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VOL. 133 | NO. 158 | Friday, August 10, 2018

Restaurant Iris Reopens; Permit Pulled for Former Windjammer Space

Special to the Daily News

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After a nearly three-month renovation, Restaurant Iris will re-open Aug. 22 with a new menu, a new interior, and a chef/owner entering a new chapter in his life.

“It’s my 40th birthday,” Kelly English said. “That’s a great time for a rebirth, right? Or maybe it could just be my midlife crisis.”

KELLY ENGLISH (Photo courtesy of Restaurant Iris)

English was only 29 when he opened Iris in April 2008, taking over the storied spot where Glenn Hays opened La Tourelle about 35 years before that.

After 10 years, English knew it was time to start over when his menu became a list of standards.

“It reminds me of a Leonard Cohen song,” he said. “There’s a line in ‘The Partisan’ about ‘the frontiers are my prison’. When we opened, we’d change the menu sometimes twice a week, so everything was fresh and exciting. But at some point, we realized that half of what we had were things we could never take off. That’s not what I wanted, so it came to this.”

The place

English closed after dinner on June 2, and the walls were coming down inside the place two days later. Where there was once a bar that hosted two or perhaps three crowded guests, the west side of the restaurant is now home to a bar seating 12, a cozy banquette in the turret at the front, and two tables that will be available for walk-in guests.

The east side is now one large dining room instead of two; the small private room in the back remains.

“The patio at Iris has always been underutilized” English said. “We’re changing that. It will be available for same day reservations, it might be an extension of the bar when needed, whatever. We’re going to use it.”

The menu

Everything is gone from the old menu. All of it. The framed reviews and accolades Restaurant Iris has received over the years are off the walls. This is a new day.

“We started thinking of the new menu in terms of, ‘If Louisianans had settled in Memphis, what would the food be?'” English explained. “But we evolved from that and started thinking about food that reflects Memphis today.”

The bar menu is English’s and he pulls from his New Orleans background. One item is calas tout chaud, a traditional but usually sweet New Orleans rice ball. At the bar, it will be a savory snack.

“It’s all still very Creole, but all with a new approach,” English said. “I’ll have my take on shrimp Creole, but also a big old honking serving of foie gras. It’s one you split.”

In the dining room, executive chef Camron Razavi has also taken a spin on favorites. One dish is gulf shrimp with congee.

“It’s a take on shrimp and grits, but it’s made with rice instead of grits and instead of andouille, it contains lap cheong sausage,” English said.

A twist

“I want everyone in my restaurant to learn everything they can about running a place. I was lucky to open Iris when I was 29, but I spent the years from 22 until then working minimum wage jobs so I could learn the business.

“When you come to Iris, whoever cooks your dish will deliver it to you. If I cook it, I’ll bring it to your table and say ‘Hi, I’m Kelly and I cooked your dinner. I hope you enjoy it.’ It’s going to be great service.”

The bar and dinner menus will be available in the bar, and the dining room will be dinner only. Hours are still tentatively 5-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, though the bar may stay open later and hours might change, too. Restaurant Iris is at 2146 Monroe; call 901-590-2828.

New Restaurant Planned at Former Windjammer Site

Plans have been filed for a new restaurant building to rise on the now-empty, East Memphis lot where the old Windjammer Restaurant stood for decades.

Building documents were submitted this week to the Construction Code Enforcement office as part of construction-permit application for 786 E. Brookhaven Circle.

The blueprints do not include proposed signage with the name of the restaurant, but the plans were submitted under the heading "Wide Eyed Owl.''

Plans show the restaurant will have two dining areas: A main, front space with tables for 56 people and a front patio with 24 seats under a sloping roof and surrounded by an ornamental iron fence.

The documents also show a bar with six seats, a drink-fountain area and kitchen, and bathrooms toward the back.

The exterior would be clad in fiber-cement siding and the roof would be metal, documents show.

The application estimates construction to cost $400,000.

PROPERTY SALES 92 242 2,507
MORTGAGES 108 336 2,943
BUILDING PERMITS 202 643 6,711
BANKRUPTCIES 43 176 1,963