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Open and Shut Cases

A new seafood restaurant offers a bit of Destin downtown, and other news.

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Pearl's Oyster House opened about a month ago at 299 S. Main in a space that used to be a tattoo shop.

The idea was to import a bit of coastal Florida to Memphis, according to Pearl's owner Ray Porter. "A lot of people who live in Memphis frequently travel to the Destin beaches and are familiar with the popular seafood restaurants there," Porter says. "With Pearl's, I wanted to bring some of that atmosphere to Memphis."

On South Main, the coastal atmosphere translates into a laid-back restaurant that offers two bars, a patio in the back, a room for private events, live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and Cajun-influenced fare. However, Porter wants to make sure people don't mistake his oyster house for a Cajun restaurant. "We don't want to be a Cajun restaurant," he says. "But a lot of the dishes from the Florida Panhandle are Cajun-influenced, and we want to re-create that experience in our food."

Kelly Miller (most recently of PF Chang's China Bistro) and Steve Hornecker (formerly of Owen Brennan's) are in charge of Pearl's kitchen and produce straightforward, popular seafood dishes. Appetizers include boiled Gulf shrimp, Louisiana crab cakes, shrimp and grits, crab claws and crawfish tails. Oysters are prepared eight ways (from raw to Rockefeller) and range in price from $4.95 to $9.50 for a half-dozen. Also on the menu are Louisiana seafood gumbo, shrimp and crawfish étouffée, five different po-boy sandwiches, and seafood entrées featuring trout, salmon, catfish, lobster, and more.

Pearl's opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.

Pearl's Oyster House, 299 S. Main (522-9070)

Marena's Gerani on Overton Park Avenue is open for business.

Rumors about the closing of the neighborhood restaurant have been circulating since the beginning of the year, but Mortez Gerani, Marena's owner, says the restaurant will stay open at least until the end of the year. "Yes, I have heard that people say our restaurant is closed and that's not very good for business," Gerani says. "Marena's is open."

In early 2000, Gerani took over the restaurant from Rena and Jack Franklin who had operated the eatery for 10 years, serving Mediterranean-influenced cuisine. Gerani maintained that focus and is planning to open another restaurant in East Memphis on Brookhaven Circle (next to the Windjammer Restaurant and Lounge) before the year is over. Gerani isn't sure what's going to happen with Marena's after the new place opens.

The East Memphis restaurant will feature a downstairs bar and casual dining area called Marciano, which will offer small plates of northern Italian and Mediterranean food. An upstairs fine-dining spot called Gerani Restaurant will offer the same fare.

Marena's Gerani serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m.

Marena's Gerani, 1545 Overton Park Avenue (278-9774)

Gary Garland's restaurant Garland's on Brookhaven Circle closed in early May and is now up for grabs: real estate, equipment, pots and pans — the whole shebang for $500,000.

Garland, whose primary business is real estate, has always been drawn to the downtown area but was coaxed to East Memphis by the late Indian/French chef Raji Jallepalli, who was opening a new restaurant in Midtown. "When Raji offered us her place out east five-and-a-half years ago, we felt it was a great opportunity, and it was," Garland says. "But now that I'm involved as managing partner at Spindini on South Main, I have the best of both worlds: a great restaurant downtown."

Garland doesn't foresee moving Garland's downtown. Garland's executive chef Michael Grogan is now the pastry chef at Erling Jensen.

It appears that Interim in East Memphis won't be as short-lived as owner Fred Carl originally suggested when the restaurant rose out of the former Wally Joe earlier this year. Carl's intentions have shifted from wanting to sell the restaurant to finding partners for the business.

In fact, Interim, together with Erling Jensen, Lucchesi's, Busters, and several corporate sponsors, will be part of the "Taste of East," Blue Streak's third annual wine tasting and silent auction benefiting the Jubilee Schools of Memphis. Blue Streak is a local nonprofit organization that raises money to send inner-city kids to Catholic schools.

"Taste of East" is Friday, June 9th, at 6 p.m. at Regions Bank (6200 Poplar). Tickets are $50. For more information and to order tickets visit www.bssf.net or call 326-0691.

Brooks Museum members have spoken, and they want more time. Starting June 7th, the museum and the Brushmark will offer extended hours on Thursdays. The restaurant as well as the museum will then be open until 8 p.m. every Thursday.

"We're really just going with the flow," says Brushmark's executive chef Wally Joe. "I don't think the Brushmark has ever offered dinner [beyond special events], so we're testing the water." Because of the rather unusual schedule, Joe plans to have a new menu every week to reflect seasonal foods.

The Brushmark 1934 Poplar (544-6225)

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