The South's Tastiest Towns: Memphis

A bountiful crossroads of 'cue, crops, and rising culinary stars.
Story by Paula Disbrowe

There's no denying barbecue is at the heart of the River City’s food culture. Spots like Cozy Corner Restaurant and Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous are bucket-list destinations. But recently, a posse of talented young chefs has redefined the city’s flavor by blending local produce and the Southern larder with culinary traditions from near and far.

Chef Kelly English put the new food scene on the map in 2008 when he opened Restaurant Iris, where he melds his Louisiana roots with Delta ingredients. “If Creoles had settled [here], this is how they would have cooked with the Memphis terroir,” he says. At Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman deliver their take on regional fare through the filter of their Italian nonnas (duck with farro and sorghum sugo). They continue the conversation at Hog & Hominy, which they opened late last year, with items such as mortadella corn dogs. Stay tuned: The city’s growing mobile food community ensures that the number of spirited riffs on tradition will keep on truckin’.

Best Bites
Savor crispy veal sweetbreads ($14) and dumplings with fennel and local mushrooms at Restaurant Iris; roll up your sleeves for a tender, smoky slab of ribs ($20.50) from Cozy Corner Restaurant; moist red velvet Frankly Scarlett cupcakes ($2) at Muddy’s Bake Shop.

Nightcap
Sip a smoky, orange-kissed All the Single Ladies (Prichard’s single malt, Solerno blood orange liqueur, and grapefruit juice; $12) at Hog & Hominy.