A relative newcomer to the Beale Street dining scene, E. P. Delta Kitchen and Bar (126 Beale St., 901/527-1444, Wed.–Sat. 5 p.m.–3 a.m., Sun.–Tues. 5 p.m.–1 a.m., $15–35) is the most upscale eatery on the famed blues drag. Located in what was once the flagship Lanksky Brothers clothing store, E. P. (that stands for Elvis Presley) Delta Kitchen has made a name for itself since opening in late 2006. The style here is spicy delta cooking with a refined twist: Imagine upscale jambalaya and bayou duck with pasta. After 11 p.m., there is a one-of-a-kind bar menu with offerings like barbecue duck quesadillas and fried green tomatoes. E. P.’s has a stylish and modern atmosphere, with live R&B on weekends. This is a popular place to start an evening out on the town, especially for the professional crowd, and don’t miss some of the one-of-a-kind libations like the Memphis BBQ Bloody Mary or the Peanut Butter and Banana Cocktail.
For a special occasion make reservations at the Inn at Hunt Phelan (533 Beale St., 901/525-8225, Wed.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–1 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., $22–36), a stately and sophisticated restaurant in the historic Hunt-Phelan House. The dinner menu is always changing, but expect dishes such as butternut squash ravioli or pepper-crusted tuna with pommes frites. If you are feeling really special, treat yourself to the $70 seven-course tasting menu. Diners at the inn can sit inside the elegant dining room, or outside on the charming back patio.
The Majestic Grill (145 S. Main St., 901/522-8555, Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., $6–29) serves a remarkably affordable yet upscale menu at lunch and dinner. Located in what was once the Majestic Theater, the white tablecloths and apron-clad waiters give the restaurant an aura of refinement. But with main courses starting at just $6, this can be a bargain. Flatbread pizzas feature asparagus, spicy shrimp, and smoked sausage. Sandwiches include burgers and clubs; specialties include pasta, barbecue ribs, grilled salmon, and steaks. Don’t pass on dessert, served in individual shot glasses, such as chocolate mousse, key lime pie, and carrot cake, among others.
Located on the corner of Madison and Main, Stella (39 S. Main St., 901/526-4950, Mon.–Sat. 5:30–10:30 p.m., $27–48) has made a name for itself on Memphis’s fine dining scene with dishes like Colorado Lamb Rack, Marinated Filet Mignon, and Oysters Stella. The dining room has expansive high ceilings, and rich wood paneling from the building’s previous life as a jewelry store.
It is impossible to pigeonhole Automatic Slim’s Tonga Club (83 S. 2nd St., 901/525-7948, $12–20), except to say that this Memphis institution consistently offers fresh, spirited, and original fare. They serve lunch Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and on weekends 11 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner is served daily 5–9:30 p.m. Named after a character from an old blues tune, Automatic Slim’s uses lots of strong flavors to create its eclectic menu; Caribbean and southwestern influences are the most apparent. Take a seat and in two shakes you’ll be presented with soft, fresh bread and pesto-seasoned olive oil for dipping. The Caribbean shrimp are a favorite of many diners. A meal at Automatic Slim’s would not be complete without a famous Tonga Martini or one of the kitchen’s delectable desserts: Pecan tart and chocolate cake are good choices. Automatic Slim’s is a welcome departure from barbecue and southern food when you’re ready. Its atmosphere is relaxed, and there’s often a crowd at the bar, especially on weekends when there’s live music on tap.
Long the standard-bearer of fine French cuisine, Chez Philippe (149 Union Ave., 901/529-4188, Tues.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., $65–70), located in the Peabody Hotel, now offers French-Asian fusion cuisine. The Asian influences are noticeable in the ingredients, but the preparation of most dishes at Chez Philippe remains traditional French. Entrées include grouper, bass, pork chop, and venison. Chez Philippe offers a prix fixe menu: Three courses is $65 and five courses is $70. Or opt for a seven-course tasting menu for $90; wine pairings are an addition $42 per person.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition