Stay Classy, Memphis: 10 Special Occasion Restaurants

Posted by Holly Whitfield | December 16th 2010 6337 0

There are some dining occasions – birthdays, special dates, anniversaries – when dollar taco night just won’t do. You need something a little classier, someplace that says that you wanted the evening to be special.

When you want to celebrate, make reservations at one of these swanky local restaurants:

1. Bari (22 South Cooper, 722-2244)

Orzo Pomodoro from Bari, Memphis, Tenn.

Orzo Pomodoro from Bari, Memphis, Tenn.

Bari is unlike any other Italian restaurant in the city. The menu hyper-regional (from Puglia) and it’s divided into sections of small plates to encourage sampling. They’ve also got an impressive menu of Italian cheeses and meats that are perfect for sharing (or, you know, just eating by yourself if you’re a cheese fiend). I highly recommend the orzo pomodoro – it’s orzo with peppery tomato sauce and chunks of sweet crabmeat.

2. Flight (39 South Main Street, 521-8005)

Everything (including appetizers and wine) comes in threes at Flight, which makes it the perfect special occasion spot for the indecisive. The dining room is warm and polished, just the right kind of place for an anniversary dinner or special date. Try the watermelon and feta salad and the seafood flight (which has scallops, lobster and shrimp).

3. The Beauty Shop (966 South Cooper Street, 272-7111)

Karen Carrier’s trendy Cooper Young restaurant is located in a former beauty shop. The sinks, hair dryers, mirrors and workstations are still there, transformed into unique seats, tables and decor. The menu is seasonal, but favorites like watermelon and wings and grilled romaine salad are featured year round. Be sure to get a slice of their insanely good homemade cake for dessert.

4. Chez Philippe (149 Union Avenue, 529-4188)

In Memphis, Chez Philippe is synonymous with “fancy food”.  The restaurant, which is located behind golden gates in the Peabody Hotel lobby, serves multi-course French fusion dinners. It’s won all sorts of awards – it’s a Forbes four star restaurant and a AAA four diamond award winner. They serve a three course dinner Wednesday – Saturday nights and afternoon tea daily.

5. Sweet Grass (937 South Cooper Street, 278-0278)

Sweet Grass is classy, but casual. The menu features super fresh low country dishes like shrimp and grits and jambalaya. Don’t miss the deep-dish apple pie – it’s insanely good (and it comes with cinnamon ice cream). The bartender makes an excellent martini, too. Make reservations – the small-ish dining room fills up on the weekends.

6. Restaurant Iris (2146 Monroe Avenue, (901) 590-2828)

When I asked you guys where you’d like to have your birthday dinner if money was no object, about half of you picked Restaurant Iris. Chef Kelly English’s midtown restaurant has only been open for about two years, but it’s already legendary. The food is definitely inspired by English’s Louisiana childhood – think lobster “knuckle sandwiches”, scallops, gulf shrimp and pork belly. Iris is open nightly for dinner and on Sundays for brunch.

7. Tsunami (928 South Cooper Street, (901) 274-2556)

Ben Smith’s Cooper-Young restaurant won the “best seafood” category in the Memphis Flyer’s Best of Memphis this year, with good reason. The man does crazy amazing things with fish, scallops and shrimp. The menu is full of Asian-inspired dishes from the Pacific Rim. The bar is a perfect place to meet friends before a show at Playhouse on the Square. Tsunami is open for dinner nightly, and they’ve got a rotating menu of “small plates”.

8. Grill 83 (83 Madison Ave, 333-1224)

Grill 83 is located next door to the ultra-swanky Madison Hotel. Their menu is loaded with steaks, potatoes, fresh salads and seafood. The space is dark, but warm and a little manly. It’s a great place to have a bachelor party dinner, and they’ve usually got some kind of dinner special for people headed to shows at the Orpheum.

9. Interim (5040 Sanderlin Avenue, 818-0821)

At lunch, this East Memphis restaurant is the perfect place for a business meeting. At night, the spacious dining room and impressive menu make it perfect for dates or entertaining out of town guests. Be sure to try the mac’n’cheese casserole – it’s so good, you’ll never look at a box of Kraft the same way.

10. Cafe 1912 (243 South Cooper Street, 722-2700)

Cafe 1912 is a casual, but classic, French bistro in midtown. It’s one of those places where you can be equally comfortable ordering a burger (which you should, as they’re awesome) or one of the daily seafood or steak specials. It’s a great first date restaurant – not too fancy or expensive, but swanky enough for a special occasion. Be sure to try the creme brulee – it’s fantastic.

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.

Show Comments


  1. Eudora says:

    I can’t believe Felicia Suzanne’s didn’t make this list!

  2. ADM says:

    Just a quick correction – Wally Joe is not at Interim; he and sous chef Andrew Adams are at the Brushmark in the Brooks. Unless I am mistaken, Wally is not associated in any way with Interim. It’s still delicious though! 😉

  3. Fixed! Thanks for the heads up.

  4. WLW says:

    The confusion is understandable. Interim is in the space where Wally Joe’s eponymous restaurant Wally Joe used to be.

  5. Willis says:

    Have you eaten at Flight? I can’t believe that Felicia’s didn’t make it either. Wooh.

  6. Claire R. says:

    Great list.

  7. Gary says:

    No Erling Jensen??? Probably one of the best places in town along with Iris and Bari.

  8. DoubleS says:

    I agree with Gary about Erling Jensen. Andrew Michael’s Kitchen is also top-notch.

  9. Scott says:


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