All roads lead to Memphis. Case in point: restaurateurs/caterers Ira and Stephanie Siegel, who stopped to see Graceland while on their way to New Mexico. They'd sold their house in Palm Beach, Florida, because they couldn't face another hurricane season and were planning on moving to Santa Fe. The Memphis layover, however, turned into a relocation.
"We just liked it here," Stephanie says. "Everybody was very helpful, and after talking to the Chamber of Commerce and the Center City Commission about our catering business, things took off."
I. Siegel Culinary Productions of Memphis, located on South Main in the former spot of Memphis Grits, is a special-events company that does high-end, high-volume catering for everything from executive breakfasts to large-scale themed events. In addition, Culinary Productions recently started offering lunch to the public.
"We live just down the street from the kitchen, and, for dinner, Ira would often grill on the rooftop [of our building]. The neighbors would join us, so Ira kept on cooking for a few more people. We thought, Why don't we do this in our catering kitchen and open for lunch?" Stephanie says.
And that's what they did. There's a $10 special every day -- flank steak might be on the menu for Mondays, Fridays might be salmon -- and the menu changes every week. The setup for lunch includes a salad bar, soup, dessert, soft drinks, and iced tea. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
I. Siegel Culinary Productions, 22 S. Main (523-1772)
Ed Dunkel, owner of Bittersweet Restaurant in Germantown, is another transplant. He moved to Memphis because he was fed up with the annual mountains of snow in his New Hampshire backyard. Dunkel's sister is a FedEx pilot, and when he came to visit, he liked it so much he sold the New Hampshire Bittersweet Restaurant and opened the one in Germantown.
Bittersweet Restaurant is an upscale-casual steak and seafood restaurant that specializes in coldwater seafood. On the menu are salmon Oscar (derived from the traditional veal Oscar) and the restaurant's signature lobster pie. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner nightly.
Bittersweet Restaurant, 7685 Farmington Blvd. (624-9499)
Moe El-Zein came to Memphis from Detroit a little over a month ago and took over Boogey's Bistro on Cleveland, which now is called Al-Rayan. The food, according to El-Zein, is the same Lebanese fare, only better. You can be the judge of that every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Al-Rayan, 288 N. Cleveland (272-0227)
Around the corner another name change: Pho Pasteur is now Pho Vietnam, but it didn't change owners or menu -- just the name and the location. The popular restaurant has moved from its Cleveland location in a strip mall to a larger, stand-alone building on Poplar at Watkins.
Pho Vietnam, 1411 Poplar (728-4711)
The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is expanding too. Its second location is scheduled to open on January 21st on Germantown Parkway in Cordova. What to expect? A never-ending supply of draughts in the usual Saucer atmosphere.
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium,1400 N. Germantown Parkway, Suite 114 (755-5530)