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VOL. 129 | NO. 72 | Monday, April 14, 2014


Distinctive Design Touches Will Dominate Belly Acres

By Andy Meek

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From a visual standpoint, there will be no mistaking Belly Acres, the farm-to-table burger restaurant coming to Overton Square at 2102 Trimble Place, once it opens in the next couple of months.

The design of the restaurant, in the words of partner Rob Ray, will be “off the wall.” The design will also be “through the wall,” when you consider that the planning for Belly Acres has included the logistics of how to put a 1950s-style crop duster through one of the walls.

“That was one of our first ideas,” laughs Ray. “It was like, dude, we’ve got to put a plane through this wall.”

Rob Ray, co-owner and executive chef of Belly Acres Memphis, is bringing a farm-to-table burger concept to Overton Square when it opens in the coming months.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Other unique elements include a windmill for the front of the restaurant, whose design and plans are being finalized over the next few days before contract bidding starts. Pretty much everything being designed for Belly Acres, Ray explained, comes from something that’s been upcycled or repurposed.

The open kitchen, he continued, will be made to look like a red barn, complete with the appearance of stable doors. The partners have talked about having something like an old tractor inside the restaurant available for patrons to photograph themselves on, and support beams in the middle of the restaurant inside will be made to look like a tall tree.

Throughout the inside of the fast-casual restaurant, in keeping with the farm motif, a white picket fence design will be featured as a kind of directional guide to help patrons figure out where to go and how to navigate the space.

“All the wood we’re using is repurposed,” Ray said, around the same time the restaurant’s partners were negotiating with someone who had some leftover wood from an old chapel. “We’re talking to him to see if we want to buy that wood. It was like the rafter beams, which we’d have to get milled and stuff. Gorgeous wood.

“The outside, we want to maximize the space so people can sit on that patio and enjoy the music and not feel like they’re shoulder-to-shoulder. We’ve been trying to work on the design of tables out there and are asking things like, do we fit more people comfortably on family-type tables or doubles?”

Those are some of the many details the partners – including Ray, Hayden Wingate, Stewart Wingate, Ben McLean and Clayton Templeton – are trying to get just right in advance of what Ray said will probably be a July opening for Belly Acres.

At that point, it will take its place amid a revitalized and reinvigorated Overton Square, after nearly setting up shop elsewhere in town. Ray said the partners had originally focused on East Memphis but couldn’t find the right space and turned then to the square.

“I had chill bumps walking into the space in Overton Square,” Ray said. “We looked and we looked and we looked in East Memphis and were running out of time. We walked into this place and all looked at each other and basically said, ‘Where’s the lease? Let’s sign it now.’ Overton Square is a fantastic place.”

The restaurant will open on the east side of the Tower Courtyard, with a patio overlooking the area. Belly Acres will source ingredients locally and offer a wide range of burger options. And it plans to work with local farms to provide the restaurant’s ingredient supply.

The partners also have big plans that go beyond Overton Square.

“We noticed that Memphis did not have this kind of burger joint we want to do,” Ray said, referring to the health-focused, locally sourced emphasis at Belly Acres. “But they’re all over the United States. We’ve been to many of these places, like Burger Up in Nashville. We’ve tried a lot of them, and they’re fantastic burgers. We want to open lots of these over the next five to 10 years.

“We won’t have liquor or wine. We’ll just serve beer, and it’ll all be local craft beer. And sustainable food – we are so headstrong on that.”

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