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VOL. 130 | NO. 117 | Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Memphis Restaurants ‘Love Their Patios’

By Andy Meek

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The warm weather means it's that time of year again for Memphis diners.

Madison Hotel food and beverage manager Bill Wilson with chef Max Hussey on eighty3’s Main Street patio. Hussey has created monthly alfresco specials throughout the summer, including June’s ‘Whiskey & Wings.’

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Patios have begun filling up around the city as restaurant patrons flock to outdoor dining settings where they can people-watch, enjoy drinks and nosh on smaller, simpler menu items.

Downtown eatery eighty3 is taking advantage by hosting its first full season of street-side dining on its Main Street patio.

“That spot on the corner, it's such a good people-watching spot – I saw it when I was first coming to Memphis and thinking about taking the position here,” said eighty3 chef Max Hussey. “Especially when people might have a day off or there's particularly nice weather, the patio helps boost the lunch business.”

Enthusiasm for patios can of course be seen at restaurants beyond Downtown. In Midtown, Hamida Pirani said plans for the City Market grocery store and deli that she and her husband are opening in Cooper-Young include a patio.

The recently opened Aldo’s Pizza Pies in Cooper-Young also includes a rooftop patio.

“Memphians love their patios,” said Ben McLean, one of the owners of Belly Acres at Overton Square, which also enjoys a patio of its own. Ten of the square’s 13 drinking and dining destinations have outdoor seating.

Eighty3's 22-ounce bone-in ribeye Father's Day special. Restaurants throughout Memphis say patio options are one more way to bring in business.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

By way of context about how beneficial the Belly Acres’ patio is, McLean said it adds about 45 seats to the restaurant’s capacity – “so it's an opportunity to please more customers.” He also points to special events, like the blues musicians who perform Tuesdays in the square’s Tower Courtyard, as helping keep the patio packed.

John Minervini, who created the online site “The Fork” that includes news about the Memphis food scene, said some of his favorite Memphis patios include those at Ecco, Acre, Felicia Suzanne’s, Hog & Hominy and The Farmer, to name a few.

“Let’s face it,” Minervini said. “For Memphis chefs, a well-executed patio can mean the difference between ho-hum service and lines out the front door.”

It’s also functions as something of a fresh canvas for a creative chef. Patios, Hussey said, especially lend themselves to fun ideas from the kitchen and quick-bite options that aren't particularly formal.

“A well-executed patio can mean the difference between ho-hum service and lines out the front door.”

–John Minervini

Those were some of the things he said were on his mind during preparations for eighty3’s alfresco specials.

“I really like alliteration as part of trying to sell a menu,” Hussey said. “Burgers & Beer was the first thing that popped in my mind, which we did in May, and people are already asking for us to bring it back.”

Hussey has come up with a monthly set of alfresco food and beverage combinations specifically for patio guests who want to snack and sip outside.

The pairings are available during lunch and dinner and cost $8. This month’s “Whiskey & Wings” special includes whiskey on the rocks and six hot mustard wings. Next month, patio guests will get a “Ribs & Rye” pairing that includes two St. Louis-style ribs with BBQ sauce and a rye bourbon cocktail.

Rounding out the summer is a planned “Shrimp & Sangria” combination for August that includes Gulf shrimp salad with Herbsaint and white sangria.

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