Memphis Black-Owned Restaurants Guide
Since our relaunch in July 2018, we have been featuring local restaurants and businesses in our magazine and on our website as well as on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. We’ve visited so many great local, black-owned restaurants that we wanted to put them all together in one place for the convenience of our readers. They are organized by neighborhood, then alphabetically. We also link to our website for those we have covered more fully.
Talbert Fleming’s menu honors his grandmother’s recipes and changes often. There are the staples like big-mouth hamburgers; you’ll find fish plates (catfish, tilapia or buffalo) on Fridays, when you may also find collard green egg rolls with yam juice for dipping, or tamale nachos. Saturdays feature a waffle brunch paired with a choice of fried chicken, fish or pork chops. On Sundays, one can delight in entrees like oxtail dressing with gravy, pig tails, smothered turkey wings or, Fleming’s personal favorite, chicken alfredo. (Read more by Melonee Gaines.)
Located in Soulsville since 1946, The Four Way is Memphis’s oldest soul food restaurant. Choose your meats, your vegetables and a dessert and stay awhile. Open every day except Monday, The Four Way is a must for residents and tourists alike.
Alcenia’s has been in business for 21 years. This wonderful, colorful place will give you everything you need: a warm hug, a kiss on the cheek and a heaping plate of comfort food made with love by the chef herself: Betty Joyce “B. J.” Chester-Tamayo. You can expect items like smothered pork chops, meatloaf, candied yams, spaghetti, green beans, cornbread and as many desserts as she can create. Everything is made to order, so don’t go in a hurry.
Gay Hawk Restaurant was established in 1951, was transferred to Lewis Bobo in 1963, and has been passed along to his daughter Terica. She's been working there almost all of her life and wants to keep this historic restaurant operational for years to come. Come in for the delicious Southern lunch buffet which features classic soul food favorites like fried chicken, baked chicken, catfish, spaghetti, sweet potatoes, greens and peach cobbler.
The Neely family is world-famous when it comes to barbecue, and it all started at Interstate. It’s literally right off of exit 7 on I-55 and well worth a visit. A large chopped with extra sauce will gently rock you into a welcome food coma. Take friends, though, so you can try the ribs and the spaghetti too. And the pecan pie!
Get on the (school) bus to Lunchbox Eats for an A+ lunch. We love their commitment to the theme—from the menus to the chairs, everything is looking to school you. However, unlike most school cafeterias, chef/owner Kaia Brewer has made sure everything on the menu is honor-roll worthy. Sandwiches, salads, chicken tenders, mac-n-cheese, lemonade of the day and home-cooked cakes are just a few of the offerings.
The smell inside Makeda’s is intoxicating. Sugar, butter, love—whatever it is, bottle it up! Owner Pamela Hill named the cookie business after her niece, who was a St. Jude patient. (Sadly, she passed away from leukemia in 1997 when she was only six years old.) Makeda’s is known for their butter cookies, but you can also find chocolate chip and other flavors in regular and mini sizes. Mixing and matching is encouraged. Also, don’t leave without trying an ice cream sandwich. And just so you know, their lemon icebox pies and sweet potato pies come with a butter cookie crust. (Also visit the Orange Mound location.)
Walking into this unique spot, you can’t help but do a double-take. The Office at Uptown is a café that truly looks like an office! If you’re looking for a change of scenery, grab your sketchbook / computer / journal and get your work done here for a bit. Grab a solid cup of coffee and enjoy incredible service and amenities like printers and computers for those in need. Their menu includes breakfast, lunch and pastries like locally made cinnamon rolls.
There’s only one true way to describe Roxie’s Grocery—and writer Michael Butler Jr. said it best: “It’s an experience, mane!” Roxie’s burgers are made with hand-rolled patties of real ground beef and piled high with toppings. Depending on how many patties you order and how many toppings you get, the bun may or may not be able to contain them. They also serve up some of the best breakfast in the city and have plate lunches during the week. Roxie’s is actually a grocery store with a kitchen in back. They have bread, milk, detergent and even PVC hoses. (Read more by Michael Butler Jr.)
Chef Elijah Townsend’s concept is “fusion soul,” and the menu at his very first restaurant changes with the seasons. There are a daily special and popular menu items such as soul egg rolls, fried green tomatoes with kimchi, salmon sliders, Beyond Burger sliders and desserts like the sweet potato egg roll. Evenings are a little more upscale with a lounge vibe where the late-night menu and bar offerings become the highlight.
Tailors’ Union is a downtown speakeasy. From the outside it looks like a tailor’s shop, but that’s just a front for the elegant two-story bar behind the doors.The ground floor is open to the public and features a huge bar, booths and lounge seating. There are strong tailor-themed cocktails (The Half Slip, High & Tight, In Stitches, and Lost Stiletto) and delicious eats like wagyu sliders, duck tacos, crab cakes and Parmesan truffle fries meant for sharing. Downstairs is The Pocket and it’s members only. It has another bar, a cigar lounge and, on Fridays, live music. The same food and drink items are available, but it’s a little darker and cozier. Membership is $500 per year due at once up-front and includes valet parking, access to the downstairs bar (with a plus one), and invitations to special events throughout the year.
Tamra Eddy was raised by a barbecue master, a professional baker and a restaurant owner. She inherited a raggedy old Betty Crocker cookbook upon her grandmother’s passing, and that was the moment she knew she too would open a restaurant. Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe specializes in one-of-a-kind Cajun and soul food fusion. Favorites include the fried chicken, Muddy Mac-n-Cheese, and peach cobbler nachos, though Chef Tam is always knocking out fun daily specials. Look for a new, larger location opening in the Edge District in the coming months.
Midtown Crossing has something for everyone—pizza, sandwiches, salads, vegan dishes, beer, liquor and live music! And every Saturday and Sunday for brunch, Midtown Crossing Grill offers a $2.25 mimosa bar! Menu items include Belgian waffles with an apple bourbon syrup, egg scrambles, country biscuits, eggs Benedict pizza and the Hangover Pizza.
Albert and Tara Thomas opened Ms. D’s on Lamar (next to Payne’s) and their motto is “Where Des Wings are Fye!” Like Baskin Robbins, they offer 31 flavors of wings, with the most popular being the Ms. D’s Seasoned. The whole wings are neatly lined up and sprinkled with thinly sliced carrot and celery sticks. Each day there’s a $5 lunch special. In addition to wings, they have several sandwiches, burgers, salads, catfish and breakfast! Sides include macaroni bites, fried okra and fried green tomatoes.
Phillip Ashley has moved into a new building on Madison, giving him the opportunity to expand his team and create even more delicious products for us to fall in love with. They have 24 handcrafted chocolates to choose from, along with other goodies like Phillip’s award-winning chicken salad, Franco’s Italian Kitchen sandwiches and a specially blended French Truck coffee.
Riko started the company with a food truck in August 2014. His wife, Tiffany, worked for FedEx and helped manage Riko’s social media until they opened the restaurant in 2017. Now Tiffany runs the front of the restaurant while Riko works in the kitchen making some of the best-seasoned wings in town and his famous honey garlic sauce. (Read more by Michael Butler Jr.)
In addition to a menu full of handcrafted pizzas (with the best names ever) and hot wings sure to please, Slice of Soul is covered in beautiful art, has plenty of places to lounge and has a pretty solid cocktail list. Check the website for weekly happenings.
This award-winning barbecue joint is located in the heart of Orange Mound. Ballhoggerz makes their own seasoning and sauce in-house. The meats are smoked on-site throughout the day. All of that comes together for a very good barbecue experience. The smoked chicken wings are crazy good. They also have a secret menu, but you have to follow their Facebook page to have the secrets revealed. (Read more by Michael Butler Jr.)
Pop’s Hot Tamales is cash only, and be prepared to eat in your car. Pop’s is a walk-in, to-go spot with a very delicious and simple menu: hot and mild tamales. A weekly customer suggested getting at least five per person.
Omi, a vegan for more than two decades, is passionate about plant-based foods. Green Goddess originally supplied Whole Foods with vegan pastries and later added a line of flavorful vegan popcorn infused with superfood ingredients. The company’s first brick-and-mortar store, Green Goddess Popcorn & Tea Lounge, opened in 2018. The store sells teas, vegan popcorn and desserts, and a special lunch menu on Fridays. (Read more by Alexandra Reed.)
Ms. Girlee’s in North Memphis will make you feel right at home. Baxter Leach, who owns Ms. Girlee’s with his wife, Jimmie, participated in the sanitation strike of 1968. “I Am a Man” signs, photographs and articles decorate the café. Beautiful portraits of the family hang on the walls. Many members of the Leach family help operate Ms. Girlee’s. The soul food menu offers something different daily. If you don’t like waiting in line, call at 7a.m. to schedule your pickup. Any later than 9:30 a.m. and you might miss your chance!
In addition to the full D’bo’s food offerings (read: hot wings!), D’Bo’s Wings n More has a separate bar with four daiquiri machines with rotating flavors (mixing-and-matching is encouraged). Wings and daqs, a sofa, a TV and sound equipment—no doubt this is an excellent weekend hang.
Egg King Cafe is a diner that serves a full breakfast and lunch. Each meal is cooked-to-order, guaranteeing freshness, and they pride themselves on their Southern hospitality. Load up on waffles, omelets and loaded hash browns for breakfast and choose from sandwiches, burgers and wings at lunch.
Specializing in freshly made juices and smoothies, this cute little spot also has salads and sandwiches. The Good Vibrations juice is made from fresh pineapple, spinach, kale, apples and cucumber.
If you’re looking for a place to eat some delicious barbecue and talk football, Pollard’s is for you! Owner Tarrance Pollard’s son Tony, of Tiger Football fame, just entered the NFL. Manager Denise Pluckett is Tarrance’s sister-in-law and she will happily guide you through the menu, which features ribs, rib tips, pulled pork and links. Sides include green beans, fried okra and spaghetti. That’s not all—they also have a fine, hand-formed, stadium-style hamburger.
Nestled in the heart of Hickory Hill sits a very unique Memphis dining experience—a chicken and waffle spot that makes you feel right at home. Owner Courtney Temple, who goes by C-Bo, got his idea for opening a chicken and waffle spot after visiting Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles. He started a food truck in 2015 to begin building his clientele. Everything is homemade, and the recipes come from a combination of his grandmother, his mother and his own spin on Southern staples. (Read more by Michael Butler Jr.)
Eashley Dennis from 3 Chef’s Kitchen has been operating her food truck since 2018. She’s the third-generation chef in the family. (That’s where the name comes from.) She hopes to eventually own a brick-and-mortar gourmet sandwich shop. Their menu consists of wraps and sandwiches and a soup of the day that changes daily.
Chef Sobryus (Sobie) Johnson started the Flying Sobie’s food truck with the idea of making Cornish hens an everyday meal. The menu includes fried Cornish hens with a choice of fries, waffles or beans and slaw. Best part? The sauce. Every sauce is made in-house and from scratch. Options include: Original, Buffalo, Memphis Gold, Spicy Memphis Gold, Real Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian Teriyaki and his latest creation, Sweet Caribbean Jerk. You can find them at Ghost River Brewing Co. every Sunday for Brunch at the Brewery, Court Square every Thursday and elsewhere around town throughout the week. (Read more by Emma Meskovic.)
Oink and Moo BBQ and More food truck specializes in smoked barbecue, but they work with the demands of customers and can do just about anything—soul food, chicken on a stick, you name it. Their tagline reads: “Your tongue will slap your brain!” Owned by Cedric and Patrice Roby, the truck parks downtown twice a month to give free food to the hungry.