Shawn Massey, CCIM, SCLS

Could Memphis’ Be A Foodie City?

Memphis long-standing love affair with world-class cuisine has made it one of the premier foodie towns anywhere.  Hundreds of vibrant dining establishments line the streets, each offering its own unique taste.”  MBQ Nov/Dec 2012

Foodie (Sometimes spelled Foody) is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink.  The word was coined by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used in the title of their 1984 book   The Official Foodie Handbook                  From Wikipedia

I would not call myself a true foodie.  I love great food and try both new restaurants and different foods.  My limitation is that I am a true carnivore and eating vegetables or lack of vegetables is a major limitation to my experience of all the great foods of the South.  Although, I have married into a great family of foodie’s including one of my brothers-in-law who graduated from the Culinary Institute of American and honed is talent for 10 years in New Orleans before heading off to Thailand.

The CEO of my company challenged me this month to think about what I was hoping to accomplish with my blog.  I told him one of my goals was to promote retail in Memphis and Mid-South region.  Although, many of my regular posts deal with the real estate side of the retail business I felt it was equally important to highlight most anything that promotes the retail and restaurant industry.  There is a direct correlation as Memphis grows its local restaurant scene it will create a demand for additional space to house the new restaurants.   With home grown talent coming from both our own cooking academy L’Ecole Culinare and from Memphis kitchens will grow potential chefs and owners of our future city restaurants.

My wife and I had a goal about two years ago to try at least one new restaurant a week whether it was a hole in the wall or a white table cloth restaurant.  The birth of our son 16 months ago has limited many of our choices to child friendly establishments that we tend to repeat frequently.   We had the distinct pleasure of touring Italy for two weeks this past summer with our son in towards reaching our goal to 52 new restaurants in 2012.  We will probably still fall short, but it will make for an interesting New Year in 2013.

Memphis, a city rich in food tradition is centered on amazing pork barbeque and fried catfish. How could it be a considered a foodie city by those outside of our great city and region?  My opinion is that it has already arrived and will only get better over the next decade.  Soon they will talk about our city in the same light as Atlanta, Charleston, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

We have an incredible restaurant association that shows the commitment to make Memphis one of the best cities in America to eat!

Many thanks to both Kimberly Carlson the Executive Director of the Memphis Restaurant Association  and the outgoing president Mike Miller for their dedication to our restaurant association over the past few years.

I apologize for any of the great restaurants I may have forgotten and all of the chain restaurants that I feel equally justify our claim to be a foodie city.  Below I listed an abundance of great independent restaurants that I hope you will enjoy.  They are not listed in any order of preference.

Erling Jensen                      eighty3                                 Rizzo’s Diner                      The Beauty Shop

Itta Bena                              Bari                                        Restaurant Iris                   Acre

Interim                                 McEwan’s                           The Elegant Farmer         Flight

Felicia Suzanne’s              Circa                                      Brother Junipers              Alchemy

Sweet Grass                       Folk’s Folly                          River Oak’s                         Gus’s Fried Chicken

Rendez Vous                     Beauty Shop                      Do Sushi                               Sekisui

The Grove Grill                  Paulette’s                           Café 1912                            Bosco’s

The Little Tea Shop          Evelyn and Olive               Las Delicias                          The Majestic Grille

Tsunami                               Jim’s Place East                 Blue Fin                                                Café Eclectic

Worththe Drive
City Grocery (Oxford, MS)
Bozo’s (Mason, TN)
Ajax Diner (Oxford, MS)
Bonne Terre (Nesbit, MS)
Blue and White Café (Tunica, MS)

A Personal Favorite is Bourre’s in Oxford, Mississippi                                                                                                                                                                                           

Each Wednesday in the Commercial Appeal please check out the weekly column called the Southern Taste Panel.    A group of 40 make up the Southern Taste Panel answering various questions each week about culinary attributes of our city and region.

The first question was “What makes the Memphis Food Scene Special?”  Here are some of the answers.

“What I like about Memphis is its unapologetic realness.  Memphis is not a trend following city when it comes to cuisine.”  Ben smith, Tsunami

“Soul.  Memphis has true flavors.”  Jose Gutierrez, River Oaks

“What I find so captivating about dining out in Memphis is that there is so much diversity and so little pretension.”  Stacey Greenberg, Dining with Monkeys

“We are growing.  Most of the other cities, like Charleston and New Orleans are established in the culinary scene.  We are defined yet which us interesting and unique.”   Ryan Trimm, Sweet Grass Next Door

“Memphis has, over the past five to ten years, experienced an explosion of chef owned restaurants.”  Deni Reilly, The Majestic Grille

“Southern food is deeply rooted in history.  With food like life, it’s so important to know where you come from.  In Memphis, there is a culture focused on food and family coming together.’ Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman , Andew Michael and Hog and Homily

“Memphis is full of quality food and world class chefs, yet the culture has stayed homey and accessible.”  Kat Gordon, Muddy’s Bake Shop

Please check out the following blogs and websites:

If you want to experience the Memphis Food scene I would highly recommend A Taste of Memphis walking tour.  Check out the website below!

So why is a retail real estate advisor so concerned about whether Memphis is a Foodie city?  I like to advise the area commercial landlords that they need to prepare and budget for an independent chef to open a quality independent restaurant in their development.  Typically, the independent owner does not have the required capital to open a restaurant from ground up that a national or regional chain may have.  Landlords need to budget an above average tenant improvement allowance if they desire to attract an independent restaurant.  A great independent restaurant can serve as a compliment to national and regional chains in many development and neighborhoods.

I personally prefer to use the word independent restaurant versus local restaurant as a way to distinguish between the restaurants listed and the national or regional chains.  My opinion all restaurants are local in nature, hiring their staff from within our city and using area vendors and suppliers on a daily basis.

The choice of whether Memphis is a foodie city is really up to each of us to determine.  I will continue to believe and promote our future as one of the great cities in our region and throughout the United States.

Bon Appetit.

I hope you will check out future weekly commentary at   If you enjoy this commentary please subscribe online.



Shawn Massey, CCIM, SCLS is a partner with The Shopping Center Group a 3rd party retail real estate advisory firm in their Memphis office, an adjunct professor in the graduate real estate program at The University of Memphis, in 2013 Shawn will join the faculty of the Homburg Academy teaching on-line real estate classes world-wide and is also co-founder &Chairman of the Board for the Memphis Business Academy charter schools (K-12th grade) in the Frayser area of Memphis.  

For all your retail real estate needs (tenant representation, landlord representation and property, investment & land sales) I hope that you will choose The Shopping Center Group and me to represent you and your business.  We understand that representation is a privilege and that you have a choice!

The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.  They should not be considered the opinion of The Shopping Center Group, LLC in which I am associated.


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