Let's Eat Out 

It's not Two Buck Chuck, but it's worth a try: Bears' Lair for $5.

Justin Fox Burks

It's not Two Buck Chuck, but it's worth a try: Bears' Lair for $5.

Call it a new spin on a much-loved meal, or simply say: Spindini Sunday brunch. Either way, it's delicious Italian comfort food from Chef Joe Cartwright.

The popular dinner-only restaurant on South Main Street started brunch last Sunday to accommodate its downtown neighbors, said Kevin Darker, operations manager. "We are surrounded by lots of new condos, and people are looking for a neighborhood restaurant where they can relax and have brunch," he said.

Served from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the mix-and-match menu sounds delicious. A $6 cold buffet includes pastries, fresh fruit, bruschetta, and breakfast pizza. A hot buffet, also $6, offers potato and lobster hash, roasted garlic egg strata, creamy polenta with smoked mozzarella, and rigatoni with sausage and vodka sauce.

Entrées on the à la carte menu are $20, and that includes both hot and cold buffets. Among the seven entrées are Italian eggs Benedict and a frittata made with sausage, bacon, tomatoes, and mozzarella.

"We also have champagne and Bloody Mary specials, because this is downtown," Darker said, "and everyone likes their drinks."

If you can't make Sunday bunch, consider stopping by Spindini on Monday evenings when all pizzas and bottles of wine under $75 are half-price. The restaurant opens at 5 p.m.

Spindini, 382 S. Main,

spindinimemphis.com (578-2767)

Here's a good reason to get downtown a little early: Market Café on Madison has started serving breakfast, offering frittatas, burritos, and fried-egg-and-bacon breakfast burgers.

"We also have quiche: a Southern-style quiche with ground beef, bacon, and sausage and a whole-grain quiche with veggies only," said Teresa Johns, the café's new chef.

Along with quiche, the café is serving oatmeal, grits, biscuits, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and build-your-own omelets. Beignets are served for breakfast and lunch, along with apple strudel, six-berry cobbler, chocolate crumble, and cheesecake.

"I love to bake, but I love to cook too," said Johns, who was the pastry chef at Blues City Pastry on South Main until it closed last year. "I'm fusing my French culinary training with Las Vegas international cuisine. It's going to be fun."

Johns' culinary accomplishments are impressive. She apprenticed under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, served as a chef de cuisine at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, and worked as the executive pastry chef for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

At Market Café, her creative flavor combinations kick up a straightforward lunch menu: The pecan tarragon chicken salad is mixed with apples and herb aïoli ($7); the pan-roasted salmon sandwich is served with cilantro slaw and house vinaigrette ($8.50); and the sexy Mexi burger is topped with jalapenos, avocado sauce, sour cream, pico de gallo, lettuce, and onions ($8).

Owner Ed Bell is enthusiastic about Johns reinventing his kitchen. "She brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and charm to our restaurant," he said.

Market Café is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is closed on weekends.

Market Café, 149 Madison,

memphismarketcafe.com (577-0086)

The display of $5 Bears' Lair stacked near the checkout of Liquor & Wine Depot in East Memphis caught the attention of everyone in line, including me. "What's it taste like?" I asked owner Greg Cross.

"It's good," Cross answered. "It's our version of Two Buck Chuck."

Two Buck Chuck is the Charles Shaw label of wines sold exclusively by Trader Joe's grocery stores for $2 a bottle. The California wine is made from excess grapes, so the taste can differ from one batch to the next.

"I've heard people buy a bottle, open it in the car and taste it, and if they like it, come back in and buy a case," the woman behind me said.

Available in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Bears' Lair was released this month in Memphis by the same company that distributes Two Buck Chuck. The grapes are grown in California's Lodi district. "That's a really high-end area," Cross said. "We're already seeing re-buys."

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