Lunch Bunch 

The Brass Door now open; South of Beale opening soon for lunch.

The Brass Door offers Irish favorites in a downtown landmark.

Justin Fox Burks

The Brass Door offers Irish favorites in a downtown landmark.

Looking to break out of your downtown lunch rut? Two new choices have just made the scene.

The Brass Door, an authentic Irish pub, is bringing more lunch business to that stretch of Madison between Second and Third, across the street from Thai Bistro's new downtown location. Seamus Loftus has taken over the old Marx-Bensdorf building, which was established in 1868, and created an ambience unlike any other downtown. And, yes, it really does have a brass door.

High ceilings, rich mahogany, and antique fixtures give the pub an established feel, as if it had long been a staple of downtown Memphis. Upstairs, an elegant dining room looks out over the bar and restaurant below.

The menu is traditional Irish fare, with staples like fish and chips (a bottle of malt vinegar sits on every table) and an Irish stew made with lamb, onions, and potatoes and served with soda bread croutons.

But the real standout items are the deep-fried goat-cheese fritters, house-made chips (french fries, served in a cornet and rumored to be fried in duck fat), shrimp on brown-bread toast with a garlic lemon butter sauce, and the hefty Irish breakfast, made with two eggs, bacon, rashers, black and white puddings, bangers, and potatoes.

For a lighter lunch, there are soups and salads, like the Ploughman's lunch, which is a chef's salad topped with a house-made beer vinaigrette and served with tomato chutney and soda bread.

Then again, if you've come to an Irish pub, you probably aren't looking for lighter fare, so have them pour you a Guinness, crack open some Joyce, and tuck into a Dublin coddle — poached bangers, potatoes, bacon, and caramelized onions served with whole-grain mustard and cabbage.

The Brass Door, 152 Madison (572-1813)

Two years is a mighty long time to wait for lunch, but South of Beale owner Brittany Whisenant says that when the restaurant opened in 2009, they wanted to perfect their dinner and late-night operation before taking on the lunch crowd.

Fortunately, this gem of a gastropub in the South Main Street Historic District has decided to take the plunge. With Leadership Memphis moving in next door and a growing population of downtowners-by-day, South of Beale will begin its weekday lunch service on September 12th.

South of Beale, whose cheeky acronym "S.O.B." and elegant bar food have attracted a following, will maintain the same general cuisine, with an emphasis on quick and affordable offerings for the lunch hour.

Sandwiches (like a roasted vegetable sandwich and a smothered chicken sandwich), salads (scallop ceviche, duck confit salad, steak salad, and shrimp salad), and soups (gumbo and vegetable noodle) will form the core of the menu. And expect to find some holdovers from the dinner menu as well, like their ever-evolving burger (now served with fried house-made mozzarella) and the hummus platter and eggrolls.

South of Beale will be open for lunch Monday through Friday and will add Saturday brunch to its already popular Sunday brunch. Whisenant says the full lunch menu will likely be available within the week, so keep your eyes peeled for a better glimpse of what you've been missing for two whole years.

South of Beale, 361 S. Main (526-0388)

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