Eat Like a Local: 10 Memphis Restaurants for Locavores

Posted by Holly Whitfield | January 25th 2011 7780 4

It’s easy to eat like a local in Memphis – we love food, and there’s no shortage of unique restaurants. Here are ten locally-owned restaurants that use ingredients from area farmers to get you started:

1. Restaurant Iris (2146 Monroe Avenue)

The sample menu on the Restaurant Iris website comes with this disclaimer: “In order to provide you with the freshest ingredients, menus are subject to change frequently, depending on the season and products available at the farmers’ market.” Chef Kelly English’s New Orleans-inspired brunch and dinner menus are full of locally grown produce and raised-in-Tennessee meats (like foie gras).

2. Au Fond Farmtable (938 South Cooper Street)

House cured pork, Au Fond Farmtable, Memphis, Tenn.

House cured pork, Au Fond Farmtable, Memphis, Tenn.

Chef Ben Vaughn takes the whole farm-to-table thing very seriously. If he can’t get an item from one of his local suppliers, it’s probably not going to be on the menu. The restaurant’s menu changes frequently, but some favorites (like the Harris bagel sandwich) are consistent. The Cooper-Young restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch.

3. Sweet Grass (937 South Cooper Street)

Since it opened last year, Sweet Grass has become one of the most popular restaurants in Memphis. If you’re planning dinner there, make reservations – crowds pack the small Cooper-Young restaurant nightly for unique, low-country inspired cuisine. Don’t skip desert – the deep dish apple pie with a scoop of cinnamon gelato is incredible.

4. South of Beale (361 South Main)

House made chips and dip from South of Beale, Memphis, Tenn.

House made chips and dip from South of Beale, Memphis, Tenn.

Though South of Beale is a great bar, you shouldn’t go there just to drink. You need to eat. You need to eat a lot. The menu, which changes seasonally, is loaded with amped-up bar food like housemade chips and dip, burgers, and a pizza of the day. SOB walks a unique line – it’s both perfect for a casual drink or a semi-fancy dinner out.

5. Three Angels Diner (2617 Broad Avenue)

“Diner” probably isn’t quite the right word to describe Three Angels. Yes, it’s got inexpensive, low-key food (like fried chicken and burgers). Yes, it’s family friendly. It’s also got a full bar, pinball machines, and a kitchen that’s open until 2 a.m. The side items and soup change daily based on what’s fresh and available. That said,  if you’re there on potato pancake day, it’s a mistake not to order them.

6. Trolley Stop Market (704 Madison Avenue)

Trolley Stop market is all about locally sourced ingredients. The owners, Keith and Jill Forrester, are local farmers, and they support their own. The menu is packed with sandwiches, pizza, breakfast items and daily specials made with ingredients grown in the Mid-South. Monday night is vegan night, and they’ll deliver to Midtown and downtown.

7. Las Tortugas (1215 South Germantown Rd.)

Tacos from Las Tortugas, Memphis, Tenn.

Tacos from Las Tortugas, Memphis, Tenn.

Every day, Las Tortugas’ owner Pepe Magallanes goes shopping for the ingredients that will be used in his authentic Mexican food. All of the meats, vegetables and breads are super fresh because they’re bought locally. The food at Las Tortugas is different from other Mexican restaurants – there are no burritos, no sour cream, and don’t you dare ask for cheese dip. Instead, load up on tacos, tortas and elote (the best corn on the cob you’ll ever have).

8. Cafe Eclectic (603 North McLean)

Cafe Eclectic has it all: a coffee bar with insanely good espresso, a menu loaded with fresh salads, sandwiches and breakfasts, and house-made desserts. Get a side of home fries with your breakfast or lunch, and try one of the milkshakes for dessert.  They’ve also got wireless access, live music on the weekends and old school sodas.

9. Tsunami (928 South Cooper Street)

Though Tsunami’s chef, Ben Smith, is known around town for his way with seafood, he does a lot of things very well. If you eat at his mellow Cooper-Young restaurant, don’t miss out on the Neola Farms beef carpaccio appetizer. Most of the regular menu items are Pacific Rim inspired, but the daily small plate specials are always surprising.

10. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen (712 West Brookhaven Circle)

Chef Andrew Michael’s high-end Italian food is more than spaghetti and pizza. Take a second and click on the link to Andrew Michael’s website. Now tell me you don’t immediately want to stuff your face with roasted pork, fresh vegetables, homemade pasta and artisan cheeses. The food is fresh and simple, but never boring.

For more locally grown food and environmentally sustainable restaurants in Memphis, check out the Memphis Farmers Market and Project Green Fork.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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Show Comments


  1. Liz says:

    Au Fond is now open for dinner, too! Local burgers, all day long, plus pork chops, shrimp & grits. Yay!

  2. Dave L says:

    Locally sourced or not, I believe foie gras is unethical and inhumane. If you don’t know how it’s made, look it up. For some reason, Memphis chefs think they MUST serve it at fine dining establishments. So for me, Iris and Au Fond are out.

  3. Jacknmemphis says:

    Hey I moved to Memphis a year and half ago. I saw that you said 3 angles has a bar and PINBALL! One of my simple pleasures is beer and pinball. Except for the Elvis pinball at young ave. where else are there pinball machines to play?

  4. Jack,

    Garibaldi’s off of Highland has pinball- Soprano’s and one other. Grab a slice and pinball wizard away.

  5. Thomas O'Malley says:

    Save for #’s 1,8, and 9, that list is a joke.

  6. Neil A says:

    Thomas- what would your list be?

  7. ADM says:

    Thomas has clearly never been to Las Tortugas….

  8. Tyler says:

    ADM beat me to it.

  9. Conor says:

    One small correction. There is no Chef Andrew Michael. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen is actually owned by Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman.

  10. […] I Love Memphis- I’ve got more places to add to my list of Memphis Challenges! […]

  11. Dave L says:

    Good news! 1, 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 made it on to Memphis Magazine’s 2011 readers’ poll winners list. I am gaining faith in Memphis eaters. Leaving Las Tortugas off the list was a mistake, but I’m ok with it being Memphis’s worst kept secret!

  12. Jesse H says:

    I agree with many on this list. However, Las Tortugas was a flop for my wife and I. The line was insanely long, so we thought we were in for a great experience. Once we got our food though, we were disappointed. To me, it was very bland. Perhaps we just ordered the wrong items, and I’d certainly be willing to try it again. However, my experience there certainly didn’t qualify it for a top 10 position in the Memphis culinary scene.

  13. Ellen says:

    I would like to see a list of local ingredients on Au Fond Farmtable’s menu. It doesn’t seem to me like Ben Vaugn takes it seriously at all, let alone knows what a farm to table restaurant is. That place is fraudulent.

  14. Quora says:

    What are the must sees / dos for a weekend trip?…

    I’ve lived in Memphis about half of my life, interchanged with time elsewhere so I’ve done lots of tourist hosting. Memphis always leaves a positive impression. Its an awesome town with lots to see and do. The best resource on it is the I Love Memphi…

  15. Dave says:

    Jesse – Los Tortugas has always been worth the wait to me (I’ve even eaten my lunch outside on the curb because of the crowd). Yes, the corn is fab. But the fish tacos are wonderfully fresh, and the tamales are fantastic as well. Maybe it IS what you order – I’ve always ordered the aforementioned items – and never been disappointed.

  16. JT says:

    The deep dish apple pie at Sweet Grass is terrible. It is like ordering a cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. It is obnoxiously large and they find the need to put cream, gelato, strawberry, and apple garnish on it. However, the rest of the food at sweet grass is really quite good.

    Au Fond is also a disaster. Whether or not it is farm-to-table is irrelevant because the service is so deplorable. They just moved over the same useless waiters from Grace, you know, the same waiters who, during a tasting at Grace, served us the same course twice in a row!

  17. […] opportunities to get fresh food from local farmers in the Memphis area via farmers markets, certain restaurants (and here), and some grocery stores (Whole Foods and Kroger) will allocate small sections of their […]

  18. James says:

    Seriously, what pinball games are at Three Angels Dinner? Also, are they quarter machines or older than that? Their website shows one in their photos and it looks like it's a Gottlieb table from the 70's. 

    Places to play are getting rarer as the machines age and break down. Blog-worthy topic, for sure. Finding where there are late 70's and early 80's tables especially.


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