For us, being a music joint," says owner Bob Franklin, "being on Beale Street is pretty cool. Live music is what we do."
Franklin is the co-owner of Tin Roof, which opened last week in the former Hard Rock space at the east end of Beale. Founded in Nashville in 2002, they are a regional chain that operates in 13 cities. But Franklin says he has long dreamed of coming to Memphis, and that reverence is reflected in the way this new Tin Roof has been customized — everything from décor to menu to programming.
They've even gussied up the peanuts. Cheekily christened "On the Trail of Elvis" ($4.50), the bar mix includes salted peanuts, banana chips, bacon, and popcorn spiced with dark chili cayenne. It's the brainchild of chef Will Zuchman, who comes to Tin Roof from Garces Restaurant Group in Philadelphia.
I've got to say, the food is a pleasant surprise. The cheddar mac 'n' cheese with jalapenos and tobacco onions ($5) is creamy with the right amount of spice. And the Chili Bang Bang Shrimp ($9) is a clever combination of Creole seasonings and Japanese Ebi Mayo.
But I reserve special praise for the Pickled Four Bean Salad ($7.50), quite possibly the tastiest thing on the menu. And — a new direction for Beale — actually pretty healthy.
"I grew up vegetarian for 21 years," confesses chef Zuchman. "My parents were both painters. I used to eat this stuff right out of the jar."
The space has been completely redone, and the results are barn chic: Exposed concrete meets bare brick and rough-hewn wood planks. What used to be the Hard Rock's gift shop has been converted into a wide-open bar, and the walls are adorned with vintage signs and hand-painted murals. Add a few string lights — and, of course, a tin roof — and you've got Beale Street's take on a farm party.
Tin Roof will offer live music seven nights a week: covers Monday through Thursday, original stuff on the weekends. On the night I visited, Brian Carrion took the stage. A snappy dresser from Nashville, he falls somewhere between Jason Mraz and Justin Timberlake. Franklin says that's right in line with the kind of music they plan to offer: a mélange of rock, pop, and country.
Walt Whitman wrote, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."
The same might be said of Broad Avenue. Although not terribly large, it does manage to contradict itself in some very interesting ways. Is it hipster (3 Angels) or divey (The Cove)? Is it highfalutin (Bounty) or salt-of-the-earth (Broadway Pizza)?
The appearance, last month, of Red Zone Sports & Cigar Bar does little to resolve Broad's apparent contradictions. In fact, you might say it exemplifies them. Care for some spicy Buffalo wings with your cigar? But it does make things more interesting.
The first thing you'll notice about Red Zone is its size. It's easily three times bigger than The Cove, just down the street. The first floor is all about sports, with 10 projectors that turn the walls into movie screens, crawling with helmeted dudes and the occasional music video. At the bar, you can sit on a stool or opt for a swing — yes, a swing — hand-installed by owner Chris Sanders.
Upstairs, you'll find the cigar bar, a glassed-in room decked out with leather recliners. But the main attraction is the mechanical bull — a menacing robot that you can pay to ride on Friday and Saturday nights. It's only the second one in town; the first is at Red Zone's other location, on Winchester. So what's the deal with the bull?
"Ladies gotta have something to ride," says manager Melissa Peters, with a grin.
Gender politics aside, the food is pretty good. The Southwestern Egg Rolls ($8.95) are bursting with corn and chicken, served with a sweet and sour sauce. And the Chicken Philly ($8.50) is well executed, a light take on a classic sandwich. Enjoy one on the porch or the upstairs patio, chiller alternatives to Red Zone's digitally active interior.