A look back at In Limbo — a super-hot restaurant in Cooper-Young that flamed out. 

In looking over old issues of the Flyer for the 25th anniversary Flashbacks, I've come across restaurants that don't ring a bell at all — Taco Rock? Cena? — but I do have two strong memories of the now-defunct In Limbo: 1) When it first opened, it was famous for its spicy food, which was later toned down; and 2) the time my aunt and I were asked to leave, not because we were being rowdy, but because they wanted to turn over the table quickly at this very popular spot.

In Limbo was reviewed in the Flyer's August 22, 1996 issue, in a column written by Todd Strickland titled "The Spice Is Right":

"Changes at In Limbo have transformed this Cooper-Young cafe into something special.

"Nestled in the heart of Cooper-Young is a gem that offers one of Memphis' premier dining experiences. In Limbo, a small, stylish Caribbean restaurant, reopened in February under new management, offering similar dishes but with a new flair.

"Prior to last winter's changes, Limbo's selection of entrees had me constantly reaching for my water glass to extinguish the flames raging in my mouth. I ate there twice and gave up on it. Then Angie Kirkpatrick, proprietor of Maxwell's restaurant, bought In Limbo, and with the help of chef John Pearson, she's offering Memphis a colorful and cozy location for good tropical food. ...

"The food at In Limbo is special. Dozens of fragrant spices that married well, and sauces that rivaled any I've tasted before or have attempted to make, came together beautifully to cap off a very gratifying evening out."

Then In Limbo popped up in this March 20, 1997, news bite by Sarah Hall:

"The hirings and firings that lingered longer than cigar smoke at Maxwell's and In Limbo finally seem over. It all started when owner Angie Kirkpatrick hired Jason Bryson as her star chef for both restaurants in early February. Bryson replaced John Pearson, In Limbo's original chef, who had been lured back when Kirkpatrick bought the restaurants in 1996.

"Bryson quickly became the talk of the town. Everyone seemed impressed that Bryson came to Memphis from the five-star Sailor's Lodge restaurant in the Seattle-area's Salish Lodge (where, according to a spokesperson, he only worked a little over three months), but no one found it odd that he moved straight from apprentice at the Racquet Club to only a week at Cena to head chef at not one but two of Midtown's most successful restaurants.

"Bryson resigned as chef on March 2nd, less than a month after being hired."

And, finally, In Limbo made another appearance within these pages, this time in an April 9, 1998, news story written by Louisa Koeppel:

"In Limbo, the Caribbean/Pacific Rim-style restaurant in Cooper-Young has closed its doors. ... Angie Kirkpatrick, owner of Maxwell's, helped the restaurant stay afloat after it almost closed a few years back. The lease is now up for In Limbo, and instead of renewing, she wants to focus on Maxwell's and see it through its fourth anniversary and beyond. A local chef has been looking into taking over, with plans of keeping the cuisine Pacific Rim."

That chef looking into taking over the In Limbo space was Ben Smith, who opened Tsunami in 1998.

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