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Best of Memphis 2011: Food + Drink




Best Restaurant

1. Restaurant Iris
2. Flight
3. Sweet Grasstie — Tsunami

Best Chef
1. Kelly English, Restaurant Iris
2. Ben Smith, Tsunami
3. Patrick Reilly, Majestic Grille

Best Romantic Restaurant
1. Restaurant Iris
2. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House
3. Paulette's

Chef Kelly English and his luxurious but homey Midtown eatery pull off the hat trick this year with wins for Best Restaurant, Best Chef, and Best Romantic Restaurant. Named one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" in 2009 and a James Beard nominee in 2010, the Louisiana native English leads the Memphis restaurant scene in 2011 with his French-Creole creations. Iris' spin on surf-and-turf — sort of like an oyster po-boy with New York strip replacing the bread — is already the stuff of legend, but staples like English's bread pudding and delectable trout amandine also help make Restaurant Iris Memphis' favorite restaurant.

Best Breakfast
1. Brother Juniper's
2. Blue Plate Cafe
3. Bryant's Breakfast

Memphians have been packing this homey University of Memphis-area eatery for years. And Brother Juniper's earns the love with healthy, hearty, inventive takes on breakfast classics, including a tantalizing selection of omelet options (portobello mushroom and roasted pepper, pesto-tomato, their famous open-faced variations), homemade baked goods, and quality coffee.

Best Brunch
1. Owen Brennan's Restaurant
2. Boscos Squared
3. Beauty Shop

New Orleans meets East Memphis at this opulent, long-standing restaurant, which has built a large, loyal following for its Sunday jazz brunch — served buffet-style, with omelet and waffle stations, salad and seafood, and bananas Foster.

Best Wine List
1. Flight
2. Texas de Brazil
3. Bari Ristorante

After finishing third in this category last year, Flight moves up to the top spot among aficionados of the fermented-grape arts. The showcase beverage gets co-billing with the high-end entrées at this downtown restaurant, which was given the "Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator last year.

Best Steak
1. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House
2. Texas de Brazil
3. The Butcher Shop

This East Memphis institution — a locally owned and operated favorite for more than 30 years — offers prime-cut steaks, fresh seafood, an extensive wine list, and the combination of live grand piano music and fried dill pickles in its Cellar lounge.

Best Barbecue
1. Central BBQ
2. Germantown Commissary
3. Bar-B-Q Shop — tie — Corky's

At both its original location on Central and the larger satellite shop on Summer, Central BBQ masters the ribs and sandwich basics. But perhaps what sets it apart for our cue-crazed readers is the diversity of its offerings — spicy homemade chips with bleu cheese, terrific barbecue nachos, first-rate hot wings, smoked chicken, and so much more.

Best Ribs
1. Charles Vergos' Rendezvous
2. Central BBQ
3. Corky's

The Rendezvous has expanded its menu in recent years, adding sandwiches and vegetarian options. But the feature attraction is and always will be those char-grilled, dry-rubbed ribs, the definitive Memphis food with a blend of spices draws on the Vergos family's Greek roots and amplifies rather than overwhelms the meat.

Best Hot Wings
1. D'Bo's Wings 'N More
2. Central BBQ
3. Mr. P's Buffalo Wings

D'bo's offers wings in packages ranging from 10 to (you can do it!) 1,000 — and they can make it as hot as you can take it. Or try the mild. Or the spicy lemon-pepper. Or, better yet, with football season upon us, get a bunch of different flavors to go. Nothing goes better with pigskin on TV than hot wings in your hand.

Best Fried Chicken
BOM 1. Gus's Fried Chicken
2. Jack Pirtle's Chicken
3. Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken

With a new East Memphis location and great national press, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken seems to be taking a "today: Memphis; tomorrow: the world" approach. Most recently, Gus's was named a finalist for Men's Health magazine's "Manliest Southeast Restaurant." The magazine describes the delectable offerings at Gus's as "the crispiest, moistest bird the South has ever tasted." Glad they agree.

Best Cajun/Creole
1. Bayou Bar & Grill
2. Owen Brennan's Restaurant
3. Pearl's Oyster House

The Overton Square staple Bayou Bar & Grill can hook you up with all your down-river favorites: po-boys, oysters, shrimp & grits, gumbo, crawfish étouffée, and one of their trademarks: alligator chili.

Best Mediterranean
1. Jim's Place
2. Casablanca
3. Kwik Chek — tie — Petra Cafe

Jim's Place has been a Memphis institution for nearly a century. Recently relocated to Poplar and Perkins Ext. in East Memphis, Jim's Place's excellent steaks, seafood, and salads still share menu space with Greek dishes rooted in long-standing family recipes — souflima (skewered pork tenderloin), filled phyllo puffs, lamb chops, mousaka, and feta-and-olive-rich salads.

Best Italian
1. Pete & Sam's
2. Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
3. Bari Ristorante

Since opening over a half-century ago, little has changed at locally owned and operated Pete & Sam's ... but who would want it to? With its traditional Italian dishes, hand-crafted ravioli, steaks, chops, and chicken, Memphians in the know find themselves returning again and again.

Best Mexican
1. Las Delicias Mexican Bar & Grill
2. Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana
3. El Porton Mexican Restaurant

With a menu full of delicious cheap eats, sporting favorites like their made-to-order guacamole, burritos, and hard-to-beat margaritas, there's no denying that Las Delicias can keep both appetite and wallet more than happy.

Best Chinese
1. A-Tan
2. Wang's Mandarin House
3. Formosa

Family-run with both Chinese and Japanese offerings, including hibachi, spicy chicken, sushi, and ribs, A-Tan offers always-delicious specials like their Four Treasures with garlic sauce, which converts casual diners to regulars.

Best Thai
1. Bhan Thai
2. Bangkok Alley
3. Jasmine

Another repeat winner here, and not without good cause. Bhan Thai's house specialties such as the Thai red snapper and crispy duck as well as their range of curries never fail to satisfy both the spice-veteran and the faint of heart.

Best Vietnamese
1. Pho Saigon
2. Saigon Le
3. Pho Binh

For nearly 20 years, Pho Saigon has never disappointed diners looking for fantastic Vietnamese cuisine. Their shredded pork Banh Mi sandwich, shrimp spring rolls with peanut sauce, and clear noodle soups are just a few of enthusiasts' favorites.

Best Japanese
1. Sekisui
2. Bluefin
3. Sekisui Pacific Rim

For top-notch sushi and traditional Japanese dishes, look no further. Sekisui's Red Bird, house cucumber, T-Ruth, and Saints rolls, along with their teriyaki and tempura selections, are always a delight.

Best Indian
1. India Palace
2. Bombay House
3. Golden India

A consistently delicious buffet and menu, including their palak paneer, tandoori chicken, tikka masala, plus a whole fleet of veggie curries, are more than enough to keep India Palace firmly among the best of Memphis.

Best Home Cooking/Soul Food
1. Soul Fish
2. Cupboard
3. Blue Plate Café

It's simply hard to go wrong at Soul Fish. Their menu — filled to the brim with options like blackened catfish, vegetable plates, a Cuban sandwich, pickled green tomatoes, and hushpuppies — is downright divine.

Best Vegetarian
1. Whole Foods Market
2. Trolley Stop Market
3. Cafe Eclectic — tie — Cupboard

The Whole Foods Market's extensive (and always deliciously organic) buffet, with offerings ranging from mock crab cakes to roasted veggies to sushi to pizza and a whole lot more, has enough veggie and vegan options to keep the conscience clean.

Best Seafood
1. Bonefish Grill
2. Tsunami
3. Half Shell

Those looking for a romantic (and delicious) night out or just a place to simply enjoy fish-done-right find that in Bonefish Grill. Excellent service? Top-notch wine list? Yep, they've got that in spades, too.

Best Pizza
1. Memphis Pizza Cafe
2. Mellow Mushroom — tie — Trolley Stop Market
3. Garibaldi's Pizza

It's no surprise that Memphis Pizza Cafe has once again topped this category, and with their Ultimate Cheese, BBQ chicken, and Alternative pizzas, calzones, salads, and local beer on tap, it's hard to argue.

Best Deli
1. Fino's From the Hill
2. Bogie's Delicatessen
3. Kwik Chek

Fino's may be from the Hill — that famous Italian neighborhood in Saint Louis — but it sure has made a home for itself on the corner of Madison and McLean. The high-quality Italian meats and cheeses, salads, subs, pizzas, soups, desserts, daily specials, and speecy-spicy meatballs make this Italian deli Memphis' favorite deli overall. That's amore.

Best Burger
BOM 1. Huey's
2. Earnestine & Hazel's
3. The Belmont Grill

Best Lunch
1. Huey's
2. Trolley Stop Market
3. Central BBQ

Best Service
1. Huey's
2. Restaurant Iris
3. Folk's Folly Prime Steak House

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
1. Huey's
2. Kooky Canuck
3. El Porton Mexican Restaurant

Best Late-Night Dining
1. Huey's
2. Earnestine & Hazel's
3. Alex's Tavern

When you've been winning "Best Burger" in Memphis for as long as Huey's, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just keep improving on excellence. Which is why Huey's periodically adds new variations on their beloved Huey Burger — like the new Sunshine Burger made with crispy bacon, grilled mushrooms, and topped with a fried egg. Suffice it to say, they sell a lot of burgers, and they get them out to you quickly and with a smile, making Huey's ideal for families and late-nighters alike.

Best Server
1. Tiffany Hill, Memphis Pizza Cafe
2. Jeff Frisby, Restaurant Iris
3. Stephen McBay, Texas de Brazil

She's only been there for about a year, but Tiffany has cast her spell on the patrons of Memphis Pizza Cafe in Southaven. But a Best of Memphis Server from Southaven? Well, that's just how charming Tiffany is — word of her good attitude and smiling face has officially crossed state lines.

Best Place for People Watching
1. Flying Saucer
2. Peabody Lobby Bar
3. Mollie Fontaine Lounge

Not only is it situated at one of the busiest corners of downtown Memphis, the Flying Saucer also boasts some of the biggest windows from which to check out the cutest, hippest, and, ahem, most interesting characters that downtown has to offer. Grab a beer from the Saucer's extensive selection and perch by the window because those hotties aren't going to scope themselves.

Best Patio
1. Celtic Crossing
2. Boscos Squared
3. Bhan Thai

When you live in the South, having the distinction of best patio in town puts you at the top of the list for bar hoppers and diners alike. Celtic entertains both crowds, with pub grub in the cool afternoon air and draft beer under the stars.

Best Delivery
1. Garibaldi's Pizza
2. Trolley Stop Market
3. Young Avenue Deli

When it absolutely, positively has to be there tonight, and you're talking about pizza, Garibaldi's is Memphis' number-one choice. With locations in the University of Memphis area, East Memphis, and Germantown, Garibaldi's is always in a prime location to get you pizza as soon as humanly possible.

Best Bakery
1. Muddy's Bake Shop
2. La Baguette
3. Gigi's Cupcakes

Best Dessert
1. Muddy's Bake Shop
2. Cheesecake Corner
3. YoLo Frozen Yogurt

Muddy's is on a mission to get fresh, from-scratch, made-with-love cupcakes to Memphians. And they seem to be right on track. With "Lovin' From the Oven" as their slogan and flavors like Prozac and Kick in the Pants, you can see why Muddy's is most beloved in this quirky, sassy town.

Best Donut Shop
1. Gibson's Donuts
2. Howard's Donuts
3. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Who hasn't sauntered up to the counter at Gibson's in the wee hours and drooled over the glazed creations behind the glass? With a cold glass of milk and a hot donut under the pink glow of the fluorescent sign, you might find yourself enjoying a little piece of heaven.

Best Frozen Yogurt
1. YoLo Frozen Yogurt
3. Yogurt Mountain

It's only been around a little more than a year, but can you imagine Memphis without YoLo? Self-serve frozen yogurt, local and fresh fruit toppings, and a variety of gelatos have elevated what Memphians expect from their favorite frozen-treat shop. And with the way YoLo has taken off in other cities, Best of Memphis could be a jumping-off point for more "city favorite" accolades.

Best Coffeehouse
1. Republic Coffee
2. Otherlands
3. Café Eclectic

Sure, we love that Republic took a run-down spot in Memphis and turned it into an immensely popular coffee shop; that they've become one of the premier hangout spots for study groups, small concerts, and business meetings; and that they've created a sense of community that can take some places decades to cultivate. But what we really, truly love about Republic? Their seriously stellar brunch menu.

Best New Restaurant (opened since August 2010)
1. Sweet Grass Next Door
2. Three Angels Diner
3. The Elegant Farmer

Sweet Grass is turning into a nice little dynasty of favorite Memphis restaurants. Why, just this time last year, it was the original Sweet Grass that was basking in the glory of being named Memphis' Best New Restaurant. And the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree: Chef Ryan Trimm's offshoot venture, Sweet Grass Next Door, filled the niche of comfortable hangout spot with an epicurean flair, and Memphians gave it the thumbs up.

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