The year kicked off in grand fashion in January when Karen Carrier unveiled her latest restaurant, Bar DKDC, specializing in a revolving menu of street food and sipping rums, in the former space of Dō. Said Carrier at the time, "We all work really hard around here to make sure Memphis is on the cutting edge, constantly changing, because things change. If they stay the same all the time, it gets boring."
No one could be bored with the changes in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. Cafe Ole got new owners and a spiffed-up menu. Greencork, a self-serve wine bar, opened on Young, and Phillip Ashley Chocolates debuted its boutique on Cooper. The Growler, the first of the city's craft beer "filling stations," opened as well. (The Madison Growler Shop, inside the Cash Saver, opened shortly after, and a third growler place, Memphis Filling Station, is in the plans for next year in East Memphis.)
Ryan Trimm, who has established himself in Cooper-Young with Sweet Grass and Next Door, set his sights eastward with a new restaurant, Southward, which was preluded by some real-estate musical chairs set off by the announcement that Sekisui was closing the first of its locations on Humphreys. The original plan was that John Bragg would be moving Circa into the old Ronnie Grisanti's space on Poplar, and Sekisui would take over the Circa site. As it turned out, Bragg took over chef duties at Sharky's, Sekisui moved into Theo's Bistro at Kirby and Poplar, and Southward went into the Circa space. Ronnie Grisanti's is now in the Sheffield Antique Mall in Collierville. The Grisanti's Poplar space will be turned into Lost Pizza Company.
Much food news sprang from the revitalized Overton Square. Chiwawa!, with its tequila sno-cones and selection of tacos and hot dogs, opened in March, followed by Bar Louie in April. The instantly popular sweets shop Sweet Noshings opened in the fall. Sekisui founder Jimmy Ishii announced plans for the Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar in the Griffin House, and the tapas and tacos restaurant Babalu, from the Amerigo folks, is set to take over the TGI Friday's space.
That squealing you heard was from the announcement that East Memphis' much-loved Muddy's Bake Shop is opening a new store on Cooper early next year. And there was more excitement over Kelly English's newly open Second Line, a casual "little sister" to Restaurant Iris.
In May, Memphis lost two titans of barbecue: politician, inventor, and barbecue champ John Willingham and Corky's founder Don Pelts. In addition, the Neelys permanently closed all their area barbecue restaurants. The Jefferson location was transformed into Monsieur Demarcus French Crêperie.
The fallout from Food Network star Paula Deen's spring meltdown reached Tunica. Harrah's announced in June that it would be rebranding its Paula Deen-themed restaurants, including the popular Paula Deen's Buffet at Harrah's Tunica. The buffet has since been turned into Crossroads Southern Restaurant. Also in Tunica, Gold Strike opened its massive Buffet Americana, which features a Mongolian barbecue, wood-fired pizzas, and Cajun fare.
Frost Bake Shop opened in the Laurelwood Shopping Center in August and offers such treats as Mississippi Mud brownies and Gooey Butter Cake. Over at Laurelwood Collection, there's The Mighty Olive, selling artisan olive oils and vinegars. Likewise, Bazaar, "a crazy little food shop" at Carriage Crossing in Collierville, features olive oils and vinegars. If three makes it a trend, then a trend it is as yet a third olive oil spot, Square Olive, is set to open in Overton Square next year.
Another trio of openings made Memphis very beery. High Cotton Brewing got its brews into local restaurants in June; Wiseacre Brewing Company, available at area grocery stores and restaurants, opened its taproom this summer; and Memphis Made Brewing entered the market this fall, with its beers in restaurants from downtown to Cordova.
There were lots of pizza-related developments as well: Rock 'n' Dough opened a brick-and-mortar space at Park Place. Pyro's, offering build-your-own pizzas, also opened in Park Place. Mellow Mushroom opened a trippy, space-themed restaurant on Park. Broadway Pizza , long a Midtown favorite, is expanding its reach into East Memphis with a new location. Ciao Baby!, serving Neapolitan-style pizza, opened in Collierville.
Finally, there was the phenomenon that was Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, who started the year in fine form when GQ magazine named Hog & Hominy as one of the most outstanding restaurants in 2013. Then Ticer and Hudman made the cover of Food & Wine for its Best New Chefs issue. They were nominated for a Beard Award and released a cookbook, Collards & Carbonara. The burger they created for the Holding Pen got national notice. And Hog & Hominy was the subject of a rave review in The New York Times. All of this leaves us with a question: Is there a proper way to ask the chefs if we can rub their heads for luck?