Just follow the crowds to the Cupboard Restaurant (1400 Union Ave., 901/276-8015, Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 7 a.m.–7 p.m., $6–18), one of Memphians’ favorite stops for plate lunches. The Cupboard moved from its downtown location to an old Shoney’s about a mile outside of town to accommodate the throngs who stop here for authentic home-style cooking.
The Cupboard gets only the freshest vegetables for its dishes like okra and tomatoes, rutabaga turnips, steamed cabbage, and green beans. The meat specials change daily, but include things like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, hamburger steak with onions, and beef tips with noodles. The corn bread “coins” are exceptionally buttery, and the bread is baked fresh daily. For dessert, try the lemon icebox pie.
The Women’s Exchange (88 Racine St., 901/327-5681, Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–1:45 p.m., $10) feels like a throwback to an earlier era. Located one block east of the Poplar Street viaduct, the Women’s Exchange has been serving lunch since 1936 and the menu has not changed much over the years. The special changes daily and always includes a choice of two entrées, or a four-vegetable plate. Classics like chicken salad, salmon loaf, beef tenderloin, and seafood gumbo are favorites, and all lunches come with a drink and dessert. The dining room looks out onto a green garden, and the atmosphere is homey—not stuffy. The Exchange also sells gifts, housewares, and other knick-knacks.
In the Cooper-Young neighborhood, Soul Fish (862 S. Cooper St., 901/725-0722, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., $6–15) offers traditional plate lunches, vegetable plates, and several varieties of catfish. You can get the fish breaded and fried, or blackened with a potent spice mix. Soul Fish is owned in part by Tiger Bryant, owner of the venerable Young Avenue Deli, and it has the hallmarks of a well-conceived eatery. The atmosphere is open and cheerful, with a few touches of subtle sophistication. In this case, the main attraction is good food at a good price—a combination that can be hard to find elsewhere in Cooper-Young.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition