Memphis, TN

The best brunch spots in downtown Memphis

Jennifer Jones - The Downtown Kid

Brunch (noun). The socially acceptable way to have cocktails before noon.

In the beginning, the merger of breakfast and lunch was “for ‘Saturday-night carousers’ who were too hungover to get out of bed on Sunday morning,” according to Love Belfast, a site dedicated to covering the latest news out of Belfast in an article exploring brunch trends. And while it might feel like brunch has only recently gained popularity, it’s actually been around since the late 1800s.

In Memphis, we take brunch pretty seriously. Downtown Memphis will fill up with residents from all over the tri-state area flocking to a bottomless mimosa or discounted Bloody Mary and everything under the sun in the way of food options. And downtown does not disappoint its adoring fans.

Whether local or visiting, you haven’t brunched downtown until you’ve hit these local favorites.

The Majestic Grille

The award-winning Majestic Grille is arguably the most popular brunch destination downtown. Opened in 1913 as The Majestic No. 1 Theatre, the building now houses a fabulous local restaurant owned by the talented Chef Patrick Reilly and his lovely wife and business partner, Deni Reilly.

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Partial View of the Lower Dining Room from the Mezzanine LevelPhoto courtesy of the Majestic Grille

Despite being one of the largest venues downtown, the mouthwatering menu options make it a “reservations recommended” location. Fortunately, they make it easy to book a table through their website or by phone. If you prefer to dodge the crowds, you can order your meal for curbside pick-up, as well. Brunch is served on Saturdays from 11am-3pm and on Sundays from 10am-2pm, and you can choose to sit inside the elegantly renovated theatre or outside under a covered awning on their expansive, pet-friendly patio.

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Patio View of the Majestic GrillePhoto courtesy of Parasol Awnings

The menu includes appetizers like Cornmeal Crusted Calamari ($11) and Cajun Chicken Eggrolls ($12). Diners looking for a lighter meal can choose from a list of crisp salads and savory soups, while those hungry for a more traditional lunch menu can order sandwiches or burgers. The Majestic Grille’s famous flatbread pizzas (ranging from $11-$14) are great both for sharing as a starter or having as a meal to oneself. And the brunch menu has something for everyone. My favorite is the Filet Mignon Benedict with some of the best hollandaise I’ve ever had, and it’s only $17! Ask about daily brunch specials, too. Chef Patrick’s always whipping up fun, new things to try.

Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick

A downtown favorite on the south end of Main Street is another award-winning spot called Rizzo’s, owned by local chef, B. Michael Patrick. Sitting in the heart of the South Main Arts District, Rizzo’s runs Saturday brunch from 11am-2pm and Sunday brunch from 11am-3pm. You can make reservations online or by phone, as well as place takeaway orders. I personally enjoy sitting on their new little patio to the side of the building, but the window seats on the mezzanine offer great views as well.

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Interior Dining Room at Rizzo'sPhoto courtesy of Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick

Their own site explains that “Rizzo’s is a reimagined southern cuisine and the kind-hearted, community-minded executive chef and owner Brian Michael Patrick makes this restaurant a standout. Chef Mike received the honor of the “The South's Best Chicken Pot Pie" in Southern Living Magazine and aired with Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Chef Mike, as the city knows him, has encountered much success over the years. He's been named Best Local Chef in 2019 Commercial Appeal Reader’s Poll, Best Brunch and countless Best Dishes.”

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Chef Michael Patrick PlatingPhoto courtesy of Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick

Rizzo’s offers unique plates like Andouille Sausage-n-Grits (cajun sausage, "Original Grit Girl" cheddar grits, sawmill gravy for $12), French Toast Bananas Foster (egg battered texas toast, caramelized bananas, vanilla bean gelato for $14), and various dishes with catfish, chorizo, pork belly, chicken, and even a Curry Edamame Tofu Scramble ($12). No worries, vegetarians. Chef Mike’s got you covered, too. And he truly is the loving, community-involved man the site claims he is. Don’t be surprised when he comes to your table to ask you how everything tasted and talk about life.

Blind Bear

In the Core of downtown Memphis is the unassuming speakeasy, Blind Bear, one of the few female-owned establishments. Blind Bear has nightly entertainment ranging from poker to karaoke to live music to trivia and is open Monday through Thursday from 3p-3am. On the weekend nights, you can use their Facebook or Instagram account to find out the password to get in without paying cover. Because of their late hours and exciting nightlife, they’re open Friday through Sunday for the aptly-named “Hungover Like a Bear” brunch, starting at 11am each morning. When you go in, make sure you ask to see the room behind the mirror.

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The 2-Way Mirror behind the Bar at Blind Bear SpeakeasyPhoto courtesy of Ham Burgler

The “Hungover Like a Bear” brunch menu includes selections guaranteed to bring you back to life or fuel you for the day. Two brunch plates I see flying out of the kitchen until the dinner menu takes over at 3pm are the Smothered Chicken and Waffles with Apple Pie Moonshine waffles and Bear sausage gravy ($14) and the Bear Omelette loaded with meat and veggies and served with Bear home fries ($12). The 8oz. Jager BBQ Burger ($15) and the Jager BBQ Bologna ($12) are fun sandwich options alongside the Spicy Chicken Sandwich ($14). Personally, I’m a massive fan of the Crawfish Mac & Cheese ($13), and I don’t even like crawfish.

You can also find lighter items like soups, salads, and Avocado Toast ($11). I highly recommend their made-from-scratch loaded Potato Soup ($5 cup/$7 bowl). And the brunch menu add-ons can be ordered with a meal or à la carte. Blind Bear has some of the best drink specials around, too.

If you choose to sit on their covered or uncovered patio (they have two side-by-side), please note that smoking is allowed outside. In cooler months, they’ll run propane heaters outside.

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Installation of the Patio Awning at Blind BearPhoto by Jennifer Jones, Author

Sage Memphis

Sage Memphis accurately describes themselves as “an urban chic restaurant/bar with a sophisticated ambiance that complements our fusion soul cuisine.” They’re open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-3:30pm. You can order online for takeaway, if you’d like, but I highly recommend visiting them in person. Seating is first come, first serve. No reservations accepted.

Their inside dining area is a brilliant sensory experience. The delightful smells mixed with the vibrant decor and a fantastic playlist make the delicious Salmon Benedict ($16) all the more tasty.

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Salmon Benedict on Crispy Naan BreadPhoto courtesy of Sage Memphis

As a visual person, I appreciate that Sage Memphis’ online menu features pictures of each food item offered alongside a detailed description of the selection. While they’ve put their spin on many traditional brunch features, what you won’t find anywhere else is their Soul Waffle (two crispy waffles stuffed with southern style greens, mac and cheese and fried chicken deep-fried and topped with sage-infused syrup and confectioners’ sugar for $14).

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The Soul WafflePhoto courtesy of Sage Memphis

Sage Memphis, one of the Black-owned restaurants downtown, also has outdoor seating on their lovely covered patio and they run mounted electric heaters in the cooler months. And here’s a picture of the Smore’s French Toast (salted caramel cream cheese stuffed brioche bread, infused with cinnamon and Irish cream liqueur, topped with chocolate chips and marshmallows $15) because it looks too fabulous not to share.

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Smore’s French ToastPhoto courtesy of Sage Memphis

South of Beale

Offering brunch on Sundays from 11am-3pm, South of Beale is another great location to check out if you’re on the southern end of Main Street. They’ve brought their shared plates from the regular menu over to the brunch menu, so you can split things like Duck Fried Rice or CheeseSteak Eggrolls if you’re not feeling the traditional brunch foods. They offer many vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well.

A fun shared brunch plate is the Breakfast Nachos (scrambled eggs with homemade chorizo, melted cheese, pico de gallo, poblano crema for $12) or if you want to start with the sweets, split some Cinnamon Rolls (cream cheese frosting, maple bourbon glaze $13). A few signature items on the brunch menu itself are the SOB Burger (vegetarian quinoa patty available, both for $14), Stuffed French Toast with berries ($12), a loaded Avocado Toast ($14), and even a braised pork Breakfast Burrito ($14).

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Chorizo Breakfast NachosPhoto courtesy of South of Beale

For the lighter appetite, you’ll find a list of salads that can have your choice of protein added for an extra fee. And if you’ve got room left for dessert, they offer a Jack-n-Coke Bread Pudding, a Peanut Butter Pie, and a Dulce de Leche Crème Brulé each for $8.

The restaurant has been around for years, but it recently opened in a new location that’s modern and spacious. If the weather’s nice, check out their uncovered (as of publication) outdoor patio. You can reserve seating on their site and by phone, and of course, there’s always takeaway ordering available.

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South of Beale's Shiny New BuildingPhoto courtesy of South of Beale

Bishop

The next stop on our tour brings us to the Central Station Hotel, within which you’ll find the posh, fine dining Bishop Restaurant. You’ll most certainly want to explore the two-story bar lobby and wander up to the outdoor patio.

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View of the Upstairs Lobby of the Central Station Hotel from the Parking LotPhoto courtesy of Central Station Hotel

Local developer, Henry Turley, is well-known around Memphis for his revitalization efforts. He has been instrumental in breathing new life into downtown Memphis. When his company acquired the old train station and announced plans to remodel, we all waited excitedly for the end results. Once again, they didn't let us down.

According to the Central Station Hotel site, the “Memphis Central Station, referred to as Grand Central Station prior to 1944, opened in 1914 and was built on the site of a former station known as Calhoun Street Station. Both stations were owned by the Illinois Central Railroad and now service Amtrak's City of New Orleans route and the MATA Trolley system.” So stick around and watch the trains come through.

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View of the Ground-Floor Bishop Restaurant from Main StreetPhoto courtesy of Central Station Hotel

You can order from the extensive coffee and tea list while you browse their various small and large plate options. In the small plates, you’ll find ½ Dozen Oysters (MKT) and Beignets ($8) alongside Escargot ($16) and Tarte Flambé ($15). Lighter options include Grapefruit Brulé ($6) and Yogurt and Granola ($9), as well as a soup and salad menu should you want something more lunch than breakfast.

The large plates also offer something for everyone. If you’re more in the mood for breakfast, the Croque Madame ($14), the Steak and Eggs ($25), or the Bishop Omelette ($14) might be more your style. If you’re craving lunch, the Fish Sandwich with dill aioli ($15) or the double patty Bishop Burger ($18) might be more to your liking. No matter what you pick, you can add sides to any order for an additional cost. And not to be forgotten is the delightfully creative Cocktails menu.

Reservations can be made online for brunch starting as early as 7am, with the last brunch slot starting at 1:45pm. If you’re staying at the hotel, you can always have room service sent up.

Bardog Tavern

Last but not least are our friends at Bardog Tavern serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-3pm. Bardog is not a big space, so those who want good seats get there early, often forming a short line waiting for the door to open. They have an upstairs eating area, which allows smoking; however, it’s well ventilated, and you usually don’t notice (assuming you’re not allergic or extremely sensitive). Downstairs seating is available as well and is non-smoking.

Because they allow smoking inside, the state law requires that the place be restricted to ages 21+. Please note -- this is absolutely a bar. Folks are laughing and cutting up, drinks are flowing, and folks are singing along to the jukebox. They’re also stuffing their faces.

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The Bardog Breakfast and the Breakfast BurritoPhoto courtesy of Bardog Tavern

Bardog has at least two daily brunch specials each weekend, and you’ll find them written on a mirror over the kitchen pass-through window to the back of the bar. You never know what Chef Hector is going to come up with, so make sure you check those out.

On the regular menu, you’ll find everything from the traditional scrambled eggs and bacon types of plates to their Lobster Sandwich (MKT) and Pablito Sliders ($13). Personally, I recommend anything that has lobster, if you like lobster. They run a Lobster Omelette special sometimes that comes with the most succulent lobster chunks. Delicious. Another brunch menu classic is the Filet Benedict ($16). Daily specials often include some sort of Benedict variation.

Another crowd favorite is the Breakfast Burrito ($9) from the regular menu, which is also available during brunch hours. The Breakfast Slider ($2.49) is my go-to when I want something light. I grab a couple of those and add cheese and “BOLT” (bacon, onion, lettuce, and tomato) for a few cents more.

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View of Bardog Signage from Front StreetPhoto courtesy of Bardog Tavern

And because the regular menu is offered during brunch, you can choose from a wide variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and even dinner entrées. New dinner specials go up on the mirror around 5pm daily. You can call in for takeaway, and they also offer delivery. A link to order can be found on their website’s main page.

Downtown Memphis Brunches Like No Other

No matter where you choose, you're going to have a great meal and a great time. All of these restaurants are located on or just off of Main Street and are accessible on foot or by trolley for a dollar a ride. (Masks are required on public transportation.) The best part is they're all local places, and they're the places the locals go, so we'll see you there.

You should be able to get takeaway from any of these spots. Some offer delivery for a charge and usually through a third-party app. Many restaurants are adding gratuity to every check, no matter the party size, but it will be posted somewhere. As of publication, all of these recommendations offer indoor seating, but practice different safety protocols. Throw a mask in your pocket and you'll be fine anywhere.

Happy brunching!

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I enjoy being connected to and engaged with the world around me, specifically my local downtown community in Memphis, TN. My personal interest lies in celebrating diversity as well as exploring mental health topics. But I also hope I can help you find the best ribs in town while we're at it.

Memphis, TN
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