The Second Line by Kelly English Brings Authentic New Orleans to Memphis

"A po'boy has to drip down your arms after the first bite," says Chef Kelly English, explaining his comfortable and delicious menu at the Second Line.

Photos by Justin Fox Burks

Chef Kelly English tried to down play the opening of the Second Line, slipping out a tweet the Friday after Thanksgiving. His strategy didn’t work. So many people flocked to the refurbished bungalow on the corner of Cooper and Monroe that the kitchen ran of food on the restaurant’s first day.

The most anticipated new restaurant of the year, the Second Line shares a kitchen with its acclaimed big sister Restaurant Iris, but the similarities between the siblings stop there (except for an exceptional fried oyster salad served on both menus).

Trim the color of cooper patina and warm rust walls make the Second Line feel like a seasoned haunt for the workers of New Orleans and the food they love to eat. So does the menu, a simple one-sheet kicked off by appetizers that earn the heading “Eat These Things First.” Try a pair of meat pies or a skillet of slender skin-on fries loaded with crawfish, Andouille sausage, and pimento cheese.

While the appetizers mate well with drafts from local breweries, stay attentive to the menu’s mainstay, a genuine rendering of the po’boys English ate growing up. “People try to make po’boys too fancy,” English said. “A po’boy is tomato, mayo, lettuce, pickle, and the right bread. It’s the same sandwich over and over with a different filling.”

At the Second Line, the right French bread comes from Leidenheimer in New Orleans, a bakery family owned and operated for more than a century. Fillings change seasonally, so don’t miss the best choices for cold winter months: slow roasted beef or braised chicken thighs served with Swiss cheese and gravy and messy by design. “A po’boy has to drip down your arms after the first bite,” English explained. “And if you can’t figure out how to put it back on the plate, you know it’s authentic.”

For now alcohol is limited to beer in bottles and draft, but English expects his liquor license within the next week. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to closing with extended hours on the weekends starting at 11 a.m. If the weather warms up, check out the spacious patio out back, a lovely outdoor space protected by a wrought iron fence and two stately oak trees.

2144 Monroe Ave. (901-590-2828). $

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