Review: The Beauty Shop, Memphis, Tennessee

In 2002, the previous site of Priscilla Presley’s curl and dye establishment was transformed into a trendy restaurant in the funky Cooper-Young neighborhood in Memphis. Executive Chef/owner Karen Carrier kept the hooded Belvedere hair-dryers and developed a diverse menu for the innovative dining spot. Her creative endeavor led to a quirky restaurant ambiance and food that showcased her considerable culinary skills. Her previous background as an artist led her to incorporate the 50s beauty shop decor and a menu with both Southern and international flavors.

Location: The Beauty Shop Restaurant is located at 966 Cooper St. Memphis, Tennessee. (website here).

Menu: First, the Brunch menu opens with the option of a Bad Boy Bloody Mary or a Big Boy Mimosa. And, it only gets better from there. You go from a Southern favorite like Chicken and Waffles to a list of international breakfast plates including the Mexican Breakfast – black beans, sunny-side eggs, cotija cheese, avocado, tomatillo salsa, and tortillas.

There are lunch salads and plates like BBQ shrimp and grits. Traditional breakfast fare includes pancakes, waffles, and the Island French Toast with mangos, strawberries, coconut, and maple butter.

Sandwiches like burgers or a falafel Banh Mi come with the option of house-made chips, fruit salad, or truffle parmesan fries. Not only is it eclectic, but it is also comforting as the regular options are there, just amplified.

Thoughts: Initially, as I approached The Beauty Shop, I looked up at the sign over the door and noticed the quirky logo. It was a drawing of a well-dressed woman sitting under a hooded hair-dryer; one hand holds a martini and the other, a menu. The slogan invites patrons to, “Look Good – Eat Good” and the concept is cheeky and fun.

Understandably, I wanted to look like the woman on the sign. I walked in and to my delight, saw a table for two under one of the antique Belvedere dryers. Our hostess saw my face and took us right to that table. In fact, I heard it was a coveted spot as only three two-tops have this option. It was a wonderful start. The entire dining room reflected a “shabby- chic,” decor with banquettes along one wall upholstered in intricate tapestry fabric. The opposite side of the banquette was flanked by mismatched chairs.

Just like the logo, I settled under my “dryer” and we studied the menu. Obviously, since it was Brunch, my husband and I ordered a bloody mary and a mimosa to start. The service was swift and polite. We noticed that we didn’t have a dedicated server but all the ladies on that shift were circulating to make sure everyone had what they needed (from the manager to waitstaff). In a busy dining room, I liked this idea, as it led to attentive service for the duration of our meal.

Next, we looked over the menu and noticed the plate of buttermilk biscuits. Never one to turn down a biscuit in the south, I placed an order. We nibbled ours smeared with sweet strawberry jam and read the descriptions of all the incredible breakfast platters. It took us a while as we got overwhelmed. We couldn’t decide if we should eat breakfast or lunch or split one of each.

Nevertheless, despite my confusion, I read the Beneduck description and I was sold. The Beneduck plate consisted of crisp sugar spiced duck with hot pepper jelly, almond skordalia, poached eggs, hollandaise, and country toast. The duck portion included a leg and thigh and was as crisp as described. The pepper jelly, drizzled over the top, added zing. It gave a nice level of heat to the poached eggs and creamy hollandaise. The almond skordalia, a thick, garlicky puree, sat under the eggs and some spinach leaves. I thought it was divine and smeared some on my toast. The dish was a winner.

My husband wanted steak and eggs. The Beauty Shop version served it with záatar grilled onions, ponzu brown butter, and Yukon sweet potato and apple hash. He offered me a bite of his steak (it was rare) and the accompanying side. I loved the flavor of the hash. The fruit and vegetable combo tasted sweet and savory. It was also flavored by the onions, záatar spice, and ponzu brown butter which was earthy. I enjoyed the steak, but my fork made a return to sample the hash again.

Admittedly, I enjoyed the entire experience. The space was a throw-back, the service was attentive, and the dishes were next-level. I visit Memphis a few times a year and plan to return to sample more items from this impressive menu.

Price Range: Mimosas and Bloody Marys are $9 and are large. Egg dishes range from $13-17 for the Beneduck. Pancakes and Waffle platters are $11 and sandwiches are $10.

Jeanine Consoli
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