Lunch Spots in Memphis, TN
Not to be confused with the Kwik Chek, which is located a few blocks west, this humble grill, housed in the rear of a locally owned convenience store, is a big hit with students from nearby Christian Brothers University. The fare is simple – hot wings, burgers, spicy fries, and Mediterranean fare like grilled chicken on pita and a cucumber and gyro sandwich. The service is as speedy as any fast food restaurant, and the flavors are much more complex. Don’t let the lack of ambiance turn you off. The hungry crowds who lounge at the nondescript tables and chairs that dot the makeshift dining area, checking out sports scores on the TV blaring loudly overhead, give credo to the popularity of this busy lunchtime spot.
Remember the “Soup Nazi” character from Seinfeld? Mexico City-to-Memphis transplants Pepe and Jonathan Magallanes could give him a run for his money. Don’t ask for cheese dip or sour cream – just step up to the counter and order straight from the menu. If Jonathan, who usually runs the cash register, tells you to pick something else, don’t disagree. Whatever you receive on your tray will taste fresher – and better – than any other Mexican fare you’ve ever tasted. Don’t take our word for it. Let the hordes of Midtowners, who beat a path to the northeastern suburbs to pay $10 for a quartet of fish tacos, then fight for a seat on the no-frills patio furniture, convince you: lunch at Las Tortugas will change your life.
Tucked inside the 95-year old Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Brushmark Restaurant serves a delicious and moderately priced lunch five days a week. With a kitchen run by the venerable Wally Joe and his more-than-capable chef de cuisine Andrew Adams, the Brushmark’s food ranges from specials based on the museum’s exhibition schedule (most recently, Impressionist-styled cuisine) to European-Southern American hybrids that star locally sourced ingredients. Ask about the crepe of the day, or go for the generously sized Angus cheeseburger, topped with aged cheddar and applewood bacon and served with Cornichons and fries on the side. Be sure to dine on the Brushmark’s terrace, which offers an incredible view of Overton Park. Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering through the museum’s permanent collection.
Open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, Fino’s brings classic Italian deli fare – imported via “the Hill,” St. Louis’ venerable Italian-American neighborhood – to Midtown Memphis. We suggest calling in your order ahead of time, as space at the deli counter is standing room only from 11 am to 1 pm, and the street parking outside seems even worse. Daily specials, which typically include two types of hot pasta and a homemade soup, are delicious, but savvy repeat customers come for the sandwiches. Try the Aquisto, a trio of ham, mortadella and salami, topped with a green olive dressing, or the trademark South Philly, which includes thin slices of coppa and a tomato and onion dressing. Order a “half,” unless you plan on sharing with a friend.
Thank the budget conscious vegetarians for hipping their Asian-food loving friends to the lunch buffet at Pho Hoa Binh, one of Midtown Memphis’ longest-running Vietnamese restaurants. A veritable bargain at just under six dollars, the buffet features mainstays like tofu with lemongrass, hot and sour soup, and spicy fried chicken. Keep one eye on the swinging kitchen doors – when a server brings out a tray of egg rolls just pulled from the deep fryer, diners get competitive as they jockey for a position at the hot food bar. A favorite with the working crowd and the quirkier artists and musicians who populate Midtown, this family-run restaurant is pretty no-frills, but the vegetables and herbs served on the side of every made-to-order dish couldn’t taste fresher.