All that Memphis aspires to be is captured in the Cooper Young District. I mean, when Memphis comes to mind people think of Elvis and the Blues. People think of unfortunate legacies. Most recently when you say Memphis, ‘Country’s Fattest City’ comes to mind. All of those things combined with a poor rap music scene has changed Memphis into a place that isn’t music anymore. Beale Street is a four block long path of irritation and it lacks the charm and quite frankly the city planning to maximize the history and REAL legacy of the city.
Maybe I’m being too hard… nah, this is real. Memphis just doesn’t get it right, unless it’s trolley night… and maybe that’s my point. The city is all disconnected and shines in pockets. What do I mean by this? There are areas that are so close to perfect, that if Memphis simply patterned the rest of the city based on those areas the city would become a destination for young families and a class of people who could lift it from the “First 48” perception of living. Well I guess it’s not a perception. It seems a lot of the people take pride in the ridiculous demeanor that caters to the crime element and promotes the “empty” building state of mind.
I really want to get to this review, but I just had to say this to establish that everything Memphis aspires to be, beautiful, diverse, health conscious, laid back is captured in the Cooper Young District and sitting at the corner of Cooper & Young are several restaurants. Last Father’s Day my wife decided I deserved a day out, and since I don’t drink very often at all, a drink for being just one hell of a guy (take that with a grain of, never mind I really am one hell of a guy-Kanye Shoulder shrug.) We jumped into the ride and headed out. It was around 6 pm when we arrived in front of Alchemy Memphis.
Her primary goal was to visit a restaurant that was not a chain. She wanted to provide me with an experience that felt elegant, but casual, local, but with a West coast flair. All of that was captured in the aesthetics of Alchemy. When we walked up the greeters were smiling (yep smiling… in Memphis!) and welcomed us. I noticed the setting and immediately realized this place was all about the bar. The bar was not set off to the corner or towards the back of the room, the bar was the room. It was centered in the middle and the dining tables were set up with ample space between each table which is nice. Most restaurants they attempt to shove as many tables in one location as possible.
Alchemy utilized their space in a way that as the place began to fill each table, whether there were 2 people or 6 people all had more than enough room that no one had to say excuse me to get up and move around. From the outside the place looked small, but once inside I could see that two locations had been made into one. The brick wall that once separated the room still had jagged bricks giving the room an unfinished look that created character. Black and white photos, art and a gigantic drink menu hung from the walls. The food menu was just the way I like a menu to be; short and to the point. Instead of offering a multitude of items that were pretty generic, Alchemy dropped a list of plates that all were tempting and at an excellent price point. (For those of you wondering what I’m saying here is that “That mofo was priced right!” I ordered (details coming, be patient) and our server recommended a drink (MAIN STREET SHAKEDOWN
Hendrick’s Gin, Cucumber, Ginger and Lemon. Shake It!)
I felt like the old school 7Up guy when I took a sip. I laughed “Ah Ha Ha, refreshing.” I didn’t really do that, but for a non-drinker it had one of the lightest taste and was very easy to drink. Behind the bar, on each side were 40 inch (possibly bigger) televisions, but what reminded me of San Diego and that West coast feel were the wide windows looking out onto the street where a multitude of joggers, bikers and couples were hanging out. Honestly sitting in this restaurant felt like a completely different Memphis and that is a good thing. As we finished dinner (details coming… didn’t I say be patient?), we headed to the bar to give Big Daddy some mo liquor! The Miami Heat game was on and I had my (DANCIN’ JIMMY’S SECRET
Ciroc vodka with fresh lime and grapes, muddled, on the rocks.) in hand. Once again I found myself so relaxed I accidentally cheered for Lebron who I never cheer for (One more shoulder shrug-Kanye should actually patent that). We took a short tour around the restaurant and found a nice alcove with couches, dimmed lighting and dinner tables on one side. Coolest picture in the room? Bill Murray (Bill F—ing Murray… that’s what the picture said)
A great meal, great drinks, fantastic ambiance, what more could I ask for? Oh a great wife. This was a fantastic introduction to a new place. Afterwards we took a stroll down Cooper. Talk about the good life! On to the meal…
What we ordered: When I said Alchemy is everything Memphis aspires to be, I was also talking about the menu. Each entree is served in appropriately sized servings. Instead of bringing you 10 caveman sized chicken strips (which the menu doesn’t actually have chicken strips, this is for affect, just go with it) the plates have just the right amount of food. Each item was filling and Tasha and I were able to actually share items from our plates. Think ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ except we didn’t do the pasta kiss thing. This is what we had: Item / price – description
Jerked Pork and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla with Black Bean and Pineapple Relish / 10 – I retired my Kosher/Muslim hats for the day. Hey it’s Memphis, it’s pork… I run everyday (You know I’m doing here-shrug)
Rock Shrimp and Chorizo Mac and Cheese / 8 – Can you say vacuum cleaner mode? In my Chappelle voice, “Dyson bit-okay nevermind)
“Shrimp and Grits” / 10 – Tasha had this and I didn’t really see her eat it, but it was gone. Poof
“Black and Blue” Buffalo Sliders / 9 – These sliders did not leave me in a state of listening to a Louis Armstrong song. We shared these and all I can say is, “I licked my fingers while staring at my wife…” TMI?
Roasted Duck Spring Rolls with Spicy Orange Dipping Sauce / 10 – According to wifey, Aflac never tasted so good.
All in all, a fantastic afternoon in the Cooper Young district
You should definitely go and visit.
Hours of Operation:
Open daily at 4 PM
Kitchen Open till 1 AM Monday thru Saturday, 10 PM Sunday
Bar Open till 3 AM Monday thru Saturday, Midnight Sunday
940 South Cooper Street, Memphis, TN. | 901.726.4444