Already an experienced chef at age 28, Clint Boutwell has cooked in New Orleans, Jackson, and Grenada, Mississippi, where he and his partners turned a small coffee shop into Orleans Bistro, an upscale restaurant grossing almost $500,000 a year.
Restless for his own restaurant, Boutwell chose the former Cayenne Moon site in Memphis for Orleans on Front. The space, he says, fit the bill: downtown location, a basement "Voodoo Room" for live music, and an interior balcony reminiscent of the French Quarter.
"The balcony was the clincher for me," Boutwell says. "It is perfect for an Orleans theme."
Although the restaurant and bar have been opened six weeks, Boutwell held off his grand opening until last week in order to tinker with his two menus: one for lunch (served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and one for dinner (5 to 9:30 p.m.). "In my opinion, New Orleans food should be red beans and rice, gumbo, and po' boys for lunch, with more chef-inspired seafood creations for dinner," Boutwell says.
Redfish stuffed with crawfish and asparagus and served over portobella and bell pepper risotto ($23) already is an evening crowd pleaser. Ditto for charbroiled oysters ($8 for six). The oysters are seasoned with black pepper, butter, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese, and cooked on an 800-degree grill.
"They have a hearty and smoky flavor," Boutwell explains. "It's like eating steak on a half-shell."
If you don't eat seafood, Orleans on Front also offers pasta, chicken, beef, and duck. The Voodoo Burger ($14) is topped with pepper jack cheese, beer-braised onions, lettuce, and fried-green tomato, while the panko-encrusted duck ($26) is pan-seared and served with sweet cream mashed potatoes.
"Our menu encompasses many different appetites and types of food," Boutwell says. "We want everyone to leave happy."
Orleans on Front, 94 S. Front,
At The Blue Fish in Cooper-Young, the restaurant's new "Sunset Specials" are a win-win. For owners Evalee and Richard Grenamyer, the specials offered Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. draw in customers when business typically is slow. For diners, the reduced-price menu makes sit-down meals more affordable. "We know that everyone is cutting back, so we cut some of our prices too," Evalee Grenamyer says.
The Sunset Specials duplicate dishes on the restaurant's dinner menu, but portion sizes are smaller. For instance, white cheddar macaroni and cheese with white truffle oil includes two seared jumbo shrimp and a sea scallop. "It's the same dish as the entrée, only it costs $13 instead of $27," Grenamyer explains.
Other menu selections include tuna sliders served with fries and slaw ($10) and a pecan-crusted catch of the day ($14).
After 7 p.m., Sunset Specials can be ordered at the bar, along with the restaurant's standard bar menu. And don't forget another good deal at the Blue Fish every week: Happy hour on Monday (with live music) lasts until closing.
The Blue Fish, 2149 Young,
Here's a well-kept secret. The downtown Butcher Shop Steakhouse — a dinner-only venue for more than two decades — now serves lunch on Friday, and it's a bargain to boot.
For $5.95, customers can order a hamburger made from freshly ground beef with all the trimmings and a bag of chips. Sandwiches made with chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or catfish filets also are available at the same price. Drinks, French fries, and fresh corn on the cob are extra.
If you want to eat something else on "Fresh Burger Fridays," well, forget it. The no-frills menu keeps costs down and uses meat left over from the restaurant's top-shelf steaks, which are hand-cut every day.
"There's often not enough meat for another steak at the end of a loin, so that piece goes into the meat grinder," says Ramona Hughes, the restaurant's general manager. "By Friday, we've got our ground beef."
The Butcher Shop, 101 S. Front,