When Karen Carrier closed her Cooper-Young restaurant Dō Sushi and Noodles in October, rumors swirled of a taco joint Carrier would open in its place.
Sure, Carrier says, there might be tacos — for instance, when her new restaurant, Bar DKDC, features the streets of Mexico City on its menu. But the menu will change every two or three weeks, focusing on street food from a different city and country each time. So you might enjoy tacos one week, and the next you'll be chowing down on shashlik from Israel or souvlaki from Greece.
"The street food has me going through a lot of cuisines, which is exciting, and it doesn't limit me. I can really play with food the way I want," Carrier says. "There's so much great street food all over Mexico, all over Israel, all over the Caribbean. We can span the globe."
Carrier has made a name for herself as a culinary ambassador, a trendsetter, and a master of reinvention.
In 1987, Carrier moved back to Memphis from Manhattan and started a catering business, Another Roadside Attraction. In 1991, she brought Caribbean, East Asian, and Southern cuisines to downtown Memphis with her Automatic Slim's Tonga Club. She then opened Cielo, a French and Caribbean-inspired venture in Victorian Village, before converting the space into the swanky bar and small-plates concept of Mollie Fontaine Lounge. By the time Beauty Shop and the adjoining Dō Sushi and Noodles opened in Cooper-Young in the early 2000s, Carrier had earned a reputation as one of Memphis' foremost restaurateurs.
"I've been doing this a long time," Carrier says. "We all work really hard around here to make sure Memphis is on the cutting edge, constantly changing, because things change. If they stay the same all the time, it gets boring."
Bar DKDC represents the next chapter for Carrier, who has yet to publicly reveal the significance of the bar's name. ("It will come out eventually," she says.)
While Dō had a loyal following — and Carrier has promised to carry on favorites like the red curry coconut soup with Kobe beef at Beauty Shop — she saw the preponderance of sushi in Memphis as a sign to move on.
"When you can buy sushi in a gas station, it's time to switch," Carrier says.
Street food was a natural step for the jet-setting Carrier, not only because the genre melds with her eclectic culinary tastes, but also because in many places street food is the essence of local cuisine.
"When you go to Mexico, that's where you're going. You're going to the market. You're going to try the grilled pork tostada or the fantastic torta and tamale stands. And it's the same all over the world."
Carrier has even more plans for the tiny space on Cooper, including an impressive rum bar for patrons to sip — that's right, sip — on quality rums.
"Rum bars are big right now, but they haven't hit Memphis," Carrier says. "People don't have any idea. They usually mix rum with Coke around here. Sipping on a good glass of rum is like a great scotch."
As for the décor, expect the funky style this painter-turned-chef brings to all her restaurants. The space is small, and Carrier likes it that way.
"I like a small bar," she says. "I like where with 30 or 40 people it's happening. We're going to be spinning 45s, obscure New Orleans and Memphis soul, and people will be able to dance. We've got a vintage photo booth coming in. It's just going to be really fun, really good food, and it's going to be really cool inside."
If all goes according to plan, Bar DKDC will be open to the public on January 12th and operating Wednesday through Sunday nights from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Bar DKDC, 964 S. Cooper (272-0830)