Supper, Sips, and Songs at Pontotoc Lounge
Pontotoc Lounge in South Main has been a hotspot for amazing craft cocktails and flavorful food since it opened in 2018. The sleek atmosphere and lighting make this a truly lovely date night spot, late drinks with friends, or brunch.
This place is in my top five favorite cocktail spots in town, the bar helmed by award-winning mixologist Cady Smith. Whether you want classic, ultra-hip, or simple, she and her staff don’t disappoint. More on that in a bit.
Whenever I read about something that touts “upscale” or “tapas” my Spidey senses—which have a lot to do with my bank account—tingle..in a bad way. But I’m fully sold now though, after trying the expert drinks and various iterations of the Pontotoc Lounge menus.
Pre-covid, I almost always picked a bar seat at Pontotoc Lounge, though had tables and a community table underneath a tremendous crystal chandelier. It may not be the most colossal chandelier of all comparable light fixtures, but in that space it is oversized in an intentional, fun way.
Post-covid, there’s no bar seating and the smaller tables are spaced out, plus there are additional patio tables stretching down the South Main sidewalk. The community table is out to allow for plenty of space to social distance.
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Craft cocktail menus these days are 80 percent gin or mezcal or other Fernet-ish potions, which is fine, but I am happy to see other spirits featured at Pontotoc. The aforementioned bartender, Cady Smith, has made quiet name for herself winning the People’s Choice award a couple times at the annual Mix-Odyssey competition and a general reputation for behind-the-bar excellence.
Back to the cocktails…
The French 95 always catches my eye. It’s a variation on the French 75 with bourbon instead of gin. While she made my drink (refreshing, sweetness balanced with boozy) I noticed her spraying an old-timey perfume bottle on the outside of a rocks glass. Curious.
A week or so later I returned to find Cady again at the bar, but this time I brought a friend and an appetite. Turns out the perfume drink is the scotch-based Penicillin, which in Potontoc’s version is made of Monkey Shoulder scotch-misted (via the perfume-looking bottle) with more scotch for aromatic purposes. Think of it like the absinthe rinse in a Sazerac, but subtler.
We got a Penicillin and a Manhattan; the former is for your adventurous aforementioned bitter potion appreciator while the latter is a classic made particularly well. They also have a dozen beers on tap and plenty of wine available in three ounce, six ounce, and full pours for your tasting convenience.
The food menu is small but packs a punch, and it changes regularly expect for a favorites or two like the Mississippi Pot Roast and Chicharron Nachos. My absolutely favorite dish I ever tried there was the Duck Confit a few years ago, but I always appreciate the new things to try and the bold flavors and combinations on the menu.
The signature dish is more down-home than most of the rest of the menu, but it earns its spots and popularity. It’s the most comforting comfort food I’ve eaten since the last time I had my mom’s Mississippi Pot Roast in actual Mississippi. Plus, Pontotoc’s came with a buttery jalapeño cornbread muffin. Such a simple dish could easily be an afterthought to fill out a menu in the winter, but it tasted like someone cared about cooking this.
Here’s the Duck Confit I once loved. The menu said it came with a potato croquette. Whether from experience or a moment of cynicism, I expected a formed pile of mashed potatoes topped with some bits of pulled duck, maybe a syrup. No, no, no. I was so happy to be so wrong.
Perched atop two hefty fried potato cakes sat two duck leg quarters sealed with a pomegranate glaze. We devoured the juicy, tender meat and the decadent, creamy potatoes, wholly full and fully impressed. It’s always good to keep in mind the role that expectations play in satisfaction, but I feel like this dish wins either way.
As much as the Sister Shubert Beignets on the dessert menu tempted me, we couldn’t suffer another bite. Sister Shubert…beignets! What wonderful madness could that be?
There’s also a
Both times I went, the atmosphere was pretty chill, with only four or so tables sat, and the jazz guitarist on one occasion was fun and not overly loud. The bartender was also the only server at those times which made for a leisurely experience, one that we didn’t mind. I’m confidently assuming that during peak times they’ll have more servers on deck.
They host live jazz trios or Latin jazz (they usually announce on their Facebook page) a time or two a week that I’m sure will increase the volume inside, but I’m here to say downtown could use some more live music off-Beale
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It seems like it would be fine to dine with kids earlier in the evening, but this spot is more of a date night or girl or guy’s night/nightcap sort of place,
314 S. Main
Memphis, Tennessee 38103