Saturday shopping at the downtown Farmers Market now has a perfect complement: a fresh seafood market at Sole Restaurant & Raw Bar, located inside the Westin hotel on Third Street.
The eatery's raw bar now does double duty on Saturdays as a neighborhood market, selling a changing selection of seafood that also shows up on the restaurant's menu.
"We switch our market selections based on what fish is available and what we are getting into the restaurant," says Ben Brock, Sole's managing partner. "Two weeks ago, we had halibut that FedEx flew in that morning. It was beautiful."
Last Saturday, the market offered Hawaiian blue prawns and wild salmon from Scotland. "As we build up traffic, we will have more options," Brock says.
For now, market advertising also is low-key. About 5,000 e-mail blasts are sent on Wednesday morning alerting customers to the upcoming seafood options. To sign on, go to solememphis.com.
"We are big fans of the Farmers Market, and we wanted to do something to take advantage of all the people coming downtown," says Brock, who also serves on the organization's board of directors. "Once they have their vegetables, they can come by and pick up fresh fish."
In addition to Sole's seafood market, which opens at 6:30 a.m., the restaurant also is serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Entrées include buttermilk blueberry pancakes ($9), eggs Benedict with smoked salmon or bacon ($14), and a traditional two-egg breakfast with bacon, hash browns, toast, and fruit ($13). The brunch menu also offers signature cocktails, martinis, and morning drink specials, such as the five-dollar "Sole Mary" — house-infused cucumber vodka with the chef's special Mary blend sauce.
Seafood market at Sole Restaurant & Raw Bar, 221 S. Third, solememphis.com (334-5950)
Bangkok Alley, a local chain of Thai restaurants in Cordova, Collierville, and Southaven, is opening downtown with an updated tapas menu of 14 small plates.
The restaurant's standard-size entrées also are offered at the new restaurant on Union, along with an expanded list of wines, beers, and cocktails.
"We've completely remodeled the space, with new lighting, rosewood floors, and a larger bar," says Thara Burana, owner and operator of the restaurants along with his wife, Dottie.
Burana plans a soft opening next week and a grand-opening celebration toward the end of June. The restaurant is serving lunch and dinner seven days a week, with extended hours Friday and Saturday. Only tapas are on the menu after 10 p.m.
The restaurant's new ambience and small plates — priced from $5 to $10 — should appeal to after-work and late-night patrons who like to sample and share food. "With Thai food, there are many different choices, so it's difficult to pick one," Burana says.
Although he still is tweaking his tapas menu, here is a sampling of what's to come: sea bass with fresh ginger, soy, and sake; rice noodles with chicken and green curry; and Thai sliders, of course.
"Our slider burgers are unique," Burana promises. "We season them with garlic pepper, soy sauce, and lemon grass, so they have a little kick."
Bangkok Alley, 121 Union
Local growers Keith and Jill Forrester are ready to party, and everyone is invited.
The first annual Whitton Farms Feastival will be a day-long affair with locally grown food prepared by leading Memphis chefs (including a pig roast by Kelly English), music, hay rides, and a pie-eating contest.
"We will set up tables in the pecan grove and give people maps of the farm, so they can explore on their own," Jill says.
The event is set for Sunday, July 12th, with proceeds benefiting the Memphis Farmers Market and the Forresters' farm.
"We want to show our appreciation to the Farmers Market, and we desperately need a hay baler. Last year, we mulched everything by hand using pitch forks," Jill says, laughing. "It was an insane amount of work."
First Annual Whitton Farms Feastival, whittonfarms.com (870-815-9519)