Memphis Offers Unique Restaurants With Nostalgic Flare
Memphis is known as a tourist stop for all things Elvis and Memphis-style barbecue. But as someone who has been lucky enough to be born and raised in the city that’s located in the bottom left corner of Tennessee, there is so much more to Memphis than the Rendezvous and Graceland.
Memphis is a city in the midst of a growth spurt, and it has no shortage of hidden gems that can only be found if you are talking to a local. Luckily, I am one.
The Beauty Shop is a former beauty salon that was converted into a quaint restaurant in the Cooper-Young area of Memphis. The Beauty Shop shows its roots by keeping the original salon hair dyers as seating in the restaurant and the owners converted stylist cubbies into booths.
The restaurant specialized in American food, but with a twist and strives to keep things fresh by offering new specials daily. The restaurant is also open for for brunch, where one could order chicken and waffles or their famous beignets.
The Beauty Shop is always packed, especially for brunch, so reservations are recommended.
The second hidden gem in Memphis is the Crosstown Concourse. This is a former Sears mail-order processing warehouse that has been repurposed as an art-deco community center.
Inside you can find a wide variety of establishments, including restaurants, retail shops, coffee shops, a nail salon, a high school, and an insurance agency. There are multiple art installations scattered throughout the building, including a mural by BirdCap, a local street artist.
The Crosstown Concourse is open 24 hours, seven days a week. However, the establishments inside have their own individual hours. The Crosstown Concourse holds special events, such as movie showings, arts and crafts demonstrations, and beer tastings, so the next time you stop by Memphis, be sure to check out what it has to offer.
Cafe Eclectic is located on McLean Boulevard, a one-minute walk from the Rhodes College campus. Popular with college students and locals, this coffee shop has all the breakfast essentials, but with a modern spin. Featured on the menu are a Nutella waffle, a caramelized onion chicken sandwich, and a killer bacon egg and cheese on ciabatta bread.
Open from 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., this cozy coffee shop is perfect to study, chill with friends, take a breather, or just stop by to get your morning caffeine fix.
Next on the list is Babalu. Located in the heart of Memphis, Babalu is in the center of Overton Square in Midtown Memphis. Overton Square is alone worthy of its own place on the list, but Babalu seems to be the specific place where most Memphians migrate.
This tapas-style restaurant is “I Love Lucy” themed, hence the name. The modern building has a facade that is painted bright baby blue and features stained glass windows.
The inside is just as impressive, with black and white “I Love Lucy” reruns projected on the walls, and a half inside, half outside bar. They have a comfortable covered porch with couch seating and heaters for the chillier months and huge fans for the summer.
The food is unique and eclectic, with their most famous dish a modern take on classic tacos. Each waiter gives you a card with their name on it and the run-down on how the restaurant’s food works.
Each dish is big enough to be shared and comes out as soon as it is ready, so it does not all come to your table at the same time. This makes for a very interactive and fun dining experience that does not get boring.
If you go, be sure to order the guacamole. It is made fresh in front of you at your table, and the sundried tomatoes add a spin on guacamole that you never knew you needed.
Last on the list is Muddy’s Bake Shop. This quirky cupcake shop has two locations around town: one on Sanderlin Avenue tucked behind the Raquet Club of Memphis and one that is a two-minute drive from Copper-Young (where the Beauty Shop is located).
This bake shop was started by a St. Mary’s Episcopal School graduate. Her passion for cupcakes called her to open up a bakery, so she did. Her cupcakes and cookies offer just the right icing to cake proportion. The menu includes cupcakes, whole cakes, cookies, bars, blondies, pies, brownies, and more. Muddy’s also offers gluten free and vegan options.
If you visit, tell Kat, the owner, hello. She is very willing to establish a connection with all of her customers.