A Place of His Own 

John Bragg isn't a newcomer to the Memphis restaurant scene. He has worked at Erling Jensen's restaurants and with Gene Bjorklund at Aubergine, among others. In 2004, he reopened the vegetarian restaurant, La Montagne, keeping the name but changing pretty much everything else. Now, he's taken the next step with River Oaks, his new restaurant located in the former Cockeyed Camel at Poplar Avenue and I-240, next to Park Place Hotel.

"We had been looking for our own place for a while," Bragg says. "People would come to me and say, 'John, we love your food, but this location isn't going to work,'" referring to La Montagne's site on Park Avenue near Highland.

River Oaks is all Bragg. Nothing remains of the former tenant. Inside, the restaurant offers warm earthy tones and lots of natural light. The tables are bare, showing off their honey-colored wood. Black napkins pick up the color scheme in the eye-catching artwork, an elegant contrast to the golden interior.

Bragg's cuisine is modern American, and his menu features items such as wild mushroom and goat-cheese crepes, crawfish beignets, rack of lamb, baby pheasant, striped bass, grouper, and tilefish as well as a small à la carte steak selection and several side dishes.

Most dinner entrées at River Oaks are in the $22 to $26 range, with the exception of steak entrées, which are about $30. Chocolate soufflé, Meyer lemon tart, and pineapple baked Alaska are some of the sweet treats offered. The lunch menu features soups, salads, and sandwiches as well as a small selection of entrées.

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River Oaks is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

River Oaks, 5871 Poplar (683-9305)

Meanwhile, La Montagne won't be vacant for much longer. Javier Corona is set to open La Bamba, a Mexican restaurant, bar, and discotheque this month. While Corona plans on being open for traffic from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, he wants to serve his wife's Mexican food almost around the clock on weekends.

La Bamba, 3550 Park

Two new restaurants opened at the Avenue Carriage Crossing in Collierville. At STIX (as in chopsticks), you can enjoy Asian favorites and sushi or gather around the hibachi grill. The Collierville STIX is the third to open. The original is in Birmingham, Alabama. STIX serves lunch and dinner daily.

STIX, 4680 Merchants Park Circle (854-3399)

Diners will feel like they're in New Orleans' French Quarter when they sit down to sample the Crescent City's Creole-style comfort food. The menu includes all the New Orleans favorites -- crawfish, catfish, po'boys, muffalettas, red beans and rice and, of course, freshly prepared beignets. Crescent City serves lunch and dinner daily.

Crescent City, 4610 Merchants Park Circle (850-8580)

Soup lovers, get your spoons ready: Youth Villages' Soup Sunday is this Sunday, February 26th, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the FedExForum. More than 50 popular Memphis restaurants will serve up soup, specialty items, breads, and desserts to benefit Youth Villages.

Tickets at the door are $18 for adults and $5 for children 11 years and younger. Free parking is available at the Ford Garage. Call 252-7650 for tickets or go to www.youthvillages.org.

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