When Casablanca left Cooper-Young in 2008, it wasn't for lack of business. So Midtown fans of the popular Mediterranean restaurant will be pleased to hear that another location is in the works, this time on Central across from Central BBQ.
With the new location comes a solution to problems that plagued Casablanca's former Midtown incarnation, as the limited parking options of Cooper-Young will give way to a large parking lot behind the Central restaurant. The space, located at 2250 Central, was formerly Clarke's Automotive repair shop.
The announcement of this third location, which likely will not be open for a few more months, comes on the heels of Casablanca opening a second restaurant on Germantown Parkway in Cordova. Casablanca's primary location is on Poplar near Mendenhall.
"We had a lot of customers keep asking us to come east, so we did," says Aimer Shtaya, part owner of the restaurant along with Isam Showli and Omar Moon.
The menu will stay more or less the same, although Shtaya notes that they have made some small changes over the past few weeks, including adding more Turkish recipes and Mediterranean pasta dishes. The Turkish influence comes in the form of shish kebabs, while Mediterranean lasagna has replaced the traditional pastitsio. The distinction between the two is so slight, Shtaya says, that he didn't see the point in keeping both dishes.
Casablanca, 5030 Poplar (725-8557)
1890 N. Germantown Pkwy. (433-9712)
Meanwhile, Central BBQ is cooking up a new location to add to its Central and Summer restaurants.
Located at 147 Butler, the new Central BBQ will back up to the National Civil Rights Museum and add another dining spot to the growing restaurant district around South Main.
The former Mrs. Drake's Sandwich building will require significant construction, which is partially why it's taken so long for Central BBQ to move in. Owner Craig Blondis says they bought the building about five years ago with the intention of opening their second location there. But when a former Red Lobster space became available on Summer, they put the South Main space on the back burner.
"The location on Summer was a lot easier just to open and get some cash flowing before going to the third one," Blondis says. "Basically, when they closed [Red Lobster], they said, 'Here you can have everything.' So, all the walk-in coolers, the ovens, everything. The main thing we did was put in smokers, and that was it."
The menu will stay the same, complete with local brew on tap, and patrons will still order at the counter and seat themselves. In addition to the main dining area, Blondis plans to have a 100-seat banquet room and an enclosed patio akin to the window seating at the Flying Saucer. Somewhere down the line, he even has dreams of turning the building's large upstairs space into a juke joint or brewpub.
The tentative opening date for the South Main location is sometime in September, barring any unforeseen disasters or setbacks.
"We've hit the ground, jack-hammering and stuff like that," Blondis says. "I'd love to be open before Memphis in May, but there's just no way that's going to happen. You never know what kind of snafus you might run into with code or something like that."
Central BBQ, 2249 Central (272-9377)
4375 Summer (767-4672)