Last week, Andy Grooms celebrated the fifth anniversary of his liquor store, the Corkscrew, by opening Alice's Urban Market next door.
Grooms took over the space that once housed Fratelli's at 513 S. Front about a year ago. He envisioned a deli that would not only serve the professionals downtown during the day but would also give the growing residential community a casual spot to eat at night or grab a few groceries.
Plus, he says, "I want to become the grilled-cheese king." Among the many sandwiches Alice's serves, the grilled cheese can be ordered every way imaginable. For example, the "drunken goat" is made with Wensleydale Cheddar, caramelized onions, and bacon bits on fresh bread.
Amelia Carkuff of Carkuff Interiors helped Grooms remodel the space. She created a small market section for fresh veggies, milk, sushi, and other specialty items, as well as a small café. John Pearson, a local chef who has worked at many Memphis restaurants and most recently the Glass Onion, helped Grooms create the lunch and dinner menu.
"I think John's passion is fine dining, so I don't know how long I'll be able to keep him, but he's helping me create recipes for my slaws and salads," says Grooms.
Pearson and Grooms also want to create meals-to-go. Some dinner entrées will include rotisserie Cornish game hen, duck, and free-range chicken and take-and-bake pizza made fresh to order on a self-rising sourdough crust. The dough for the pizza and a number of specialty breads are baked daily by another friend, Sheri McKelvie, who formerly worked at City Bread Co. McKelvie joined Grooms and created her own wholesale bread company, Alice's Artisan.
Grooms plans to pair his businesses for wine tastings a couple times a month. "For the first time in Memphis, there's wine, bread, and cheese -- the trinity -- all in one place," he says.
Alice's will also serve breakfast and will be open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Alice's Urban Market, 513 S. Main (575-9979).
Another downtown eatery, Alcenia's, may have been open since 1996, but it looks like a whole new restaurant. With owner BJ Chester-Tamayo in charge, however, it still feels like home. Customers who walk in the door don't just get some Southern comfort food. They also get a big hug.
"Food is half the process. The other half is the feeling they get when they eat here," Chester-Tamayo says.
To that end, Alcenia's has a new logo, new menus, and new décor designed to bring cheer.
"I've always loved color," says Chester-Tamayo. "I chose colors to make people feel better."
Purple, orange, yellow, and green adorn tablecloths, placemats, uniforms, hand-painted chairs, and the menu. Many of the menu choices are the same -- recipes she learned from her mother while growing up in Meridian, Mississippi.
Chester-Tamayo has also added some other favorites from her youth. "We're getting ready to do fried sweet potatoes as an appetizer," she says. "My mom used to do them with pork chops."
The food isn't the only way she pays homage to her mother. She's planning to unveil a portrait of her mother and granddaughter soon.
Alcenia's, 317 N. Main (523-0200)
There's a new leader at the helm of the Memphis Restaurant Association. After 10 years on the MRA board of directors and four as the president, Christian Georgi, owner of East End Grill restaurants, resigned. Vice president of the MRA, Jeffery Dunham, chef and co-owner of the Grove Grill, will succeed Georgi.
"I am the first chef to be installed in this position," Durham says. "Most of the other presidents have come from the front of the house or ownership side of the restaurant business. I want to refocus on some different things, specifically membership. I want to make our meetings more interesting to draw more members and to continue to do the things that MRA does, which is acting as a liaison to city, county, and state government and [supporting] local charities."