To enter Dorothy Mae's Café, housed in the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery on Beale Street, is to reminisce about a time in Memphis when figures like Elvis Presley and Rufus Thomas dominated local culture. Photos by the late Earnest Withers fill the walls, and the space also includes a studio lounge, where patrons are free to grab the microphone and sing or recite poetry.
The cafe, named after Withers' wife, is run by Rosalind Withers and Fran Mosley. The evolving menu was created by Mosley, who found a permanent home for her catering company Haute Monde (French for high society).
The eclectic menu features salads and soups as well as a line of savory cupcakes, which Mosley lifted from the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. Some of the cupcake offerings include chicken and waffles as well as meatloaf and mashed potatoes. A trio is $9.
"Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sweet peas, that's a classic Sunday dinner at my grandmother's house," Mosley says. "And you may have a little cornbread muffin on the side. We took those old, homemade Southern recipes and put them in cupcakes."
The Beale Street Cupcake features a barbecue pork butt slow-cooked for 16 hours by Mosley's husband and paired with a honey butter croissant baked in a cupcake pan.
Other staples include a watermelon, arugula, and feta salad with a homemade honey-lemon balsamic vinaigrette ($10.95). Fru-Fru Fransway is a Caribbean cake soaked in pineapple juice and topped with strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, grapes, and blueberries ($5.50).
Mosley serves apple crunch pie ($6) warm, topped with butter pecan ice cream and drizzled with caramel. When she explains it, it sounds like something too explicit for network television.
"We want to bring something new and fresh to Beale Street. Our target is really professional people or people over 30 or 35," Mosley says.
"We're trying to bring the creative arts back to Beale Street. We also want to preserve the history and make sure that we protect those images that were captured during the time between the '50s and '70s."
333 Beale (523-2344)
Stop by Nacho's downtown for lunch expecting a mariachi band to be playing while you hammer down some enchiladas and you'll be disappointed.
Derived from Kwik Chek, the Korean and Mediterranean deli in Midtown, this fast casual stand-alone fuses several cultures into one menu.
Beto Villareal and Hernando Diaz imported popular dishes like Bi Bim Bop (a signature Korean rice dish) and the Korean Omelet Plate (infused with fried rice).
"A lot of people have thought of us being just a regular Mexican restaurant. There's a lot of Mexican restaurants here, and everybody expects the same thing," Villarreal says. "Their enchiladas, their sombreros, their fiesta-themed margaritas. We just want to bring something different."
Nacho's does, however, serve a strong selection of nachos.
Nacho Average Nachos (pulled pork, grilled chicken, steak, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, sour cream) is the headliner of a stable that includes BBQ Nachos (Villareal cooks the pork for up to 22 hours to soften it) and Grilled Nachos.The pair also pay homage to the Chinese restaurant that used to occupy the space with their Sweet & Sour Nachos, which include pineapple and sweet & sour sauce.
Nacho's also serves wraps, sandwiches, and salads, many of which are carbon copies of those offered at Kwik Chek.
The Ninja ($6.99) features turkey, roast beef, swiss cheese, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, mayonnaise, cayenne, Teriyaki sauce, lettuce, and sprouts.
The breakfast menu features a make-your-own-sandwich with choices for bread, meat, and cheese. One unusual item is the Sweet Kabob, which consists of French toast, strawberries, banana, and pineapple on a skewer sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Villareal and Diaz hope to offer a convenient and efficient lunch experience for Memphians working downtown. The restaurant currently serves breakfast from 7 to
10 a.m. and remains open until 5 p.m., but they are considering extending the hours.
150 Jefferson (522-4455)