In downtown Memphis on the corner of Madison Avenue, we were pleasantly surprised by the dishes at Eighty 3 Restaurant, which is attached to the Madison Hotel where we hung our hat the week we passed through in mid-January. We highly recommend the hotel for your Memphis stay btw (be sure to read my hotel write-up).
Truth be told, we nearly missed the window to try the restaurant given our insanely packed schedule, but are oh so glad we managed to fit in a lunch before leaving. Wow!
We also had an opportunity to meet executive chef Max Hussey, who just came to Memphis from San Francisco, so we were able to chat about the food scene in the city where I hang my hat more than anywhere else when I’m not on an airplane or driving across the grand United States.
A southerner at heart, he weaves in influences from New Orleans and Boston, and most recently, as mentioned above, San Francisco where he put his Memphis-style spin on Bananas Foster as executive chef at the award-winning Southpaw BBQ, the Southern-inspired restaurant on Mission Street.
At eighty3, Max uses free-style because, he says, “it gets you out of cooking the same menu every night and repeat guests get to try new things.” What was so refreshing about his menu, that while it does have a southern flare, it wasn’t heavy and laden with all the ingredients you love but that tends to add too many unnecessary calories and cholesterol.
The salad selection was extensive and included a butter lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion, panko and gorgonzola, a simple but delicious Caesar with parmesan artisan croutons, anchovies and cherry tomatoes, a wedge salad with beef tenderloin tips, bacon, onions, tomato, gorgonzola and onion tangles, a cherry bomb salad with kale chips, stuffed crispy peppadew peppers, tomato, red onion, carrots and a honey basil vinaigrette, a blackened ahi tuna salad with mixed greens, tomato, red onions and a citrus wonton and the eighty 3 chopped salad with is served with a champagne vinaigrette, apple, avocado, onion, bacon, corn, tomatoes and gorgonzola. Yum!!
For a little more traditional southern style, there’s the signature skillet cornbread on the menu served with a delicious honey-jalapeño butter and fall-off-the-bone pork wings with bang bang sauce and onion tangles. Our favorite? Truth be told, it wasn’t a low calorie option at all, but the “to-die-for” smoked bacon wrapped dates are a must try.
Spicy ahi tuna wonton with avocado, sesame, chili, scallions and red onion.
There’s also a crab and shrimp ceviche with sweet potato, corn and chili pepper water, shrimp beignets with pepper jelly and a Louisiana crab cake, clearly from his New Orleans days, which is served with carrot slaw (MAN, I love Southern slaws), dressed mixed greens and aioli, Also worth noting is the chicken lettuce wraps, which he does with a hoisin glazed chicken, sauté mushrooms, water chestnut, roasted peanuts and cilantro lime in a crispy iceberg lettuce cup.
The decor is also very funky with plenty of fabulous art on the walls.
Eighty 3 Restaurant, which I’d highly recommend adding to your agenda for a meal or two. Two thumbs up and a surprise treat we didn’t expect in Memphis. Things are a’ changing throughout this southern city with so much music history to share. If Memphis is not on your list, add it. If you’re a foodie and didn’t consider Memphis, think again!
Eighty 3 Restaurant
83 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
Disclosure: we were hosted by the restaurant, but all opinions are entirely my own. This is a must stop when in Memphis.
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