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Best of Memphis 2010: Food and Drink

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Best Chef

1. Kelly English, Restaurant Iris

2. Ben Smith, Tsunami

3. Karen Carrier, Do, Mollie Fontaine Lounge, Beauty Shop

Flyer readers aren't the only people who appreciate chef Kelly English's approach to French-Creole cooking. He was named one of Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chefs of 2009," and anybody who's ever tasted his lobster "knuckle sandwich" knows why. Although he studied the culinary arts in both France and Spain, English's creations are most heavily inspired by childhood memories of Louisiana.

Best Lunch

1. Huey's

2. Central BBQ

3. Young Avenue Deli

Once upon a time there was only one Huey's, so if you wanted a great patty melt, some exceptional onion rings, and a chance to blow frill-picks into the ceiling, you had to visit the corner of Madison and Tucker in Midtown. Now, with graffiti-covered locations all across the city, Huey's has become the go-to place for a lunchtime crowd looking for tasty casual dining and efficient service.

Best Breakfast

1. Brother Juniper's

2. Blue Plate Cafe

3. Bryant's Breakfast

You have to get up early in the morning to get seated quickly at Brother Juniper's. But there's a reason why late-sleeping weekend diners are willing to wait for a plate of eggs at Brother Juniper's. From top-shelf coffees to homemade baked goods and thoughtfully re-imagined takes on American diner classics, everything about a Brother Juniper's breakfast is absolutely perfect. Now, if they'd just open up a few new locations.

Best Romantic Restaurant

1. Paulette's

2. Restaurant Iris

3. Melting Pot

Paulette's was made for sipping wine and sharing a hot fudge crêpe with someone special. It's as close as you can get to the French countryside without ever leaving Midtown.

Best Brunch

1. Owen Brennan's Restaurant

2. Boscos Squared

3. Beauty Shop

Every Sunday at Owen Brennan's, the champagne flows to the beat of a Dixieland jazz combo. Brennan's has hosted one of Memphis' most popular buffets since the 400-seat restaurant opened in 1990.

Best Wine List

1. Texas de Brazil

2. Bari Ristorante

3. Flight — tie — Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

Texas de Brazil is not just a meat-lovers paradise. The churrascaria also boasts an extensive wine cellar featuring selections from France, Spain, and California, while showcasing the wines of South America. Would you care for Chateau Haut Brion or Tenuta dell Ornellaia? They've got them. What about Concha y Toro or Cakebread? They've got those too.

Best Steak

1. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

2. Texas de Brazil

3. The Butcher Shop

Is there anything better than Folk's Folly's perfectly aged petite filet piped with seasoned mushroom puree, wrapped in mouth-watering applewood-smoked bacon, and smothered in sliced garlic mushrooms? Well, other than Folk's Folly's own lollipop veal chop, of course.

Best Barbecue

1. Central BBQ

2. Bar-B-Q Shop

3. Corky's — tie — Germantown

Commissary

Forget about the delicious ribs and overstuffed sandwiches. Central BBQ's pulled pork nachos, topped with cheese, barbecue sauce, and jalapeño peppers are a little slice of hog heaven. If that's not enough to fill you up, try the smoked hot wings.

Best Ribs

1. Charles Vergos' Rendezvous

2. Central BBQ

3. Corky's

Some rib emporiums hide their bones underneath caked-on spice rubs or drench them in a sticky sweet sauce. But the Rendezvous has always made the rib the star of the show, char-grilling every rack to smoky perfection and dressing it with spices that complement the meat without competing for attention.

Best Burger

BOM 1. Huey's

2. Earnestine & Hazel's

3. The Belmont Grill

Shouldn't this category be re-imagined as "Best Huey Burger"? Let the divine smoky melt duke it out with the spicy new Texas toast burger for a while and cut those other very deserving burger joints some slack.

Best Hot Wings

1. D'Bo's Buffalo Wings-n-Things

2. Central BBQ

3. Mr. P's Buffalo Wings

D'Bo is short for David Boyd, who got his start in the wing business selling spicy deep-fried chicken parts out of a food trailer. If you try the "suicidal" red sauce, be sure to order an extra beer to douse the flames.

Best Fried Chicken

BOM 1. Gus's Fried Chicken

2. Jack Pirtle Fried Chicken

3. Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken

A prediction: No other chicken shack will ever win this category as long as there is a Gus's Fried Chicken in town. The restaurant's spicy batter is delicious and addictive.

Best Cajun/Creole

1. Bayou Bar & Grill

2. Owen Brennan's Restaurant

3. Pearl's Oyster House

The red beans are good, and the gumbo is tasty. But there's nothing better than a bowl of alligator chili and an ice-cold beer from the Bayou Bar & Grill.

Best Mediterranean

1. Jim's Place East

2. Petra Cafe

3. Kwik Chek

Greek specialties and all-American steaks and seafood have brought the crowds to Jim's Place East for decades. (The wooded surroundings on Shelby Oaks Drive and elegant but comfortable dining rooms didn't hurt either.) But something says the recipe for baklava makes the move to the restaurant's new location on Perkins Extended north of Poplar sometime this fall.

Best Dessert

1. Muddy's Bake Shop

2. Cheesecake Corner

3. Paulette's

Sweet doesn't quite cut it when it comes to Muddy's delectables. The oh-so-rich icing on cupcakes like the Prozac and Capote sends shivers down your spine. And the revolving line of cookies, puddings, and pies? Get ready for a sugar rush.

Best Italian

1. Pete & Sam's

2. Bari Ristorante

3. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

Family owned and operated for more than 50 years, Pete & Sam's on Park has been the popular destination for Memphians wanting hearty Italian dishes (or steaks or chops or chicken). Check out the crowded parking lot any Friday night. Check inside for Pete & Sam's friendly atmosphere, crackerjack waitstaff, and some very satisfied customers.

Best Mexican

1. El Porton Mexican Restaurant

2. Happy Mexican

3. Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana

With locations in Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown, El Porton is that family-friendly Mexican restaurant you know you can depend on — from the chips and dips to the reasonably priced Tex-Mex entrées. Flyer readers depend on it too.

Best Chinese

1. Wang's Mandarin House

2. A-Tan

3. Formosa

Wang's wins — again! — after consistently occupying the number-one spot for Best Chinese in Memphis according to Flyer readers. That's staying power. And speaking of ... Wang's has been at its location on Park near Ridgeway for close to 30 years. Time flies — when you do things right.

Best Thai

1. Bhan Thai

2. Bangkok Alley

3. Jasmine

For a tasty kick in the pants, go for Bhan Thai's Spicy Old Man, a mix of eggplant, bell peppers, onions, basil, and a secret sauce. It's a dish — on a menu with many excellent dishes — that turns casual diners into obsessives.

Best Vietnamese

1. Pho Saigon

2. Saigon Le

3. Pho Hoa Binh

Last year foodie bloggers around the country were fixated on the banh mi sandwich. The place to get it in Memphis? It was Pho Saigon, of course, which serves up consistently great Vietnamese food.

Best Japanese/Sushi

1. Sekisui

2. Blue Fin

3. Sekisui Pacific Rim

No surprise that Sekisui continues to top this category. In sushi, they offer the tried-and-true like the California roll as well as the Memphis-centric Grizzlies and Midtown rolls. For the raw-fish squeamish, there's always the tempura and teriyaki selections.

Best Indian

1. India Palace

2. Bombay House

3. Golden India

Even spinach-haters love India Palace's creamy palak paneer. It's the stuff — along with the aloo matar, tandoori chicken, sag lamb, etc. — that dreams are made of and what keeps India Palace at number one.

Best Home Cooking/Soul Food

1. Soul Fish

2. Cupboard

3. Blue Plate Café

Soul Fish's Cuban sandwich is legendary, but the vegetable plate ... oh, wow! Cajun cabbage, hushpuppies, pickled green tomatoes, mashed potatoes, cucumber salad — all of it gets us drooling.

Best Vegetarian

BOM 1. Whole Foods Market

2. Cupboard

3. Trolley Stop Market

For the hungry vegetarian, eyes can sometimes be bigger than the stomach when it comes to Whole Foods' offerings: mock crab cakes, salads, soups, roasted veggies, cashew noodles, pizza, sushi, sandwiches, samosas, tofu both barbecued and fried ... Where to start? Where to stop?

Best Seafood

1. Tsunami

2. Bonefish

3. Half Shell

What chef/mastermind Ben Smith does with seafood is criminally good. Standouts on Tsunami's menu include sake-steamed mussels and the dangerously delicious hot and pungent shrimp in coconut milk. New to Tsunami is its Izakaya bar menu with the brilliant Asian nachos and wasabi deviled eggs. Somebody, call the authorities.

Best Pizza

BOM 1. Memphis Pizza Cafe

2. Mellow Mushroom

3. Garibaldi's Pizza

Memphis Pizza Café has the pizza game in a headlock, and they don't appear to be letting up anytime soon. From their Alternative pizza with white sauce to their Ultimate Cheese with feta, MPC does not take its heavyweight title lightly.

Best Deli

1. Bogie's Delicatessen

2. Fino's From the Hill

3. Lenny's

Can't help but bogart that Bogie's? We understand. Famous chicken salad, Boar's Head meats and cheeses, and a killer lineup of desserts make this a lunch joint you won't want to pass up. Fortunately, with locations in downtown, Midtown, and East Memphis, Bogie's is bringing their signature taste to the whole town.

Best Late-Night Dining

1. Huey's

2. Earnestine & Hazel's

3. Young Avenue Deli

Huey's kitchen stays open long enough to remind you that, in fact, you do need a cheeseburger and fries, STAT. Post-club or midnight snack, you won't have to search long for the best late-night eats in Memphis.

Best Server

1. Ben McWhorter, Texas de Brazil

2. Lily Nicholson, Celtic Crossing

3. Jean Pruett, Bardog

When he's not bustling around Texas de Brazil, keeping all his tables happily sated, Ben McWhorter is behind the bar, expertly mixing up some mean cocktails. And Memphis thanks him for it — because when it comes to good service, Ben's attention to detail makes him a rare, prime cut above.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

1. Huey's

2. Kooky Canuck

3. El Porton Mexican Restaurant

If parents can shoot toothpicks at the ceiling, you know it's probably cool to bring the kids along. Huey's kid-sized burgers and chicken fingers cover the children's menu basics, and the option of applesauce instead of fries gives parents more control over healthy choices.

Best Service

1. Huey's

2. Restaurant Iris

3. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

Huey's not only racks up points for its late-night hours and Huey's burger, it also wins big in Memphis for its fast, friendly service. Because if you're going to be a local favorite in the South, you've got to know how to treat people right.

Best People-Watching

1. Flying Saucer

2. Peabody Lobby Bar

3. Young Avenue Deli

We all do it, so why not pick the prime location to scope barflies and passersby? With giant open-air windows facing onto downtown, the Flying Saucer wins again this year for the best place to watch Memphians do their thing.

Best Patio

1. Celtic Crossing

2. Boscos Squared

3. Bhan Thai

Feel like tossing back a Guinness and taking in the night air? We thought so. And Celtic Crossing has just the patio for it, sitting right out front like an advertisement for pub grub and good times. Plus, you get to watch the Cooper-Young crowd stroll by and the Celtic crowd roll in.

Best Delivery

1. Garibaldi's Pizza

2. Young Avenue Deli

3. Camy's

When it's time for fresh, hot delivery, Memphians dial Garibaldi's Pizza. With locations strategically placed in Midtown, East Memphis, and Germantown, Garibaldi's is always at the ready with hand-tossed crusts, sandwiches, salads, and pastas. They know better than anyone that pizza cravings are not to be taken lightly.

Best Bakery

1. Muddy's Bake Shop

2. La Baguette

3. Brother Juniper's

Once again, Muddy's Bake Shop takes the (cup)cake for Best Bakery. Having seen a group of adults claw like wild animals at a box of Muddy's cupcakes, we can attest: There is just something special about Muddy's cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and vegan treats.

Best Local Coffeehouse

1. Otherlands

2. Republic Coffee

3. Café Eclectic

If we had our way, Otherlands would be open all the time, serving up coffee and snacks in its cool, colorful spot on Cooper. The feel is laidback and perfect for reading, writing, checking out some live music — the many things that keep us from just buying our own coffeemaker.

Best Restaurant

BOM 1. Restaurant Iris

2. Flight

3. Bari Ristorante — tie — Tsunami

Restaurant Iris wins again, proving that when French Creole is done right, it's unbeatable. With James Beard nominee Kelly English at the helm, Restaurant Iris has gained national acclaim, even appearing on the Food Network. But the most important accolade? Memphians love it.

Best New Restaurant

1. Sweet Grass

2. Trolley Stop Market

3. South of Beale

It's no wonder Sweet Grass has snagged the title this year: Anyone who has passed its buzzing little space in Cooper-Young can speak to its popularity. And what's not to like? Coastal Carolina-inspired cuisine, swanky digs, and goat-cheese croutons to make you melt, Sweet Grass has brought yet another culinary treat to the neighborhood.

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