A Ripe Time 

Jones Orchard offers lunch menu, Bryant's Breakfast now open on Sundays.

Pick-your-own berries are ripe at Shelby Farms.

Justin Fox Burks

Pick-your-own berries are ripe at Shelby Farms.

Juanita Jones has spent a lifetime cooking, first for family and friends, then in the kitchen of Jones Orchard in Millington, where her relishes, jams, and baked goods are sold along with the market's produce. A few years ago, she added vegetable soup, cornbread, and sandwiches to her menu, but the food was carry-out only until she started serving her vegetable plates.

"People wanted to sit and eat," Juanita said. "So I put in a big table in our stock room."

As word spread about the sit-down service, Juanita added full-fledged plate lunches and soon outgrew the restaurant's two dozen seats. "We just finished extending out the back of the market," Juanita said. "Now we can seat about 40 people."

click to enlarge food_news1-1.jpg

Lunch is served Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and the menu features longtime favorites such as pimento cheese and chicken salad, along with daily specials that go something like this: chicken and sausage-squash casserole on Mondays; salmon patties on Tuesdays; pot roast and cauliflower casserole on Wednesdays; meat loaf on Thursdays; catfish and hushpuppies on Fridays.

"I'm never exactly sure what will be on the menu; it depends on what's fresh and available," Juanita says. "But whatever I make, it will be good, because I use all my own recipes."

Plate lunches cost about $8 and include entrée, two sides, drink, and dessert. "Today we have apple cobbler and strawberries, pears, and bananas over pound cake," Juanita said last week. "Or, for a simpler dessert, you can pick out a piece of fruit up front."

Another idea is to head out to the market's fields, where you can grab your own dessert for $1.89 a pound. Strawberries are ready to pick in Millington and at the Jones field in Memphis near the Agricenter.

"We've had quite a bit of rain, but the plants are okay," said Henry Jones, who expects a plentiful harvest throughout the month of May. In fact, more than 25,000 plants are growing in each location, offering three different varieties: Sweet Charlie, Chandler, and Camarosa.

And how do the berries taste? "They are juicy, red on the inside, and have a perfect sugar content," Jones said.

Fields at both locations are open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

7170 Highway 51 North, Millington, Jones orchard.com (873-3150); strawberries also at Shelby Farms, 7777 Walnut Grove

Bryant's Breakfast on Summer is now open on Sundays from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m.

"My dad was open all week. That's the way I grew up," said Kerrie Burton, who now operates the family-owned restaurant. "We closed on Sunday after his death because we needed some time off, but it seems right again to be open all week."

Plate lunches and fresh veggies are not served on weekends, but the rest of Bryant's menu is available. "We'll make you a cheeseburger," Burton said. "But most people on Sunday want biscuits and breakfast."

Bryant's Breakfast, 3965 Summer, Bryantsbreakfast.com (324-7497)

It's been a busy year for caterer Alyce Mantia. First, she closed her gourmet market and restaurant in East Memphis. Next, she joined the staff at Lucchesi's Ravioli and Pasta Company, expanding the market's lunch and cheese selections. And in October, she's getting married.

"Everything has worked out perfectly," Mantia said. "I couldn't be happier."

Her former customers are happy too, finding many of their favorite lunches offered again at Lucchesi's: El Paso pimento cheese, egg and olive, tarragon-chicken salad, and Mantia's signature dill pickles.

"I also took my most popular sandwich — chicken, smoked mozzarella, apple wood smoked bacon, and honey mustard — and turned it into a panini," Mantia said.

In addition to expanding Lucchesi's prepared food, Mantia also has diversified the store's catering ("I brought all my recipes with me"), expanded the market's groceries ("We have new olive oils that are perfect for dipping"), and added more gourmet cheese ("We have about 80").

"We still sell the great Italian cheeses like Fontina and Locatelli," Mantia said, "but I also try to bring in something new every time I order."

540 S. Mendenhall, Suite 3, luccchesis.com (766-9922)

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