Despite the controversy, Beale Street Landing is now open for tourists and Memphians alike, and the Riverfront Bar and Grill located inside is the newest eating destination downtown.
Right now, Riverfront is still getting into the swing of things. The 144-seat restaurant just received its liquor license. It's open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Both of which may change depending on demand from patrons. The menu is also expanding to include more entrées. Local breweries Memphis Made and High Cotton are in talks with the restaurant's management to join Wiseacre in their on-tap selections.
The menu is simple — appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and desserts — and mostly under $10, a conscious decision made by management to keep it affordable. The sandwiches in particular are city-centric without being centered on barbecue: a grilled bologna with pimento cheese sandwich, called the Beale Street Bologna ($8.95), is one of the first menu items that might catch a hungry patron's eye.
Other menu items include an appetizer featuring a Southern staple, fried green tomatoes for $6.95; the Chickasaw Bluffs Chicken Salad ($9.95); the Tom Lee Catfish Hoagie ($9.95); and a vegetarian sandwich with a giant portabella mushroom called the Cobblestone Mushroom Griller ($8.95). There's also the Tennessee Caviar appetizer ($6.95) that features black-eyed peas and cilantro served with pimento cheese.
"It's Southern with flair," says Beth Bomarito, the general manager for Beale Street Landing and the Riverfront Bar and Grill. "It's not your traditional 'meat and two.'"
Riverfront uses local ingredients to create the dishes that are designed to pull from Southern culture. Both the idea behind the food and the locality of the ingredients were important when the menu was being created, according to Bomarito.
"We may not be an 'independent restaurant,' but we're as independent as you get," she says. "We work for the city, but we don't work for a corporate restaurant. That was really important to us to utilize [local] beers and the atmosphere of Memphis. We want Memphians to enjoy it, but we also want tourists to leave and know that they had a taste of Memphis."
The restaurant aims to be user-friendly in food, environment, and access. "It makes it accessible for everyone. [Even] the people walking by, sweating and working out, can come in as well as business people," Bomarito says. "We need [somewhere] to come eat on the riverfront. There's not another riverfront restaurant between St. Louis and Vicksburg."
The river views and the sunset can be seen from any part of the eatery and its outdoor seating area fits well within the parameters of the building's design: the sloped, walkable grass that runs over the top of the rounded building shields Riverfront's outdoor area, which is filled with tables and couches, from a scorching summer sun.
According to Bomarito, the shaded area is actually 10 degrees cooler than it is in the sun, thanks to the Mississippi River's breeze and the building's funnel-shaped opening. The reds, oranges, and yellows placed into the façade of the building, which also trickle into the inner walls of the restaurant, were deliberately Memphis too, even if it doesn't seem like it at first glance. The rectangles are actually pixels from a photo of a sunset over the Mississippi River, so even the color themes are homegrown.
"We wanted to keep the colors in the restaurant very similar to a sunset on the river," Bomarito says. "We have the best views of the sunset you can get in the city."