Image courtesy Memphis Hotel & Motel Guide
Memphians have gotten into disputes before about the oldest restaurant in town — an argument that usually boils down to the Arcade, the Little Tea Shop, and even Dyer's Hamburgers — depending upon your precise definition of "restaurant."
But what about more specific categories, such as the oldest steakhouse in town? Certain obvious contenders come to mind, such as Folk's Folly. But one lonely night in the Lauderdale Mansion — oh, aren't they all?? — I was leafing through the pages of a 1957 Memphis Hotel and Motel Guide (third floor of the Lauderdale Library, fourth aisle, top shelf), and I came across this interesting ad.
The Beacon, at 1489 Lamar, proclaims itself "Memphis' Oldest Steakhouse."
And who am I to argue? First of all, am I admitting my profound ignorance to the world when I say that I have never even heard of the Beacon? And for that reason, who am I to doubt their claim? Plus, look — they were also famous for their salad bowl.
According to a long, half hour (okay, it was probably 15 minutes, top) of research, I determined that the Beacon opened sometime in the early 1940s. The owners were Frank F. Casone and Harry Braswell." The name Casone doesn't ring a bell, but I believe Braswell was involved in other notable eateries around town, though I can't say which ones they were, at the moment.
Haven't I done enough for one day?
Of course, this was a claim made back in 1957, so that kind of waters it down, so to speak. I mean, give me a minute to do the math, and — okay, got it. What they are saying is that a restaurant that is, oh, about 15 years old is the oldest steakhouse in town. That sure doesn't say much for the longevity of steakhouses in Memphis.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about what ultimately happened to this landmark establishment? Well, that's easy to guess, this being Memphis and all. Like so many other old places in town — someday I'll do a complete list and it's really astonishing — the site is now a Walgreen's.