Kysha Benjamin created quite a splash when she opened Zanzibar in 2001 on South Main. The restaurant combined art, music, and food with a global flair and a casual atmosphere. The restaurant closed in 2003, but on August 10th, Zanzibar reopens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be music and an art opening for Texas artist Joseph Cohen.
"It's exciting to be back in the space and the community and neighborhood that we love so much," says Benjamin. "Conceptually, it's pretty much the same, with the focus on creative expression. The artistry in the kitchen is a big part of the creative, as is the engagement and diversity through art. Art is the most amazing vehicle to find commonality among people."
Old favorites like the spicy prawn ceviche will be on the new menu. Every Thursday will offer live jazz performances, and Saturday remains salsa night. The décor features the same warm tones, but the colors are more subtle. "It's just turned up a notch - urban, sexy, and whimsical - a little more cosmopolitan but still neighborhood," Benjamin says.
Zanzibar will offer more seating and privacy on the newly constructed mezzanine level and will provide wireless Internet. Benjamin also plans to add some breakfast items to the menu for brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu will have the same eclectic, global influence found in the dinner menu.
"Zanzibar is an island off Africa, and we consider ourselves an island oasis on South Main," Benjamin says. "We're hoping to travel the world with food that is simple but intriguing in flavors from around the world."
With the support of the Sekisui Group management team, Benjamin has begun renovations to the building's basement to create a venue for music events, which she says will open later this year.
Zanzibar is open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and opens for dinner at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The kitchen closes at 9 p.m. throughout the workweek and 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For information, visit ZanzibarMemphis.com.
Zanzibar, 412 S. Main St. (543-9646)
Simply for Me, which started as a gift shop and tea room, is now simply food.
"We opened August 17th of 2001 and survived 9/11, but the attack changed the state of my gift shop. That was when we changed the focus to food," says owner Michelle Jackson. "After 9/11, people weren't spending money on luxuries, but they still wanted food, so that aspect of my business grew."
That growth is what prompted Jackson to close the gift shop and relocate to open a restaurant and catering business in May. The new space features an inviting sitting area, more tables, and a larger kitchen.
"We outgrew the kitchen," Jackson says. "Now I have a fryer and a grill, so I can offer more options. We just started doing catfish on Friday, and it outsold everybody's favorite - the poppy-seed chicken casserole."
A large portion of Jackson's business developed from catering home-cooked meals to offices in downtown Memphis.
"We send out two or three office lunches every day," she says. "We have meals with a choice of entrées and side items, and we send a cake with our catering orders."
Jackson is known for creating a variety of two-layer cakes, such as butter pecan and double chocolate. The "Neapolitan" features three layers of white, chocolate, and strawberry cake with strawberry icing and fresh strawberries.
Although the restaurant is only open for lunch, Jackson is taking advantage of her new beer and wine permit to offer "Taste of Tuesdays," a wine tasting from 5 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday with live jazz and appetizers.
Simply for Me is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Simply for Me, 151 Jefferson (525-4775)
Frank A. Grisanti, president of Foodline Services, Inc., was chosen to be the featured chef during the Oklahoma State University Distinguished Chef Series. The event, now in its 10th year, brings chefs from across the country to inspire students in the school's hospitality program. Grisanti will prepare a four-course meal that will be served at the school's largest annual fund-raising event, where tickets cost $200 per person. Grisanti, accompanied by his son Larkin, will oversee the dinner on September 29th in Stillwater, Oklahoma.