Restaurant News

Monday, October 7, 2013

Southward Introduces New Vegetable-Laden Special Menu

Posted By on Mon, Oct 7, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Chef Ryan Trimm is introducing vegetable-focused nightly specials for $8 apiece at his new East Memphis restaurant Southward. The "Farmers" menu selections will change daily depending on what’s fresh and in-season.

“I wanted to do something to showcase all of the hard work that our farmers put into growing the vegetables we use,” Trimm told me over lunch last week.

Roasted White Pumpkin & Acorn Squash with a pumpkin seed pesto
  • Roasted White Pumpkin & Acorn Squash with a pumpkin seed pesto

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jimmy Ishii's Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar Coming to Overton Square

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Yet more news today regarding Overton Square.

Jimmy Ishii
A press release was issued earlier this morning announcing that Jimmy Ishii, who founded Sekisui, has signed a lease to open Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar. The restaurant will be in the Griffin House, which was once part of Paulette's.

From the release:

Prominent Memphis restauranteur Jimmy Ishii signed a 1,526 SF lease at 2116 Madison Avenue, in the historical Griffin House. Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar, named after the Japanese word for “fireside,” is an izakaya bar and grill serving kushiyaki skewers of grilled meat and vegetables, kara-age bite sized fried chicken, ramen noodle soups and other traditional Japanese items.

Chefs will serve food to customers seated at the bar using a paddle/oar — a method based on an old Japanese custom practiced by fishermen passing meals prepared from their catch from boat to boat. Robata will have outdoor seating on the front porch, as well as a patio in the front yard furnished with low to the ground, Japanese-style seating. The interior will feature a ramen/sushi/liquor bar with a visible cooking area for customers to experience food preparation.

The restaurant is set to open in December.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Babalu Tacos & Tapas Coming to Overton Square

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 12:02 PM


A press release was sent out Wednesday morning announcing that Babalu Tacos & Tapas has signed a lease to take over the TGI Friday's space in Overton Square.

From the release:

Eat Here Brands announced today it has signed a lease for approximately 5,000 square feet of restaurant space in Overton Square to open Babalu Tacos & Tapas. Construction will begin this fall with anticipated opening in early 2014. The restaurant will be located at 2113 Madison Ave. in the old TGI Fridays space. The lease was administered through Loeb Properties and Levy Commercial Realty.

The award-winning Babalu restaurant is based in Jackson, Miss., and serves chef-quality tacos and tapas/small plates with a distinctive twist. This location will be complete with an outdoor patio featuring an indoor-outdoor bar.

The Overton Square Babalu will be the second Babalu location opened by Bill Latham and Al Roberts, according to the release. (The original is in Jackson, Mississippi.) They have also opened several other restaurants, including Interim.

Tacos on the Babalu menu, and there are many, include one with pork belly, another with seared tuna. Tortillas are house-made. Among the tapas dishes featured are shrimp and grits, lamb sliders, and an enchilada of the day. Babalu is also well-known for its guacamole, which is made tableside.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The New York Times Reviews Hog and Hominy

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 8:42 PM

We've always said: If you don't gorge yourself at Hog and Hominy, you aren't doing it right.

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells suggests the same in his recent review of this east Memphis hotspot. He experiences the joy of eating high on the hog in Memphis, with nary a dry-rubbed BBQ rib in sight.

Wells piles on (and praises!) a selection of Hog and Hominy's eclectic, Southern-meets-Italian items: spicy fried sweetbreads, a beef and cheddar hotdog, and a piece of peanut butter pie. He even suggests that this younger sibling of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman's first restaurant, has surpassed its older brother.

I was helping myself to a slice — okay, several slices — of the Red Eye pizza the night the Times photographer came in to document this year-old golden child of Memphis' dining scene. I sidled up to Ticer, pointed to the cameraman set up in a corner of the restaurant, surrounded by so many perfectly plated wedges of pie, and asked who he was shooting for.

"The New York Times," Ticer said softly. "A critic was in last week."

Both Ticer and Hudman seemed too nervous to admit the review might be a good one. That night, the entire restaurant was tense with the knowledge that something important was happening, or perhaps wishing they'd worn a better outfit for the mystery cameraman's photo session.

Now, with this glowing review behind them, the pair can breathe a little easier. But only for a moment. They've got a surge of business ahead of them, no doubt. Let's just hope there will still be room for us locals.

Hog and Hominy, 707 W. Brookhaven Circle, 207-7396,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Harrah's Tunica To Rebrand Paula Deen's Buffet

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 10:04 AM


Caesars Entertainment Corporation, parent company of Harrah's Tunica, issued a statement this morning announcing it has "reached a mutual agreement with Paula Deen Enterprises (PDE) not to renew the two companies’ business relationship."

Harrah's Tunica opened Paula Deen's Buffet in 2008. Deen appeared at a ribbon-cutting to unveil the 560-seat restaurant designed to look like Deen's home in Georgia.

According to the statement, the Tunica buffet and three other of the company's Deen-related businesses will be "rebranded." It appears that the Paula Deen Buffet has already been removed from the Harrah's Tunica site.

Full statement below:

Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Paula Deen Enterprises Agree Restaurant-Licensing Contracts Will Not Be Renewed

LAS VEGAS — June 26, 2013 — Caesars Entertainment Corporation (NASDAQ: CZR) announced today it has reached a mutual agreement with Paula Deen Enterprises (PDE) not to renew the two companies’ business relationship. Caesars operates Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties. Caesars intends to rebrand the restaurants in the coming months.

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment.


John Branston on Paula Deen and Tunica

Buffet Be Not Proud

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monsieur Demarcus French Crêperie Opening in Neely's Downtown Site

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Chef Demarcus at the site of his new restaurant
  • Courtesy Chef Demarcus
  • Chef Demarcus at the site of his new restaurant

Chef Demarcus, the nom de restaurant of Kevin Demarcus Woodard, opened Le Crepe du Vin last fall in Bartlett. He announced he was moving the restaurant this spring and is now busy transforming the Neely's BBQ restaurant on Jefferson in Victorian Village into Monsieur Demarcus French Crêperie. He hopes to have the restaurant open sometime in mid-August.

Demarcus says that Le Crepe du Vin, which served both savory and dessert crepes, never really fit in in Bartlett. "They weren't feeling it," he says.

He did, however, notice that the bulk of the patrons came from other parts of the city and surrounding areas. He says that many of them came from downtown.

Demarcus plans on serving the same menu as Le Crepe du Vin at Monsieur Demarcus, while adding additional French fare to be served atop crepes. Dishes mentioned include beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.

  • Courtesy Chef Demarcus

He's now working on getting the Neely's space up to code and doing extensive renovations to bring light into the BBQ joint. He's going to add more windows. There will be tables with white linen tablecloths and napkins.

Demarcus will initially open up about a third of the restaurant, with about 45 to 50 seats — larger than the Bartlett restaurant — and get the rest of the space ready in the next few months for a total of about 144 seats.

Monsieur Demarcus will be open seven days a week, with weekday hours set at 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., to be adjusted as needed.

Demarcus also hopes to hand off his chef duties to someone else so that he can concentrate on front-of-the-house as well as other restaurant business.

Ultimately, Demarcus is aiming toward true French ambience, something he says he achieved at Le Crepe du Vin. He says that he had relocated French natives tell him as much. "They felt like they were back home."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Front Street Deli To Reopen

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Front Street Deli, a downtown fixture since 1976, closed after owner Lee Busby's death in March. The business is being reopened by Lance Silkes of Tastin' Round Town Tours.

According to Silkes, Larry Busby, Lee's brother, had inherited the business, but he had recently sold his Front Street Deli location on Winchester and was under a no-compete clause. Silkes says they held off on making an announcement, wanting to make sure they could get the old restaurant up-to-code and operational.

Silkes says Front Street Deli fits in perfectly with what he's been doing with Tastin' Round Town, a tour of area restaurants, offering tourists and Memphians alike a taste of some of the city's best fare and a good dose of the city's history.

"In 1976, when pretty much everybody was leaving downtown, [the Busbys] ran in," says Silkes, crediting the deli with helping kickstart downtown's resurgence. "Letting it go seemed like a bad idea."

Silkes says loyal customers will recognize the menu — the tuna salad, the deviled eggs, etc. And, he says he will be adding new items. Under consideration are a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and peppers and onions with sausages.

He plans to keep the same hours, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (He'll also continue to run Tastin' Round Town.)

Silkes hopes to have Front Street Deli up and running in the next few weeks.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ciao Baby! Neapolitan Pizza Now Open

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Ciao Baby!, which opened 22 days ago in Collierville, serves Neapolitan-style pizza made in a wood-fired oven.


I ordered the Margherita (9-inch, $9.33 including tax). It's topped with house-made mozzarella, and the rustic-style crust is thin but not at all skimpy. Wonderful.


Says owner Adrian Arcuri of his pizzas, "It's an art."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sweet Grass Chef Ryan Trimm to Open New Spot in Regalia

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM

What was formerly Circa in the Regalia Shopping Center in east Memphis will soon be Southward™ Fare and Libations, a new concept from Sweet Grass and Next Door chef Ryan Trimm.

Regalia Shopping Center in east Memphis
  • Regalia Shopping Center in east Memphis

In January, John Bragg announced he would be moving Circa westward, with Sekisui leaving its Humphreys location to move into Regalia. The arrangement with Sekisui fell through.

Now Trimm and his team, Shady Grove Restaurant Group, are set to open a restaurant in the 3,700 square foot space by mid-June.

The new restaurant will cater to the area's large business community, offering a sophisticated Southern lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and brunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday. Trimm says the restaurant will be similar to Sweet Grass in style and French in technique, but will expand beyond his familiar low country cuisine into a wider "tour of the South." With a more executive bent, Southward™ will cater primarily to business lunch, happy hour, and private dinners, and the full bar, which will include wine and craft beer, will focus on "interesting and unique" cocktails with plenty of infusions.

Dinner should run around $20 to $30 and lunch around $15 or less.

Southward™ Fare and Libations, Regalia Shopping Center, 6150 Poplar Ave

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Out of the Bleu Week

Posted By on Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Last night, my pal/foodie comrade Stacey Greenberg and I enjoyed a tasting of the new menu at Bleu Restaurant and Lounge in the downtown Westin Hotel. I won't mince words: We gorged ourselves.

The evening began with some signature cocktails, including the sweet and tangy Blueberry Lemon Drop (like the traditional lemon drop but with fresh muddled blueberries thrown in the mix). Then, Chef Robbie Cirillo started churning out tasting plates:

There was the hummus trio with edamame ginger hummus, roasted red pepper and chickpea hummus, and black bean and grilled jalapeño hummus, served with fried wontons. Then char-grilled oysters with jalapeno butter and parmesan cheese. Then tender, flavorful bulgogi beef wraps with kimchee:
And lobster tempura rolls:

We probably could have stopped there, but there was watermelon salad to be had, garnished with feta, red onions, and drizzled with a mint basil oil and kiwi vinaigrette.


And then the entrees began. Perhaps the most impressive concept of the evening was the dashi, a soup made with snow crab legs, smoked turkey, carrots, mushrooms, noodles, and nori, all topped with an egg. Chef Robbie came to the table to pour the broth over the other ingredients and the result was an eclectic mix of flavors steeped in a rich broth, though it needed a pinch of salt.

The bigger hit of the entrees was Cirillo's play on chicken and waffles, featuring barbecued chicken atop a perfectly savory potato hash with pancetta and set aside fresh jicama slaw.

For dessert, we managed to continue our streak of overindulgence with a sampling of five, count them, FIVE desserts, including a delectable trio of whoopie pies in chocolate peanut butter, watermelon kiwi, and raspberry mint chocolate.

We also sampled a chocolate trifle, a mini lemon ice box pie, and flan served atop a strawberry shortcake and topped with fresh strawberries and mint syrup. Finally, Cirillo had us sample some of his mochi, a traditional Japanese rice cake that Stacey informs me is very difficult to make. (She added that Cirillo's mochi was exceptional, not a sticky mess like some batches she's tried to make at home.)

Though we practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant, we agreed the meal was an impressive showcase of Cirillo's talents and his creative spirit. If you haven't made it to Bleu yet, don't pass it by. And if you have been there, now is the time for a return visit.

Bleu, 221 S. Third, 334-5950,

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cafe Eclectic's Renovations Mean Larger Kitchen, New Menu Items

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 9:38 AM

The original location of Cafe Eclectic on McLean reopened yesterday after being closed for a week for renovations.

Regulars will notice the new paint. The once-tiny kitchen has been expanded and equipped with new ovens, a deep fryer, and walk-in freezer and fridge.

The restaurant/coffee bar has moved into space at the side of the building and along the back, with dry-cleaning equipment from University Cleaners removed to make way. (University Cleaners still operates a storefront for pick-ups.) There's also an upstairs area being eyed for future expansions.

What this means for the consumer is that chicken and waffles are now part of the menu. There's also a new fried chicken sandwich, which Cafe Eclectic's Rachel Boulden describes as "homemade Chick-fil-A." There are new vegetarian options as well with vegan pancakes being a regular offering.

The new larger kitchen will serve both the Cafe Eclectic at Harbor Town and the newest location inside the Stratum on Highland set to open in May.

Boulden says they spent the first day post-renovations working out hiccups. They had initially planned to be closed for 4 days for the work but the Easter holiday pushed back the re-opening.

"A whole week!," says Boulden. "That was a little traumatic."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sneak Peek: ¡Chiwawa!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 9:14 AM

When the weather is as dreary as it was yesterday, it's hard not to imagine sunnier days, lounging on a fancy new patio, tequila sno-cone in hand.

Chiwawas sleek raised patio gets a rain rinse.
  • Chiwawa's sleek raised patio gets a rain rinse.
Enter: Chiwawa, the buzzy new spot on Madison in the former, long shuttered Chicago Pizza Factory. Oh yes, they will have "adult" sno-cones with tequila and whiskey. They'll also have boozy popsicles and cheap and tasty street foods and small plates (all between $3 and $8) by Chef Crash Hethcox, formerly of Revival Southern food truck, and Travis Tungseth. They'll be plating a variety of hotdogs and brats (including some veggie dogs!), french fries and sweet-and-spicy ketchup, elote (grilled corn covered with spicy mayonnaise and sprinkled with cotija cheese), quesadillas, tacos, homemade chips and salsa, and their signature "Juantons," a chicken and cheese mix stuffed into wonton wrappers and fried.

This, the handiwork of Yolo founder and general entrepreneurial guru Taylor Berger, was on display briefly yesterday for a menu tasting, and we liked what we saw. After quite a bit of renovating (moving the kitchen, bathrooms, staircase) Berger unveiled a hip, multilevel bar and restaurant reminiscent of some of the cool spots you'd see in Austin or Chicago. Exposed brick, industrial steel staircase, distressed wood — you know the drill.

Here's a few snaps of the upstairs space, including the expansive bar modeled by local blogger extraordinaire, Stacey Greenberg.

Downstairs, the open kitchen looks out over another dining space, this one a little smaller and cozier.
Downstairs dining.
  • Downstairs dining.
Downstairs dining.
  • Downstairs dining.

Chiwawa got some attention in the last few weeks for its giant lighted sign that reads "Midtown is Memphis" — borrowed from the bumper sticker catchphrase that has been circulating Memphis since 1993 (coined by our very own John Branston and his friend Tom Foster.) The arched sign leads onto Chiwawa's patio and sits directly on Madison Avenue.

(Normally I would complain about the a-hole who ruined my shot by parking directly in front of the sign. Except that is my car parked directly in front of the sign — I am the a-hole — so we'll let it slide.)

I asked Berger how he would describe Chiwawa's menu.

"Badass?" he said.

Go see for yourself this week, as Berger hopes to have the place up and running by Wednesday. Chiwawa won't have its beer license right away, so you'll have to stick to liquors and high gravity beers at first. Once the doors are open, Chiwawa will be churning out cheap eats and drinks from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Chiwawa, 2059 Madison Avenue, 517-6518,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sekisui Humphreys Move to Regalia "On Hold"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 10:48 AM


About a month ago, Sekisui announced plans to move its original location at Humphreys Center to Regalia Center in the site of Circa.

Those plans are now "on hold," according to David Lindsey of Sekisui.

"It's not going to happen anytime soon," says Lindsey. "That's all I can tell you at this point."

Details were not provided as to what happened. Lindsey says there are no immediate plans to move into Regalia or relocate the Humphreys restaurant, referred to among the locations as Sekisui East, to another location. The Humphreys restaurant closed in December after the lease was not renewed to make way for the Baptist Center for Cancer Care.

Lindsey says that most of the staff from Sekisui East are now at different locations. He says that the Humphreys restaurant, the first Sekisui opened in 1989, has a loyal customer base.

"Fortunately," Lindsey says, "there are enough locations so that everyone has an option."

Check back for updates.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sekisui Humphreys Moving to Circa Space

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM


The original Sekisui, which opened in 1989 at the Shops at Humphreys Center, is moving on. A new space has been secured at the Regalia Center where Circa was located.

According to David Lindsey of Sekisui, the restaurant's lease in the building was not renewed. (A story in the Commercial Appeal outlines plans for the Baptist Center for Cancer Care that would go in that space.)

"Our main objective was to find a nice location as close as possible [to the Humphreys location]," Lindsey says. The Regalia restaurant is just a mile or so away from the Humphreys location, so that loyal customers won't have to travel far. Lindsey says that the staff from Humphreys will be making the move to Regalia as well. He also notes that the new location is also ideal in that Sekisui will not be competing with another Sekisui.

The move is now taking place, and changes will be made to Circa to transform it into a Japanese restaurant.

Lindsey says details are still be worked out, but he doesn't think there will be hibachi at the Regalia restaurant.

They hope to be open by mid-February and will be posting progress reports on their website

As for Circa, the restaurant closed last week, but has announced, via Facebook, plans to reopen around the same time as the new Sekisui, the middle of next month, in a new space on Poplar.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Big Bad Pop Ups: Street Food Pop Up Restaurants in Oxford

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Big Bad Pop-Ups is a month-long series of pop-up restaurants featuring high-end chefs serving street food in Oxford, Mississippi.

The event comes courtesy John Currence, who owns Oxford’s celebrated City Grocery as well as Bouré, Big Bad Breakfast, Snack Bar, and the Main Event catering company. City Grocery is undergoing renovations during the month of January, so, says City Grocery’s chef de cuisine Jesse Houston, “We wanted to make sure the staff kept busy, involve our friends, and have fun with it too.”

Those friends include chefs who’ll have the run of the Main Event site for four days each, Wednesdays through Saturdays, to create cheap and portable eats. Participating in Big Bad Pop-Ups: Eli Kirshstein of Top Chef fame (January 9th-12th); chefs from City Grocery (January 16th-19th); Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen/Hog & Hominy’s Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman (January 23rd-26th); and Restaurant Iris’ Kelly English (January 30th-February 2nd).

Kirshstein will serve up Israeli street food. The folks from City Grocery are doing Americana staples like hamburgers and hot dogs. Ticer and Hudman will bring their unique Hog & Hominy-style of Italian-meets-Southern fare to Oxford, while English’s take will be Louisiana-style truck-stop food.

“It’s going to be fun for us fancy chefs to do food we wouldn’t normally do,” says English, who’s planning on serving boudin hot dogs and chicken red beans and rice, among other fare. “It’s really filthy food, just filthy,” he says. “I mean that in the most positive way.”

For more information, go the event's Facebook page.


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