Will Eddie Nash Jr. got into restaurant ownership after serving in the charter school program where he provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks to more than 3,000 students five days a week.
In June, he opened 99¢ Soul Food Express at 414 S. Main to fulfill a longtime dream of his.
"I've had this idea for probably over 20 years," Nash says. "I decided not to go back to the charter school industry so I could give this 125 percent of my time and focus."
The setup works like a Picadilly-fast-food hybrid, with everything made fresh, by hand, daily.
"I tried to create a fast-food experience but from a soul food standpoint," Nash says.
He serves the same items every day — 13 meats to choose from, such as oxtail, meatloaf, smoked ribs, fried catfish, liver and onion, pork chops, chicken, and others.
After choosing a meat option, diners opt for their veggies, such as black eyed peas, greens, yams, cabbage, green beans, fried okra, mac and cheese, and homemade dressing.
Each three-ounce serving of vegetables is only 99 cents, including the buttermilk cornbread.
Most meats are anywhere between $2.99 and $10.99.
Then there's dessert. Summer in a bowl, otherwise known as peach cobbler, apple cobbler, lemon pound cake, like "from old-time church socials," and double chocolate cake, all with the a-la-mode option.
"I just want to serve my community and give the best possible experience with great soul food," Nash says.
99¢ Soul Food Express, 414 S. Main,
Mon.-Tues., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m. to p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Business partners Jeremy Martin and Debbie Houck had to close doors after their Olive Branch Tuscany Italian Steakhouse burned in January.
They knew they wanted to reopen, but they wanted to find just the right place, particularly to be closer to the children's hospitals in Memphis.
Martin hoofed the pavement of downtown Memphis for months looking for an ideal location while asking around what people were looking for in a new restaurant.
The feedback he received consisted of a deli that wasn't corporate, something Italian, and good quality.
So Martin put his 26 years of restaurant experience to work and came up with Tuscany Italian Eatery, an Italian deli that serves up paninis, pasta, and salads, all hand-made from scratch.
"I grew up on a produce farm, and I would sell produce from the back of a truck when I was 8, so I've always been about fresh ingredients and quality," Martin said.
Houck described his meatballs as "out of this world" more than once, which you can order with pasta or on a sub.
He serves Chicago beef, which he seasons and cooks for 12 to 15 hours, and his salad dressings he makes from scratch.
They deliver downtown, and offer catering, which includes not only their Italian specialities, but also most any other cuisine requested.
Their reason for relocating from DeSoto County to downtown Memphis is obvious before diners even walk through the doors. Signs advertising St. Jude 5Ks sit in every window, and the interior walls are covered in paintings — all of which are for sale to help the cause — created by children with cancer.
Martin offers his catering services to cancer research fund-raising functions at a major discount, and invites families to come eat at his restaurant at no cost.
Martin and Houck also plan to open a breakfast and lunch spot at 200 Jefferson any day now, and eventually a commissary.
"There are so many amazing restaurants down here, and I wanted to be a part of that and add to what's down here," Martin says.
Tuscany Italian Eatery, 116 S. Front,
Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Sun.