Restaurants coming and going, new tastes developing, laws changing: 2011 has given us plenty to bite into. Without further ado, let's chew over the last 12 months:
January: Erling Jensen the Restaurant gets a sleek new bar and bar menu, with small plates to satisfy upscale-casual diners. After closing downtown, Circa reopens in Regalia Shopping Center in East Memphis.
February: Sharon's Chocolates & Bread Café opens in Chickasaw Crossing, bringing together artisan chocolates and breads. Paulette's leaves its home of 37 years in Overton Square to take over Currents at River Inn. La Michoacana, a Mexican ice creamery, opened their third paleteria on Summer near Graham.
March: Josh Belenchia, formerly of Interim, heads to Hernando, opening an upscale-casual pizza and sandwich joint, Buon Cibo. Cheffie's Café opens just off the Greenline at High Point Terrace, representing the union of an active lifestyle and healthy eats. Cortona Contemporary Italian opens in Cooper-Young, with a contemporary interpretation of Italian classics. The Elegant Farmer, the latest venture from Mac Edwards, opens on Highland. The menu offers farm-to-table cuisine emphasizing local, seasonal foods. Burly's Burgers Fries & Shakes opens its doors. No health food here: just an honest to goodness burger joint.
April: Sweet Grass Next Door opens, well, next door to its sister restaurant, Sweet Grass. Chef Ryan Trimm envisions the spin-off as a more casual neighborhood bistro. The City Council passes a new law allowing food trucks to operate more freely in the city. Memphians get their first taste of the food truck fad with a Food Truck Fare in Court Square. Vegans got their very own restaurant — Imagine Vegan Café — complete with junk food favorites.
May: Chef Wally Joe's long-awaited Acre opens in East Memphis.
June: Vito's Cucina, a fast casual Italian joint, is officially up and running in a tiny building on Walnut Grove. (It's since changed its name to Vito's To-Go.)
July: Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken opens an East Memphis location off Mendenhall. Chicken lovers lose their minds. South Main gets back a generations-old pub when The Green Beetle reopens, this time with an emphasis on traditional Italian food with a Southern flair.
August: Slider Inn, the cheeky new restaurant from Bardog's Aldo Dean, opens in the former home of Bluff City Bayou at Peabody and Cooper. Stuffy's, home of the stuffed burger, takes up residence in the former location of Azalea Grill. Then in December, they announce a move to The Avenue Carriage Crossing in Collierville. Seamus Loftus brings us The Brass Door, an authentic Irish pub with beautiful décor and traditional Irish cuisine. Cordova-based Thai Bistro opens a new location downtown.
September: Stone Soup Café opens in Cooper-Young. The newest project from former Buns on the Run chef Sharon Johnson, the residence-turned-restaurant offers classic comfort food.
October: After a mysterious marketing campaign, Bleu opens in the Downtown Westin. Rizzo's Diner brings a casual, upscale diner to South Main.
November: Grill 83 on Madison becomes eighty3, with a new menu and décor. Alchemy brings mixology and small plates to Cooper-Young. Duncan Aiken opens Skunx Chef Pub in the former home of Lou's Pizza Pie, offering highbrow pizza fare. Cochon 555, a nationally acclaimed competition between local chefs, heritage breed pigs, and vintners, announces that it will come to Memphis in February.
December: Petra opens its fourth location in the area on Union in the former Exline's Pizza. Revival Southern Food Company joins the Memphis mobile food vendor scene, serving up a Southern gourmet menu that changes daily.