005, he opened Encore, a contemporary French-style bistro at 150 Peabody Place, but given the quiet sophistication of the dining room and bar (not to mention its wonderful food), it might as well be worlds away from the action outside on Second Street near Beale. Yes, Gutierrez's a charmer, but this former student of Paul Bocuse is an award-winning chef in his own right. From Flyer readers, here's to you, M. Gutierrez: Salut!

Best Lunch

1. Huey's

2. Lenny's Sub Shop

3. Big Foot Lodge — tie

Soul Fish

Not to be content with "Best Burger" for years running in the Flyer's Best of Memphis poll, Huey's this year goes and grabs "Best Lunch." You've got seven area locations to choose from. But starting now, you've got Huey's new "Heart Healthy" menu to do yourself a favor. Or you can stick to what Huey's does best — and is doing one better: The "Grand Daddy" burger. That's two patties, topped with an onion ring and cheese. It's not, as advertised, for the faint of heart. But there are times (lunchtime?) when it's just plain good to go with your gut.

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Breakfast

1. Brother Juniper's

2. Blue Plate Café — tie

Cracker Barrel

3. Barksdale Restaurant

Who was Brother Juniper? He cooked for St. Francis of Assisi. And his place on Walker near the U of M is cooking every morning of the week. What's cooking, of course, is breakfast. What's happening is a crowd ready to sit down, in simple surroundings, to a traditional menu of eggs and grits and granola, described by one contributor to tripadvisor.com as "awesome." According to another: "It's good when something so hyped delivers." Rachael Ray agrees. Flyer readers agree. Blessed be Brother Juniper's omelets.

Best Romantic Restaurant

1. Paulette's

2. Chez Philippe

3. Le Chardonnay Wine Bar & Bistro

If you can't take your date to the airport to hop a flight to France for dinner at some quaint family restaurant on the outskirts of Paris, Paulette's in Overton Square is the next best thing. Besides, everyone is more beautiful after you've eaten one or two of their incredible popovers.

Best Sunday Brunch

1. Owen Brennan's Restaurant

2. Boscos Squared

3. Peabody Skyway

Hot jazz and hotter food. That's what brunch at Owen Brennan's is all about. Few names are more synonymous with Crescent City cuisine and the savory fusion of breakfast and lunch than the Brennans of New Orleans.

Best Wine List

1. Le Chardonnay Wine Bar & Bistro

2. McEwen's on Monroe

3. Texas de Brazil — tie

Ronnie Grisanti & Sons

Caution: Choosing a wine at Le Chardonnay may result in eyestrain. But there's no better way to go blind than relaxing in the shadowy candlelight on a leather sofa, gnoshing on a perfect gourmet pizza, and sipping a robust Australian Zinfandel.

Best Steak

1. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

2. Ruth's Chris Steak House

3. The Butcher Shop

The lollipop veal chop with Maker's Mark peppercorn sauce is divine, and the filet mignon with applewood-smoked bacon and sautéed mushrooms is a thing of beauty. The locally owned steak house also has more than 400 choices in the cellar, as well as the full attention of the editors at Wine Spectator magazine, who've given Folk's Folly an award of excellence eight years in a row.

Best Barbecue

1. Central BBQ

2. Corky's

3. The Bar-B-Q Shop

Perfectly seasoned and slow-smoked with hickory, Central BBQ's pork sandwich tastes like Memphis. And yes, that's a good thing. In a city where barbecue has been known to start fights, Central's barbecue is something on which everyone seems to agree.

click to enlarge Brother Juniper's, - 1st Place: Best Breakfast - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Ribs

1. Charles Vergos' Rendezvous

2. Corky's

3. Central BBQ

The Rendezvous' dry pork ribs are rubbed with a savory mix of herbs and spices and chargrilled to something just a little bit beyond perfection. There's a reason they are nearly as famous as Elvis.

Best Hot Wings

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

2. D'Bo's Buffalo Wings-N-Things

3. Hooters

The folks at Buffalo Wild Things have built a better mantrap by combining the best elements of a neighborhood pub, sports bar, and wingery. Add to that a choice between traditional or boneless wings and 15 different sauces, ranging from Parmesan garlic to mango habenero.

Best Fried Chicken

BOM 1. Gus's Fried Chicken

2. Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits — tie

Kentucky Fried Chicken

3. Jack Pirtle Fried Chicken

Gus's Fried Chicken deserves its reputation for taking a tried-and-true classic like fried chicken and making it better than anybody could have ever imagined. It's a crispy treat that makes mouths water and burn at the same time. It might be better than barbecue.

click to enlarge Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, - 1s Place: Best Ribs - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Cajun/Creole

1. Bayou Bar & Grill

2. Owen Brennan's Restaurant

3. Crescent City

Standing at the crossroads of two mighty cultures, Bayou Bar & Grill is Midtown at its most Garden District. On a beautiful day, a patio table is prime real estate. Start out with a cold beer and a bowl of duck-and-sausage gumbo. Finish with some beignets and a café olé.

Best Mediterranean

READERS' CHOICE

Petra

Petra Café

Casablanca

Dish

Bari

A new category this year, it appears that there are so many great Mediterranean restaurants in town that it was too hard for our readers to decide which was the best.

Best Dessert

1. Paulette's

2. Big Foot Lodge

3. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Were we to guess, we'd say that Paulette's took this honor for either their K-Pie — Kahlua Mocha Parfait Pie — or the Hot Chocolate Crepe with almonds and vanilla ice cream. But maybe it's neither. Paulette's is also known for its impeccable service and romantic ambiance.

Best Italian

1. Ronnie Grisanti & Sons

2. Pete and Sam's Restaurant

3. Bari

When you've been around as long as Ronnie Grisanti & Sons, you know how to do things right. Founded in 1978, the family-run restaurant serves Tuscan cuisine, such as handmade ravioli, Elfo's recipe for pasta sautéed with butter, mushrooms, and shrimp, and fettucine tossed with their Grisanti Tuscan Alfredo sauce. It's worth the carbs, believe us.

Best Mexican

1. El Porton Mexican Restaurant

2. Molly Gonzales' La Casita Mexican Restaurant

3. Taqueria La Guadalupana — tie

Los Compadres

El Porton has blanketed the Memphis market with seven locations serving quick, tasty, agreeably priced variations of Mexican staples to the starving business-lunch and happy-hour masses.

Best Chinese

1. P.F. Chang's China Bistro

2. A-Tan

3. Wang's Mandarin House

P.F. Chang's dark, sophisticated atmosphere is dominated by welcoming warmth, the sounds of the kitchen, and the smell of dumplings and stir-fry. Nationally, the Arizona-based company took Chinese food upscale. People swear by the lettuce wraps, but we suggest the oolong-marinated sea bass.

click to enlarge Bayou Bar & Grill, - 1st Place: Best Cajun/Creole - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Thai

1. Bhan Thai

2. Bangkok Alley

3. Sawaddii

Nestled within the leafy confines of Peabody Avenue, Bhan Thai has a relaxed attitude and a wonderful menu. It's a great place to have a casual dinner with friends. Diners can enjoy Thai curries, garlic pork chops, or the Bhan Thai crispy duck in the restaurant's red, black, and gold interior or on its spacious deck. Bhan Thai also indulges in those little touches that make customers feel welcome: The lunch menu comes with a complimentary soup; the bill — though it's generally not hard to swallow — comes with a sweet chocolate mint.

Best Vietnamese

1. Saigon Le

2. Pho Saigon

3. Pho Hoa Binh

Curried tofu with onion and lemon grass; hot-and-sour catfish soup; giant bowls of savory noodles with Vietnamese barbecue; a monstrous pancake stuffed with savory pork on a bed of herbs drenched in fish sauce. This is the no-frills Asian eatery of your dreams.

Best Japanese/Sushi

1. Sekisui

2. Dō

3. Bluefin — tie — Sekisui Pacific Rim

What does it mean when three out of the four restaurants voted the best in this category were founded by Jimmy Ishii? Earlier this year, the Flyer dubbed him the "Sultan of Sushi," and, judging by our readers, it's a fitting title. The original Sekisui brought sushi to Memphis, and in an industry known for being fickle, it seems Memphians are still clambering for more.

Best Indian

1. India Palace

2. Golden Indian

3. Bombay House

This colorful Midtown standard-bearer is aces at the can't-go-wrong Indian lunch buffet, but you're even better off ordering from the menu for some cross-cultural comfort food: tender tandoori, buttery tikka masala, or creamy saag.

click to enlarge Bhan Thai, - 1st Place: Best Thai - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Home Cooking/Soul Food

1. The Cupboard

2. Gus's Fried Chicken

3. Soul Fish

Let's get it straight: A crisp, tart fried green tomato or a steaming little mound of fresh field peas or a crispy, buttery, bite-sized blast of cornbread isn't just good eating. These things are minor spiritual experiences. It's part of what defines and renews us. And, now firmly ensconced in its sprawling Union Avenue location, longtime local staple the Cupboard has claimed its place as the city's preeminent meat-and-three palace.

Best Vegetarian

1. Square Foods

2. Wild Oats Market

3. Jasmine

Everything from Square Food's oatburger to the veggie BLT proves that meatless doesn't mean flavorless. Don't forget about the PB&H made with organic peanut butter, banana, and honey washed down with the unavoidable question: How many years of Elvis' life could Square Foods have saved?

Best Healthy Menu

1. Square Foods

2. Wild Oats Market

3. Paradise Café

Got a need for wheat grass? How about a hunger for the latest in tofu posing as meat? If you're trying to eat right without cutting out meat, Square Foods offers a delicious dill poached salmon salad, as well as an organic chicken-breast sandwich and melts of turkey or tuna.

Best Seafood

1. Tsunami

2. Blue Fish Restaurant and Oyster Bar

3. Bonefish Grill

Tsunami's menu is nothing short of stupendous. The tuna over cucumber salad with wasabi dressing epitomizes a "cool" dish. The mussels appetizer is pretty strong as well.

click to enlarge The Cupboard, - 1st Place: Best Home Cooking/Soul Food - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Pizza

1. Memphis Pizza Café

2. Garibaldi's Pizza

3. Exline's

The perennial choice in this category, the Memphis Pizza Café serves sandwiches and calzones, too, but earned its Best of Memphis award for its pizza. The Midtown location is a great place to grab a beer and a slice and watch a game in a festive setting.

Best Deli

1. Fino's from the Hill

2. Bogie's Delicatessen

3. Lenny's Sub Shop

Who needs to take a trip to Italy when you can get Fino's cannoli right here in Midtown. What they don't have in the old country are Fino's outstanding subs. There's no finer way to chase the chills away in winter than a cup of Fino's minestrone. The Italian groceries also give you plenty to look at while waiting for your take-out.

Best Service

1. Texas de Brazil

2. Chick-Fil-A — tie

Houston's Restaurant

3. Big Foot Lodge — tie

Ruth's Chris Steak House

Meat swords. Swords of meat, if you prefer. Anyhow, that image should neatly summarize the gracious abundance that greets the patron of Texas de Brazil. The servers bring what you want when you want it as long as your stomach can hold out.

Best Restaurant Décor

READERS' CHOICE

Big Foot Lodge

Spindini

Beauty Shop

Blue Fin

Huey's

River Oaks

Too close to call in this category, but the top vote-getters show that Memphians have eclectic tastes — from the funky fun of Big Foot Lodge and Huey's and the elegance of River Oaks and Spindini to the ever-so-hipness of Beauty Shop and Blue Fin. What ties these restaurants all together is that imagination elevates them to the fore of this highly competitive category.

Best Kid-friendly Restaurant

1. Chuck E. Cheese

2. Chick-Fil-A

3. Huey's

You're never too old for a game of wack-a-mole and a cuddle-up to a person in a mouse costume. Bring a roll of quarters and skee-ball your way to glory. There's also pizza, and they may host the occasional child's birthday party if asked politely.

Best Caterer

1. Another Roadside Attraction

2. Just Catering

3. Draper's Catering

You must be doing something properly if your employees honor you with bumper stickers proclaiming, "My Boss is a Jewish Caterer." Karen Blockman Carrier — owner of Automatic Slim's, the Mollie Fontaine Lounge, Dō, and the Beauty Shop — founded Another Roadside Attraction in 1987 and has employed virtually every up-and-coming Memphis rock-and-roller since and catered many a big social event too.

Best Patio

1. Celtic Crossing

2. Boscos Squared

3. Café Ole

Is it the breeze, or the Guinness, or the classic Irish dishes, or the acoustic entertainment? Okay, it's probably all of the above. The people-watching doesn't hurt, either. Plus, the folks at Celtic Crossing have thought of everything to make their patio inviting: Umbrellas for if it rains. Fans for the heat. Beer for everything else.

Best Delivery

1. Camy's

2. Garibaldi's Pizza

3. Young Avenue Deli

Why is food delivery dominated by the pizza industry? You can tote a box of steaming lasagna or an eight-ounce grilled rib-eye with the same ease. Thankfully, Camy's knows this little secret. For 13 years, this Midtown institution has been delivering tasty meals to the lazy, the busy, the car-less, and the too drunk to drive.

Best Bakery

1. La Baguette

2. Atlanta Bread Company

3. Fresh Market

Sandwiches are so underrated. Disregarded as a quick lunch option, they're rarely taken seriously as a gourmet entrée. But thanks to the freshest, tastiest baked bread at La Baguette, sandwiches are elevated to a place of dignity. Forget that garlic-studded venison with a balsamic mango-berry reduction. Give us the Vegetable Garden Sandwich on freshly baked croissant. Pick up a baguette to take home, and, of course, you can't leave without having one of the bakery's tasty pastries.

Best Coffeehouse

1. Starbucks

2. Otherlands

3. High Point Coffee

Offering convenient drive-thru service, Starbucks can have your double venti toffee nut soy latte safely tucked into your car's cup holder in minutes. In the past couple of years, the mega-coffeehouse has even gone green — purchasing fair-trade coffee, setting a target of 30 percent post-consumer content for paper purchases, and offering discounts to folks who use their own mugs.

click to enlarge Memphis Pizza Caf, - 1st Place: Best Pizza - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Restaurant

READERS' CHOICE

River Oaks

Big Foot Lodge

Tsunami

Houston's Restaurant

Texas de Brazil

The word's been out for quite some time — too much red meat can be bad for your health. But that doesn't stop Memphians from shoveling it down. Whether it's the Sasquatch Burger at Big Foot Lodge, the steak on a sword at Texas de Brazil, the juicy rib-eye at Houston's, or the beef tenderloin at River Oaks, the Bluff City just couldn't decide on its favorite meat-hearty meal. Of course, there were a significant number of votes for fresh fish served at Tsunami.

Best New Restaurant, opened in 2007

1. Spindini

2. Pearl's Oyster House

3. Circa — tie

Flying Fish

With such a rich culinary legacy, it's no surprise that the latest Grisanti venture pleases Memphians' palates. While Spindini features plenty of traditional family recipes, the menu shines with Judd Grisanti's modern twist on Italian favorites, like wood-fired pizzas and lobster ravioli. Patrons can even watch their food being prepared in the state-of-the-art wood-fired oven at the end of the bar.

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