Best of Memphis 2015: Food & Drink 

Sections: Introduction | Food & Drink | Nightlife | Arts & Entertainment | Media | Goods & Services | Staff Picks

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

Best New Restaurant

1. Belly Acres

2. Lafayette's Music Room

3. Bounty on Broad

Rain or shine, the decor assures it's always blue skies at Belly Acres, Overton Square's nifty, next-generation burger joint. The environment is casual, whimsical, and family-friendly, with decorative nods to Memphis and the Mid-South. The menu is focused but free-ranging, and the fresh, farm-to-table ethos means hungry diners can chow down on grass-fed beef and handcrafted veggie burgers topped with items like braised tomatoes and pickled greens. House-made condiments go beautifully with brioche buns. And wheat buns. And sourdough buns. And the gluten-free buns too!

Best Breakfast

1. Brother Juniper's

2. Bryant's Breakfast

3. The Arcade Restaurant

Imagine an open-faced omelet spread with sour cream and home fries and topped with portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, green onions, feta, and cheddar cheese, and served with a side of hearty, homemade five-grain struan toast, and a full-flavored cup of just-brewed coffee. Of course, you don't have to imagine it, you can always visit Brother Juniper's and ask for the San Diegan. Brother Juniper's is a Memphis breakfast tradition, with more than 20 signature omelets and the best biscuits in town.

Best Brunch

1. Owen Brennan's

2. Beauty Shop

3. The Majestic Grille

Owen Brennan's New Orleans-style menu has it all: beef, chicken, seafood, jambalaya, shrimp and grits, gumbo, and étouffée. Sunday brunch is all that plus sausage, fried catfish in a creamy crawfish sauce, and a variety of Crescent City egg dishes. Live jazz music enhances the New Orleans-style dining experience.

Best Shared/Small Plates Menu

1. Babalu Tacos & Tapas

2. Alchemy

3. Sweet Grass

When you bite into an empanada stuffed with Aspen Ridge natural ground beef, roasted potatoes and mushrooms, and a cumin-scented crema, you can almost hear expert fingers working their way around a conga drum and hear Desi Arnaz' clear tenor voice singing, "Babalu!" Strangely enough, that also happens when you bite into the crab cakes. And the wild Maine mussels.

Best Wine List

1. Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar

2. Greencork

3. Bari Ristorante — tie — Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

Is there anything nicer than sitting outside on the Main Street Mall watching all the people go by? Yes. Doing the exact same thing with a bottle of Beaux Frères Pinot Noir. A d'Arenberg "Stump Jump" Shiraz would also be nice. So would a lovely Duckhorn Chardonnay. It would be even better with a plate of Flight's Scallops Rockefeller or an assortment of artisanal sausage and cheese.

Best Streak

1. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

2. Ruth's Chris Steak House

3. Buckley's Grill — tie

The Butcher Shop

The lights are always low at Folk's Folly. The decor: solid, built to withstand the tests of time and changing sensibilities. Music pours from the piano bar, and good smells waft from the kitchen. It's the perfect environment to enjoy an ice-cold martini. You'll also want to savor a bowl of creamy she-crab soup and maybe a lollipop veal chop. Or a 14-ounce filet. Or cowboy ribeye. Or you could always just have another martini. And dessert.

Best Barbecue

BOM 1. Central BBQ

2. Bar-B-Q Shop

3. Germantown Commissary

Best Ribs

1. Central BBQ

2. Charles Vergos' Rendezvous

3. Bar-B-Q Shop — tie — Corky's Ribs & BBQ

From the dawn of civilization, humans have engaged in heated debate over whose fire made the best-tasting meat. Memphians perfected the contentious tradition but seem to agree that the folks at Central BBQ know what they're doing. Mouthwatering ribs? Check. Smoked hot wings? Check. Pulled pork sandwiches? Oh yeah. All that and generous portions of barbecue nachos. And if pork's not your thing (god forbid), they do a pretty good job with beef, chicken, and turkey as well.

Best Burger

BOM 1. Huey's

2. Belly Acres

3. Tops Bar-B-Q

Best Lunch

1. Huey's

2. Central BBQ

3. Elwood's Shack

Best Service

1. Huey's

2. Restaurant Iris

3. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen — tie — Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

click to enlarge Brian Davis, Huey's - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Brian Davis, Huey's

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Huey's

2. Alex's Tavern

3. Earnestine & Hazel's

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

1. Huey's

2. Belly Acres

3. Mellow Mushroom

Kids love Huey's because it's a place where they're encouraged to break all the rules. Who needs a coloring book when you can draw on the walls while waiting for your burger? Or you can turn your drinking straw into a rocket launcher and sink frill picks in the ceiling tiles. Grown-ups like it for the same reason. Also, because the Smokey Melt burger is perfection on toast. Numerous locations make it convenient. Best of all, Huey's never stops innovating. The menu's always full of old favorites and new things to try.

Best Hot Wings

1. Ching's Hot Wings

2. Central BBQ

3. Alex's Tavern

Maybe it's the wings that make Ching's special. The Honey Gold are sweet and tangy, and the Suicide can light up the lips and make the endorphins flow. It might also be the Ramen noodle-seasoned fries. Or that concoction they call Blue Drink.

Best Fried Chicken

BOM 1. Gus's Fried Chicken

2. Jack Pirtle's Chicken

3. Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken

Gus's hot and spicy fried chicken has come a long way since the 1950s when Napoleon and Maggie Bonner opened their first little shack in Mason. Today, it's a certifiable phenomenon that regularly tops national "best of" lists. Also, what was once a local favorite is now a growing franchise opening new stores all the time.

Best Place for Dessert

1. Beauty Shop

2. Flight — tie — Paulette's Restaurant

3. Tart

Chef Karen Carrier's ability to introduce just the right amount of sweetness into her savory, spicy dishes almost makes dessert unnecessary as a concept. After all, a Pimm's Cup with watermelon and wings covers all cravings in a single plate. Nevertheless, the Beauty Shop's daily dessert specials are always a treat. While the restaurant's menu tends to be forward-thinking, you can't go wrong with classic old-fashioned coconut and red velvet cakes.

click to enlarge Beauty Shop - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Beauty Shop

Best Dessert Shop

BOM 1. Muddy's Bake Shop

2. The Cheesecake Corner

3. Frost Bake Shop

Muddy's must be putting actual Prozac in the chocolate Prozac cupcakes, because y'all are obviously addicted. An overwhelming majority of votes went to Kat Gordon's kitschy bake shop — home of the best cupcakes, cookies, bars (OMG, vegan peanut butter bars!), and pies.

Best Frozen Treat Shop

1. Jerry's Sno Cones

2. YoLo Frozen Yogurt

3. La Michoacana

Who waits in line for 30 minutes for a sno cone? Memphians do! At least, if it's a sno cone from Jerry's. With a massive menu of flavors, a reputation for generously pouring on the syrup, and the option of adding a scoop of soft-serve (just say "supreme"), Jerry's has the market cornered on sno cones. If you're looking for something more substantial, try the jalapeño-flavored fried pickle spears.

Best Smoothies/Juices

1. The Cosmic Coconut — tie — Smoothie King

2. Tropical Smoothie Café

3. Raw Girls

Our readers appreciate local businesses, but they also love convenience. That may explain why the locally owned Cosmic Coconut tied with the Smoothie King chain. There's only one Cosmic Coconut, the all-vegan juice and smoothie shop, but there are three locations of Smoothie King spread across the city. Either way, the chocolate-covered almond smoothie (almonds, banana, cacao, and coconut) at the Coconut and the super nutty grain smoothie (vegan protein, super grains, peanut butter, and banana) at Smoothie King are equally delicious.

Best Italian

1. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

2. Pete & Sam's Famous Italian Restaurant

3. Ciao Bella Italian Grill and Bar

When it comes to Italian fare, our readers like the swanky Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. We're guessing it has something to do with Newman Farm pork served with fennel, passatelli, pancetta, and red peas. Or maybe it was that famous chocolate sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel and gelato.

Best Mediterranean

1. Casablanca Restaurant

2. Kwik Chek

3. Petra Café

There is much to love about Casablanca, but we think their smoky baba ghanoush is the best in town. If you're looking for falafel, chicken shawarma, kabobs, or couscous, this East Memphis eatery is the place to go. It's so popular that they're expanding soon with a new location in Midtown.

Best New American

1. Hog & Hominy

2. Beauty Shop

3. Bounty on Broad

It's Italian and Southern. It's relaxed and refined. It's neckbone gravy and crème fraîche. All of it has made Hog & Hominy a hit machine for Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, the wonderboys of Brookhaven Circle.

Best Mexican

1. Las Delicias Mexican Bar & Grill

2. Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana — tie — Molly's La Casita

3. El Mezcal Restaurant & Bar

If you're looking for authentic Mexican food (not Tex-Mex!), Las Delicias has you covered with baked pork leg tortas, charro beans, chicken hot tamales, or flan Napolitano. They're locally famous for their crispy, hand-fried tortilla chips and chunky guacamole, which is sold at the restaurant and area grocery stores.

Best Cajun/Creole

1. Bayou Bar & Grill

2. DeJaVu

3. The Second Line

With several varieties of Abita on draft (including the high-gravity Abita Andygator), a menu of po'boys and gator chili cheese fries, and Mardi Gras beads hanging from the ceiling, the Bayou Bar & Grill is where locals go when they don't have time to drive six hours south to New Orleans.

Best Chinese

1. Mulan Asian Bistro

2. Wang's Mandarin House

3. A-Tan

Besides the ubiquitous fried rice, lo mein, and egg rolls, Mulan offers a menu of authentic Szechuan cuisine from the Sichuan province in Southwestern China. That portion of the menu features hard-to-find (in Memphis anyway) items like tofu with preserved egg, sliced beef and offal in chili sauce, and crispy tiny fish with peanuts. But the less adventurous can find plenty to eat on Mulan's massive menu that also includes sushi.

Best Thai

1. Bhan Thai

2. Bangkok Alley

3. Jasmine Thai & Vegetarian

Three words — pad see ew. No Thai place in town can touch Bhan Thai's version of this traditional Thai dish of flat rice noodles with garlic, carrots, broccoli and your choice of chicken, pork, beef, or tofu. But pretty much everything at Bhan Thai is the best — the pad thai, the panang curry, or the cashew nut stir-fry. The amazing patio and homey interior of the restaurant are pretty awesome, too.

Best Vietnamese

1. Pho Binh — tie — Pho Saigon

2. Saigon Le

3. Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant

Whether it's from Pho Binh or Pho Saigon, our readers love their Vietnamese food. The legendary lemongrass tofu and the all-you-can-eat buffet surely swayed our readers to cast their votes for Pho Binh, but the greasy Bánh xèo (a savory crepe stuffed with meats or fried tofu, the ultimate hangover food) or the hearty bánh mì sandwich at Pho Saigon get equal love.

Best Japanese

1. Sekisui

2. Osaka Japanese Cuisine

3. Sakura Japanese Restaurant

Sekisui has been serving sushi and other Japanese delights at various locations in Memphis for many years. And Flyer readers appreciate Sekisui's consistency and commitment to quality year after year.

Best Indian

1. India Palace

2. Golden India

3. Bombay House

India Palace on Poplar keeps drawing crowds — and votes for Best of Memphis — at its long-time Midtown location. Memphis fans of tandoori chicken, gulab jamun, rice kheer, and tasty naan bread say India Palace is the place to go.

click to enlarge Soul Fish Café - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Soul Fish Café

Best Home Cooking/Soul Food

1. Soul Fish Café

2. The Cupboard Restaurant

3. Alcenia's

Justifiably famous for its catfish, Soul Fish Café keeps its customers happy at three locations — Midtown, East Memphis, and Germantown. And those hush puppies, y'all! Mmm, good.

Best Vegetarian

1. Fuel Café

2. Café Eclectic

3. Imagine Vegan Café — tie — Whole Foods Market

Best Food Truck

1. Fuel Café

2. Central BBQ

3. Say Cheese!

Flyer readers selected a new winner for Best Vegetarian. Fuel Café has been around for a while, serving delicious vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes at its funky former-gas-station locale on Madison. We're betting that delicious Walnut Meatloaf is what put them over the top this year. And Fuel doubled down by also taking home the award for Best Food Truck. Way to go. Literally.

Best Seafood

1. The Half Shell Restaurant

2. Tsunami

3. Bonefish Grill

The venerable Half Shell brings home the prize for seafood again this year. Despite the restaurant's longevity, the menu stays fresh with popular innovations like the Ricotta Crawfish Crêpe, Pompano en Papillote, and Baja Seafood Nachos. Ahoy, y'all.

Best Pizza

1. Aldo's Pizza Pies

2. Memphis Pizza Café

3. Pyro's Fire Fresh Pizza

Boom, here's a new winner! Aldo's Pizza Pies, a downtown favorite, muscled its way to the top of the pizza ladder this year, no doubt helped by its new Midtown location with its rooftop deck. That's some topping!

Best Sandwiches

1. Fino's From the Hill — tie — Young Avenue Deli

2. Elwood's Shack

3. Kwik Chek

No one who's seen the crowd on a Saturday morning at Fino's Madison Avenue location would be surprised to learn this long-time Midtown favorite has won the Best Sandwiches title for another year. And soon, East Memphians will get their shot at a Big Guido, as a new Fino's location has been announced for Brookhaven Circle.

Best Server


Anna Cade, Huey's

Heather Farwell, Local

Jean Pruett, The Slider Inn

Jeff Frisby, Restaurant Iris

Logan West, Local

Tony Dortch, Huey's

These five customer favorites won over Flyer voters with their charm, wit, and stellar service. And we bet their tips are pretty good, too.

Best Place for People-Watching

1. Beale Street

2. Peabody Lobby Bar

3. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

click to enlarge Beale Street - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Beale Street

You want to watch people? Sure you do. It's better than watching goldfish swim or grass grow. People are fun! And funny. And on Beale Street they're drinking Big Ass Beers, eating tasty food, and dancing to great music. And that's always worth watching.

Best Patio

1. Lafayette's Music Room

2. Celtic Crossingtie — The Slider Inn

3. Bhan Thai

Overton Square's premier music hall got popular in a hurry, winning Best Patio for the first time. It's easy to see why. Lafayette's is a prime perch to watch the crowds go by while eating wonderful food and listening to great music. What's not to like?

Best Bakery

1. Muddy's Bake Shop

2. La Baguette

3. Frost Bake Shop

Muddy's Bake Shop takes the cake again. This East Memphis icon won over Flyer voters with its Shady Wake, Cocoa Chanel, and Kick in the Pants pies and its top-rated cupcakes. It probably doesn't hurt that Muddy's has brought the sweetness to Midtown, as well.

Best Donut Shop

BOM 1. Gibson's Donuts

2. Howard's Donuts

3. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Few places live in Memphis lore like Gibson's Donuts. Whether it's a simple hot glazed or an all-out maple bacon, Gibson's draw has Memphians lining up day and night (and then we post about it on social media).

Best Coffeehouse

1. Café Eclectic — tie — Muddy's Coffee and Bake Shop (formerly Grind House)

2. Otherlands Coffee Bar

3. Republic Coffee

Café Eclectic and Muddy's Coffee and Bake Shop tied for Best Coffeehouse, but one thing is clear — our readers must like baked goods with their cup of joe. Café Eclectic offers up handmade donuts and vegan pies with their Illy brews, and Muddy's customers can pair their cup with a cupcake.

Best Brewery

1. Wiseacre Brewing Co.

2. Ghost River Brewing

3. Memphis Made Brewing Co.

Memphis can't get enough Wiseacre. Their expansion tells us so. More than that, Wiseacre is engrained in our culture now. Consider these words: Tarasque, Ananda, and Tiny Bomb. These mean something (and something good) in Memphis now.

Best Beer Selection (Store)


Madison Growler/ Memphis Cash Saver

2. Buster's Liquors & Wines

3. Joe's Wines & Liquors

Burly beer guys aren't much for romance. But you should just see 'em at Cash Saver. They skip down the aisles through the rainbow of ales and lagers. And when they see their receipts, they look thankfully skyward like the rainy freedom scene in Shawshank Redemption.

Best Beer Selection (Bar/Restaurant)

1. Flying Saucer

2. Young Avenue Deli

3. Boscos Squared

The Saucer was doing beer here before beer was cool. For 18 years, beers from all over the world have poured from its massive wall of taps. Grab a stool, order a beer, and get yourself beer-ducated.

Best Chef

1. Kelly English, Five Spot/Restaurant Iris/The Second Line

2. Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, Andrew Michael/Hog & Hominy/Porcellino's

3. Felicia Willett, Felicia Suzanne's — tie — Michael Patrick, Rizzo's Diner

tie — Patrick Reilly, Majestic Grille

If Kelly English doubts that Memphis loves him, he should consider that he's topped this list every year since 2009. He's familiar with the end zone, but hopefully, he'll still give us a touchdown dance.

Best Date Night Restaurant

1. Restaurant Iris

2. Flight

3. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

Low lights. White linens. Fine wine. Iris is right out of a Hollywood date-night scene. The menu is totally approachable, and the wait staff is patient and happy to help. It's fine dining minus the anxiety.

click to enlarge Kelly English and crew at The Second Line and Restaurant Iris - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Kelly English and crew at The Second Line and Restaurant Iris

Best Restaurant

1. The Second Line

2. Restaurant Iris

3. Hog & Hominy — tie — Huey's

Meat pies, barbecue shrimp, debris, a full line of po'boys, a killer bar, and a great patio. It's no wonder The Second Line is always packed out.

click to enlarge toc_bomlogo.jpg

The Best of Memphis 2015

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