I ate bone marrow last night. And no, this isn’t a restaurant critique. As if anyone could actually critique Restaurant Iris or Kelly English, he’s a living God in the South these days. What I will tell you about my night is that most of our dinner was so good it was like an out-of-body experience in which I could see myself eating food that incorporates so many things I love about Memphis, and which afterwards I felt so full I thought I was pregnant. Pregnant with Kelly English’s food baby. I wanted to tell him that when he swung by our table nonchalantly asking how the meal was, like he’d just casually whipped something up and wasn’t sure if we’d like it. But all I could muster was “Mmmmhhhmmm”. I’ve waited 3 years to try this restaurant, and because I still feel like I’m in a buttery food cloud, I want you to relive the journey with me:
thin slice of toasted baguette with some sort of sour cream whip and lemon preserves
This came out first, compliments of the chef. I can’t tell you what exactly was in it, but I always appreciate free tiny treats.
pickled fried okra stuffed with pimento cheese on a bed of lettuce with housemade dressing
Like a small, tangy, crunchy fried cheese explosion in your mouth, accompanied by just enough bitter dressing and arugula salad to feel fresh.
angus bone marrow, salsa “fresca” with brioche
My first bone marrow experience blew everything else I’ve ever eaten that was meaty, buttery and rich out of the water. I should have just listened to Anthony Bourdain all along about this stuff. I know more than the average girl about meat (thank you meats class I,II & III) and being a bit of vegetarian once upon a time, I admit this dish made me nervous. After the first bite of the marrow and bits of local bacon spread across a piece of toast buttered to a crisp perfection, I never looked back. This dish makes you want to kiss everyone in the room. And the kitchen.
surf and turf: new york strip stuffed with fried oysters and blue cheese
I shall call this dish “the foot long steak hoogie where the meat is the bun and the oysters go on the inside”. A delicious steak. Apparently made it onto the show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, so of course we had to order it.
bbq Louisiana large shrimp
The steak was good. The marrow was excellent. These shrimp transcended universes. As a special last night, they’re not a regular menu item. I asked the waitress about them 3 times, then I went for it. They were layered in an oyster liquor, worcestershire sauce with black pepper reduction. Who even knew that existed? I want to find this said oyster liquor and spread it on everything I eat. But it was more than just how delicious it all was coming together in my mouth. This dish tasted like one of my favorite places in Memphis smells. There is a building in the South Main District of Memphis, an old brothel turned dive bar with a haunted jukebox and hidden a hidden 2nd floor bar called Ernestine and Hazel’s. Legend has it Ray Charles used to trip on acid and peel the wallpaper off of the upstairs rooms. I can go on and on about this place and its magic, but one of its finer qualities is that it serves perfectly seared burgers, or “Soul Burgers”. Everyone knows about them, but I believe they are the heart and soul of everything that is majestic about fried food in Memphis, and the way they smell as they’re sizzling with the onions, the steam rising up into the dark, dusty rafters over a bar slinging beers is divine. The sauce under my bbq Louisiana large shrimp last night tasted like a soul burger smells. I realize that could make no sense, but the smokiness, the hint of liquor, the brined taste of the broth, and pure Memphisness of it all literally brought me tears. There I was, crying into my shrimp bowl because it took one bite for me to realize that waiting 3 years for just the right time to taste what Restaurant Iris had to offer was actually the exact perfect timing. And one little dish rekindled my fire with this city.
maple bread pudding with pecans
By this point, I was so full and in despair that my shrimp were gone the dessert didn’t even matter. It was good, but definitely didn’t steal the show.
This restaurant is serious. The staff were wonderful, the inside of the quaint little home is adorably charming, yet sophisticated and I never ever wanted to leave.
2146 Monroe Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 590-2828 for reservations, you will need them!
Full forever, Am