I Love Memphis Food: Memphis Institutions Edition

Posted by Holly Whitfield | October 16th 2020 1256 0

Where do chefs and restauranteurs in Memphis eat when they’re not busy in the kitchen themselves? The new I Love Memphis Food video series is all about what local experts eat and the best places for a special meals in Memphis. Check out Episode One (click here) then keep scrolling for Episode Two.

Cozy Corner ribs

Find new episodes of I Love Memphis Food on Fridays on the blogInstagram, and Facebook, and read more about our Rally For Restaurants campaign.


Our first episode was all about comfort food, but the second episode is about Memphis institutions—places that have earned a spot on the “Must Eat” list. Institutions can be restaurants that have been in the Memphis for a long time, places that hold a special meaning to diners, or restaurants that define a well-known Memphis cuisine. You know, the places you tell visitors they have to go.

This week’s video features Memphis restaurant picks from Shawn Danko (Kooky Canuck), Jonathan Magallanes (Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana), and Karen Carrier (The Beauty Shop, Hazel’s Lucky Dice Deli, Mollie Fontaine Lounge).

Check out their recommendations in the video, then make plans to support local restaurants and try some of these dishes yourself.

Watch the video:

Shawn Danko Toasts To High Tea

When he’s not building big burgers or serving up Canadian-cuisine inspired dishes at his two Kooky Canuck locations, owner Shawn Danko appreciates the finer things at The Peabody Hotel—in particular the special High Tea served in Chez Philippe. Gourmet teas, sandwiches, and pastries make up the three courses at the Peabody’s High Tea service, where you can treat yourself extra elegantly. Plus, there are decaffeinated teas for kids and champagne add-ons for the grown-ups.

When Shawn talks about their scones, my mouth immediately started watering. Trust me, the Peabody’s scones are incredible. Save room for them. These are not your usual dry, crusty wedges from the continental breakfast bar…they’re fluffy, warm, flavorful pillows of pastry, perfectly in-between a sweet treat and a savory slice of bread.


Kooky Canuck started off as a larger-than-life burger joint downtown known for their seven-and-a-half pound Kookamonga burger challenge and fun atmosphere. Now, there’s a second location in Cordova, and both Kookys are serving up burgers, sandwiches, and cocktails in a family- and group-friendly environment.

Shawn’s Canadian heritage has influenced the menu, too, via their take on poutine—fries loaded with cheese curds and gravy—and several instances of maple syrup. Booth Kooky Canuck locations are open for dine-in, curbside or takeout, and the Cordova location has a spacious patio, too.

Locations: 87 S 2nd Street and 1250 N Germantown Pkwy (Cordova) Hours: Open daily. See locations for hours. Website & Menu: kookycanuck.com


Known around the world as the “South’s Grand Hotel” the Peabody Hotel boasts impeccable service, an ornate historic atmosphere, and a beloved group of ducks who march around the lobby and swim in the marble fountain. The Chez Philippe High Tea service is just one part of the Peabody’s dining options, including dinner service, a massive weekend brunch smorgasbord, and cocktails and snacks in the lobby.

Address: 149 Union Madison Ave. Hours: Tea served Thu. – Sat. 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Website: peabodymemphis.com/dine/peabody-afternoon-tea

Jonathan Magallanes’ Favorite Barbecue

Pepe Magallanes brought an authentic Mexican City taqueria to Germantown nearly 18 years ago with Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana—and their delicious tacos, tortas, and elote earn them the title of a Memphis-area institution themselves. But Pepe’s son Jonathan (who runs a second location in East Memphis) goes for the most famous Memphis cuisine when picking his own favorite must-eat: barbecue from the Cozy Corner.

Cozy Corner has more than one beloved menu item, including their Cornish game hens, wings, and BBQ blogona, but Jonathan is all about those tender, flavorful sauced, wet ribs. “I never really liked that style before…I grew up eating only dry rub ribs…,” he recalls. “But [Cozy Corner’s] ribs changed my opinion about something, and I think that’s really profound.


The first things people will tell you about Deli Mexicana are the RULES. In Pepe’s establishment is a cheese dip- sour cream-, and menu substitution- free zone. He’s determined to use the freshest ingredients and the most authentic recipes, which means leaving your typical Tex Mex expectations at the door. His commitment has paid off; delicious, flavorful dishes are beloved at both the Germantown and East Memphis locations. Both are open for dine-in or takeout.

Locations: 1215 South Germantown Road (Germantown) and 6300 Poplar Ave #115 Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Website & Menu: delimexicana.com


Cozy Corner is always at the top of my barbecue recommendations, not only because their food is excellent, but their hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and super friendly service gives you that Memphis “come as you are” vibe. Go for the aforementioned Cornish hens, ribs slathered in sauce, wings or smoked bologna, or a solid pulled pork sandwich.

Cozy Corner downtown is open for takeout only and calling ahead is highly recommended. Check Facebook for the latest information.

Location: 735 N. Parkway Hours: Tue. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Website: cozycornerbbq.com

Karen Carrier’s Restaurant Iris Respect

Question: What happens when two of Memphis’s most beloved chefs become friends? Answer: Memphis magic! Karen Carrier has brought unique international cuisine to Memphis for decades (including The Beauty Shop) but when she thinks about a perfect example of Memphis dining, she thinks: Kelly English’s Restaurant Iris.

Starting out as a New Orleans-inspired fine dining establishment, Iris cemented itself in the minds of Memphis foodies through amazing food and high end service. Over the years, Kelly has reinvented the menu with inspirations from his travels and collaborating chefs. Today, the menu is based on Barcelonan cuisine, with Karen’s favorites being simple and fresh dishes like bruschetta, sautéed cod, and a full menu of craft gin ‘n’ tonics.

Restaurant Iris dishes


It’s hard to pick one of Karen Carrier’s restaurant to feature, but we’ll go with her best known for now: The Beauty Shop—more to come in the next I Love Memphis Food episode! Housed in a former beauty salon, this hip eatery features a truly eclectic menu of dishes from around the world, with bold flavors, interesting ingredients, and great drinks.

The Beauty Shop is open for dine-in, takeout, and patio dining (reservations are highly recommended).

Location: 966 Cooper St. Hours: Mon. – Thu. 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Fri. – Sat. 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; weekend brunch Website & Menu: thebeautyshoprestaurant.com


In a classy converted home just off of Overton Square, Restaurant Iris is the perfect place for special meals, date nights, craft cocktails, and truly wonderful atmosphere. Don’t forget that Iris’s casual cousin, The Second Line, serves poboys and other Cajun fare in a more casual space (and patio).

Restaurant Iris is open for reservations only, dine-in and patio dining.

Location:2146 Monroe Ave. Hours: Thu. – Sat.  5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Website: www.restaurantiris.com

Find new episodes of I Love Memphis Food every Friday on the blogInstagram, and Facebook, and read more about our Rally For Restaurants campaign.

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