Two weeks ago, the Majestic Grille on South Main celebrated its second anniversary with the unveiling of an 18-foot movie screen in the main dining area. It's a fitting addition to the restaurant, which was the site of the Majestic No. 1 Theatre from 1913 to 1936. Also new is the Innovators Room for art exhibitions and special events.
"We wanted to get involved in the arts in Memphis and make our restaurant available to local artists and arts organizations. We just weren't sure when that would happen," says Deni Reilly, who owns the Majestic with her husband and the restaurant's chef, Patrick.
"What we are trying to do has three components: movies, performing arts, and visual arts," Reilly says.
According to Reilly, the screen is mounted in almost the exact place as the original Majestic's screen and could be the largest screen outside a movie theater in Memphis. Silent films currently are being shown, but the screen also can be used for presentations and televised events.
"Next year, when Memphis plays in the NCAA tournament and wins, our guests can watch the game here," Reilly says.
In addition, the restaurant has partnered with local organizations to promote their performances.
"If Ballet Memphis does Carmen, for example, we would have a special event at the restaurant during which some of the dancers could perform excerpts from the ballet," Reilly says. "We also want to have a regular jazz night, but I'm still working on putting together a calendar."
The Innovators Room includes an art gallery that will host six exhibitions per year. The room also can accommodate between 25 and 40 people for private functions.
"We are excited about creating another exhibition space in Memphis," Reilly says. "We don't ask for any commission, and audio or video equipment for business meetings is available free of charge, as well."
The current exhibition shows photographs by Gary Kessel, but Reilly encourages all artists to inquire about the space.
"This is really about promoting art, and we do want to show a variety of works by a variety of artists," she says.
The Majestic Grille, 145 S. Main (522-8555, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Just for Lunch is an "old-new" restaurant that recently opened at Chickasaw Oaks Plaza in the space vacated by Elfo's.
"Just for Lunch came before Just Catering, but people who haven't been in Memphis for the past 27 years might not know that," says Ann Barnes, the force and soul behind both businesses.
Barnes, originally from Little Rock, "stole" the concept for the eatery, which opened at 4730 Poplar in 1981, from her sister, Susan.
"My sister owned the Very Special Tea Room in Little Rock, and when I was looking for something to do when my son was 9 years old, I thought I can do something like that," Barnes remembers.
Looking back, Barnes laughs about her naïveté. She recalls being on the phone with her sister, asking questions and getting tips on how to run a restaurant.
"When we first started I was a little bit like the newlywed who calls her mom on Thanksgiving to find out how to cook a turkey," Barnes says. "Only I was calling my sister to find out how to run a restaurant."
In 1986, Just for Lunch moved into Audubon Place next to the Williams-Sonoma outlet store and remained there until 1997, when Barnes decided to close the restaurant and focus on Just Catering.
"Our customers were really sad when we closed Just for Lunch, and not a day has gone by when people didn't ask me to reopen," Barnes says. "So when my landlord told me about this opportunity, I didn't hesitate."
Just for Lunch is a comfortable neighborhood lunch spot. The walls and tablecloths are salmon-colored, and artwork from neighboring galleries is on display throughout the restaurant. The upstairs dining room can be booked for special events.
The menu is straightforward lunch fare, reminiscent of tearooms. Classics include chicken salad, albacore tuna salad, pimento cheese, egg-and-olive, and ham salad served on homemade wheat bread. The salad selection is substantial and includes Southern chopped salad, Mediterranean salad, pasta salad with Brie, and the Just for Lunch club salad, among others. Soups and desserts are also available.
Just for Lunch is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Just for Lunch, 3092 Poplar, Suite 11 (323-3287)